I navigated to this forum as a result of watching this on YouTube because, like Stephen, I think this is an important subject, and I felt moved to make a comment / contribution of my own.
I think it is important to remember that this issue, like any other philosophical issue, doesn’t finish here (if ever), and I would like to think that this forum might be a good place to continue the debate. In my heart I agree with what Stephen was saying, but in my head I can see flaws in at least a couple of the points he made – points which I think we should investigate further.
(I’m going to start with just one point, by the way, because these sorts of postings take a long time, and I need to get back to work!)
First of all the difficulty with making judgements upon the events of the past is our lack of context. Unless God really does exist and he appears to me and gives me a moral code then I believe that all our morality is contextual – i.e. whether we are good or bad, and *how* good or bad we are, depends on what everybody else is getting up to.
Torturing people for reading the bible in English sounds heinous and self-serving to us now, but how was it perceived at the time and what would be the equivalent by today’s standards? In terms of emotive issues, maybe child pornography, though I expect that it was more likely seen as a way of undermining government, so maybe anarchy.
My feeling, for what it’s worth, is that individuals behave with far less freedom of choice than we might imagine, so Thomas More’s actions in the sixteenth century tell us much more about the society that he lived in than about that one individual.
People do vary, of course, however given the fact that I wasn’t around at that time my views on whether he was particularly wonderful or particularly awful are going to be highly dependent on the imperfect, and very changeable, information I have about him and the world that he lived in. This means that not only can I not make a judgment upon this myself; I cannot judge the Catholic Church’s judgment of it either. At least, I cannot judge whether they are right or wrong, although I could try to judge what was behind their judgement - if I heard it. The reason I could judge *that* is because the Catholic Church and I share, to a sufficient degree, today’s moral context, and it is this which allows me to get an impression of their moral compass regardless of what Thomas More was *actually* like.
For now, however, cannot take this debate any further because I have no idea why the Catholic Church likes the man so much.