President Trump Honors 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket

 

President Trump signed a necessarily lengthy yet eloquent proclamation on an event from 850 years ago that is sadly just as likely today. That event was the murder of Thomas Becket by political elite supporters of the ruling regime, led by King Henry II, in England. Becket was murdered for not sufficiently subordinating the church to his society’s ruling secular elite preferences. The document he first signed, then withdrew his assent from was called the “Constitutions of Clarendon.” After the assassination, Henry II revised the two most offensive articles, in negotiation with Pope Alexander III. 850 years ago, on December 29, 1170, Henry’s knights entered the Canterbury cathedral and murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket.

The pastor of the Brighton Oratory makes the stakes of the conflict clear [emphasis added]:

The actions of the Pope in this conflict make clear what all of history teaches: the lives of the Church’s Saints themselves comprise the history of the world. The humility of Thomas had prompted him, after a moment of weakness he had manifested in a difficult situation, to judge himself unfit for his office and offer his resignation as Archbishop. The Pope did not hesitate a moment in refusing his resignation. He judged with apostolic wisdom that if Thomas should be deprived of his rank for having opposed the unjust pretensions of the English royalty, no bishop would ever dare oppose the impingements of iniquity on the Church’s rights, and the Spouse of Christ would be no longer sustained by marble columns, but by reeds bending in the wind.

The martyred Archbishop was canonized by Pope Alexander III on Ash Wednesday, 1173, not yet three years after his death on December 29, 1170, to the edification of the entire Church.

President Trump signals the importance of Becket’s martyrdom to Americans today:

Proclamation on 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket
Issued on: December 28, 2020

[emphasis added]
Today is the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket on December 29, 1170. Thomas Becket was a statesman, a scholar, a chancellor, a priest, an archbishop, and a lion of religious liberty.

Before the Magna Carta was drafted, before the right to free exercise of religion was enshrined as America’s first freedom in our glorious Constitution, Thomas gave his life so that, as he said, “the Church will attain liberty and peace.”

The son of a London sheriff and once described as “a low‑born clerk” by the King who had him killed, Thomas Becket rose to become the leader of the church in England. When the crown attempted to encroach upon the affairs of the house of God through the Constitutions of Clarendon, Thomas refused to sign the offending document. When the furious King Henry II threatened to hold him in contempt of royal authority and questioned why this “poor and humble” priest would dare defy him, Archbishop Becket responded “God is the supreme ruler, above Kings” and “we ought to obey God rather than men.”

Because Thomas would not assent to rendering the church subservient to the state, he was forced to forfeit all his property and flee his own country. Years later, after the intervention of the Pope, Becket was allowed to return — and continued to resist the King’s oppressive interferences into the life of the church. Finally, the King had enough of Thomas Becket’s stalwart defense of religious faith and reportedly exclaimed in consternation: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

The King’s knights responded and rode to Canterbury Cathedral to deliver Thomas Becket an ultimatum: give in to the King’s demands or die. Thomas’s reply echoes around the world and across the ages. His last words on this earth were these: “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.” Dressed in holy robes, Thomas was cut down where he stood inside the walls of his own church.

Thomas Becket’s martyrdom changed the course of history. It eventually brought about numerous constitutional limitations on the power of the state over the Church across the West. In England, Becket’s murder led to the Magna Carta’s declaration 45 years later that: “[T]he English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired.”

When the Archbishop refused to allow the King to interfere in the affairs of the Church, Thomas Becket stood at the intersection of church and state. That stand, after centuries of state-sponsored religious oppression and religious wars throughout Europe, eventually led to the establishment of religious liberty in the New World. It is because of great men like Thomas Becket that the first American President George Washington could proclaim more than 600 years later that, in the United States, “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship” and that “it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”

Thomas Becket’s death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty. It is our priceless treasure and inheritance. And it was bought with the blood of martyrs.

As Americans, we were first united by our belief that “rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” and that defending liberty is more important than life itself. If we are to continue to be the land of the free, no government official, no governor, no bureaucrat, no judge, and no legislator must be allowed to decree what is orthodox in matters of religion or to require religious believers to violate their consciences. No right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions. As I declared in Krasiński Square in Warsaw, Poland on July 6, 2017, the people of America and the people of the world still cry out: “We want God.”

On this day, we celebrate and revere Thomas Becket’s courageous stand for religious liberty and we reaffirm our call to end religious persecution worldwide. In my historic address to the United Nations last year, I made clear that America stands with believers in every country who ask only for the freedom to live according to the faith that is within their own hearts. I also stated that global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life, reflecting the belief held by the United States and many other countries that every child — born and unborn — is a sacred gift from God. Earlier this year, I signed an Executive Order to prioritize religious freedom as a core dimension of United States foreign policy. We have directed every Ambassador — and the over 13,000 United States Foreign Service officers and specialists — in more than 195 countries to promote, defend, and support religious freedom as a central pillar of American diplomacy.

We pray for religious believers everywhere who suffer persecution for their faith. We especially pray for their brave and inspiring shepherds — like Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong and Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu — who are tireless witnesses to hope.

To honor Thomas Becket’s memory, the crimes against people of faith must stop, prisoners of conscience must be released, laws restricting freedom of religion and belief must be repealed, and the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed must be protected. The tyranny and murder that shocked the conscience of the Middle Ages must never be allowed to happen again. As long as America stands, we will always defend religious liberty.

A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure — because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 29, 2020, as the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket. I invite the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches and customary places of meeting with appropriate ceremonies in commemoration of the life and legacy of Thomas Becket.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

 

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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Clifford A. Brown: When the crown attempted to encroach upon the affairs of the house of God through the Constitutions of Clarendon, Thomas refused to sign the offending document. When the furious King Henry II threatened to hold him in contempt of royal authority and questioned why this “poor and humble” priest would dare defy him, Archbishop Becket responded “God is the supreme ruler, above Kings” and “we ought to obey God rather than men.”

    Joe Biden is Catholic.  So, obviously, he would have made a similar statement if he were president.

     

    • #1
  2. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    • #2
  3. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Never a bad time to make a plug for the great T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral which tells the story in a drama in verse.

    • #3
  4. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown: When the crown attempted to encroach upon the affairs of the house of God through the Constitutions of Clarendon, Thomas refused to sign the offending document. When the furious King Henry II threatened to hold him in contempt of royal authority and questioned why this “poor and humble” priest would dare defy him, Archbishop Becket responded “God is the supreme ruler, above Kings” and “we ought to obey God rather than men.”

    Joe Biden is Catholic. So, obviously, he would have made a similar statement if he were president.

    There are some adjectives that should appear in any sentence that includes Joe Biden and Catholic. Schismatic, Self Professed, Cultural, Cafeteria. Adjectives that should not appear in that sentence would be faithful, or orthodox. His Catholic beliefs are as shallow, and self-serving as a Mafia Don’s Catholic belief. He is not in communion with the Church due to his unrepentant, and public statements on abortion.

    • #4
  5. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    I saw this in the news this morning and was surprised. St Thomas Becket is not so well known by the non Catholic world that it would register on the electorate. What a great move. For all of Donald Trump’s quirks (and some can be ghastly) the man really breaks conventions and most of them like this for the good. I am so disappointed he will not serve four more years. We needed a man like this.

    • #5
  6. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Manny (View Comment):

    I saw this in the news this morning and was surprised. St Thomas Becket is not so well known by the non Catholic world that it would register on the electorate. What a great move. For all of Donald Trump’s quirks (and some can be ghastly) the man really breaks conventions and most of them like this for the good. I am so disappointed he will not serve four more years. We needed a man like this.

    I could not agree more. 

    • #6
  7. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I saw this in the news this morning and was surprised. St Thomas Becket is not so well known by the non Catholic world that it would register on the electorate. What a great move. For all of Donald Trump’s quirks (and some can be ghastly) the man really breaks conventions and most of them like this for the good. I am so disappointed he will not serve four more years. We needed a man like this.

    I could not agree more.

    Seconded.

    • #7
  8. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Well, Thomas á Beckett was nothing other than a pawn in the struggles between Alexander III (the Pope), Louis VII (King of France), and Henry II and was in over his head (which is what it cost him).  The idea that Henry II was secular is laughable. No king was or could be secular.

    • #8
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I saw this in the news this morning and was surprised. St Thomas Becket is not so well known by the non Catholic world that it would register on the electorate. What a great move. For all of Donald Trump’s quirks (and some can be ghastly) the man really breaks conventions and most of them like this for the good. I am so disappointed he will not serve four more years. We needed a man like this.

    I could not agree more.

    Seconded.

    In fact, to honor President Trump, I’ve corralled my husband into watching Becket with me tonight. :-) He made a face, but he’ll love it. :-) 

    • #9
  10. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I saw this in the news this morning and was surprised. St Thomas Becket is not so well known by the non Catholic world that it would register on the electorate. What a great move. For all of Donald Trump’s quirks (and some can be ghastly) the man really breaks conventions and most of them like this for the good. I am so disappointed he will not serve four more years. We needed a man like this.

    I could not agree more.

    Seconded.

    In fact, to honor President Trump, I’ve corralled my husband into watching Becket with me tonight. :-) He made a face, but he’ll love it. :-)

    I just checked. It’s on Amazon Prime, free if you’re a member. I may try to watch it myself tonight. 

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Manny (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I saw this in the news this morning and was surprised. St Thomas Becket is not so well known by the non Catholic world that it would register on the electorate. What a great move. For all of Donald Trump’s quirks (and some can be ghastly) the man really breaks conventions and most of them like this for the good. I am so disappointed he will not serve four more years. We needed a man like this.

    I could not agree more.

    Seconded.

    In fact, to honor President Trump, I’ve corralled my husband into watching Becket with me tonight. :-) He made a face, but he’ll love it. :-)

    I just checked. It’s on Amazon Prime, free if you’re a member. I may try to watch it myself tonight.

    I’ve watched three quarters of it. A lot of it is simply untrue. Richard Burton is great in the part, however. :-) But it’s not a great historical piece. People would probably be better off sticking to written descriptions. :-) 

    • #11
  12. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Well, Thomas á Beckett was nothing other than a pawn in the struggles between Alexander III (the Pope), Louis VII (King of France), and Henry II and was in over his head (which is what it cost him). The idea that Henry II was secular is laughable. No king was or could be secular.

    You must be unaware of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, born just a few years after Henry’s death.  Excommunicated by the Papacy three times, he was often called Antichrist.

    • #12
  13. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I saw this in the news this morning and was surprised. St Thomas Becket is not so well known by the non Catholic world that it would register on the electorate. What a great move. For all of Donald Trump’s quirks (and some can be ghastly) the man really breaks conventions and most of them like this for the good. I am so disappointed he will not serve four more years. We needed a man like this.

    I could not agree more.

    Seconded.

    In fact, to honor President Trump, I’ve corralled my husband into watching Becket with me tonight. :-) He made a face, but he’ll love it. :-)

    I just checked. It’s on Amazon Prime, free if you’re a member. I may try to watch it myself tonight.

    I’ve watched three quarters of it. A lot of it is simply untrue. Richard Burton is great in the part, however. :-) But it’s not a great historical piece. People would probably be better off sticking to written descriptions. :-)

    I fell asleep after about a half hour in.  I’ll try to watch more of it tonight.  It doesn’t strike me as being historically accurate either or true to the historical personalities, but it’s entertaining.  Both O’Toole and Burton are very good.

    • #13
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Manny (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I saw this in the news this morning and was surprised. St Thomas Becket is not so well known by the non Catholic world that it would register on the electorate. What a great move. For all of Donald Trump’s quirks (and some can be ghastly) the man really breaks conventions and most of them like this for the good. I am so disappointed he will not serve four more years. We needed a man like this.

    I could not agree more.

    Seconded.

    In fact, to honor President Trump, I’ve corralled my husband into watching Becket with me tonight. :-) He made a face, but he’ll love it. :-)

    I just checked. It’s on Amazon Prime, free if you’re a member. I may try to watch it myself tonight.

    Thanks for the catch. I’ll put it on my list as well, for Burton and O’Toole.

    • #14
  15. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    He is not in communion with the Church due to his unrepentant, and public statements on abortion.

    Is this true?  If anybody should be out of communion it would Mdm Pelosi.  Yet I read just a few weeks ago about her receiving communion in a Catholic church in California.  Between the two, I would cut Joe just a skosh more slack, given his limited mental capacity.  Not enough to serve him communion, even if I were Catholic.

    Then there’s 1 Cor. 11:29

    • #15
  16. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    He is not in communion with the Church due to his unrepentant, and public statements on abortion.

    Is this true? If anybody should be out of communion it would Mdm Pelosi. Yet I read just a few weeks ago about her receiving communion in a Catholic church in California. Between the two, I would cut Joe just a skosh more slack, given his limited mental capacity. Not enough to serve him communion, even if I were Catholic.

    Then there’s 1 Cor. 11:29

    It doesn’t mean that both fail to make the threshold. The problem with Biden in particular is that he publicly campaigns on his Catholic identity. That’s the disgrace. 

    • #16
  17. notmarx Member
    notmarx
    @notmarx

    Manny (View Co

    I fell asleep after about a half hour in. I’ll try to watch more of it tonight. It doesn’t strike me as being historically accurate either or true to the historical personalities, but it’s entertaining. Both O’Toole and Burton are very good.

    Not especially accurate is my understanding.  Nonetheless a favorite: a moving consideration of holiness, and an astute one of the problems of personality in rule, and the claims of Caesar against the claims of God.  

    And a chance to watch a couple of great actors at the top of their games.  Anouilh’s play is a showpiece for actors.  I seem to recall reading that when Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn played opposite each other in the stage production, they would reverse roles night-to-night.  You wonder how it was Burton was cast as the priest and O’Toole the king; it’s easy to imagine the opposite.  I’d love to have seen it.   Burton’s underplayed delight in ridding himself of his possessions still seems to me a parable of holy poverty, convincingly incarnated; you find yourself admiring and envious of Becket’s inspiration–a man coming to himself in giving himself away.  Beautifully played.  You wonder how O’Toole would have played it.  

    O’Toole and Burton were good friends, and companionable roisterers, but for this film they agreed to drink only on weekend breaks.  Surrounded by British theater royalty, Gielgud and Wolfit especially, they did not want to embarrass themselves.  Sian Phillips, O’Toole’s wife at the time, is a haunting complication; she has a kind of tragic beauty, such that sharing the screen with two of the best, and most magnetic, actors in the world, you can’t take your eyes off her.  

    • #17
  18. notmarx Member
    notmarx
    @notmarx

    Eustace C. Scrubb (View Comment):

    Never a bad time to make a plug for the great T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral which tells the story in a drama in verse.

    A couple of years back my reading group spent a year with Eliot.  It was great fun–and enlightenment–to sit around a table and read the play to each other.  I was one of Becket’s killers.  You can listen to an lp (yes you hear the surface noise) needle drop in parts on YouTube, a very good production with Paul Scofield as Becket.  About as good as you’d think.  A strange play, Murder in the Cathedral, its theatricality deliberately ritualistic.

    • #18
  19. notmarx Member
    notmarx
    @notmarx

    It doesn’t mean that both fail to make the threshold. The problem with Biden in particular is that he publicly campaigns on his Catholic identity. That’s the disgrace.

    Yes, Biden’s shamelessness and the pusillanimity of the bishops facing it.  

    • #19
  20. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    notmarx (View Comment):

     

    It doesn’t mean that both fail to make the threshold. The problem with Biden in particular is that he publicly campaigns on his Catholic identity. That’s the disgrace.

    Yes, Biden’s shamelessness and the pusillanimity of the bishops facing it.

    It is my impression that the U.S. Council of Bishops has consistently promoted abortion in fact, while piously posturing against it, since Roe v. Wade, as they have conformed their belief and practice to socialism rather than serving as salt and light. 

    • #20