Why Did Henry VIII Break Away From the Catholic Church?

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Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church so that he could divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry his lover Anne Boleyn.

The year was 1527, and Henry VIII wanted a male heir. Unfortunately, his wife was too old to bear a child, so he needed a new wife. At the time, divorce was not allowed in the Catholic Church, and if Henry got a divorce without the pope’s permission, he could be excommunicated or kicked out of the church – a fate that would ultimately lead to an eternity in hell.

Henry asked the pope for a dispensation to get a divorce, but the pope would not grant him that. In response, Henry asked the archbishop of Canterbury to grant him a divorce, and the bishop had no choice but to comply. The pope was appalled, but Henry just used the occasion to split away from the Catholic Church and to establish the Church of England.

The break away from the Catholic Church had far reaching consequences, and it subverted the current world order. Prior to the break from the Catholic Church, the commonly accepted hierarchy was God, pope, king, but Henry thrust himself between the pope and God in a move that was unprecedented. Ultimately, the break opened the door for the Protestant Reformation to enter England, but that movement did not gain speed in the country until after Henry’s death during the reign of Edward VII.