Who is St. Thomas More?

Short Bio of St. Thomas More

Born in 1478, St. Thomas More was an English lawyer and statesman who rose to become Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to May 1532 during the reign of Henry VIII.  More took office during the turbulent years of the Protestant Reformation and became embroiled in the controversy that surrounded Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church after Pope Clement VII  refused to annul the King’s marriage to Queen Katherine of Aragon.

More refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England and later refused to swear allegiance to the parliamentary Act of Succession, pursuant to which the Church of England secession from the Roman Catholic Church.  Although More did not publicly speak out against the King, he was arrested and charged with high treason for “malicious silence” in violation of statutes establishing the King's supremacy in all matters relating to the Catholic Church in England.

At his famous trial in 1535, More relied upon the legal maxim "qui tacet consentire videtur" ("one who keeps silent seems to consent”), with the understanding that he could not be convicted as long as he did not explicitly deny that the King was Supreme Head of the Church, and he therefore refused to answer all questions regarding his opinions on the subject.  Based on the dubious testimony of a witness who claimed to have overheard More deny that the King was the legitimate head of the Church in England, More was convicted of treason.  More was executed by decapitation on July 6, 1535. While on the scaffold, More declared that he died "the king's good servant, and God's first.”

As a martyr in the defense of religious liberty, More was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI on May 19, 1935.  Although closely associated with the legal profession, More is not the Patron Saint of Lawyers – an honor which belongs to Saint Ives of Brittany.  Rather, on October 31, 2000, Pope John Paul II declared More "the heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians"

Lawyer’s Prayer to St. Thomas More

Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints:

Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients’ tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul.