One of my favorite movies is A Man For All Seasons (1966). The film depicts the events that led up to the martyrdom for the Catholic faint of Saint Thomas More. The movie completely captures the look and sound of Tudor England, and evokes well Saint Thomas More, perhaps the most learned, and one of the most holy, men of his day. That such a man was an attorney, and I say this as an attorney, is shocking!
But Saint Thomas More was an attorney, and one of the ablest of his time. When he was a judge, he once called for the next case only to learn that he had cleared the docket of all cases pending before the court, something that had not occurred before More’s time and has not occurred since. He even wrote a prayer, a copy of which I have hanging in my office, and which I believe should be said by attorneys as they go home from their offices: “Give me the Grace Good Lord, to set the world at naught; to set my mind fast upon Thee and not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths. To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly company but utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of the business there of.
His secular life revolved around the law, and when the King sought his blood because he would not bend to the King’s bigamous marriage to Anne Boleyn, he defended his life with such legal skill that the perjured evidence of Sir Richard Rich had to be used to allow the judicial murder of Saint Thomas.
At the beginning of this post we see the scene in the movie where the playwright Bolt has Saint Thomas defending the proposition that the Devil should be given the benefit of Man’s law. I believe that is a perfectly accurate statement of the view of Saint Thomas. If a law is unjust, as laws not infrequently are, then the law should be changed. However, for laws to be ignored or to be actively disobeyed in order for some good to be achieved would have struck him as anathema. Read the rest of this entry »