St. John Fisher: A Defense of the Royal Assertion against Martin Luther’s Babylonian Captivity

by Gerard Valck, after Adriaen van der Werff, line engraving, published 1697

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To the extent that most today know anything about St. John Fisher, it is knowing him as the one bishop that opposed Henry VIII’s break with Rome. What most do not know is that St. John Fisher was considered the greatest theologian of the day: John of Eck went to England to consult him before debating Luther, and the Council of Trent’s decree on Justification owes a great deal to St. John Fisher’s teaching. Moreover, Fisher wrote the first comprehensive refutations of Luther’s doctrines which give a fabulous witness to pre-Tridentine theology.

In this work, Defensio regiae assertionis contra Babylonicam Captivitatem, Fisher writes his first rejoinder to Luther after the latter’s response to Henry VIII’s book on the Sacraments. Fisher takes Luther’s text and then responds to it, point by point in defense of the authenticity of the Epistle of James, the regeneration of the soul in baptism, the existence of confirmation, communication of the Eucharist under both species, the substance of bread in the Holy Eucharist, that the Mass is a sacrifice; whether the people are judges of dogmas; and the validity of the sacraments of Order and Matrimony.

Fisher’s theological argumentation is first rate. By donating to this project you will help the Church by getting this excellent work into modern translation and to help us realize that contrary to the narrative that progressive clergy have given us, Luther was not right nor was he a model of reform, but an inventor of doctrines who led people into error.