The question of the Blessed Eucharist had come to the front rapidly owing to the violent and abusive sermons of some of the new preachers, and the irreverent and sacrilegious conduct of those who accepted their teaching. The bishops of the old school demanded that measures should be taken to prevent such attacks on the very centre point of Christian worship, while Cranmer and his supporters were determined to insist upon Communion under both kinds. Apparently two different measures were introduced, which were merged ultimately into one Act, whereby it was decreed that all who spoke irreverently against the Blessed Eucharist should be punished by fines and imprisonment, and that Communion should be administered under both kinds except necessity otherwise required. The linking together of these two Acts was a clever move to ensure the support of the bishops who desired to put down irreverence against the Eucharist, and it is noteworthy that out of the eleven bishops present five voted against the measure even in its improved form.
Already an Act had been passed in the previous reign against colleges, chantries, guilds, etc., but since most of these remained as yet undisturbed, it was determined to replenish the royal treasury by decreeing their immediate dissolution, and by vesting their property in the king. This was done with the avowed object of diverting the funds from superstitious uses to the erection of grammar schools, the maintenance of students at the universities, and the relief of the poor; but in reality the property of the guilds, and of the free schools and chantry schools, was confiscated, and little if anything was done for the improvement of education or for the relief of the poor. Edward VI. is represented generally as the founder of the English grammar schools and colleges, but it would be much more correct to say that through his greedy ministers he was their destroyer. True, indeed, he established a few colleges and hospitals, but such beneficence was only a poor return for the wholesale overthrow of more than four hundred flourishing educational establishments, and for the confiscation of thousands of pounds bequeathed by generous benefactors for the education of the poor.
Convocation had met on the day after the assembly of Parliament. The lower house presented four petitions to the bishops, the most important of which was that the proctors of the clergy should be admitted to Parliament, or at least that ecclesiastical legislation should not pass until the clergy had been consulted, but the bishops were too conscious of their helplessness to support such an appeal. It is doubtful if the bill regarding Communion under both kinds was ever submitted regularly to Convocation, though later on a proposal to abolish the canons enforcing clerical celibacy was carried by a majority. It is asserted, and apparently on good authority, that the higher and more learned of the clergy consented to this proposal only under pressure.
The year 1548 opened ominously for the Catholic party. Preachers, licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and protected openly by the court, delivered wild harangues against Catholic doctrines and practices. Pamphlets, for the most part translations of heretical works published in Germany or Switzerland attacking the Mass, Transubstantiation, and the Real Presence, were sold publicly in the market places without any interference from the authorities. In January a royal proclamation was issued enjoining the observance of the Lenten fasts, but ten days later an order was made forbidding the use of candles on Candlemas Day, of ashes on Ash Wednesday, or of palms on Palm Sunday. This was followed quickly by a command for the removal of all statues, images, pictures, etc. from the churches. The use of Communion under both kinds was to come into force at Easter 1548, and to prepare for this a royal proclamation was set forth making obligatory the English /Order for Communion/. As the new rite regarded only the Communion of the laity, the Latin Mass was to remain in use as heretofore "without any varying of any rite or ceremony." The clergy were commanded to announce the Sunday on which they proposed to distribute Communion to their flocks. After the priest had himself communicated, the communicants, who did not wish to go to confession, should make a general confession, and should receive Communion under both kinds, the whole service being completed by the usual blessing. This was a clever trick to prepare the way for still greater changes. Owing to the retention of the Latin Mass it was expected that the new Communion service would not lead to serious trouble, while at the same time it would accustom the people to portions of the Mass being read in English, and would imply both that auricular confession was unnecessary and that Mass without Communion of the laity was of no particular importance. The council anticipated that the Communion service would prove unacceptable to many of the clergy, and their anticipations were fulfilled, though, as shall be seen, they adopted a novel method of allaying the trouble.鈥淭
Bishop Gardiner, who had been kept in prison while Parliament was in session lest his presence in the Upper House might lead to trouble, was released in January 1548, but in May a peremptory summons was issued commanding him to come to London without delay. He obeyed, and for some time negotiations were carried on, until at last he was ordered to preach against the Pope, monasteries, confession, and in favour of the English Communion service (29th June). He was urged not to treat of the sacrifice of the Mass, or of Transubstantiation, and warned of the serious consequences that might ensue in case he disobeyed; but Gardiner was a man who could not be deterred by such means from speaking his mind, and as a consequence he was again placed under arrest, and sent as a prisoner to the Tower. Cranmer, who had rejected the authority of the Pope because he was a foreigner, finding that he could get no support from the clergy or the universities--for in spite of everything that had taken place the theology of Oxford and Cambridge was still frankly conservative--invited preachers to come from abroad to assist in weaning the English nation from the Catholic faith. The men who responded to his call formed a motley crowd. They were Germans like Martin Bucer and Paul Fagius, Italian apostate friars like Peter Martyr (Pietro Martire Vermigli) and Ochino, Frenchmen like Jean Véron, Poles like John à Lasco, Belgians like Charles Utenhove, à Lasco's disciple, and Jews like Emmanuel Tremellius. The order for the total removal of images and for the Communion service in English led to serious disturbances even in the London churches, where the new opinions should have found the strongest support, and confusion reigned throughout the country.鈥淭
The Communion service in England was, however, only the prelude to the total abolition of the Mass. Early in 1548 a series of questions had been addressed by Cranmer to the bishops regarding the value of the Mass as a religious service apart from the Communion. The bishops were asked to say also whether private Masses offered for the living and the dead should continue to be celebrated, and what language should be used. In their replies Cranmer and Ridley favoured innovation, and were supported generally by Holbeach, Barlow, Cox, and Taylor. One, Bishop Goodrich of Ely, expressed his willingness to accept whatever might be enjoined, while the rest of the bishops adopted a conservative attitude. But whatever might be the opinions of the bishops generally the Protector and Cranmer were determined to procure the abolition of the Mass. Later in the year an assembly of the bishops was held to discuss the new English service to be substituted in its place. It is difficult to determine what precisely was done at this meeting. From the discussions which took place afterwards in the House of Lords it is clear that the bishops could not agree upon the Eucharist, that all with one exception signed their names to a rough draft drawn up on the understanding that they did not commit themselves thereby to Cranmer's views, and that the episcopal report was changed by some authority before it was presented to Parliament, especially by the omission of the word "oblation" in regard to the Mass. That the Book of Common Prayer as such was ever submitted to or approved by a formal convocation of the clergy cannot be shown.鈥淭
Parliament met in November 1548. To put an end to the religious confusion that had arisen an Act of Uniformity enjoining on all clergy the use of the Book of Common Prayer was introduced. The main discussion centred around the Eucharist and the Mass. Bishop Tunstall of Durham objected that by the omission of the Adoration it was implied that there was nothing in the Sacrament except bread and wine, a contention that he could not accept, as he believed in the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ both spiritual and carnal. Bishop Thirlby of Westminster maintained that the bishops had never agreed to the doctrine contained in the Book regarding the Eucharist but had allowed it merely to go forward for discussion. The Protector reproved him warmly for his tone and statement, but Thirlby stood firmly by his point of view, adding the interesting item of information that when the Book left the hands of the bishops it contained the word "oblation" in reference to the Mass, which word had since been omitted. Bonner of London pointed out that the Book of Common Prayer, embodying as it did statements condemned abroad and in England as heresy, should not be accepted. Cranmer and Ridley defended strongly the Eucharistic doctrine it contained. When the disputation between the bishops had been closed (19th Dec., 1548) the Bill for Uniformity was brought down and read in the Commons. Of the bishops present in the House of Lords ten voted in favour of the measure and eight against it. Gardiner was still in prison, the Bishop of Llandaff, who had spoken against Cranmer, was absent from the division, and some others are not accounted for.鈥淭
The first Act of Uniformity (1548), as it is called, displaced the Mass as it had been celebrated for centuries in the English Church, and substituted in its place the new liturgy contained in the /Book of Common Prayer/. This latter while differing completely from any rite that had been followed in the Catholic Church, had a close affinity both in regard to the rites themselves and the ceremonies for the administration of the Sacraments to the liturgy introduced by the German Lutherans. According to the Act of Parliament it was to come into force on Whit Sunday the 9th June (1549). That it was expected to meet with strong opposition is evident from the prohibition against plays, songs, rhymes, etc., holding it up to ridicule, as well as by the heavy fines prescribed against those who might endeavour to prevent clergymen from following it. Forfeiture of a year's revenue together with imprisonment for six months was the penalty to be inflicted on any clergyman who refused to follow the new liturgy. Complete deprivation and imprisonment were prescribed for the second offence, and the third offence was to be punished by life-long imprisonment. For preventing any clergyman from adopting the new liturgy the penalties were for the first offence a fine of ￡10, for the second ￡20, and for the third forfeiture and perpetual imprisonment. Finally Parliament satisfied Cranmer's scruples by permitting clergy to contract marriages.鈥淭