Martin Bucer, a failed Dominican from Strasbourg whom Cranmer had invited to England and eased into the Regius Chair at Cambrdidge, died there in 1551, while the Godly were still in power, and was buried in the University Church. When the Marian Commissioners made their Visitation of the Daughter University in 1557, they were offended, as any right-thinking person would be, to find his remains still interred there. The Vice-Chancellor presided over the highly fitting ritual proceedings which concluded with the incineration of Bucer's remains, those of another Strasbourg 'reformer' called Phagius, and the available books of the said 'reformers'. The country folk who flocked in to watch were apparently vastly amused to see the dramatically decaying corpses chained as if out of a fear that they might do a runner ... what happily unsqueamish days! According to a Protestant woodcut in Foxe, round the conflagration went a procession which looks like a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament ... you will find it on the dust-cover of Duffy's Fires of Faith. (Several of the clergy who go in front, singing Salve Festa Dies, appear to be wearing spectacles.) I wonder how probable such liturgical riches would have been on the Tuesday after Septuagesima. Perhaps Foxe has naughtily let his imagination run away with him.
That presiding Vice-Chancellor was Perne; and he spoke very strongly, and with real animus, against Bucer. Let us now resume our account of his career seven years later, when the political and theological situation had become rather different.
In 1564, when Henry Tudor's bastard daughter was on a state visit to the University, Perne preached so well that "the Queen made her pleasure manifest". But in a later disputation on the question Maior est scripturae quam ecclesiae authoritas, Perne got his head well above a dangerous parapet. He maintained that the Church was the final court of appeal, since it was anterior to Scripture and thus the basis of the authority of Scripture. He quoted S Cyprian ("principalis ecclesia") on the Roman Primacy, and argued that the Roman Church, so far from being (what his opponent had called it) a meretricious whore, was the "apostolica et matrix ecclesia". Anticipating the Tractarians, he drew attention to the fact that many of the texts in the Prayer Book were drawn from Roman Sources. He gave advice that the Queen's religion was a comfortable one in which to live but not a safe faith in which to die ... the Jesuit missionary Fr John Gerard recorded hearing this from an ex-Calvinist convert who had herself consulted Perne.
To be continued. (An earlier version of this post contained, at the end, an error which I have corrected.)
10 January 2017
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Thanks to your resurrection of Perne's memory, I have enjoyed delving a little into the sources, courtesy of the internet. I see that the scurrilous puritans said very wicked things about his friendship with Archbishop Whitgift; the accusations sounded very much like the smirkings of worldlings today against the clergy.
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