(Assertio Septem Sacramentorum)
By: Henry VIII King of England, D P Curtin (Editor), Rev Louis O’Donovan (Editor)
The Defence of the Seven Sacraments (in Latin, Assertio Septem Sacramentorum) is a theological treatise from 1521, written by King Henry VIII of England. Henry started to write it in 1519 while he was reading Martin Luther’s attack on indulgences. By June of that year, he had shown it to Thomas Wolsey, but it remained private until three years later, when the earlier manuscript became the first two chapters of the Assertio, the rest consisting of new material relating to Luther’s De Captivitate Babylonica. It is believed that Thomas More was involved in the composition of the piece. Author J. J. Scarisbrick describes the work as “one of the most successful pieces of Catholic polemics produced by the first generation of anti-Protestant writers.” It went through some twenty editions in the sixteenth century and, as early as 1522, had appeared in two different German translations. It was dedicated to Pope Leo X, who rewarded Henry with the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) in October 1521 (a title revoked following the king’s break with the Catholic Church in the 1530s, but re-awarded to his heir by the English Parliament).