Anti-clericalism came to a head in the 1529 Reformation Parliament. No records exist for Parliamentary sittings at this time but the anger felt by the Reformation Parliament was key with regards to the support Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell got when the impact of the Reformation started to take root and especially when the vote for the Act in Restraint of Appeals took place. Though the Reformation Parliament sat for six and a half years, it only met for 484 sessions.
The Reformation Parliament identified six areas where they were highly critical of the Catholic Church in England. Historians know about this as a result of the writings of Edward Hall, a MP in the Reformation Parliament who wrote about debates in the chamber as the House sat.
1) The first source of anger were the excessive amounts of money they had to pay to Cardinal Wolsey while he was chief minister after noblemen had been made executors in wills. In fact, one of the chief sources of Wolsey’s wealth was this, which MP’s referred to as being nothing less than extortion.
2) The second cause of anger was the greed of the Church when dealing with the poor and its taking of livestock from such families as a source of payment for the burial fees of a deceased. Such action, MP’s argued, caused a great deal of unnecessary poverty.
3) Too many priests, on behalf of abbots and bishops, used vital grazing land and denied its use to the poor or made them pay to use such land.
4) The fourth cause of anger was that abbots and priors kept tan houses and had involvement in the wool and cloth trade, which put them in direct competition with non-churchmen, many of whom were MP’s or there were MP’s who were related to those who lost out because of this.
5) The fifth cause of anger was that too many abbots and priors lived like lords while those poor around them lived in poverty. There were poor who lived in Church-owned homes, which had been left to fall into ruin by their owners. The manner in which the poor lived within these homes was contrary to the word and true instructions of God.
6) Many priests were non-resident and therefore could not tend to their flock. Too many Churchmen who could act as priests were “learned scholars” at universities.
Hall made the point that too many people were in fear of talking out about these issues in case they were accused of heresy, and that such a climate of fear was what Wolsey had wanted as it ensured that the whole structure continued without change.