Henry Ansgar Kelly

Henry Ansgar (Andy) Kelly is a long-time professor of English at UCLA. He served as Director of CMRS (Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies), and editor of its Journal, Viator. His many years as a Jesuit seminarian sparked his interest in such topics as the Bible, The Devil, canon law, inquisition, saints (for example, Valentine, Cecilia, Joan of Arc), marriage law, and Latin. For his various works, see https://english.ucla.edu/people-faculty/kelly-henry-a/

New Release

Criminal-Inquisitorial Trials in English Church Courts

In this book, HENRY ANSGAR KELLY lays out a UNIFIED FIELD THEORY of church trials: all of them, including heresy trials, followed inquisitorial procedure, as set forth at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. This was the MAGNA CARTA of ecclesiastical due process. In a lawful inquisition, only a person publicly suspected of committing a public crime can be charged by a judge (the inquisitor). If the defendant denies it, the judge must prove it, allowing full defenses to the defendant.

In England, these rules were generally adhered to, though with some deviations when heresy was involved. Early examples studied are prosecutions of tithing offenses and clandestine marriage. Kelly then gives revisionist explanations of the trials of the English Knights Templar, and of the sorcery trials of Alice Kyteler and others in Ireland. Later chapters take up ordinary trials of clerical and lay “correction” (usually dealing with sexual offenses), the processing of “criminous clerics,” and the major encounters with religious dissidents in the wake of John Wyclif’s teachings, including the prosecution of Sir John Oldcastle.

Specific cases in the fifteenth century are those of Margery Kempe and Bishop Reginald Pecock. Pecock’s conviction on bogus charges of heresy in 1457-59 was replicated in 1515 in Richard Hunne’s posthumous conviction on the non-existent crime of defending English Bibles. Sixteenth-century cases include the collusive inquisitions against Henry VIII and his wives, the heresy trials conducted during the two years of Thomas More’s chancellorship, and the trials of Anne Askew. Trials of bishops under Edward VI (Bonner and Gardiner) and Mary (Cranmer and Ridley) are then detailed, followed by Elizabeth’s surprising return to papal canon law. Kelly concludes by defending inquisitorial procedure against common (and common-law) misunderstandings.

From the Middle Ages to the Reformation

Published by The Catholic University of America Press ©2023

About Henry Ansgar Kelly

Henry Ansgar Kelly is a Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA, specializing in biblical studies, Middle Ages and Renaissance research. He is also the author of Criminal-Inquisitorial Trials in English Church Courts: From the Middle Ages to the Reformation, as well as many other books and publications.

Books by Henry Ansgar Kelly

Love and Marriage in the Age of Chaucer. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, l975 (xii + 344 pp.). Reprint: Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2004

Opposes the “mandatory adultery” claim of C. S. Lewis’s “courtly love.” Shows that lovers throughout history and literature wished to marry, and did so once impediments (e.g., the woman’s husband) were removed. Focuses on Gower’s Confessio Amantis and Chaucer’s Troilus and Legend of Good Women, and their sources (Ovid and Boccaccio). A close examination of canon law, the common practice of clandestine marriage, and writings on mysticism shows that sexual passion was not incompatible with virtue, and marriage was sought for mutual consolation. Like Aeneas and Dido, Troilus and Criseyde were effectively married (Troilus invokes the god of marriage, Hymeneus).

The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII. Stanford U. Press, l976. Reprint: Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2004. New Foreword. Reprint: Omaha: Gryphon, 2013, for The Notable Trials Library, Intro., Alan M. Dershowitz.

Draws for the first time on the official court record of the Legatine trial of 1529. Shows that Henry was not a plaintiff in an annulment petition, but rather he and Catherine were both defendants in an inquisition, i.e., a criminal trial (the same was true of Henry and Anne Boleyn in 1536 and Henry and Anne of Cleves in 1540). Gives a history of matrimonial impediments and how they were appealed to by the king’s lawyers, including multiple tries at “public honesty” (against J. J. Scarisbrick). Reveals Henry’s private theology, as set forth by Cranmer: affinity is not contracted by sex (which would bar him from Anne Boleyn), but by marriage (barring him from Catherine of Aragon).

Canon Law and the Archpriest of Hita. Medieval Texts and Studies, Binghamton: SUNY, l984.

A study of the Libro de buen amor (LBA) by “Juan Ruiz,” the “Archpriest of Hita.” An archpriest was equivalent to a permanent rural dean in England, in charge of a subdivision of the archdeaconry. Ruiz shows great knowledge of canon law, and, among other things, describes a highly technical trial by accusation (as opposed to inquisition), with Wolf as accuser, Fox as accused, and Monkey (Don Ximio) as judge. His citing of the Novella of John Andrew of Bologna shows that he was writing after 1338; supposed connections to Archbishop Albornoz in Toledo (before 1350) are fallacious. There are strong reasons (based on Church offices and officeholders) for placing LBA close to the scribal date of 1389.

Inquisitions and Other Trial Procedures in the Medieval West. Ashgate: Variorum, 2001.

I. Inquisition and the Prosecution of Heresy: Misconceptions and Abuses

II. Inquisitorial Due Process and the Status of Secret Crimes

III. The Right to Remain Silent: Before and after Joan of Arc

IV. Joan of Arc's Last Trial: The Attack of the Devil's Advocates

V. Trial Procedures Against Wyclif and Wycliffites in England and at the Council of Constance

VI. Lollard Inquisitions: Due and Undue Process)

VII. English Kings and the Fear of Sorcery

VIII. The Case Against Edward IV's Marriage and Offspring: Secrecy; Witchcraft; Secrecy; Precontract

IX. Statutes of Rapes and Alleged Ravishers of Wives: A Context for the Charges Against Thomas Malory, Knight

X. Meanings and Uses of Raptus in Chaucer’s Time

Law and Religion in Chaucer’s England. Ashgate: Variorum, 2010.

I. Shades of Incest and Cuckoldry: Pandarus and John of Gaunt

II. Bishop, Prioress, and Bawd in the Stews of Southwark

III. Medieval Laws and Views on Wife-Beating

IV. The Pardoner's Voice, Disjunctive Narrative, and Modes of Effemination

V. Sacraments, Sacramentals, and Lay Piety in Chaucer's England

VI. Penitential Theology and Law at the Turn of the Fifteenth Century

VII. Jews and Saracens in Chaucer's England: A Review of the Evidence

VIII. The Prioress's Tale in Context: Good and Bad Reports of Non-Christians in Fourteenth-Century England

IX. Chaucer’s Knight and the Northern 'Crusades': The Example of Henry Bolingbroke

X. A Neo-Revisionist Look at Chaucer's Nuns

XI. How Cecilia Came to Be a Saint and Patron (Matron?) of Music

XII. Canon Law and Chaucer on Licit and Illicit Magic

Thomas More’s Trial by Jury: A Procedural and Legal Review with a Collection of Documents, Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2011. Paperback edition, 2013.

For the first time, all existing reports of More’s trial have been gathered together and analyzed. More was charged with treason for impugning Henry VIII’s title of Supreme Head of the Church. Hitherto, the consensus has been that the judges were amenable to reasonable arguments and dismissed three of the four charges against him, and that More pleaded not guilty only to the fourth. It is argued here that More was charged and convicted on the whole Indictment. After the verdict of guilty was returned, the consensus view is that More made a standard motion to overturn it. There is, however, no evidence that such a motion was ever used in criminal cases in the sixteenth century. The most important legal question, then, is not whether a motion on his part should have been accepted, but whether the judges treated More fairly and according to law in not accepting his contention that he did not fall under the Treasons Statute. More argued, first, that he did nothing by spoken or written word or by deed to impugn the King's title, and specifically, that his silence, or refusal to speak on the subject, should be not construed as opposition, but, if anything, as affirmation; and, secondly, that he did nothing out of malice, which was a necessary condition for incurring the statutory censure.

Criminal-Inquisitorial Trials in English Church Courts: From the Middle Ages to the Reformation. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2023

Reviews the rules for inquisitio, a new form of criminal procedure introduced by Innocent III in the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215: a person who is publicly suspected of committing a public crime can be charged with it by a judge (the inquisitor). If the defendant denies it, the judge must prove it, or else acquit, or order canonical purgation. In England, the rules were in general adhered to, even when crimes of heresy were in question. Early examples studied are prosecutions of tithes and clandestine marriage. The prosecution of the English Templars is examined, and the sorcery trials of Alice Kyteler in Ireland. The processing of “criminous clerks” and ordinary trials of clerical and lay “correction” are taken up, and the major encounters with religious dissent in the wake of John Wyclif’s teachings. The unusual case of Reginald Pecock is studied extensively, and major developments of the sixteenth century are laid out, including the inquisitions against Henry VIII and his wives.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: The Origins of Inquisitorial Procedure

Chapter 2: The Beginnings of Inquisitorial Procedure in England

Chapter 3: The Prosecution of the Knights Templar in Britain

Chapter 4: Alleged Heretical Sorcerers in Ireland

Chapter 5: The Fourteenth Century: John Acton on Correction, with Some Examples in Practice

Chapter 6: The Processing of Criminous Clerks by Inquisition/Purgation

Chapter 7: Prosecuting Heterodoxy after John Wyclif: The Blackfriars Method of Interrogating Present Belief

Chapter 8: Trials of Lollards and the Death Penalty

Chapter 9: Last Wycliffites, Margery Kempe, and Other Alleged Dissenters

Chapter 10: Tithes; Nigromancy; Teachings of Reginald Pecock

Chapter 11: Dissent, Crimes, and Divorce: Richard Hunne, Criminous Clerks, and Henry VIII

Chapter 12: Heresy Trials and Sir Thomas More

Chapter 13: Parliament and Inquisition under Henry VIII and Edward IV

Chapter 14: Marian Restorations and Elizabethan Return to Papal Law

Chapter 15: Conclusion: Inquisition-Trials, and Inquisition on Trial

Other Books by H.A.K.

The Devil, Demonology, and Witchcraft, rev. 1974; repr. with new Appendix: Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2004

Divine Providence in the England of Shakespeare's Histories. Harvard, l970; repr., Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2004

The Devil at Baptism: Ritual, Theology, and Drama. Cornell, l985; repr. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2004

Chaucer and the Cult of St. Valentine. Leiden: Brill, 1986.

Tragedy and Comedy from Dante to Pseudo-Dante. UC Press, 1989; repr. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2004

Ideas and Forms of Tragedy from Aristotle to the Middle Ages. Cambridge UP, 1993; pb, 2005

Chaucerian Tragedy. Cambridge: Brewer, 1997; pb, 2000.

Satan: A Biography. Cambridge UP, 2006.

The Middle English Bible: A Reassessment. Philadelphia: Penn, 2016.

Satan in the Bible, God’s Minister of Justice. Eugene: Cascade Books (Wipf and Stock), 2017.

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