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Off Key


Time and Again

"You are hard-headed, sensible people as I can see, and not to be taken in by emotional clap-trap. I therefore ask you to consider soberly: what were the Archbishop's aims? and what are King Henry's aims? In the answer to these questions lies the key to the problem.

"The King's aim has been perfectly consistent . . . to curb the excessive powers of local government, which were usually exercised for selfish, and often for seditious ends, and to systematize the judiciary.

"Had Becket concurred with the King's wishes, we should have had an almost ideal state; a union of spiritual and temporal administration, under the central government . . . And what happened? The moment that Becket, at the King's instance, had been made Archbishop . . . and he became more priestly than the priests, he ostentatiously and offensively adopted an ascetic manner of life, he openly abandoned every policy that he had heretofore supported; he affirmed immediately that there was a higher order than that which our King, and he as the King's servant, had for so many years striven to establish; and that--God knows why--the two orders were incompatible.

"You will agree with me that such interference by an Archbishop offends the instincts of a people like ours. So far, I know that I have your approval: I read, it in your faces. It is only with the measures we have had to adopt, in order to set matters to rights, that you take issue. No one regrets the necessity for violence more than we do. Unhappily, there are times when violence is the only way in which social justice can be secured. At another time, you would condemn an Archbishop by vote of Parliament and execute him formally as a traitor, and no one would have to bear the burden of being called murderer. But if you have now arrived at a just subordination of the pretensions of the Church to the welfare of the State, remember that it is we who took the first step. . . . We have served your interests; we merit your applause; and if there is any guilt whatever in the matter, you must share it with us.'

The above is from "Murder in the Cathedral", the speech of the Third Knight. Just try changing some of the names.

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