OUR OPINION: Principle exacts a price, but not always alike

By NEMS Daily Journal

Some members of Congress – from the left and from the right – went beyond the pale in recent debates claiming special guidance from God about raising the debt ceiling.
Most people working in the Capitol held strong views, and many comments flowed across the spectrum about how upright and principled those representatives and senators were who held their ground against the opposition. The rhetoric suggested how difficult it was to do what was done, and the danger in which the principled positions placed those who held them.
The danger was purely political on both sides, and in the end a compromise passed, and those who refused to support it went home or went out to dinner or attended a fundraiser.
The consequence of standing on principle in 2011 in the United States is commendable, and creates heat, but there’s no real danger.
Consider an earlier principled stand by a high public official, and the debate in Washington this summer gains perspective.
Thomas More lived his 57 or 58 years more than 500 years ago, and his accomplishments would make a significant mark even without the closing episodes of his distinguished life.
More, an aristocrat, was a lawyer, a graduate of Christchurch College, Oxford, and a devoted Christian.
He also was among the most trusted friends and advisers to King Henry VIII, who was stubborn, if not principled.
More had the misfortune to stand between a divorced Henry and a second marriage, forbidden by the Catholic Church of which he was a member.
He sought More’s sanction because More was the Lord Chancellor of England, a rough equivalent of the king’s attorney or attorney general.
More refused the sanction on both legal and religious grounds, which led to a rupture between him and the king.
Henry broke with the Roman Catholics, declared the English church independent and headed by himself, and married his second wife.
More was found guilty of treason, sent to the Tower of London, and among other things wrote and offered extraordinary prayers:
“ …God, have mercy on me, vile abject, abominable, sinful wretch, meekly acknowledging before thine high majesty my long-continued sinful life, even from my very childhood hitherto. Now, good gracious Lord, as thou givest me thy grace to knowledge [my sins], so give me Thy grace not in only word but in heart also, with very sorrowful contrition to repent them and utterly to forsake them.
“… Glorious God, give me from henceforth the grace, with little respect into the world, so to set and fix firmly mine heart upon thee that I may say with thy blessed apostle St. Paul , The world is crucified to me and I to the world. To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.
“Almighty God, take from me all vainglorious minds, all appetites of mine own praise … all appetite of revenging, all desire or delight of other folks’ harm …
“And give me, good Lord, an humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender and pitiful mind, with all my works, and all my words, and all my thoughts to have a taste of thy Holy Blessed Spirit.
“Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with thee, not for the avoiding of the calamities of this wretched world, nor so much for the avoiding … the pains of hell… nor so much for attaining of the joys of heaven, in respect of mine own commodity, as even for a very love to thee…”
A little more than a week after offering that prayer, he was executed by beheading – because he stood on principle.