There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. — Mark Twain

History of the Church: Early Modern Times - Notre Dame




The Church of England as by Law Established



I. The Protestantism of Elizabeth


On the day of Mary's death, November 17, 1558, Elizabeth was proclaimed queen.

The story that she notified her accession to Pope Paul IV., and received so discourteous a reply that she was driven into the arms of the Protestant party, is discredited by Lingard, who points out that there is no trace in any official documents, English or Roman, of an ambassador accredited by Elizabeth to the Roman See. Moreover, Carne, Mary's ambassador, was dismissed by letters dated February 9, after Elizabeth had met her Parliament. As late as February 14, Carne, in writing to Elizabeth, says a cardinal had told him the Pope wished to have some one accredited from her.

Be this as it may, when Elizabeth opened Parliament, January 25, there was no hesitation as to the course to be adopted. The programme of measures to be passed had been drawn up by the Royal Council, and the Bills to be laid before the Lords and Commons were as follows:

"An Act for restoring of Tenths and First Fruits to the Sovereign, enforcing anew Henry VIII.'s Act of Annates."

"An Act of Supremacy recognizing Elizabeth as Head of the Church and abrogating the jurisdiction of the Pope."

"An Act of Uniformity by which the Second Prayer-Book of Edward VI., slightly modified by Cecil, was ordered to be used in the Divine Service and in the Administration of the Sacraments instead of the Catholic Liturgy."

Thus in less than ten weeks from her accession the queen and her ministers had determined on seizing upon Catholic revenues, jurisdiction, and worship, and had sketched out a complete plan of the Church of England as by law established, and had provided for its being a thoroughly national Church, with a supreme head in the person of the sovereign.

But there had been previous signs of what was coming. The Bishop of Carlisle had received orders not to elevate the Sacred Host at the Consecration at midnight Mass. He replied that he could not obey in such a case, and Elizabeth and her court withdrew directly after the gospel. The Bishop of Winchester had been imprisoned for the sermon he preached at Mary's funeral, and a proclamation had been issued, saying that no change was to be made in the order of Divine Service till the queen should have consulted her Parliament, while all preaching was prohibited. In consequence, the bishops had met and had decided that it was not lawful for them to assist at the queen's coronation.

Bishop Oglethorpe, of Carlisle, at last consented to crown the queen, if she agreed to communicate and take the ordinary coronation oath and conform to the rites of the Roman Pontifical, which she did.

The Catholic bishops on their side had also prepared for the struggle that was sure to come. They had met in Convocation, and had drawn up a solemn declaration of their adherence to the Catholic faith in Five Articles, which included: (1) The Real Presence; (2) Transubstantiation; (3) The Sacrifice of the Mass; (4) Supremacy of the Pope; (5) Denial of the Right of Laymen to rule the Church.

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge united in a similar confession of faith. The documents were laid before the Lords. But Convocation was not allowed to treat of the measures under consideration. It was to a Parliament carefully prepared for the purpose that were entrusted the queen's projects. In the Lords—by promises to Catholic peers of sundry favours, and that they personally should not be called on to take the oath of supremacy if they passed it, by creation of five Protestant peers, and by the exclusion of six of the sixteen bishops who formed the whole of the episcopal bench—a majority of three was secured. The Lower House had been packed; the writs served to the sheriffs, enjoining them to get members elected for the, queen's first Parliament, had indicated the persons to be returned. Yet, in spite of these precautions, the Bills became law only after violent opposition and by a species of chicanery. At each division the bishops voted unanimously against the Bills, and spoke against them whenever the opportunity arose. Beside the three principal measures named above, Parliament gave back to the Crown the Church property which had been restored to the clergy, and, moreover, empowered the sovereign to take possession of the lands still remaining attached to the various bishoprics as they became vacant, provided that an equivalent in tithes and parsonages were paid to the new prelate.

In the incredibly short space of three months legislation respecting religion was complete, and England was provided with her new faith. This was the work of a party of reformers, some of whom were fresh from the Continent, where they had passed several years in exile among Swiss and German Calvinists, the Lutherans having refused to give them hospitality as their opinions about the Eucharist were so very extreme. To finish with the doctrinal aspect of Elizabeth's reign, it is necessary to add that the Forty-two Articles of the Edwardine Creed were retouched and considerably modified by Archbishop Parker and Convocation in 1562. Nine years later they again underwent revision, but even yet had not taken the form in which they still exist. That was accomplished only in 1604 by order of James I.

The next step was to get the nation to recognize the Church as conceived by Parliament. Bishops, clergy, and people were dealt with in turn. The bishops, a few at a time, were called before Elizabeth and offered the choice between the oath of supremacy and deprivation. With one exception, Kitchen of Llandaff, they refused the former, and they were all imprisoned, first in the common prison, later in an ostensibly less rigorous but probably far more harassing confinement in one of the palaces of the new bishops.

Then came the turn of the clergy. Successive visitations were made to oblige them to conform. The first lasted only six months, and had to be abandoned, results were so barren. A very large number of canons, deans, heads of colleges, were deprived, and out of 9,400 priests, only 8o6 consented to take the oath. A large number went to Ireland, others abroad, and many became chaplains in private families, and thus were enabled to continue their ministry. It is uncertain what became of the others, but it seems likely that many, especially in the north and west, were quietly left to themselves, as it was impossible to sweep away such an enormous number of men, and equally impossible to find others to take their places. That a very large number were left in possession is proved by a second visitation being ordered three years later, when more than a third of the benefices were found to be vacant. Again there was a weeding out of faithful priests, and many of the married clergy ousted by Mary (some say three thousand) were reinstated and the Catholics turned out.

The Catholic people were to be coerced into becoming Protestants. Every non-attendance at the new Sunday service was to be punished by a fine; and it must be remembered that more than three-fourths of the people of England were Catholics when these laws were passed. It naturally took some time for the minority to force its creed on the majority, but all the power, the wealth, and the dignities were on the side of the Protestant party; Catholics had nothing but patient endurance and silent resistance to offer in defence of their faith, and this they did offer to a heroic degree.

But the most curious phase has yet to be dealt with—the way, namely, in which the English Church was provided with new pastors. Unlike many other Protestant sectaries, Elizabeth and her Council decided to have bishops as well as priests. They knew it was necessary that the new bishops should be consecrated, or the people would not accept them as lawful pastors. But bishops must be consecrated by other bishops; the law of the Church says—"one archbishop and two bishops, or four bishops, or at least three, in which case the consent of all the other bishops of the province must be given in writing." But a note in Cecil's handwriting exists: "There is no archbishop, and no four bishops: what is to be done?" For every Catholic bishop was in prison, except Kitchen of Llandaff, and he refused to act. Four men who had been bishops under Edward were got together. One, Barlow, the man chosen to be consecrator, had, it is said, not been consecrated, but merely elected; two had been consecrated by Edward's ordinal (a form so vague that one hundred years after its adoption, it was replaced by a more explicit ritual), and one had been consecrated in Henry's reign by a valid form. This man, by God's Providence, was present as an assistant only. The four began by recognizing the election of Parker the archbishop-designate. Then Barlow, using the invalid formula of the Edwardine ordinal, consecrated Parker, who at once confirmed the election of the men who had consecrated him, and, finally taking them as his assistants, he consecrated as many more as were needed to fill up the vacant sees. There had evidently been a doubt, not only in the minds of their opponents, but in their own, as to whether such consecration would be valid, for the question. was put to some of their theologians, who replied, that since the plenitude of jurisdiction resided in the sovereign, her consent would supply all that was wanting.

But there was absolutely no body of educated men to draw upon to provide clergy. As many as possible of the Edwardine ministers were reinstated, and to supply the places of the deceased or ejected Catholic priests anyone that could manage to read the service was entrusted with a parish, though he was not allowed to administer the Sacraments; and Green says: "The new Protestant clergy were often unpopular, and roused the disgust of the people by their violence and greed. The marriages of the clergy became a scandal, which was increased when the gorgeous vestments of the old worship were cut up into gowns and bodices for the priests' wives."

As time went on, the position of the adherents of the old faith became more difficult. Events were taking place not only in England, but in Scotland and on the Continent, that considerably aggravated Protestant hatred for Catholics, and laws of ever-increasing severity were passed on five different occasions—1571, 1581, 1585, 1587, 1593. All through the long struggle between Mary Queen of Scots and her nobles Elizabeth's support was lent to the Calvinists, while Catholic sympathy and Catholic help were given to the unfortunate sovereign. The Netherlands were engaged in their struggle against Philip II. every story of Spanish cruelty was re-echoed in England with telling effect, and Flemish refugees, pouring into the country, fanned the flame of hatred against the Catholic religion, which was supposed to be the cause of their sufferings. French Huguenots looked to Elizabeth for aid, and she extended it in turn, often secretly, to every group of reformers engaged in a struggle with their sovereign. Hence England rose in importance, as she was leagued with an influential body in each State. But the firmer the friendships made with Protestant insurgents abroad, the more bitter the position of Catholics at home. It was, however, when Elizabeth and her Council recognized that Catholicism in England would not, as they fondly hoped, be allowed to die out by the extinction of the priests that persecution began in stern earnest. In 1568 Dr. Allen opened a seminary at Douay to supply England with priests. In 1578 another was begun in Rome by Pope Gregory XIII. Numbers of Catholic young men, escaping from England, gladly went to the one or the other to be trained for the missions, and thence returned to help their persecuted countrymen at home. In 1580 the first Jesuits found their way into England, and they were followed by a continual stream of missionaries of their Order. Colleges were founded by them at Valladolid, Lisbon, and Seville in Spain, and St. Omer in France. The Benedictines, after some experience that Spanish air and Spanish food told on the health of the young Englishmen who had entered among them in considerable numbers, agreed to select one or two houses to which all aspirants should be sent. From these, several missionaries also came to England. Indeed, so numerous were the valiant priests who streamed into the country that it was often a difficult matter to provide for them all, so impoverished were even those who had been the wealthiest among the Catholics. But nothing contributed more to make the position of our afflicted countrymen embarrassing and painful than the excommunication pronounced against Elizabeth by Pius V. (1571). The document was affixed to the door of the palace of the Bishop of London, and all were free to read the pains and penalties decreed against their sovereign. A suspension of the sentence was procured by the Jesuits, but according to Roman custom it was not annulled. Thus a political offence seemed to be mixed with the religious, and Catholics henceforth were punished as traitors, while even among themselves they were not agreed as to how far the Bull obliged them in conscience. Elizabeth's Government was quick enough to seize upon and foment any difference of opinion among Catholics, and the very unsettled state of affairs respecting the government of the Church in England, following on the death of the last bishop in 1584, added to their troubles. Neither did the advent of the Armada (1588) help to lighten their burden. Actual martyrdoms began in 1570, when B. John Felton was put to death for affixing Elizabeth's sentence of excommunication to the entrance of the palace of the Bishop of London. From 1583 to 1603, each year—one only excepted—there were numerous executions, mostly of priests, amounting to about two hundred; but many others, besides thousands of men, women, and even children, were punished by fine, imprisonment, or torture, for non-compliance with the statutes against religion published in this reign. Thousands more sought refuge on the Continent; but it would be impossible in so short a summary as this even to sketch the daily round of harassing anxiety, poverty, privation, insult, and outrage of every kind which made up the lifelong martyrdom of the faithful Catholic in the brave days of old. In 1581 Dr. Allen was named by Pope Gregory XI II. Prefect of the English mission. He held the office and directed English Ecclesiastical affairs till his death, 1595. In 1598 an arch-priest was appointed. This office existed till 1621. From this time till 1655, vicars-apostolic had charge of the English Church.

The conviction that our English forefathers did not give up their faith is forced on the reader of Tudor history. They were led blindly into schism by blind guides under Henry, and though there may have been scenes of riot and plunder when the monasteries were sacked, these cannot be regarded as indicating the real feelings of the people. A mob will take up almost any cry, and many a one in the heat of popular excitement will say and do that which his calmer judgment would condemn. Neither did the English nation voluntarily embrace Protestantism The risings of the peasantry under Henry, Edward, and Elizabeth were a deliberate protest against the introduction of a new religion, and the long list of recusants of all classes, the references, so numerous, which the records of their sufferings contain of unnumbered others who were present at Mass, who sympathized with the sufferings of the martyrs, or who underwent hardships for their religion, prove that the attachment of the English to the faith of their fathers was deep and sincere. It was the loss of the Mass and cowardly attendance at heretical worship that undermined the constancy of our ancestors. Little by little, craft and cruelty thinned the diminishing flock, while the ranks of the "Reformed" were continually swelled by immigrant refugees from the Continent, and at last England found herself not only a Protestant, but a persecuting land.



II. The Persecution of Catholics


Terrible as had been the position of Catholics under Elizabeth, there was to be no mitigation of their fate under James I. Their hopes had been raised when, in March, 1603, the Scottish monarch ascended the English throne. They knew that, "unlike Elizabeth, James had no cause for fearing the Roman See; it had never questioned his legitimacy, it had assisted him when King of Scotland, its adherents in England had almost universally hailed his accession to the crown with loyalty and rejoicing, and the Pope had sent messages to him offering to assist in securing the allegiance of the Catholics by removing any priests who might be obnoxious to him." Many Catholics had done all they could to assist him by their dutiful affection, and it seems certain that the impression existed that James had given assurances that Catholics should meet with some form of toleration. Moreover, the Queen Anne of Denmark was known to be a Catholic, and it was hoped she would interfere in behalf of her co-religionists. They were grievously disappointed; and hardly was James seated on the throne than the Catholics discovered there was to be no favour for them, and far from benefiting by having a Catholic queen, the royal lady's conduct gave scandal by her concealment of her religion, and by the open concessions she made to the demands of the king as to her attendance at Protestant worship and other religious practices.

It is fair to say that the discovery of the Main and Bye Plots, in both of which Catholics as well as Protestants were implicated, had a good deal to do with embittering James against both parties. But be the cause what it may, the penal code of Elizabeth, far from being relaxed, was put in full force with additional severities. Still the number of martyrs annually executed under James never reached the average under Elizabeth. In 1604 peace was signed between England and Spain, and the Spanish minister, Velasco, endeavoured to obtain some amelioration for the Catholics. James absolutely refused to listen to anything on the subject. Continual and ruinous fines exacted with insolence, not only by officials, but by needy courtiers and their menials, to whom the farming of the taxes was entrusted; the cruel searches to which they were exposed night and day; the prospect of imprisonment, torture, and a traitor's death—such was the life of a Catholic in the days of James I.

Then occurred the conspiracy known in history as the Gunpowder Plot. Concerning every single point of the whole story the contradictions are so absolute that it is a matter of no small difficulty to attempt to record what happened. A contemporary priest says that the earliest plotters were wicked and desperate wretches, Catholics in name only. It is certain that some of these had been engaged in questionable transactions, yet there is ample testimony by persons, by no means friendly to the Catholic cause, that they "were the least disreputable gang of conspirators who ever plotted a treason."

The story of the plot is derived principally from the confessions of two of the earliest conspirators, Thomas Wright and Guy Fawkes, from the despatches sent by the English Government to foreign courts, and to the ambassadors of those courts resident in England, and from the official relation published by order of James I. All other sources of information bearing on the trial were suppressed. The outline of the plot; the determination to blow up James I. and the Parliament; the hiring of a house by Percy; the attempt to mine through the foundations from Percy's house under the House of Lords; the hiring by Percy of a cellar under the House of Lords, vacated just at the right moment; the storing therein of the powder; the delivery of a warning letter to Lord Monteagle by Tresham; the discovery of the powder and of Fawkes less than twenty-four hours before the fatal moment, are too well known to be detailed, and it must be repeated we should know none of these things had we not the documents above mentioned.

It was suggested at the time that the conspiracy did not originate with the Catholics, but that James's secretary, Cecil, had concocted it in order to have them at his mercy; that the idea once communicated was taken up and carried out by men made desperate by seeing the daily persecution to which their co-religionists were exposed. Whether this be so or not, it is certain that at first five men were implicated—Catesby, who has the name of originating the plot, and who certainly was the chief agent in getting others to join; Percy, whose conduct throughout draws suspicion on him as being either the dupe or the tool of someone behind the scenes (for instance, his frequenting Cecil's house at night during the time the plot was being hatched; his travelling upon the king's especial business, with writs empowering him to demand horses at each halting-place, within three days of the 5th of November); Thomas Winter and Fawkes, both soldiers of fortune; and Wright, a convert, who had already been much harassed on account of his religion. Six others were entrapped during the course of the year, and, later on, Rokewood, Everard Digby, and Tresham were invited to join on account of their wealth and position. It is only fair to say that it was with extreme difficulty that they could be induced to join. They were won solely by Catesby's specious arguments.

Warnings were repeatedly given to Cecil by France and Flanders that something underhand was being attempted against the Government, but were apparently unheeded. The friends of the conspirators also noticed their preoccupation, and endeavoured to prevent the perpetration of a dangerous resistance, but to no purpose.

As time went on the plot grew, and at last, so the confessions state, it was determined, once Parliament was blown up, to seize upon Prince Charles and have him proclaimed by Catesby, and to name a Protector—surely a mad programme, even if it had not been so criminal. A party of Catholic nobles was to be invited by Digby to a hunting-match, and as soon as the news that the rest of the plan had been carried out should reach them, Digby was to divulge the secret, to call on his guests to rise for God and the country, and then to set to work to raise forces. In spite of the fact that the conspirators had reason to suspect that Tresham had betrayed them, it appears they did not abandon their desperate undertaking. When it failed, and Fawkes was taken, Percy and those who had remained in London rode, on November 5, without stopping, except to change horses, to Duncombe, where the hunting-match had been that day begun. It would seem that they told a lying tale to Digby, saying that the king was dead, and that a rising would still be successful. As soon as some idea of what was going on got abroad, all the gentlemen but three rode off, indignant at the wicked ruse by which they had been trapped thither. All attempts to raise the country were unsuccessful: one Catholic noble after another condemned the plot, and refused absolutely to have anything to do with it. The conspirators had got as far as Holbeche, on the southern borders of Staffordshire, before they gave up all hopes. Here they seem to have realized the nature of their act, and, kneeling down, they begged God to forgive them, and they prepared to die. They had been followed by the justices of the counties through which they had passed. The castle was surrounded, and in the courtyard they fought, sword in hand, against men armed with guns. Four were shot—Catesby, Percy, Thomas Winter, and T. Wright. The rest were captured, some on the spot, others at a distance.

At once the whole body of Catholics, the archpriest at their head, condemned the murderous attempt. The trial of the conspirators was long and protracted, as there were many efforts at inculpating persons who had really had nothing to do with the plot. From the first there was a deliberate determination to find out that the Jesuits were at the bottom of the affair, although every one of the conspirators declared that they had nothing to do with it. It transpired that Father Gerard was the friend and confessor of Everard Digby, and that he had given Holy Communion to the first five on the day they took the fatal oath to be true to the plot, though they all declared on oath he knew nothing of what was going on. Catesby had induced Digby to join on the ground that the Jesuits approved the plot. Catesby had asked Father Garnet whether in a war, during a battle or a siege, it was lawful to kill the innocent with the guilty, and had twisted the answer he had received on a general hypothetical case into an explicit approval of this particular case of blowing up innocent members of Parliament with a guilty king and guilty ministers, not in a war at all, but in a planned assassination. Catesby, again, had been to confession to Father Grcenway, and had told him of what was in hand, and had given him leave to consult his superior, Father Garnet. It was evident, therefore, that these two fathers knew something of the plot, and an attempt was made to draw Father Gerard also into the accusation; but on this occasion Father Garnet only was taken. The eight conspirators were put to death, and then the trial of the Jesuit began. Nothing could be extracted from him beyond what the prisoners had already confessed, until he was decoyed into a conversation with another Jesuit prisoner, Father Oldcorne, spies being placed in a hollow part of the wall to listen to them. Some compromising words passed between them. When charged with accusations based on these conversations, Garnet denied, but Oldcorne, interrogated separately, acknowledged. The former then justified himself by saying that all his information was derived from confessions: hence he might not speak hitherto, but that Catesby had given leave for the matter to be spoken of if it came out in any other way. He was examined three-and-twenty times, and at length was condemned to suffer the death of a traitor. At his execution he begged pardon for not having done that which he might have done, from the general knowledge he had of what was going on, to hinder the plot. The knowledge he derived from confession, he explained again, he could not use.

If Cecil planned the plot, he may certainly be said to have attained his aims. His reputation, position, and wealth were wonderfully enhanced. Catholics and Jesuits were at his mercy. The whole nation hated them, and they might be persecuted without let or hindrance. His personal rival, the Earl of Northumberland, as well as other Catholic lords, were punished—the first because he was the employer or relative of Percy, the others because the conspirators had wished to warn them against going to Parliament on the fatal 5th.

If the conspirators were the originators, they had injured every one they sought to help. In spite of the fact that not one Catholic was implicated, except those directly concerned, the Parliament which met after the discovery of the plot passed against the unhappy Catholics seventy fresh enactments of such extreme severity that the courts of neighbouring sovereigns protested at the scandalous and tyrannical laws. The adherents of the ancient faith were covered with odium, and much of the hatred that has been an heirloom in so many a Protestant home against the Catholics, Jesuits, and the Sacrament of Confession, is traceable to this most iniquitous attempt. Moreover, a new Act was passed, termed an Act of Allegiance, by which Catholics were called upon to reject the Pope's authority in temporal matters. A very large and influential body of Catholics, including several religious Orders, believed the oath might be taken in conscience; another party, led by the Jesuits, maintained that it could not. Their refusal exasperated James, and, as eventually the Pope declared in favour of the second opinion, many priests and others suffered death rather than take the oath.

The whole reign of James is marked by ceaseless harassing of Catholics. But when the king sought a Spanish alliance, he consented to negotiate respecting the penal laws pressing upon Catholics, and from 1618 to 1628 no one was put to death for the faith in England. As there seemed a loophole of escape in that direction, the Spanish party, which had played such an important part in politics since Mary's reign, was swelled by many influential Catholics. The nation at large was bitterly opposed to any such union, and demanded a war with Spain and the continuation of the penal laws of religion.



III. Religious Dissensions and Civil War


At the marriage of Charles I. with Henrietta Maria, youngest child of Henry IV. of France, the King of England promised that his consort should have full liberty to practise her religion, should also have the control of her children's education until their thirteenth year, and, by a secret treaty with the French king, that the penal laws against Catholics should be relaxed. When he met his first Parliament, the Puritans, now becoming a most influential body in the State, presented a petition that the whole penal code should again be put in force against Catholics. It is said that Pope Urban VIII., when told of the intended marriage between Charles and the French princess, had replied: "If the King of England relax the penal laws against Catholics, his subjects will kill him "; and it seems as though Charles's reluctance to break the secret treaty, and his desire to spare the Catholics, was really the beginning of the long struggle with the Puritan party, which ended in his own execution. Before he met his second Parliament, circumstances had made him decide on a specious expedient. He said he did not consider himself bound by the marriage treaty to the French king, regarding it merely as a means to an end, and that now he had his queen it was not necessary to carry out the conditions on which he obtained her, and he commanded the magistrates to watch over the strict execution of the penal laws. The second Parliament enacted additional laws against Catholics. All were now ordered to denounce those whom they knew to be Catholics, and schoolmasters, always suspected of being priests in disguise, had to answer for themselves and their pupils before a justice. One martyr suffered in 1628.

Charles I. had no liking for seeing his Catholic subjects persecuted, and gradually their position became somewhat easier. About 1612 they were allowed to compound the monthly fine of Leo for non-attendance at church for an annual rent charge, domiciliary visits were discontinued, and it was known that the king himself at times accompanied his queen to her services, and that many members of his court were well affected towards Catholics. Several of these ameliorations were due to the good offices of Panzani, a papal envoy, who had been sent to inquire into the state of religion in England. He found that there were many points that needed attention. It will scarcely be believed that, throughout the whole of the time of protracted and desperate suffering, our persecuted forefathers had been deprived of the Sacrament of Confirmation, because, except for very brief intervals, there was no bishop in the country; even the holy oils for extreme unction had to be procured in Ireland or Flanders. Panzani reported that there was a great desire among the secular clergy and many of the leading nobility to have a bishop appointed, while the regular clergy opposed the appointment as inexpedient. He said that he found about one hundred and fifty thousand Catholics of various degrees of fidelity to the Church, and less than one thousand priests; but that, though many things needed settling, and the temptations were very great, very few scandals had to be recorded among them. A great diversity of opinions existed as to what a Catholic might or might not do under the existing laws—for instance, with regard to paying Easter dues, as the receipt supposed the person to have communicated in the Protestant Church previous to payment. The oath of allegiance was a great source of difficulty. The oath of supremacy Charles would not exact, but he could not allow his subjects to refuse that of allegiance, and here again there was no uniform standard, some allowing, others forbidding it. There was also the inevitable result of a number of earnest, well-intentioned persons all Iabouring at the same work within a restricted area, but acting from different points of view, without anyone at the head to define limits, or pour oil on the waters that were occasionally troubled by excess of zeal. There was misunderstanding, friction, and heartburning.

Negotiations were opened up for official intercourse between the Holy See and England, and for three years a papal envoy resided at the court of Charles I. In 1632 the king granted letters patent to Lord Baltimore to found a colony on Chesapeake Bay for Catholic refugees. Two years later the project was effected, and the new State, named Maryland in honour of Henrietta Maria, was founded. But political troubles were thickening round Charles I., who wanted the will or the power to prevent the numerous executions for religion which took place between 1642 and 1649. It was not at such a time that much could be done to organize the Church, and the question of a bishop for England was left in abeyance. It is to be remarked that throughout the later Tudor and the whole Stuart period conversions to the ancient faith were comparatively numerous—this is, not counting those who, having abjured, directly or indirectly, were reconciled.

The close of the Civil War almost coincides with the Peace of Augsburg, which, on the Continent, brought some species of order into the chaos resultant on the religious strife of the past century. But in England circumstances concurred to keep the animosity of the Protestants against the Catholics at fever heat for many a year after things were apparently beginning to settle in France and Germany, and it was not till the eighteenth century dawned that persecution in an active form ceased to be the daily bread of the diminished remnant of the once-flourishing Catholic Church of the British Isles. It is true the old faith had received so severe a blow in Scotland that we hear no more of Catholics for many a long day to come; but in Ireland, even to a greater extent than in England, where already the pressure of persecution was very heavy, the story is one uninterrupted record of sufferings. Did one not know that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church, it would be a matter of wonder that the faith was not stamped out in the three kingdoms.



IV. The Political Ruin of the Catholic Body


The restoration of monarchy in the person of Charles II. brought with it a new experience for Catholics—disappointed hopes even more bitterly overthrown than in the days when James I. ascended the throne. In spite of the desire of Charles II. to alleviate the condition of his Catholic subjects, who had all shown devoted loyalty to his father and himself, every legal and political right was gradually stripped from them. For instance, by the Conventicle Act, 1662, Catholics, in company with the Puritans, especially obnoxious to the Cavaliers and Episcopalians now reinstated in power, lost the right of assembling for religious worship. The Five-mile Act prevented priests from approaching within five miles of a township, and from acting as tutors or schoolmasters. The loss of the king's Bill for Indulgence to Dissentients from the Church of England took from them any hope of a mitigation of their sufferings. But worse was to come. The leading spirits of the great political factions which were gradually evolving themselves out of the elements of disagreement left by the preceding struggle between the nation and the king, made use of the rabid hatred of Catholicism, still alive in the people, whenever it was necessary to oppose a rival, to distract attention from their own doings, to curry favour with a popular party, or to cover some false step. Thus Shaftesbury, a determined enemy to James, Duke of York, succeeded in getting the Test Act passed in 1673. The duke had become a Catholic two years before, many suspected that the king had done the same, and several important officers of State were Catholics. This measure robbed all the most ancient nobility of the country of their right of sitting in the House of Lords, and the whole body of their co-religionists from that of representation in the House of Commons, besides debarring them from any chance of distinguishing themselves in the service of their country. Shaftesbury had a further step in view—the exclusion of the Duke of York from the throne. To gain this end the iniquitous fabrication of the "Popish plot", was, if not invented, at least used and fostered by the same unscrupulous statesman. All through the reign of Charles II. he had been busy fomenting the dislike and distrust of the nation against Catholics; but after his second administration, in 1678, he surpassed himself in the ingenuity with which he contrived to get credence for Titus Oates, and to rouse the people to a paroxysm of fear and rage. Flaunting before them the fiction of some great and mysterious danger, he managed to produce one of those phases of excited feeling which Englishmen from time to time allow to get the better of their common sense. The Bill against James II. did not pass, but the weapons were forged which, together with his own imprudence, drove the hapless monarch from the throne a few years later.

One fruit of the "Popish Plot" was seen in the imprisonment of over two thousand persons on suspicion of implication, and in the conviction of a number of innocent priests and laymen, who suffered the death of traitors—the last of the English martyrs, whose constancy shows the metal of which our Catholic ancestors were fashioned. The most illustrious and the latest victim of Shaftesbury's malevolence was Venerable William Howard, Viscount Stafford, who suffered in 1680. The next year witnessed the martyrdom of Venerable Oliver Plunket, Archbishop of Dublin, whose trial, even for those fanatical times, was a master-piece of injustice.

James, Duke of York, succeeded his brother in 1685. The nation had been for many years exposed to the recurrence of strong waves of conflicting feelings, excited by the uncertain policy of the sovereign, by religious dissensions, by the intrigues of a court party notorious for its immorality, and by the unscrupulous machinations of statesmen. It would have needed a ruler of consummate prudence, tact and experience, a man gifted with the qualities that inspire confidence and esteem, to manage the English people under such circumstances. James II. was not eminent in these qualities; he was, moreover, a Stuart—a man without political intuition, and of unyielding tenacity to his own views. But a far more powerful and prudent man than James II. would have had his best efforts baffled or sterilized by the self-interested action of the men who held the offices of State. His one aim was to reinstate the Catholic religion in its place of honour in the country; theirs to trim their sails to whatever wind might blow, and secure their position and their fortune at any sacrifice of honour or probity. Apparently regardless of the complex state of feeling in the country, and of the venality of his Ministers, James blundered on from one measure to another with such fatality that, if he had been following the lead of an insidious foe under the guise of a friend, he could hardly have adopted a course of action better calculated to ruin himself and his religion than that which he worked out to the bitter end.

In the four short years he was on the throne James contrived to arouse the dislike and distrust of every section of his subjects. He outraged his Parliament, alienated Churchmen, provoked the universities, embittered the political party which espoused Monmouth's cause, roused the indignation of the most peaceful of his people by the unrelenting harshness of the punishments meted out by his officers, but which were ascribed to James himself; and by his injudicious measures of protection for the Church, and of choice of advisers, he awakened the opposition of even the Catholics themselves.

When, in 1688, an heir was born to James, the Protestant party appealed to William, Prince of Orange, for help. The long-prepared-for petition was cordially met, and the sequel quickly developed itself. The unfortunate sovereign met with treachery on every side; the prince, a consummate statesman, played his cards carefully, and before long the Dutchman occupied the throne of the Stuart. Patriotic feeling must indeed have been dead when Englishmen could tamely submit to the yoke of a foreigner. Like his father, James was never so great as in misfortune. His withdrawal was dignified, and in his exile his best qualities shone out brightly, winning for him universal respect. Catholics, after the brief respite afforded them by the reign of James II.,. in which the tenacity of the old faith in the hearts of the people had once more been shown, settled down to a renewed period of patient endurance for the sake of religion.

These things form but the outer features of English Catholic life in the seventeenth century. Of what their daily existence was we as yet know too little, but the deficiency is being gradually filled by the publication of the graceful chronicles of religious Orders, of the records of public offices, and of some of the long unknown treasures stored in municipal and family archives. They paint for us the lifelong suffering from privation, contempt, isolation, and injustice which was the lot of our forefathers, their consistent loyalty to the Stuart cause, their devotedness to the faith, and their heroic obedience to the Holy See. Excluded from participation in any public business, the nobles and landed gentry lived a life of seclusion on their diminished manors, while their poorer fellow-Catholics had even a more bitter experience in the liability they were constantly under of seeing their modest possessions sold to pay fines for abstention from Protestant service. Yet there was the same steadfast adherence to the faith in high and low—a new proof, if any were needed, of the quickening effect of the breath of persecution on Christian life. In spite of the most stringent laws, sometimes not put in force through the kindness or apathy of their Protestant neighbours, our ancestors managed to get their Mass and their monthly Sacraments. They read their Catholic books, published at a great risk by some devoted men, and circulated with hardly less danger. They sent their children to the little schools kept on in secret through the troublous times, or separated themselves from them for years, when they confided them to one or other of the numerous establishments which, on the opposite coast of the Channel, opened their doors to these exiled scholars of penal times. Needless to say, this sweet picture of heroic Catholic endurance has its dark places in the inevitable mingling of very human, but in this case specially regrettable, weaknesses with the strength of supernatural faith. This painful element is provided by the continuance of the old trouble between regular and secular clergy, which, as an undercurrent of surprising acerbity, can be traced throughout the whole history of the times.

However, one of the most marked features of this period of external persecution and internal dissension is the wonderful vitality of religious life. The full story would be an entrancing one, but it can only be touched here. Very soon after the dark days of persecution began monasteries abroad were sought by those who could no longer find a sheltering cloister in their native land. Then came the experience that English folk, both men and women, get on better among themselves than with foreigners, and numerous foundations were made in hospitable lands where fervent youth of both sexes could dedicate their lives to prayer and suffering for their persecuted brethren at home. Round. these monasteries and convents little colonies of exiled Catholics were often formed. The Benedictines early formed an English congregation for both sexes on foreign shores, and Poor Clares, Carmelites, and Augustinianesses had each several houses in Germany, France, or Belgium.

But, strange to say, it was in these days of persecution that was founded the first institute for religious women that England has contributed to the Church. This was the Institute of English Virgins, founded by Mary Ward, a descendant from an old family of York. She was born in 1585, spent her childhood among scenes of persecution and suffering for the faith, and was remarkable for her great piety. She early felt a desire to consecrate herself to God, and opposed every design of settling her in the world. It was long before the path God had marked out for her became clear. After she had spent about a year as lay-sister of the Poor Glares at St. Omer, she had to leave. Soon afterwards she succeeded in founding a house of the same Order at Gravelines, for young English ladies. Mary had passed seven months as a novice in this convent, when again she understood that she must not find her rest there. Accordingly she returned to England, where she endeavoured to do all the good she could among both Catholics and Protestants.

A few young girls, the foundation-stones of a new institute, gathered round her and shared in her works of zeal. With them, in 16og, she returned to St. Omer, and forming a little community, they began to devote themselves to the education of English children. They adopted the rule of the Society of Jesus, and made some filiations in England and on the Continent. At home they wore no religious dress, and were to be found in private families, acting as governesses or nurses, and striving to support wavering souls or to encourage the strong. In this mode of life they met with many obstacles, and were opposed with much violence by one section of the Catholic body.

Mary Ward was the originator of the idea of religious women governed by a mother-general and entirely free from cloister. This novelty was the reason of much of the opposition she met with from ecclesiastics at home and abroad. But the institute was doing good work, and it spread rapidly. Very flourishing communities were formed in Belgium, Germany, and Italy. But the gathering storm broke at last, and the enemies of Mary succeeded in obtaining from Pope Urban VIII. a decree suppressing the institute (1631). Mary herself was committed to an ecclesiastical prison as a heretic and rebel. After some months of extreme suffering she was released, but the Bull of Suppression having been meanwhile published, her convents were closed. Most of the religious were dispersed homeless—some even had to beg their bread. A few, especially in Germany, continued to live together, without distinctive dress or name. A little company even gathered in Rome under the eye of the Pope himself, who befriended them. These small bands formed the nucleus of a second institute, following a rule slightly modified from that earlier observed. Mary returned to England, and a number of young girls gathered around her. She died at York (1645), where the community which she founded still exists. In 1703 Pope Clement XI. issued a Bull of Confirmation, by which the Institute of the English Virgins was formally reinstated.