It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. — Upton Sinclair

History of the Church: Early Modern Times - Notre Dame




The Last Days of Catholic England

[Illustration] from Church - Early Modern Times by Notre Dame

The British Isles contributed their quota to the religious disturbances which swept over Europe in the sixteenth century. But the predisposing causes and the course of events vary considerably from the corresponding phases on the Continent, and, moreover, the development is so different in each of the three constituent nations that the story of each must be dealt with separately.

Except that Lollardy had not died out in the land, there was little in the period immediately preceding the English schism to prognosticate so dire a catastrophe. Had Henry's desire to divorce Queen Catherine not coincided with the religious revolt abroad, he might certainly have called down excommunication on himself, but England would not have severed herself from the Church for his sake, nor would such severance have suggested itself to him as a possible solution of his difficulty. There was not that spirit alive in our country which would have made her the birth-place of Protestantism, supposing that Germany had been a staunchly Catholic land.

It was certainly a time of transition, and such times are always fraught with possibilities for good and for evil.

The effects of the Wars of the Roses had not yet worn themselves out, nor had the nation recovered from the havoc caused by the Black Death which had swept away half the population; agriculture was at a low ebb, for sheep farming was showing itself a profitable investment, and to supply extensive sheep-walks, few landlords, lay or spiritual, hesitated to throw their cornfields into grazing lands. The exchequer had been filled to over-flowing by the exactions of Henry VII., but little of the wealth fell to the share of the people. An important class was coming into existence, small landowners and traders, and new nobles—with little to lose but everything to gain. Without the traditions that a long line of ancestral grandeur brings with it, they were merely a race of place-hunters and time-servers. Though vessels were afloat on the high seas, searching for new lands, they were not manned nor owned by England, whose days of naval glory had not yet dawned. The nation craved peace and rest after the long terrors of a civil war, and this may explain in part the apathy with which the despotic measures of the Tudor sovereigns were met.

It does not appear that there was any bitter feeling prevalent against the Church and her institutions such as stirred the Germanic peoples. The most recent researches go far to prove that the disastrous torpor caused by the Black Death had been succeeded by a period of revivification Most certainly there was considerable activity in church building and decoration, and very marked assiduity in frequenting pilgrimages, not quite the sort of thing one would expect to find characterizing a people dissatisfied with their bishops and clergy, or with the teachings of their faith. There is no doubt that there was a dearth of priests in several parts of the country, and many monasteries were still lamenting the empty places left by the terrible scourge of the preceding century—the Black Death. Moreover, it had grown to be the custom of the land that bishops should hold many of the great offices of state. Kings turned to them to act as ambassadors, and to transact for them all important affairs—even Blessed John Fisher complained of the injury he was obliged to inflict on his diocese by prolonged absences. It is probable that this want of personal supervision on the part of the bishop reacted unfavourably on the zeal and efficiency of the parochial clergy. But we must not take too literally the statements made that few priests knew how to preach. The simple Sunday homily—a familiar instruction on Christian Doctrine and Practice—was not in those days counted as preaching. A sermon was a solemn discourse in the form of a complete treatise, and was delivered only on occasions of importance, and generally in presence of an influential audience—for instance, the famous sermons of which St. Paul's Cross, London, was the frequent scene.

There is plenty of evidence to show that the people turned to the friars, especially the Franciscans, always popular in England, for spiritual help and teaching. These excellent men were scattered over the land, and did valuable service in keeping up the fervour of religion among the people. The Observants, or Reformed Franciscans, were more than usually holy, and their devotedness was preparing many among them for the martyr's palm. The great majority in the houses of the Benedictines were living lives of edification, and Green says that there is no sign that the nation was not on good terms with the monks. Moreover, the terrible increase of the sufferings of the poor after the monasteries had been suppressed shows that these homes of learning and industry had been also centres of intelligent assistance to their poor dependents. The churches and abbeys themselves, with their stored treasures speaking of the faith and piety of centuries, were admitted to be wonderful by visitors from other lands. All the practices of Catholic life were in full vigour, and it is impossible to detect in contemporary writings, in records of visitation of bishops, or in letters from foreigners in England, any sign of a great national decadence in faith or morals. The most that can be gathered is that perhaps the average standard was not high, but it must also be remembered that vice makes a great deal more show than virtue, and that history would read tamely enough were records of the former element to be omitted. Neither had the Renascence movement produced in England that contempt for religion and that licence of manners it had occasioned on the Continent. It had the countenance of virtuous men like Fisher and More, and though Dean Colet made speeches very like those of the Lutheran reformers, he had died before there was any breach with the Church and he cannot be classed with them. Erasmus had certainly introduced a tone of criticism that was echoed in the upper circles of English society and that bore fruit when Lutheranism began to find adherents in England.

But there was sufficient to cause uneasiness in those who could see beneath the surface. Blessed John Fisher spoke plainly enough to the Bishops in Synod on this head (1518).

Fox, Bishop of Winchester, was labouring at the sanctification of his diocese as earnestly as Fisher himself, and Wolsey was not idle. His great colleges were destined to give learned pastors to the people, though the means by which they were founded—the suppression of numerous small monasteries—formed an unhappy precedent. Wolsey also projected holding a Council of Reform, but the question of Henry's divorce prevented its meeting. Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, enforced certain measures after Wolsey's disgrace. There was no formal legislation , renewed attention to old decrees was all that was needed.

Though Blessed Thomas More had foreseen the evils that would result from Luther's teachings, probably no one in 1528 would have dared to predict that thirty-five years hence Our Lady's Dowry would have become one of the leading Protestant States of Europe. The downward steps came in rapid succession, but there are three well-marked stages in the fall of the ancient Church of England—subservience to the temporal power, schism, and finally heresy. The details of each phase of this sad history have been so, often and so well told that it is proposed here merely to give, in broad outline, the salient features of the movement,



I. England dragged into Schism


In 1529 Wolsey was disgraced, stripped of all Henry VIII. could take from him, offices, titles, and money, and was exiled to his diocese of York in revenge for the failure of the "king's great matter"—the divorce case between Henry and Catherine of Aragon—though the offence with which he was charged was having used legatine powers contrary to the Statute of Praemunire. Henry knew that there was no single person in his realm beside himself but loathed the question of the divorce—the people were against it, for they loved and respected the virtuous Queen, and the enmity which it brought about between England and the Imperial domains (Charles V. was nephew to Catherine) endangered their one source of riches, the wool-trade with the Netherlands. The clergy were against it, for since the vigorous defence of the Queen by Fisher, the saintly Bishop of Rochester, many had been studying the question. Fisher, and the Observant Friars, and many others, were writing and preaching against it, and Thomas More, the Chancellor and most eminent layman in Europe, would never vouchsafe a single word in Henry's favour. Outside of England the most open bribery had extorted favourable replies on the matter from some universities, but it was known that not a voice in which there was an echo of conscience could be heard on Henry's side. The Pope, who certainly had no wish to quarrel with Henry, said, a very short time after Wolsey's fall, that he had pushed indulgence for the king beyond law and equity . . . but he could not violate the immutable commandments of God. Henry was on the point of giving up the cause and of resigning himself to the inevitable, when Cromwell, a confidential agent whom Wolsey had employed in his most unpopular business, came forward with a suggestion. Let Henry follow the example of the German princes and make himself Head of his Church as well as of the State. England was like a two-headed monster, with Pope and king to rule her: with one head, things would go better. Cranmer, who had been employed on the divorce business, had already told Henry that his case had been mismanaged; he ought to have dealt with the affair at home. Henry listened, and reflected. It is suggested that Wolsey's example was not lost on his master. The great cardinal had virtually united almost plenary powers in his own hands. He was chancellor, practically master of the State, as well as Cardinal Primate and Papal Legate a latere, therefore only just beneath the Pope in his authority over the Church in England. Cromwell was ready with a plan. Henry must find support, and he must guard against opposition. Parliament would supply the first; it had already been showing its powers and might be used against the clergy, the riches of whose endowments contrasted with the poverty of the rising classes in a marked way. Parliament was therefore entrusted with the examination of certain alleged ecclesiastical abuses. Opposition would come from the clergy, and this must be stopped. Hence probably originated the preposterous charge against the nation of having incurred penalties under the Praemunire Statute through Wolsey's exercise of legatine power. The laity were pardoned, but the clause against the clergy was used to force from them the recognition of Henry's headship.

Seeing their peril, the clergy offered a fine in atonement for their supposed fault, and Henry took the opportunity of extorting not merely money, but a statement which he used with terrible force later on. He demanded that the clergy should recognize him as their Supreme Head. Fisher of Rochester made a most spirited opposition in the Southern Convocation, and induced the bishops to introduce at least a saving clause "as far as the law of God permits."

Tunstall of Durham, in the Northern Convocation, objected to the vagueness of the term, which he said might be interpreted against Papal supremacy; yet Henry's will was complied with, and, in an address of gratitude from the clergy, when the king finally accepted a very heavy sum from them in lieu of the ordinary penalties of Prmunire, they inserted the new title (131). Though not a doctrinal statement, it was enough for Henry's purpose for the time being.

In 1532 an Act was passed, known as the Submission of the Clergy. By it the clergy promised not to legislate in future without the Royal Assent, and that existing canons should be revised by the king. Henry, now having the clergy in his power, proceeded to attempt to coerce the Pope. He induced Parliament to pass a bill granting Annates to the king, instead of to the Pope, as had hitherto been done. The Annates, or First Fruits, were a species of ecclesiastical succession duty, and formed a considerable source of revenue to the Pope, just as ordinary succession dues do now to the State. The Act was not to come into operation at once, but only when the king should ratify it, hence it could be used as a threat in case the Pope should still delay sentence in Henry's favour. During this year More resigned the Great Seai, which was given to Audley.

An event now happened which worked well with Henry's plans. Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, died. He had been one of those whose opposition to Henry had been somewhat marked. Contrary to his usual system—for Henry, like his predecessors, was fond of holding the temporalities of a vacant see—the king at once set about finding an archbishop. Cranmer, then on an embassy to Charles V., was sent for to return home at once. He reached England in the middle of December. It must be remembered that he had been married before his ordination, and that while in Germany he had again taken to himself "a wife." To this man Henry offered the vacant see as the price of the divorce—the knowledge which the King had of Cranmer's marriage giving him a hold over the future archbishop. The breach with Rome was yet only contemplated, not consummated, so the Bulls of consecration were asked for in the ordinary way. They were obtained with great celerity, for they arrived in time for Cranmer to be consecrated on March 30, 1533. There was no misunderstanding between master and man, for immediately before his consecration Cranmer, in the presence of witnesses, solemnly protested that the oaths to the Pope which he was about to take, were to be void and null, as he did not intend to be bound by them. He was then consecrated, and, by an act of solemn perjury, swore the same allegiance to the Holy See as his predecessors from St. Augustine. The preconcerted plan was then carried out. Cranmer, April 12, implored Henry to let him examine a case which compromised the king's salvation. Henry, the same date, by letter, thanking his spiritual father for his interest, gave his consent. Five weeks later, Cranmer declared the marriage with Catherine to have been invalid from the first. Catherine, already driven from the court, was to content herself with the style and dower of Princess of Wales, and Anne Boleyn was crowned June 1, 1533. But to make the baseness of the whole proceeding more thorough, Henry had already, on January 25, five months before Cranmer's sentence, gone through the marriage ceremony with Anne. Princess Elizabeth was born on September 7. While these measures were going on in the Court Spiritual, Parliament had passed the Act of Appeals, forbidding any appeal to the Pope from awards made in English courts.

England's two greatest men—Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and More, the former chancellor—had opposed the divorce. The former had been imprisoned to keep him out of the way during Cranmer's solemn farce, and the latter had absented himself from the coronation. These men must be made to feel the king's wrath, and be thus intimidated into declaring for Henry in his meditated rupture with Rome. They were therefore accused by the king's order of complicity in the so-called treason of the Holy Maid of Kent, and their names were inserted in a Bill of Attainder. More's name was struck off, as it was apparent he had never been mixed up in the affair, but the bishop was condemned to imprisonment and confiscation of goods, March 23, 1534, though there is no record of the sentence being carried out.

It was during the closing months of 1533 that the Pope had taken up with warmth the case between Henry and Catherine. Henry had even been holding out hopes of a submission to the Pope, getting Francis I., who, from political motives, desired a reconciliation between England and the Holy See, to negotiate the matter for him. But in the midst of the intervention of the French monarch, a messenger arrived from Henry appealing from any adverse decision the Pope might make to a General Council. Clement VII. still did not precipitate matters. A consistory was held, and not one cardinal declared in favour of the divorce, three only proposed further delay and investigation. The final award was given against Henry, March 25, 1534.

But before the news could reach England, Henry had taken the fatal step which was to rend his realm from the unity of the Church. The repudiation of Catherine included the question of the succession. If Henry's marriage were invalid, Princess Mary could not be his lawful heiress. Princess Elizabeth, according to his theory, was heir to the throne of England. An Act of Succession was therefore passed in Parliament, March 30, 1534. It was the work of Cromwell. In the preamble or introduction to the Act was embodied the statement of the king's supremacy, which had been extorted from the clergy in 1531, and an oath was to be tendered, obliging all to accept the succession as arranged by Parliament. The particular form of oath to be taken was not given, and it appears to have varied according to the individuals called on to swear, but in each case it contained the recognition of the royal supremacy. The Bill was immediately put in force, and among the first called on to take the oath were Blessed John Fisher and Blessed Thomas More, whose refusal to swear is all the more glorious when contrasted with the sad subservience of the bishops and clergy who now, though still hardly knowing what they did, dragged the whole nation into schism. That laymen should follow where their pastors led can be small matter of surprise, and there can be no doubt there was great confusion of mind as to the exact nature of papal supremacy, Men were not clear that it was of Divine institution, and absolutely essential for the maintenance of the unity of the Church, but they did know that never before had a Christian people sworn such an oath to a temporal sovereign. The servility of the other Acts passed by the Parliament of this year baffle description. The king was made absolute lord and master of the Church; its dues were to be paid to him; he was to nominate the bishops to be elected; the communication of bishops with the Pope was abolished, and the acknowledgment of royal supremacy, hitherto contained in the preamble to the Act of Succession, was drafted into an Act, the saving clause being omitted, a very explicit form of oath being introduced, which, by a curiously crooked piece of retrospective legislation, was imposed, as that which ought to have been used in the past, and was binding for past as well as future.

Though the nation at large had bowed before Henry's will, besides Fisher and More, the illustrious prisoners in the Tower, there were three religious Orders whose members made a steady resistance—the Carthusians, the Brigittines, and the Franciscan Observants.

These were marked out for punishment. In addition to their refusal to sign the new oath, the Franciscans had been staunch supporters of the validity of Catherine's marriage, and had been the spiritual advisers of the Holy Maid of Kent. Those implicated in the last-named affair, Rich and Risby, had been executed as traitors; all the rest were severely treated—some were sent by cartloads to the Tower, others dispersed among monasteries whose members had subscribed this oath, and the remainder were exiled. Blessed John Fisher was arraigned and executed for high treason on May 4. Three Carthusian priors were executed with a Brigittine monk and a secular priest, June 22; other Charterhouse monks followed shortly after, while a still larger number were starved to death in prison.

On July 6, Blessed Thomas More was beheaded.

Pope Paul III. was now on the papal throne. His advisers strongly urged him to excommunicate Henry The Bull was drawn up, but never published, as neither of the two great monarchs of Europe, Francis and Charles, who might have been charged with its execution, could be counted on.

The lay Head of the Church had now to legislate for his spiritual flock. As his duties were quite new to him he needed assistance, and this he sought by nominating Thomas Cromwell as his vicar-general, giving him precedence of all lords, lay and ecclesiastical.

The first measure was to provide preachers and doctrine for the people. The clergy were to be the mouthpieces of the royal will; even the very heads of their sermons were prescribed. The second was as follows: A general visitation of the kingdom was announced, with the suspension of all episcopal duties and prerogatives. On a humble petition from the bishops they were allowed to resume the exercise of their powers as the king's deputies during the king's pleasure. But the visitation of monasteries was carried out, as it was a preliminary calculated to blind the nation as to the motives of the intended suppression During six weeks, the four visitors appointed by Cromwell rushed through the kingdom, striving to extort a voluntary surrender of monastic property, or a confession of crimes. They laid a report before Parliament, in which all the greater houses were declared to be homes of virtue, and the lesser dens of vice. No evidence of any kind beyond the report seems to have been forthcoming, and, only after great opposition, the Bill of Suppression of Lesser Monasteries was passed, the monasteries and their revenues being placed in the king's hands. A very limited number of the monks and nuns had voluntarily retired; of the few who had signed a confession of guilt all were pensioned; the rest—that is, the faithful and virtuous religious—were turned adrift, their old monastic dwellings were given over to spoliation, while the king drew all the revenues. These events took place in 1536. The same year saw the death of the injured Queen Catherine of Aragon, the fall and execution of Anne Boleyn, exactly the same sentence being pronounced by Cranmer against the validity of her marriage and the birth of her daughter, as had three years earlier been promulgated against Catherine. Henry's marriage with Jane Seymour, and the erection of six new bishoprics, complete the events of the year.

At last the nation rose in revolt. In the northern counties a formidable insurrection, known as the "Pilgrimage of Grace," demanded the restoration of the monasteries, the punishment of Cromwell, the extirpation of heresy, and the dismissal of the new bishops, that is, those who were known to lean to Protestantism and who were most active against papal supremacy. Therefore the insurgents showed their wish to see England reunited with the Holy See. The rights of the Princess Mary were also insisted upon. The Duke of Norfolk was sent to parley with the leaders, and at length the king promised a general pardon with the understanding that all grounds of complaint should have a patient hearing at a Parliament to be summoned at York. The insurgents immediately disbanded, but the western counties having risen, this was made the excuse for the non-observance of the king's promise. Ruthless vengeance was taken; all the leaders were put to death; gibbets were erected all over the land, and thousands perished. Nothing could exceed the brutality of Henry's instructions to Norfolk respecting the punishment of the people. Cromwell took the opportunity afforded him by the action of some of the monks during the rising to destroy all the remaining monasteries. On one pretext or another they were all suppressed. No Act of Parliament was passed to authorize the spoliation. Advantage was taken of local circumstances, the cowardice of some abbots, the complicity of others in one of the many matters which had been prohibited by law, to eject the monks and hand the revenues to the king. As many monks as could crowded to the universities, hoping to live there in peace. By 1540 the work was done, not a monk was to be seen in the kingdom in the habit of his Order, thousands of religious men and women were wandering homeless and destitute throughout the land, while tens of thousands of poor, who had hitherto lived as tenants on the abbey lands, swelled the vagrant throng. The nation at last sank into a helpless and silent submission. The ten years from 1530 to 1540 are called Cromwell's Reign of Terror. He had made himself master of Henry by working on his fears of assassination and treachery, and he had made himself master of the people by his spies. They were everywhere reported everything, and no act or word that could be construed in an evil sense was left unpunished. But, in 1540, Cromwell himself fell, hated by all. He is regarded by Froude as the creator of Protestantism in England.

But Henry and his ministers had other work besides cowing the nation into an abject submission. They had to teach the people what to believe, for this could not be trusted to the bishops, who, since the rejection of papal supremacy, had gradually broken up into two distinct sets: those who favoured Lutheranism and those who remained faithful to such of the doctrines of the Church as Henry had not yet tampered with. Each side, however, was careful to submit to Henry's decisions whatever they were, and while holding other opinions and beliefs they faithfully taught as they were bid. In 1536 the Lower House of Convocation drew attention to heretical tenets abroad in the land, and Henry and his theologians composed a book of articles as a guide to the teachers of religion in England. It first ,jstated that the three Creeds—the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian—were necessary to salvation; secondly, it explained the three Sacraments, which are the ordinary means of justification, viz., Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist; and, thirdly, it laid down that the use of images and the honouring of saints were highly profitable to those who practised them with devotion. The whole tone of the book was Catholic and it contained no innovations of doctrine. "The Ten Articles," as the compilation was called, was to be read to the people without comment. An explanation of the same was published shortly after, and called the "Institution of a Christian Man." In this book, papal supremacy was denounced, obedience to the king inculcated, and salvation was denied to all outside the pale of the Church.

But innovations of another kind were being introduced. Several holidays of obligation were suppressed, the shrines of saints were rifled and images and relics were destroyed, the most honourable and pious motives being put forward to cloak the nature of the spoliation. At Cranmer's suggestion the king granted a licence to print and circulate a version of the Bible in English in place of Tyndale's, which Archbishop Warham had induced Henry to forbid. At first there was little restriction made as to the reading of the new version, but when riotous scenes occurred, Henry limited the right of reading the Scripture to persons of learning.

But, in spite of Henry's watchfulness over his flock, the nation was gradually drifting into heresy. The new tenets had been gaining ground during the last two years. Many German sectaries had found their way into the country and were disseminating their doctrines. The Bible had become the occasion for many theological disputes, and on several different occasions executions took place. In 1532 four heretics were burnt; 1533, Frith and Hewit suffered; 1535, fourteen German Anabaptists; in 1538 one man and one woman were burned; and in 1539 Lambert was sentenced by Henry himself. But as the heretics were not intimidated, Henry in person presided in Convocation over a theological discussion, whose result was the promulgation of the famous Six Articles, 1539, which thoroughly frightened Cranmer and others of the clergy who were upholders in secret of the doctrines and practices of Luther. Those who refused their consent to these Articles were punished by burning.

In 1543 Henry published a treatise, drawn up by his order, and known as the King's Book. It contained a statement of the doctrines treated in the "Institution of a Christian Man," adding those of Transubstantiation and the sufficiency of Communion under one kind. The following year saw some changes in the Liturgy. The Office of St. Thomas Becket was expunged. The Litany was revised by Cranmer, the invocations of saints being omitted, and the following year the King's Primer or Private Prayer-Book was issued, all others being suppressed. In 1545, also, all chantries and guilds, except purely trade guilds, were done away with, and their endowments (though the Act stated that the money was needed for the wars then going on) found their way into the pockets of the courtiers who had devised the expedient. By this time the nobles engaged with Henry in the government had split up into two distinct religious factions. On one side, Norfolk, Gardiner, and a good number of the bishops who were inclined not to resist—no one dared do that—but to dislike further innovations; and, on the other, Hertford, Cranmer, and the men holding Lutheran or Calvinistic tenets. Each party strove to ruin the other with the now rapidly sinking king, but the quarrel was worked out in the succeeding reign when England openly embraced heresy.



II. Heresy forced upon England


Edward, son of Henry VIII. and Jane Seymour, succeeded to the throne at the age of nine, January, 1547, Henry's desire that the balance between the two politico-religious parties should be maintained was frustrated by the craft of Hertford and the Reformers, who took on themselves the office of protector and council, excluding as likely to hinder their action two important members of Henry's council—Wriothesley the Chancellor, and Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester—the latter of whom, for opposing the measures of the new masters, was soon after confined to the Tower.

Religious enactments occupied a large share of the attention of the young king and his counsellors. The first year of his reign was a very buss one. A copy of a Book of Homilies was sent to each bishop, with orders that no preaching was to be allowed, these sermons instead ware to he read in every church. A command was issued that all statues were to be broken and painted glass windows destroyed. Parliament repealed all laws against heretics, and the Six Articles were annulled. The guilds and chantries spared by Henry VIII. were now suppressed, and the proceeds disappeared in a general scramble. A new Communion Service in English was inserted in the Latin Mass just after the priest's Communion, and was to be used for the laity, who were to receive under both kinds, A new Catechism was issued in which was embodied the doctrine of Cranmer and his party The drift of these innovations was evidently to prepare the way for more drastic changes in the near future. But we are not to suppose that the nation acquiesced in these measures, for they were the work of but a small number of partisans.

Poverty was on the increase and troubled the new rulers. To provide for the indigent, the most inhuman Act of Vagrancy was passed, by which beggars were enslaved to Complainants and barbarous treatment was allotted them. The first Poor Law ordering relief to be supplied to the indigent was also passed in this reign.

Early in 1548, religious prohibitions followed. No candles were to be used oh Candlemas Day or ashes on Ash Wednesday. Processions out side the church were abolished. A more vital change was being prepared. Cranmer was drawing up a Prayer-Book or new English Liturgy, to supersede the Missal and Breviary. Though the framework of the new service had main lines corresponding to the principal parts of the Mass, everything that could indicate the sacrificial character was omitted, the canon being almost entirely pared down. The document was signed by all the bishops at liberty except Day of Chichester, but signature was not approval, and Thirlby, during the discussion which followed its introduction into Parliament, moreover revealed that when they had signed, the word "Oblation" was still in the canon, but that it had been erased since. Parliament, however, accepted the new Prayer-Book, January 15, 1549, and pains and penalties were to follow on refusal to use it after the given date. The same Parliament, after some demur, permitted the marriage of clergy.

As the day drew near when the Mass was to be celebrated for the last time, the people seem at length to have realized what all these changes meant, and the southern and midland peasants rose in revolt. The northern men had been too ruthlessly punished by Henry VIII. to dare another rising. Fifteen counties sent their men into the field to demand the restoration of the Mass and of the ancient religion, but they were put down. A second and more formidable insurrection followed. Foreign mercenaries were brought over to stamp out resistance. On Whit Sunday, 1549, the ancient churches heard for the first time the cold soulless worship of Protestantism replace the glorious Mass. The Blessed Sacrament was gone, and around the desolate fanes the tide of rebellion rose with renewed violence. Eleven-twelfths of the people still clung to the old faith and appealed to the protector, Somerset, for support. But Somerset was suspected, partly because of his lenient measures with the "rebels," and he fell, to be replaced by Warwick. The revolt was stamped out in blood, and what Green calls "the Protestant Reign of Terror," commenced. Bishops Bonner, Day, and Heath were consigned to the Tower. Gardiner's imprisonment was made more severe, and he was deprived of his bishopric.

In January, 1550, a new Ordinal, completely changing the essential form of the Sacrament of Orders was decreed by Parliament and published within three months. It was the work of Cranmer and his colleagues. Just as the Prayer-Book had got rid of the Sacrifice, so did the Ordinal get rid of the Sacrificer.

Heretics—that is, persons teaching doctrines other than those favoured by Cranmer and the rulers—had begun to multiply, and numerous executions took place. The young king made use of strong measures to shake the constancy of his sister Mary, and for a long time deprived her of Mass; but she appealed to the Spanish court, and she had her own way, in spite of her brother.

During this and the next year, very large numbers of foreign sectaries carne over to England to help to disseminate the reformed doctrines. They began to complain of Cranmer's New Prayer Book, as it contained enough resemblance to the old Liturgy to afford Gardiner, Bonner, and others grounds for basing their arguments in favour of the sacrificial nature of the Mass upon it. A second Book of Prayer was therefore drafted by Cranmer and submitted to the Swiss party of Reformers for approval. Bucer and Peter Martyr were especially consulted. Knox also overhauled it, and appeared satisfied. It must be remarked that this new Liturgy was never even presented to Convocation, and even the order of the principal parts was overturned so that no resemblance between the old and the new remained. When every vestige of the reality was gone, everything that in any way referred to or recalled the sacrifice was expunged, Parliament passed the Second Prayer-Book and made its use obligatory under serious penalties. Even to ridicule it was to be severely punished. To make quite sure that the breach with the old faith was complete, the stone altars were all to be destroyed, the altar-stones being frequently put in the middle of the aisle or at the entrance of the Church to insure their being trodden underfoot, and wooden tables were used instead. So zealous was the reform party that the new service was translated into French for use in the Channel Islands: the English version, however, was to suffice for Ireland. It was time that the new Church should have something definite to believe. So Cranmer again set to work, this time to compile a creed for the Church of England. His summary was passed about in manuscript among his followers, and was then laid before bishops and divines. Finally, when it had been corrected all round, it was published by the authority of the king. It was printed in Forty-two Articles, both in Latin and English (1552). This compilation was never ratified by Parliament, and there is no record that it was ever accepted by Convocation as a body.

A code of ecclesiastical law was next taken in hand by Cranmer. Green remarks: "The sufferings of the Protestants had failed to teach them the worth of religious liberty," so that banishment or perpetual imprisonment was decreed for heresy and several other crimes. This code, however, was never ratified.

The young king and his advisers had not improved the condition of England, either at home or abroad. There had been considerable spread of the reformed doctrines, especially in London; but it is also remarked, even by Protestant writers, that the moral decadence of England at this period was rapid, and the characters of the professors of the reformed religion are placed in a most painful light. Green's picture of the state of the country is instructive; the following lines slightly abridge his account: "Ecclesiastical order was almost at an end; patrons of livings presented their dependents to the benefices in their gift and pocketed the stipend. All teaching of divinity ceased at the universities, the students, indeed, had fallen off in numbers, the libraries were in part scattered or burnt, the intellectual impulse of the new learning had died away. One noble measure, the foundation of eighteen Grammar Schools . . . had no time to bear fruit in Edward's reign . . . politics were dying down into a squabble of a knot of nobles over the spoils of the Church and the crown. While the courtiers gorged themselves with manors, the treasury grew poorer. The coinage was debased, and poverty and discontent were abroad in the land."

Edward, setting aside his father's will, which had been confirmed by Act of Parliament, was induced to name as his successor, the Lady Jane Grey, daughter of Warwick, now Earl of Northumberland. This was done to secure for England the blessing of a Protestant sovereign.



III. The Restoration of the Ancient Faith


Edward VI. died July 6, 1J53. On the 19th, Mary entered her capital. The intervening fortnight had seen many fateful events, the nine days' reign of Lady Jane Grey; the gathering of the nobles and people around Mary; the fall of the Protestant party under the Duke of Northumberland; his imprisonment, together with that of his most influential supporters and of his poor young tool, the anti-queen herself.

As before, we have merely to record in the briefest way the sequence of events relating to religion, though here, as all through the Tudor Period, religious events, to be thoroughly understood, must be looked at in connection with the political complications to which so many of them were due.

The difficulties of Mary's position were considerable; she was almost alone in her persistent profession of Catholicism. They were few indeed who had not temporized under Henry VIII., or were not followers of the Edwardine Creed, while the so-called reform party was daily recruiting subjects from the more serious minded section of the people. No one upheld the ancient faith among those in authority. How strong was its hold on the people in spite of the dearth of instruction and of the want of the Blessed Eucharist which had marked the past sad years, can be judged by the joy with which they welcomed it back. The nation waited in expectancy for Mary's first acts. In a people fallen so low as our English fore-fathers under Edward, it is not surprising to note that the greatest anxiety which arose seems to have been respecting ill-gotten goods. Thousands held Church property in some form or other, and the restoration of Catholicism might mean restitution.

Mary's policy was marked from the first. She aimed at reinstating her own and her mother's honour, at getting all anti-papal legislation of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. repealed, at restoring the Catholic Mass, and substituting Catholic bishops for the heretics then occupying the sees, but fortunately for her, she followed the advice of her imperial cousin, Charles V., who counselled prudent slowness, and tact, and action, concerted with her Parliament. Accordingly she dealt leniently with the supporters of Northumberland's plot and with rioters who attacked such of the priests who, unauthorized, began to say Mass in public. But at once Mary put herself in communication with the Holy See, and Bishop Bonner, whom, with Gardiner, she had liberated as soon as she set foot in the Tower, began, with the secret approbation of Julius III., to fill up the dioceses. A small group of bishops remained who were not Reformers—some of them men, who, though they had weakly yielded to the father, had all, more or less, energetically opposed the progress of the Reformation under the son; others, whose sympathies were with the old faith, though they had floated with the tide. Gardiner had no choice, and where he found that bishops of this class had been validly consecrated, he appointed them to one or the other see as soon as they had declared themselves penitent for the past, professed their allegiance to the Holy See, and sought reconciliation at his hands. Twelve were thus reinstated and fourteen were consecrated. The rest of the bishops, all Edwardine, were ousted, as were also the married clergy. A similar method was taken with regard to the priests. Those validly ordained and penitent were retained and the others dismissed. Churches were quickly re-opened; monks and friars came back from exile; and the people gladly took up again the practice of their faith, rendered more dear from the proscription it had endured.

The exchange was already going un when Parliament met in the autumn of the same year: it was soon seen that what weighed most heavily in the balance was the fate of Church property held in lay hands. Still, two important Bills were passed without a word of opposition—one reinstating Queen Catherine and her daughter in their respective rights, and the other annulling every one of the Edwardine Acts relating to religion (they were nine in number), restoring the ancient worship and replacing everything in the condition in which it was when Henry VIII. died. Further it was not safe to go at present.

Momentous events occurred before legislation could again be made respecting religious matters: Wyatt's insurrection, in which France played so iniquitous a part, Mary's marriage with Philip, son of Charles V. (contrary to the advice of every influential man in the kingdom), the imprisonment of Cranmer and others of the more violent of the Reformers, and Cardinal Pole's embassy from the Holy See. He did not land until his attainder was repealed by the first Bill of the third Marian Parliament. He had come with the fullest powers to authorize all holders of Church property to retain unmolested possession of their spoil. The question of reunion with Rome was carried in both Lords and Commons almost by acclamation. Next day Pole pronounced solemn absolution over all present as representatives of the whole nation and announced the restoration of communion with Holy Church. Then came the necessary legislation. All statutes on religious matters since the twentieth year of Henry VIII. were repealed. The Pope's grant of Church property to those in actual possession was ratified in the most ample way according to English law, and full jurisdiction was restored to the Pope and the bishops.

Mary strove to pay her debt of gratitude to the Friars Observant who had suffered so much for the defence of her mother's cause, by reinstating them at their old convent in Greenwich. The Dominicans in exile were also recalled, and the Benedictines were, after some necessary arrangements with the existing Chapter, replaced in possession of their old monastery of Westminster. The Community was made up as follows: an aged monk named Fecknam (amongst those who were liberated from the Tower at Mary's accession), fifteen others who renounced wealthy livings for the poverty of the cloister, and twelve novices, who were all clothed on the same day. The Brigittines also returned, and religious life again flourished for a short span of years.

From her private means Mary did all she could to succour the ecclesiastics, who really were reduced to great straits, as all endowments were gone and the question of who was responsible for their support had yet to be settled. Though Mary's wish to give up the Church lands that had fallen into the royal hands was bitterly opposed, she renounced as much as she could in their favour.

Although all writers agree in praising the perfect sincerity of Mary, and the reluctance that she felt to inflict severe punishment upon those who had injured her the most, yet the popular prejudice against her is still very strong in England, and owes its existence mainly to the numerous executions for heresy which have invested her reign with a lurid colouring that three hundred years have not dispelled. Impartial historians recognize that if she had executed Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, for high treason, together with Northumberland, no one could have blamed her; while many of the heretics of a lower class had committed crimes for which their lives were justly forfeited. But Mary regarded heresy as a treason against God, of a deeper dye than any rebellion against herself; and she did not see that the frequent religious changes of the past thirty years had dulled the Catholic instincts of the mass of the people, so that when they saw men burned at the stake for heresy, they were inclined to look upon them rather as martyrs to what they thought to be true, than as traitors to the truth of God. Alphonso de Castro, a Spanish friar, preaching before the court, condemned these executions as contrary, not only to the spirit, but to the text of the Gospel. It was not by severity, but by mildness, that men were to be brought into the fold of Christ; and it was the duty of the bishops not to seek the death, but to instruct the ignorance of their misguided brethren. Such sentiments, coming from Philip's own confessor, made a deep impression, and it was some weeks before the advocates of severity could rekindle the fires of Smithfield, and procure a reprimand to be sent to Bishop Bonner for his remissness in handing heretics over to the secular arm. Cardinal Pole was also denounced for having put a stop to the punishment of heretics in the diocese of Canterbury. It is difficult to say who was really responsible for the death of the two hundred persons burned in the space of four years by order of Mary's Council; but the evil effect on the minds of the people was undoubtedly one of the main causes of the success of the Protestant revolution under Elizabeth.