THIRD MILLLENNIUM LIBRARY
HISTORICAL MEMOIRS RESPECTING THE ENGLISH, IRISH, AND SCOTTISH CATHOLICS FROM THE REFORMATION TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
REASONS ASSIGNED TO JUSTIFY THE SANGUINARY LAWS ENACTED IN THE REIGN OF QUEEN ELIZABETH AGAINST CATHOLICS, AND THE RIGOROUS EXECUTION OF THEM.
MENTION has been made of the acts, which were passed against the catholics, in the first, second, and fifth years of the reign of queen Elizabeth. At first, they were not put into particular activity, but towards the tenth year of her reign the system of moderation, if it deserved that name, began to be abandoned. Still the gibbet was not raised, nor the fire kindled during the ten following years, but, from that time, the proceedings of Elizabeth's government against the catholics became sanguinary, and the laws against them were executed with extreme rigor. For this severity, five causes have been assigned:
I. The bull of Pius the fifth, assuming to depose the queen from her throne, and to absolve her subjects from their allegiance to her; and the renewals of it by Gregory the thirteenth, and Sixtus the fifth:
II. The maintenance of the deposing doctrine by the English missionary priests, and the activity of some in giving effect to the bull of Pius:
III. The unsatisfactory answers given by some priests to the six questions on the deposing power, proposed to them by the order of the government:
IV. The establishment of the foreign seminaries, and the missionary labors of the catholic priests in England:
V. The laws, of which we are speaking, were also defended by asserting, that the priests who suffered were not executed for their religion, but for acts, which the law had made treasonable. The plots against Elizabeth, in which the English catholics are pretended to have been engaged, were also said to justify these measures of persecution. They will be the subject of the following chapter.
First reason assigned for the sanguinary laws against, the catholics.—The Bull of Pius the fifth, and its renewal by Gregory the thirteenth, and Sixtus the fifth.
In more than one page of his different works, the writer has taken occasion to express his opinion, that the claim of the popes to temporal power, by divine right, has been one of the most calamitous events in the history of the church. Its effects, since the Reformation, on the English and Irish catholics have been dreadful, and are still felt by them severely.
The bull of Paul the third, deposing Henry the eighth, and absolving his subjects from their allegiance; and the arrogant answer of Paul the fourth to the ambassador of queen Elizabeth, have been mentioned. We have now to notice the bull, Regnans in excelsis of Pius the fifth. After reciting her offences, this pope, "out of the fullness of his apostolic power, declares Elizabeth, being an heretic, and a favorer of heretics, and her adherents in the matter aforesaid, to have incurred the sentence of anathema, and to be cut off from the unity of the body of Christ; and moreover", continues the pope, "we declare her to be deprived of her pretended title to the kingdom aforesaid, and of all dominion, dignity, and privilege whatsoever: and also the nobility, subjects, and people of the said kingdoms, and all others which have in any sort sworn unto her, to be forever absolved from every such oath, and all manner of duty, of dominion, allegiance, and obedience; as we also do, by the authority of these presents, absolve them, and do deprive the same Elizabeth of her pretended right to the kingdom, and all other things aforesaid; and we do command and interdict, all and every the noblemen, subjects, people, and others aforesaid, that they presume not to obey her, or her monitions, mandates, and laws, and those, which shall do to the contrary, we do innodate with the like sentence of anathema.
"And, because it were a matter of too much difficulty to carry these presents to all places where it may be needful, our will is, that the copies thereof, under a public notary's hand, and sealed with the seal of an ecclesiastical prelate, or of his court, shall carry altogether the same credit with all people, judicial and extrajudicial, as these presents should do if they were exhibited or shown.—Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, in the year of the Incarnation of our Lord 1570, the 5th of the calends of May, and of our popedom the 5th year".
Such was this celebrated bull, ever to be condemned, and ever to be lamented. It is most clear, that the pope assumed by it a right, the exercise of which Christ had explicitly disclaimed for himself; that it tended to produce a civil war between the queen's protestant and catholic subjects, and all the horrors of a disputed succession, and that it could not but involve a multitude of respectable and conscientious individuals in the bitterest and most complicated distress. What could have fascinated the pontiff, virtuous and pious, as all historians describe him, to the adoption of such a measure!
Some months after it was published, Mr. John Felton, a catholic gentleman, affixed it to the gate of the palace of the bishop of London. He was apprehended, and tried for high treason, he confessed the fact, was found guilty, and deservedly executed. His conduct was reprobated, and the English catholics never accepted the bull.
Gregory the thirteenth, the immediate successor of Pius, gave, on the 4th April 1580, an explanation of the bull. Father Campion, whose trial and condemnation we have mentioned, was accompanied, in his journey to England, by father Parsons. Before they proceeded on their journey, they represented to pope Gregory the thirteenth, that the bull of Pius the fifth should be so understood, "that the same should always bind the queen and the heretics; but that the catholics, it should, by no means, bind, as matters then stood, or were; but thereafter, when the public execution of that bull might be had or made". This, the pontiff granted, by the explanation, which has been mentioned.
It has been a termed a mitigation of the bull of Pius. In respect to Elizabeth and her heretic subjects, it scarcely deserves that description; and, as it recognizes the principle of the bull of Pius, and suspends the action of it only, until it might be executed, it was scarcely less objectionable, than that very reprehensible document.
It was, accordingly, the subject of vehement censure: But, "what evil office", says father Allen, in his Answer to Cecil, c. 2, "have these good fathers done herein? What treason is committed more, than, if they had desired his holiness to have discharged the queen and protestants also of all bond of that bull? How could either they, or the rest of the priests doe more dutifully and discreetly in this case, than to provide, that all such, with whom they only had to deal, might stand free and warranted in their obedience; and commit the rest, that cared not for excommunication, to the judgment of God."
When the Armada was in preparation and almost ready to sail, pope Sixtus the fifth, by a bull, which he directed to be published, as soon as the Spanish army should land in England, but the contents of which were, by the directions of his holiness, immediately notified to the English, renewed the sentence of Pius the fifth, and Gregory the thirteenth, touching and concerning the deposition of Elizabeth, whom he excommunicated, and deposed anew from all royal dignity, and from the tide, right and pretension to the crown of the kingdom of England and Ireland, declaring her illegitimate, and an usurper of the said kingdoms, discharging the subjects, of the kingdom, and all others from all obedience, from the oath of fidelity, and from all' in which they could be obliged to her, or to any one in her name.
The mention of these bulls must be painful to a catholic; but it is an historical obligation; and when he mentions them, it is his duty to condemn them: It is pleasing to add, that they were disregarded by the generality of the catholics of England. How they conducted themselves, when the Armada threatened the coast, we shall afterwards mention. In this place, we shall only add, that the conduct of the clergy was as exemplary as the conduct of the laity. In a petition presented to the queen by some English gentlemen, soon after the defeat of the Armada, (which we shall afterwards have occasion to notice), the subscribers of it say, "we protest to your majesty, before God, that the priests, whoever have conversed with us, have acknowledged your majesty, to be their lawful queen, tam de jure quam de facto, as well of right, as for your actual possession of the throne; that they pray for you, and exhort your subjects to obey you. They profess that it is heresy, and contrary to catholic faith, to think that any man may lift up his hand against God's anointed''.
Thus the English catholics spoke, and thus they acted. The bulls, therefore, which have been mentioned, were no justification of the sanguinary laws against them: on the contrary, their loyalty, in the trying circumstances, which have been mentioned, should have obtained for them the protection and encouragement of the state. It may be granted, that, the papal pretensions made it necessary to watch the catholics with care, and to adopt some precautions in their regard, but, surely, where guilt was not found, there should not have been tortures, gibbets, or fires.
Second reason.—The maintenance of the deposing doctrine by the Missionary Priests:—And the activity of some English priests, in giving effect to the Bulls of Pius the fifth, and Sixtus the fifth.
It was impossible that the proceedings of Elizabeth should not produce great discontents among the catholics. They were fomented by those, whose aim it was to render the catholics odious, and who, for that purpose, endeavored to draw the young, the wild, and the unwary, into conspiracies, of which they themselves always kept the thread, and moved the puppets at their pleasure; by the leaders of the political parties into which the nation was then divided, and each of which sought to increase its own strength by attracting the catholics to it, by the ultra-catholics who believed the lawfulness of the pope's pretensions to the deposing power, and particularly by the Spanish monarch, who, to serve his own views, sought, by forming a Spanish party among the English catholics, to put those pretensions into execution The designs and practices of this monarch, the hollowness of his professions of regard for the catholics, and the ruinous tendency of his endeavors to withdraw them from their allegiance, are the subject of a pamphlet, entitled. The Estate of the English Fugitives, under the king of Spain, recently republished in The State Papers and Letters of Sir Ralph Sadler, edited by Arthur Clifford.
An interesting and fair account of these different parties, is given by the reverend Charles Plowden, in his Remarks on a book, entitled, Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani.
1. From all the printed and manuscript memoirs which I have seen, (and I have seen many,) it appears, says the reverend gentleman, that political business formed no part of the education of the seminary priests. The bulk of them were solely intent on fitting themselves for the painful duties of missioners, and on preparing themselves for a life of toil and suffering, which they expected and hoped would end in martyrdom. I have seen multitudes of letters, written by them, from England during Elizabeth's reign: they all breathe an exalted spirit of religious zeal; they describe the missionary successes, the piety, the sufferings, the executions of priests and laymen, they frequently deplore the troubles raised by apostates and traitors, and the uneasiness occasioned by the appellant priests; but I have rarely found a word relating to public business or to their own principles, wishes, or interests, in the political concerns of the nation. This must have been an effect of the consummate prudence of Allen, and Parsons, who had forbidden any questions, in which the rights or pretences of princes were involved, to be discussed in the schools, and exercises of the seminaries. It is however certain, that they all considered queen Elizabeth as the capital enemy of their religion; and as the re-establishment of this religion was the ultimate end of all their labors and wishes, they deemed it an happiness to concur to it by every lawful means in their power. I could produce many proofs of this disposition of the seminary priests, but I have never yet found a syllable, which could prove or indicate a plot, or the concurrence of any of them in any plot against the life or the sovereignty of the queen; and it is certain, that the instructions to them from pope Gregory the thirteenth, required their civil obedience to the queen, and their public acknowledgment of her sovereignty.
2. A few of them had deeper views.—I have eagerly searched a number of the letters, and other writings of father Parsons, besides several of Garnet, and of cardinal Allen; and the amount of what I have discovered is as follows: They all considered religion as the first happiness and concern of man; and the destruction of it by Elizabeth as the most unwarrantable abuse of lawless power. They adhered in speculation, to the universal doctrine of their own, and of many preceding ages, which admitted a limited temporal authority in the pope, to be exercised only for the essential service and interests of religion, and of course they never questioned the justice of those temporal and civil deprivations and forfeitures, which, during so many ages, had been connected with the spiritual sentence of excommunication. If this was a crime, it attached equally to all their contemporaries; and surely nothing can be more disingenuous than to maintain, that our priests, who were condemned and executed, merely for their priestly character, did not suffer for their religion because some of them did not roundly deny a doctrine, which almost all Christendom believed to be true. However sincerely I disapprove of the principle, on which the bulls of Pius the fifth, and Sixtus the fifth, against Elizabeth were grounded; I am not surprised that those bulls were approved by cardinal Allen and his friends and it appears that they would have considered the execution of them, if they had taken effect, as just and lawful. It is also certain, (though I find no traces of it in their letters), that, on account of the invalidity of Anne Boleyn's marriage, established by sentence of the holy see, and by various acts of the legislature, they considered Elizabeth as wrongfully placed upon the throne, to the injury of the captive queen of Scotland; from whom they might expect redress for their sufferings, and the re-establishment of their religion, which, of all things, lay nearest their heart. They remembered, with bitter recollection, that this religion, the exclusive truth of which was an essential tenet, had been, a few years before, protected from the throne, and revered throughout the extent of the empire. They had witnessed the crimes of three successive reigns, which had plundered the churches, defaced the altars, and murdered or ejected the ministers; they were now themselves sorely persecuted by the unrelenting queen, and they considered this queen as an usurper. They held freedom of the catholic religion to be the most precious of the rights and dues of mankind, and the obligation of protecting it to be the first duty of the sovereign. On the ancient principle above stated, they conceived the sovereign to be subject to correction from the head of the church, at least for crimes such as Elizabeth had committed; and on these grounds the execution of the bull of pope Pius by Philip the second would, in their estimation, have been a deed of eminent justice. They knew that private individuals, however injured, might not lawfully use violence to redress their grievances, but war, denounced by the Spanish monarch, and sanctioned by the sentence of the pope, was to them at once honorable and lawful. Hence, a few of the leading catholic exiles conceived great hopes from the Spanish armament; and cardinal Allen even wrote a short treatise to prove that the war was just and necessary, to restore the nation to the enjoyment of those essential rights of which Elizabeth had forcibly deprived it. This treatise of the cardinal appears to have been little known at the time; and after the defeat of the Armada it fell into oblivion. Dodd seems to deny its existence. Impartial persons, however, will not be too hasty in condemning the venerable author as a traitor to his country, if they consider, that he was then become, from necessity, a subject of a foreign prince; and conceived himself authorized, by acknowledged authority, to declare enmity against her whom he considered as an usurper; and to whose usurpation he solely attributed all his country's grievances and distresses. Private enmity was foreign from his heart; and his eminent spirit of religion and honor screens him from every suspicion of secret revenge, or unauthorized hostility.
After the failure of the Spanish Armada, the utmost political efforts of cardinal Allen, Parsons, and their friends, seem to have been directed to procure a catholic successor to the queen, and there is evidence, from their letters, that, to effect this, they endeavored to engage the interest of the pope, and other catholic powers. Parsons had labored ineffectually to secure the education of the Scottish king in the religion of his forefathers, and he had rendered to him useful services, in the hope of attaching his confidence to the catholic friends of his family. Though the queen had closed the mouths of politicians on the question of the succession to her crown, it was judged by many, that there would be several pretenders, besides a powerful party at home, to withhold it from James, whose mother had been executed as a traitor by Elizabeth. When Parsons despaired of attaching him to the catholic religion, he seems to have wished the exclusion of James, and, among the possible competitors, to have hoped for success to the pretensions of the infanta of Spain, or the duke of Parma. He repeatedly declares, that he cares not who possesses the throne, provided he be a catholic, that he leaves that concern to the princes who were interested in it; and hopes, that they will give their support to that pretender, who, being a catholic, may be most acceptable to the nation, and to surrounding powers. On this principle Doleman, or the Conference about the succession, was written, with a new, as a letter of Parsons says, to open the eyes of the nation to their main interest, to which the queen's policy forbade them to attend. This book, commonly attributed to Parsons, was the joint production of several: cardinal Allen, and Sir Francis Englefield, were probably among the principal compilers, and in the several letters in which Parsons mentions it, he calls it the work of wise and good men; but he nowhere claims a share of it for himself. This may have been a prudential reserve; and as I think it probable that he concurred with the others in the composition, I take it to be certain that he admitted and approved the principles and sentiments which the book delivers. In judging the men who professed these sentiments and principles, it would be very unfair to forget that they followed the general maxims of their age, in which our improved theories of government were unknown and that they applied their principles to an approaching and doubtful event, in which they were highly interested, and on which no superior authority had yet laid down a law, that commanded universal submission.
3. This is a sketch by the hand of a master: a more candid account of the inoffensive conduct of the general body of the catholics of England, in respect to the bull of Pius the fifth; or of the deplorable activity of a few, in recommending the principles, upon which it was framed, and promoting the measures which it suggested, cannot be given. It shows that several clergymen, and the general body of the laity, disapproved of both. This is also shown by several publications, which appeared in the reigns of Elizabeth, and of her immediate successor; and by the admissions of Camden, her historiographer. From these, it is evident, that the catholics, in general, wished to confine the pope to the spiritual government, which St. Peter received from Christ, and blamed those who ascribed to the successors of that apostle, a right to interfere in temporal concerns, or to enforce their spiritual authority by temporal power. Several too, who acquiesced in the bull, thought it unwise to circulate it; deprecated its being put into activity; and lamented the interference of cardinal Allen, and of father Parsons, in seconding the views of Philip the second, and disturbing the succession.
Soon after the accession of the queen, the following quaere, was framed,—"Whether queen Elizabeth was divested of the kingdoms by the deposing bull of Pius the fifth? Or by any other sentence passed or to be passed? Or her subjects discharged from their allegiance"—To this question the following answer was given; "Notwithstanding this bull, or any other declaration or sentence of the pope, past or to be past; we hold queen Elizabeth to be the lawful queen of England and Ireland; and that obedience and fealty are due to her as such, by all her English and Irish subjects".
(Signed) Richard Watson, John Fecknam, Henry Cole, J. Harpsfield, N. Harpsfield.
Burleigh, in his Execution of Justice, says, that Heath, archbishop of York, and the bishops Poole, Tunstall, White, Oglethorpe, Thurlby, Turberville, and many abbots and deans, acknowledged the same opinion.
Father Caron also mentions, that the Apology for the Catholics, printed at Douay, and presented to James the first, 1604, declared, that "those prelates held themselves to be ready, for the defence of the queen, to expose, and oppose themselves with all their strength, to any external power, whether of the pope, or procured by the pope."
Cardinal Allen himself, as we are informed by Pattenson, Image of Churches, "disapproved of the excommunication, and wished the matter had been left to God.
Unsatisfactory answers of the Priests to the Six Questions on the deposing power of the Pope, proposed to them by the Queen's Commissioners: Division of opinions of the Clergy on this subject.
The writer has now before him, "a brief history of the glorious martyrdom of twelve reverend priests, executed within these twelve months, for the confession and defence of the catholic faith, but under the false pretence of treason, with a note of sundry things that befell them in their life and imprisonment, with a preface, declaring their innocence, set forth by such as were conversant with them in their life, and present at their arraignment, 1582".
The twelve priests who suffered, were, Mr. Everard Haunse, who was executed on the 31st day of July 1581: Father Edmund Campion, a short account of whose trial we have given: Mr. Ralph Shirwin, and Mr. Alexander Bryan, who were executed on the 1st of December 1581:—Mr. Thomas Forde, Mr. John Shert, and Mr. Johnson, who were executed on the 28th day of May 1582:—Mr. William Filbee, Mr. Luke Kerbie, and Mr. Lawrence Richardson, alias Johnson, and Mr. Thomas Cottom, who were executed on the 30 th of the same month:—and Mr. John Paine, who was executed on the 2nd day of April 1582. After trial, they underwent a private examination. The persons who presided at it, were Popham, the queen's attorney-general, and Egerton, the queen's solicitor-general, and two civilians, doctor Lewis and doctor Hammond:
They put the six following questions to the prisoners:
" 13th May, 1582.
1. Whether the bull of Pius quintus against the queen's majesty, be a lawful sentence and ought to be obeyed by the subjects of England?
2. Whether the queen's majesty be a lawful! queen; and ought to be obeyed by the subjects of England, notwithstanding the bull of Pius quintus, or any bull or sentence that the pope has pronounced, or may pronounce, against her majesty?
3. Whether the pope have, or had power to authorize the Earles of Northumberland, and Westmorland, and other her majesty's subjects, to rebel, or take arms against her majesty, or to authorize doctour Saunders, or others, to invade Ireland, or any other her dominions, and to bear arms against her, and whether they did therein lawfully, or no?
4. Whether the pope have power to discharge any of her highness subjects, or the subjects of any Christian prince, from their allegiance, or oath of obedience, to her majesty, or to their prince for any cause?
5. Whether the said doctor Saunders, in his book of the visible monarchic of the church, and doctor Bristow, in his book of motives, (writing in allowance, commendation, and confirmation of the said bull of Pius quintus), have therein taught, testified, or maintained, a truth, or falsehood?
6. If the pope doe by his bull, or sentence, pronounce her majesty to be deprived; and no lawful queen, and her subjects to be discharged of their allegiance, and obedience, unto her; and after the pope, or any other by his appointment, and authority, do invade this realm, which part would you take; or which part ought a good subject of England to take?"
In this work, which we have noticed, mention is made of an account, published by government, of these questions, and the answers of each of the twelve priests; and these were stated to be preceded by a preface.
Mr. Bosgrave, the two first secular priests,—the third a Jesuit,—explicitly denied, in their answers, the pope's deposing power. Accordingly, they were pardoned:—what afterwards became of them, the writer has unsuccessfully endeavored to discover. In some letters of cardinal Allen, their conduct is mentioned, but neither blamed nor praised. The pardon of them seems to show that a general and explicit disclaimer, by the English catholics, in the reign of queen Elizabeth, of the pope's deposing power, would have both lessened and abridged the term of their sufferings.
That the replies made by the priests to the six questions were unsatisfactory, is too clear. They are either refusals to answer, or evasive answers, or such answers as expressed their belief of the deposing doctrine, or at least a hesitation of opinion respecting it.
We may add, that among the six questions there is not one which the catholics of the present times have not fully and unexceptionably answered, in the oaths which they have taken, in compliance with the acts of the 18th, 31st, and 33d years of the present reign.
The unsatisfactory tenor of the answers of the priests was lamented by several catholics. Among these, Mr. John Bishop, "an hearty papist," says Collyer, "particularly distinguished himself". "He wrote", says Collyer, "against these high fliers of the court of Rome; made it plainly appear that the canon of the council of Lateran, for absolving subjects from their allegiance, was plainly a forgery—That this authority was nothing more than the doctrine of pope Innocent the third; And that, it was never received in England".
The Important Considerations and Decachordon of Mr. Watson,—which, in other respects, are very reprehensible, abundantly show this division of opinion; and that in the reign of Elizabeth several priests, and the bulk of the laity, would have answered the six questions with the same candor and integrity of principle, as all the present catholic clergymen and laity of England would now answer them, and have in effect answered them.
However unfortunate or provoking we may consider the answers of the seven priests, they did not convict them of disloyalty in the opinion of Elizabeth. "The queen herself", says Camden, "generally disbelieved their guilt; and did not consent to the trial of Campion, and his companions, till she was brought by her ministers to think that the sacrifice of them was necessary to quiet the ferment, to which the report of her intended marriage with the duke of Anjou had given occasion".
After all,—every reader of these pages must admit, that a steady adherence to principle, from conscientious motives, however erroneous, in the face of torments and death, is always entitled to respect. Now, to whom, more than to these venerable sufferers can this respect be due? Aware of the racks, the fires, the cauldrons, and the fatal rood, to which unsatisfactory answers to the questions then proposed would probably lead; still,—rather, than express an acquiescence in a doctrine, which,—let it be supposed erroneously, but certainly conscientiously,—they believed to be untrue, or rather believed to be doubtful, they risked death itself in its most hideous form.
Fourth reason, alleged in defence of the sanguinary laws against the Catholics;—the establishment of the foreign Seminaries, and the Missionary Labors of' their Priests.
From the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, until the 31st of his present Majesty, no school for the education of catholic youth, in catholic principles, could be conducted, without subjecting the master to the penalties inflicted by the statute of the second year of Elizabeth,—forfeiture of goods and chattels, with one year's imprisonment, for the first offence; the penalties of a praemunire, for the second, and death for the third. Even in the case of domestic education, the parent was liable to the same penalties. Seminaries, the object of which was to qualify persons for the sacred ministry in the catholic church, were still more obnoxious to the law. Thus, catholics were deprived of every means of education, and, in the course of a few years, the catholic priesthood must, under the operation of such laws, have been extinguished. In these circumstances, foreign education was the sole resource left to the catholics, to this consequently they had recourse. In 1568, cardinal Allen established a college at Douay, for the instruction of youth, and the education of priests for the English mission. In 1578, this establishment was removed to Rheims. In 1593, it returned again to Douay.— There it continued, till the general wreck of all that was good in the French revolution. Another establishment on a similar plan, was founded at Rome in 1578. About the year 1579, it was placed under the direction of the Jesuits, but still continued a seminary for the education of secular priests. Similar establishments were formed at Lisbon and Valladolid; and some time about the year 1598, father Parsons founded the college at St. Omer's.
The account given by Hume of these seminaries is extremely imperfect and inaccurate. But something beyond imperfection and inaccuracy may be justly imputed to him, when he informs his reader, that "sedition, rebellion, sometimes assassination, were the expedients by which they intended to effect their purposes against the queen". To this atrocious charge, six unquestionable facts may be opposed.—In the first place, the circumstance which has been already mentioned, that, of the two hundred catholics who suffered death for religion in the reign of Elizabeth, one only impugned her title to the throne, next, that they all, to the moment of their deaths, persisted in denying every legal guilt, except the mere exercise of missionary function: thirdly, that their accusers were uniformly persons of bad lives, and of the lowest character: fourthly, that there is not an instance, in which the tortures inflicted on them produced from any one of them, either a confession of his own guilty or a charge of guilt on others: fifthly, that the barbarous irregularity, with which their trials were conducted, has seldom been exceeded; and sixthly, that even this irregularity never furnished legal evidence of the commission of any legal guilt, except, as we have already noticed, the mere exercise of missionary function. It must be added, that even the exercise of missionary function was seldom proved on them by regular evidence.
Most bitterly did the pious and learned inmates of these seminaries,—(for pious and learned they certainly were),—bewail their exile from their native land.
"Thou know, good Lord!" says cardinal Allen, in his eloquent Apology, and true declaration of the Institution, and endeavors of the two English colleges, the one in Rome, the other now residing at Rheims, against certain sinister information given up against the same. "Thou know how often we have lamented together, that for our sins we should be constrained to spend either all, or most of our serviceable years, out of our natural country, to which they are most due, that our offices should be acceptable, and our lives and services agreeable to strangers, and not to our dearest at home. You know how earnestly we have desired you to incline our prince's heart to admit us into our country, into what state soever and that we might, in poverty and penance never so extreme, serve the poor souls to their salvation; voiding our cogitations of all honors, commodities, preferments, that our forefathers and the realm yielded and gave to such functions, acquitting them, for our own parts, to the present possessors and incumbents, or to whomsoever God shall permit.
You know, how justly we have bewailed our heavy case, that so many strange nations having their churches, with freedom to serve God after their manner, in our country, only catholics, (who in our fathers days, had all, and for whom, and by whom, all churches and Christianity rose,) can, by no intercession of foreign potentates, nor no sighs, nor sorrows of innumerable most loyal subjects, obtain one place in the whole land, to serve their Lord God, after the rites of all good Christian princes, priests, and people of the world: That no Jew, no Turk, no pagan, can, by the law of God, nature, or nations, be forced from the manner and persuasion of his own sect, and service, to any other, which, by promise or profession, he or his progenitors never received, only we, that neither, in our own persons, nor in our forefathers, ever gave consent to any other faith or worship of God, but have, in precise terms, by protestation and promise, bound ourselves in baptism to the religion, faith and service catholic alone,—are, against divine and human laws, and against the protestants’ own doctrine, in other nations, not only bereaved of our christian due in this behalf, but are forced by manifold coactions, to those rites which we never knew, nor gave our assent unto".
It is difficult to believe that the writer of these affecting lines had not an English heart.
In the same work, the cardinal does justice to his friend father Parsons, and to Parsons's spiritual sons. "We protest", he says, "that neither the reverend fathers of the society whom the people call Jesuits,—(an express clause being in the instructions of their mission into England, that they deal not in matters of state, which is to be showed, signed with their late general's hand of worthy memory)—neither the priests, either of the seminaries or others, have any commission, direction, instruction, or insinuation from his holiness, or any other their superior, either in religion, or of the like, to move sedition, or to deal against the state, but only by their priesthood and the functions thereof, to do such duties as be requisite for Christian men's souls, which consists of preaching, teaching, catechizing, ministering the sacraments, and the like".
"Your highness's noble father", concludes the eloquent cardinal, "as of worthy and wise men we have borne, was fully determined to give over the title of supremacy, and unite both himself and his realm to the see and church apostolic again; but being prevented by death, could not accomplish his most honorable designment, and may therefore be both an example and a warning to your majesty, the last of all his dearest children, to accomplish that thing, which, to his great wisdom at the going out of this life, was thought so necessary for his soul, his people, and posterity, which diverse princes and provinces begin now to think upon more seriously than before. Incline your hart, for Christ's love, gracious lady! to our humble suit made for your own soul; and be not offended with, for your poor subjects, for moving your majesty in so plane terms, in God's and the church's cause. Wherein, if our Lord of his secret judgment permit us not to be heard, yet, in doing so dutiful an endeavor, we cannot lose our labors, for which we must be always ready, (as God shall please,) to lose our lives.
"In the mean time, not repugning or resisting any of your majesty's or the realm's temporal laws, we trust no reasonable man can reprove us, if we refuse to be obedient to the pretended laws of religion, which we think in conscience, and can prove to be, against the laws of God, and not consonant to any just and truly called laws of our country."
Assertion that the Priests were executed, not for their Religion, but for their commission of acts of High Treason.
A defence of the sanguinary laws of Elizabeth was made, by asserting that the priests who suffered under them, were convicted, not for their priestly character, or exercising their priestly functions, but for treason. This conveys an idea that the treason for which they suffered, was some act that was treasonable by the ancient law of the land, or the statute of treasons—the 25th of Edward III.
This is a great mistake. It was not even pretended that the priests were convicted of any act that was treasonable by the ancient law, on the statute of Edward: the only treasons for which they suffered were those which the statutes of Elizabeth had made treasonable—denying her spiritual supremacy—not quitting or returning to England—or exercising sacerdotal functions.
But, continue the advocates for the justice of these laws, it was competent to the state to make these acts treasonable; and, having enacted that they should be treasonable, those, who did such acts, were legally guilty of treason; and were punished, not for their religion, but for being traitors.
This was the ground on which, by a state-paper, published by lord Burleigh, these sanguinary laws, and the executions which took place under them, were principally defended. It was published in 1583, and is entitled, The execution of justice for maintenance of public and Christian peace against certain stirrers of sedition, and adherents to the traitors and enemies of this realm, without any persecution of them, as falsely reported and published by the traitors and fosterers of the treasons"
To this cardinal Allen replied, by, A true, sincere, and modest defence of Christian catholics, that suffered for their faith at home and abroad, against a false, seditious, and slanderous libel, entitled, The execution of justice in England; wherein is declared how unjustly the protestants do charge the catholics with treason; how untruly they deny their persecution for religion, and how deceitfully about the cause, greatness, and manner of their sufferings, with diverse other matters pertaining to this purpose. It was universally read and admired. The authors of the Biographia Britannica mention that, "as much is said in it, for his cause, and as great learning shown in defending it, as it would admit". The learned Edmund Bolton called it, "a princely, "grave, and flourishing piece of natural and exquisite English." An elegant version of it into the Latin language is published in doctor Bridgewater's Concertatio.
The whole of lord Burleigh's work is founded on an argument, so brittle, that it falls into pieces the moment it is touched. It was not, says his lordship, for their catholic religion, or for their sacerdotal character, that the priests underwent the sentence of the law; but for their remaining in or returning to England;—acts, which the law had made high treason.
Now, unless their priests remained in or returned to England, the English catholics would have been without instruction, and without the sacraments or rites of their religion. To remain in England, or to return to it, was therefore an act of the religious duty of the catholic priesthood and for this act of religious duty the priests were executed.
In defence of the edicts against the huguenots, who
assembled in bodies for the exercise of their religious worship, might not
Louvois have urged, with equal justice, that the offenders were punished, not
for their religious principles, but for their illegal practices;—a previous law having
made their assembling for religious worship a legal offence?
In fact, if lord Burleigh's argument justified the executions of the catholic priests, in the reign of queen Elizabeth, there has seldom been a religious persecution, which a similar argument would hot justify.
ALLEGED PLOTS OF THE CATHOLICS AGAINST QUEEN ELIZABETH.