Rome has intensified her crusade to destroy the Williamite Protestant Revolution Settlement, which is the Constitution of the United Kingdom. A Bill, sponsored in Parliament, has succeeded in getting this matter onto the Parliamentary agenda during this session. The Queen, on a first since the Reformation, has had the Roman Catholic Cardinal of England to stay with her at Sandringham, and to preach at the Royal service in the Church of England yesterday, 13th January. We are delighted that Dr. Clive Gillis, the outstanding Protestant historian, is writing a series of articles on the historical background of this whole conspiracy to destroy our Protestant heritage. These, which are in the process of publication will be carried on the website, the first one commencing today. We will also keep our readers informed as to what is happening in Parliament as matters proceed. — Dr. Ian Paisley
The years 1631 to 1685 are familiar to Protestants as the period of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, the English Civil War and Charles II, ending with the accession of James II, a Roman Catholic, followed by the Glorious Revolution and the establishment of the Protestant Succession.
For Rome, this was the period during which Bishop Smith was dethroned and finally forced to depart (1631) followed by the time of "English Catholics without a bishop," until Bishop Leyburn was installed on British soil to head up a Roman Catholic hierarchy. These years were filled with the intrigues of Rome, who was fearful lest England should be lost to her forever.
But did the English Reformation ever succeed, in Rome’s view, in extinguishing her former formal presence in England?
John Bossy, who writes with authority from the standpoint of Rome, takes up this very point. He quotes an earlier Roman historian of the period, Joseph Berington, who was one of the seculars, that is, the anti-Jesuit, patriotic Romanists. Berington said, "It is my opinion that we always had a church, incomplete it is true … holding community with the centre of unity, the Roman see. The words mission then and missionaries have been improperly applied to us."
Bossy with his impeccable scholarship, completely overthrows this view. He has written a three-part survey of the period leading up to Rome’s triumphant re-establishment of her hierarchy in 1850. The first part he entitles, The Death of a Church 1570-1688 and the concluding section, The Birth of a Denomination 1770-1850. In Rome’s opinion, we have suffered to be rebuilt in our midst that which we once destroyed at a great cost to our martyr confessors.
Bossy defines this period succinctly: "After 1631 gentry supremacy (often dubbed ‘the squirearcy’) was ensured for an indefinite time … the Catholic community settled into a position … fairly accurately called an upper class sect." Charles I insisted on the Divine Right of Kings and never called a Parliament. Another Roman Catholic comments: "For Catholics the rule of a single man, who was susceptible to persuasion was far preferable to that of a government under which from time to time their fate might be affected by a House of Commons containing many of their bitterest enemies." Another says, "It is probably that the most contented and peaceful period which the harassed Catholics were to enjoy between the outbreak of the Elizabethan repression and the last years of the 18th century was that space of a generation from the middle of the reign of James I to the outbreak of the Civil war in 1642."
Laud became Archbishop in 1633. We saw in the last article that in his time the Church of England developed the ecumenism of Lancelot Andrewes and others. They saw the Church of England as the true Catholic Church of England, conforming to the nature and discipline of the most ancient Churches and the earliest Church councils, before Rome had destroyed that unity. They believed that the Church of Rome was also part of the true Catholic Church of Christ, but that the Church of England was, "the better swept, and the more cleanly kept and more substantially maintained".
Laud states this view in his famous dialogue with Jesuit Father Percy, the, Relation of the Conference between William Laud and Mr. Fisher (Percy) the Jesuit By Command King James…. (It is now available on the internet.) The exhaustive nature and ingenuity of Laud’s argument in support of his position is amazing. This tenaciously held belief blinded him to the strength of the Puritan contention that Rome was the false church portrayed in the Book of Revelation. In fact this view became the driving force behind all Laud sought to do and led eventually to his death.
Laud and the papacy
The logical conclusion of Laud’s line of thought was that the Established Church and the Roman Church were at root the one Catholic and Apostolic church. Rome feared that in these circumstances patriotic seculars might take the Oath of Allegiance and drift into the Established Church of England. A Puritan engraving in the British museum shows Laud with the mark of the beast on his forehead, which has sprouted horns. He is enthroned and the devil is offering him a cardinal’s hat, while two Romanists bribe him.
The pope was at first delighted with Laud’s view and there was talk of offering Laud a cardinal’s hat. That was until the Jesuits pointed out the danger to Rome posed by Laud’s position. Writers like Thomas Carwell soundly refuted Laud’s doctrine and re-established the doctrine of the supremacy of Rome. Carwell wrote his Labyrinthus Cantabringiensis: Or Doctor Lawds Labyrinth Being An Answer To The… Relation Of A Conference Between Himself and Mr. Fisher… Wherein The True Ground Of The Roman Catholic Religion Are Asserted… ect., and published it from the safety of Paris. The title is self-explanatory. Eventually neither Charles I personal intervention nor a secret pardon written earlier in Charles own hand and bearing the royal seal, could protect Laud from the consequences of his view. Nor could Laud find a safe haven in Rome. The will of the Puritan Commons prevailed over the Lords and Laud was sentenced to death for popery and high treason.
Charles I, relying on Laud’s position, produced a toothless Oath of Allegiance. The only obvious difficulty in the way of a Roman Catholic taking the Oath was that it involved denying the power of the pope to depose kings. Some important Romanists took the Oath – to the horror of the Jesuits.
Many of the Jesuits were now "flush with money and in rich Papists houses," and able to acquire their estates by influencing wills through the confessional. Laud was approached by the seculars to allow Bishop Smith back into England in the hope of restraining the Jesuit influence over wills and bequests. The Pope was also approached to allow Romanists to take the Oath. The Jesuits saw to it that neither ever happened.
Jesuit conversions remained steady at about 400 – 550 a year during this period.
Meanwhile the Vatican exploited Charles I’s Roman Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria, to gain a foothold for the purpose of gathering intelligence. David Matthew, an expert on this period, writes that, "The Queen with her private chapel in St. James’ was the focus around which new liberties… could develop… she was a rallying point… converts appeared in her own immediate circle… encouraged by the King’s passivity and the Queen’s zeal… She was comprehensible to court gallants but infinitely remote from the Catholic squires in the country". [She spoke English poorly.]
The further north these wealthy landowners were situated and the more remote their dwelling, the more they were free to exert power in their own domains. This was especially so in the north east. Bossy says, "Catholic gentry families felt a lot safer with a good stretch of moorland coming down to the back of the house… if they had property so situated they would choose to live in it rather that in more comfortable house elsewhere… uplands… put a variety of administrative barriers between oneself and hostile authority… the tight parochial machinery of the lowland Church ceased, in effect, to operate at the edge of the uplands". He also points that avoidance of cattle and sheep rustling required the same defences, scouts and firearm skills as watching out for approaching Protestants enforcing anti-popery legislation.
The squirearchy, with their pre-Reformation mind set, chose, lodged and paid their priest, and he would often be their children’s tutor, the estate accountant and lawyer as well as the family and estate spiritual advisor. The multitalented Jesuits were delighted to oblige as they could gain the power of indispensability over the household, and still conduct secret intrigues on the side. But the more straightforward secular priests resented the erosion of their calling. The pattern of Roman Catholic predominance in these areas persists to this day.
The remote squires may have been a law unto themselves but Rome was well able to harness their services when the need arose. Readers will recall that the banished Bishops of Chalcedon had set up a well organised ‘Chapter’ which remained intact after the bishop’s departure. So, when Laud’s outrageous behaviour provoked the Covenanters to rebellion and Henrietta appealed to the English papists for money for soldiery and arms to putdown the Covenanters, the system worked with alarming efficiency.
Thus the Canons of the chapter were able to circulate a letter to all Catholics which reached every county in the land asking them to "contribute cheerfully and bountifully upon this occasion". A large sum was raised, with Lancashire well to the fore. It is the only county in which records of the collection survive. The squires acted as treasurers. Social barriers required the priests to approach the poor, as to "what they conceive they may give, for gentlemen of quality cannot so well speak to those persons as priests and their ghostly [spiritual] fathers may". The priests, for their part, relied heavily on the simple folk’s "persistent demand… for traditional and quasi magical services". Such superstition and sorcery was not available from protestant ministers and the poor were willing to make heavy financial sacrifices to obtain them.
The Vatican could see the usefulness of the seculars, despite their leanings towards the King. Bishop Smith who died in 1655 was hovering in the wings, ready to return from abroad at any time. But the Jesuits were sworn to oppose the seculars. Henrietta’s court facilitated a period of secret intrigues which were halted only by the civil war, which casts such light on the ways of Rome that it deserves an article to itself.-
(To Be Continued.)