Jesuits In Conflict: Or Historic Facts Illustrative of the labours of the English Mission and Province Of The Society Of Jesus. In the times of Queen Elizabeth and her successors. By a member Of The Society Of Jesus.
No stronger proof of the divine origin of the persecuted religion of our forefathers is needed than its surviving that dreadful shock of centuries, and the marvellous or rather the supernatural constancy of its afflicted members. A thick black cloud had ascended up from the lower regions, not only deadening and darkening the hearts and understandings of men from the throne to the cottage, but inspiring them with feelings of the most savage cruelty, exceeding in brutality, if possible, the persecuting rage of the Pagan Emperors in the first three hundred years of the existence of the Church!
The hatred of the ancient faith poisoned the very fountains of justice itself; the judges of the land (thank God now of a very different stamp), as though their very lives, offices, and dignities were at stake when Catholics were arraigned, ceased to administer justice, and the poor frightened and degraded "twelve men" were always found willing tools at their beck. The laws of evidence, as may be seen by most of the trials of those times, were wholly set aside. The bare suspicion that a man was a Priest, or a member of the Society of Jesus, was sufficient for his capital conviction. What should we think of the present Prime Minister sending to our distinguished and high-minded Attorney-General the following instructions on the occasion of a great State trial for high treason, involving the lives of multitudes of men of high rank, virtue, and learning. It was in the case of the Gunpowder Plot. There was a strong feeling in the country that the King's (James I.) cruel treatment of, and his base ingratitude towards, his faithful Catholic subjects, to whom, both he and his martyred mother owed so much, and whose promises to Catholics he had shamefully broken, was the very cause of the Plot itself which no doubt it was, driving the Catholics to desperation. 1
Domestic, Fac. I, State Papers, Vol. xix., No. 94. P. R. Office. [Endorsed by Sir Edward Coke. "My Lord of Salisbury's directions touching P. treason"] i6o⅚
"These things I am commanded to refer unto your memory. . . ." First, that you be sure to make it appear unto ye world yt there was an employment of some p'sons to Spaine for a practise of invasion, as soon as ye Q.'s breath was owt of her body.2
" The reason is this for wch ye K. doth urge it: he saith some men there are yt will give owt, and do, yt only dispaire of the K.'s courses in [with] ye Catholicks, and his severity, drawe all these to souch woorks of discontentment; where by you it will appear yt before his Maties face was seen, or yt he had don anything in government, the K. of Sp. was moved, though he refused it, saying he rather expected to have peace.
"Next you must in any case, when yow speake of the Ire [letter] wch was the first growd [ground] of discovery, absolutely disclaime yt any of these wrote it, thogh yow leave ye further judgment indefinite, who els it shold be.
"Lastly, and yt yow must not omitt, yow must deliver in commendation of my L. Monteagle, words to show how sincerely he delt, and how fortunately it proved yt he was ye instrument of so great a blessing as this was. To be short, Sr, yow can remember how well ye K. in his book dyd answere his lordship's part in. it, from wch sense yow are not to varry, but obiter (as you know best how), to give some eccleo [eclat] of yt particular action, in that day of publick triall of these men, because it is so lewdly given out, yt he was once of this Plott of Powder, and afterwards betraied all to me. This is but ex abundanti yt I do troble yow, but as they come to my hedd or knoledge, or yt I am directed, I am not scrupulous to send yow.
"Yow must remember to lay Owen as fowle in this as you may." 3 117.
What can be thought of trials based on such infamous instructions from an ungrateful and thankless tyrant, who had declared to one of his attendants "that since Protestants had so generally received and proclaimed him King, he had now no need of Papists"—through an obsequious First Lord of the Treasury—to a notoriously hard-hearted and cruel Attorney-General ? What chance, may be asked, had the unfortunate arraigned under such circumstances ? It is clear that, right or wrong, a conviction must be got, at any cost.
Well would it be if historians adverse to the Catholic faith were to look into these State Papers before writing their uncharitable volumes. Let the charges against Catholics, whether collectively as a body or individually, and the persons making them be fairly examined. And in a majority of cases it will be found that the very absurdity of the former, and the characters of the latter, will afford sufficient refutation. In many cases the accusers are miserable hungry spies, paupers, offering their "valuable services "to, or else in the first instance retained by the Ministers of the day.
To follow out this subject, and publish some of the trials of Catholics in those times, would fill many a volume, and a deeply interesting series it would be, but this is not the scope of the present volume. An inquirer has only to refer to " The History of the penal laws against Roman Catholics, &c, by Mr. Madden, 1847," to satisfy himself of the correctness of these assertions. As a further proof, in the time of Elizabeth, to which this volume relates, we need only refer the reader,to the following lives, in addition to which two other cases shall be shortly alluded to, viz., (1) that of the blessed martyr Father Arrowsmith, about half a century later, 1628; and (2), close upon our own times, the seven Jesuit martyrs and others, victims of the perjured Oates, &c. In which fearful assault against Catholics in general, but more especially against the members of the Society of Jesus in England, 1678-9, five of these innocent and learned Fathers were dragged from Newgate on hurdles through Holborn, Oxford Street, &c, to Tyburn, and there butchered at one and the same time, on the 30th June, 1678/9.
|saint Edmund Arrowsmith SJ|
"Sirrah, art thou a Priest?" An admission of the tact would of course have capitally convicted him on the spot. On the martyr humbly saying, "I would to God I were worthy," the learned judge repeated his former question. "I would I were," was the answer." "Are you then no Priest?" the prisoner was silent. His lordship addressing the jury, said, "You may plainly see he is a Priest: I warrant you, he would not, for all England, deny his Orders." After this interesting prelude, a certain parson Lee, called by one of the chroniclers of the event, "the limping old minister," who was sitting by the judge on the bench, whispered in his lordship's ear, and then began aloud to revile the accused, as a seducer of the people, and that if some order were not taken with him, he would make half Lancashire Papists. By way of answer, Father Arrowsmith asked leave to be allowed to defend his religion in a disputation with the minister. The judge coarsely refused. On the Father, in reply, offering not only to defend it by words, but that he was ready to seal it with his blood, the honourable judge answered in a savage and insulting manner, that " he should die, and see his own bowels burnt before his face." 4 The Father replied, "And you, my lord, must die too." After a long scene of this nature, the prisoner was sent back by his lordship to the castle, with an order that he should be put in some dark place, without light or company; and on the keeper saying that he had no such place, he was ordered to put him in the worst he had. It seems that the indictments were not prepared at the above time, for the judge himself, on the removal of Father Arrowsmith from the bar, framed two indictments ; one for being a Catholic, the other for being a member of the Society of Jesus. The first was supported only by an infamous woman and her wicked son; the second only by a boy of twelve years of age, son of the above-mentioned minister. The Father was of course found guilty, and received his dreadful sentence; upon which, falling upon his knees, and bowing his head very low, he exclaimed, Deo gratias —" God be thanked." He was remanded back to the castle, with the "widow's mite," as they then called it, that is, " a great paire of bolts on his legges."
Mr. Justice Whitlock, the other judge, was so disgusted that he declined to sign the death warrant To pass over the charge to the jury, and the further infamous and cruel conduct of his lordship towards his victim, pursuing him even after death, it shall only be added that this judge hastened the execution by a day, in order that it might take place before, he left Lancaster, that he " stood in a chamber window within the towne, with a pair of spectacles of a longe sight upon his nose, to behoulde the execution, which, when he had seene performed, he called for his dinner, which was aboute two o clock after middaye, upon the feaste of St. Augustin—that after dinner there were presented to him two fatt staggs, which, as he did behoulde, admyringe theire fattnesse, the martyr's head and quarters were brought into his sight, where he made uncivill and barbarous comparisons, betwixte the quarters of the one and the other; and that the next daie the judge departed out of the towne, and passinge by the place where the martyr's head was sett amongst other heades, he caused itt to be putt vpon a poule 8 foote, and higher than the rest." This learned judge met with a dreadful death, evidently (as was the general opinion) from the hand of God, on the 24th of January, 1629. He was sitting at supper January 23, 1629-30, when he felt a blow as if some one had struck him on the head; upon which he fell into a rage against the servant behind him, who protested that neither he nor any one else had struck him. A little after, he felt another, like the first, and then in great terror was carried to bed, crying out, "That dog Arrowsmith has killed me." He died the next morning. 5 So much for this specimen.
1 Upon this head see the very valuable and' interesting volume by Father Morris, The Condition of Catholics under James I.
2 This was at least straining at a point. Lingard says, Hist, of England, vol. vii, p. 9, that the Catholics almost unanimously supported the right of James I. Amongst the State Papers, Dom. Fac. I., Vol. i., No. 56, 1603, is a most affectionate and loyal address of the Catholics of England to the King on his accession, stating their cruel grievances, and protesting the most loyal obedience. Shortly before the death of Elizabeth the representative of an expiring faction, which has been called the Spanish party amongst the English Catholics, had arranged with the Ministers of Philip a plan for the invasion of England. The death of Elizabeth disconcerted the project. It is true that a few disconcerted individuals remained, two of whom, insignificant persons, were sent to Philip to discover the real dispositions of the Spanish Council soon after James came to England, but they signally failed. At all events, weak as it was, it afforded a point of which the Attorney-General was to make use to aid him in rendering the accused "as fowle in this as you may."
3 The subject of this dignified recommendation of the First Lord of the Treasury was, I presume, Nicholas Owen, alias Little John, a Jesuit Lay-brother, who died upon the rack in the Tower, where he was divers times hung up for seven hours together, but not a word could they force from his sealed and faithful lips; at length "they tormented him so long and so often, that his bowels gushed out together with his life." This dear and noble martyr was seized at Henlip Castle, with Father Garnet and Father Oldcorne (See Morris' Condition of Catholics)
4 The reader is perhaps aware that one part of the sentence of death was that the poor sufferers should be cut down alive, and disembowelled in that state.
5 See Dodd's Church History, vol. iii., p. 80. Edit. 1742 ; Tanner's Vita et Mors Jesuit, pro fide interfect; Bishop Challoner's Missionary Priests, vol. ii., p. 123.