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.
"Who has been hunted on the stern and unmitigable accusations, but has been at last brought to bay? Did high and noble birth, honoured age, and approved benevolence, save the unfortunate Lord Stafford? . . . Did subtlety and genius, and the exertions of a numerous sect, save Fenwick or Whitbread, or any of the accused Priests ? Were Groves, Pickering, or any of the other wretches who have suffered, safe in their obscurity ? There is no condition of life, no range of talent, no form of principle which affords protection against an accusation which levels conditions, confounds characters, renders men's virtues their sins, and rates them as dangerous in proportion as they have influence, though attained in the noblest manner and used for the best purposes. Call such a one an accessory to the plot, let him be mouthed in the evidence of Oates or Dugdale, and the blindest shall foresee the issue of the trial.
" 'Prophet of evil,' said Julian, ' my father has a shield invulnerable to protect him. He is innocent!'
"'Let him plead his innocence at the bar of Heaven,' said the voice; 'it will serve him little where Scroggs presides.'
"'Still, I fear not,' said Julian, counterfeiting more confidence than he really possessed; 'my father's cause will be pleaded before twelve Englishmen!'
"' Better before twelve wild beasts,' answered the invisible, 'than before Englishmen, influenced by party prejudice, passion, and the epidemic terror of an imaginary danger.'"
When men's minds were cooled down by the torrents of innocent and noble blood poured out on that lamentable occasion, the perjurer Oates himself had his day of reckoning. He was soon after indicted on several counts for wilful and corrupt perjury, and found guilty on all, and sentenced to a terrible punishment besides imprisonment for life. The court in passing sentence "lamented that he could not be punished with death in atonement for the innocent blood his perjuries had caused to be shed." In the time of William and Mary, however, this man was pardoned, and actually pensioned with a handsome salary! Most of his other fellow-perjurers met with miserable ends. These legal murderers of such men as Lord Stafford, Archbishop Plunkett, Mr. Langhorne, &c., were so flagrant and infamous, that the minds and better feelings of the nation were shocked. No more public executions for religion took place, though numbers were left to die of their sufferings in the dungeons of London and other cities: a more cruel execution by far, because more lingering. The persecuting spirit was then turned for a time rather against the property than the person of Catholics; as in our own day, since the partial repeal of the penal laws, it has changed to a more deadly, because a more insidious mode of attack, especially in regard to unfortunate workhouse children and prisoners.
If, as before observed, the infernal power stirred up this persecuting rage against the ancient religion of our forefathers; there was also, by way of antidote, poured down from above by a merciful Providence, upon the afflicted Catholics of either sex and of every grade, both priest and layman, monk and nun, young men and maidens, boys and girls, a marvellous spirit of constancy and courage, to enable them to meet the fearful storm. Martyrs went to execution, or rather butchery, and confessors to the prisons and torture, and suffered the loss of their goods and estates with a spirit of joy and determined constancy, which will not yield a jot to that of those who suffered in the first days of Christianity.
The object of the present volume is to draw forth from the shades of obscurity, in which they have been too long buried, three English members of the Society of Jesus, noble characters of the stamp just mentioned.
1 Oliver, Collectania S.J., p. 112.