29 November 2009

Memoirs of missionary priests, and other Catholics of both sexes, that have suffered death in England on religious accounts from the year 1577 to 1684, (1802) by Bishop Richard Challoner, is available for free internet download here, as are a number of other wonderful books now in the public domain. From the introduction:
Queen Mary being dead, her sister Elizabeth was immediately proclaimed queen, November 17, 1558. This princess, who had before professed herself a catholic, now took off the mask, and, by degrees, brought about a total change of the religion of the kingdom. In order to this, great industry was used to have a parliament returned that might come into the queen's measures ; and she succeeded so far, that the pretended reformation was by law established, though not without great opposition, in both houses....

As for the clergy, all the bishops then sitting opposed the change : and the whole convocation, which met at the same time with this queen's first parliament, declared against it, and drew up five memorable articles, touching the real presence ; transubstantiation ; the sacrifice of the mass for the living and the dead ; the supremacy of St. Peter, and his successors ; and the authority of the pastors of the church exclusive of the laity, in matters relating to faith and church discipline. Which articles they addressed to the bishops, to be by them laid before the lords in parliament : and both the universities sent a writing at the same time, declaring their concurrence in the same doctrine, so that the new religion was settled by this parliament, not only without the concurrence of the clergy, but, indeed, in opposition to the whole body of the clergy of the nation.
The national history would have you believe the English Reformation was a movement supported by the great majority of the populace happy to throw off the yoke of the papacy, when in fact the truth is far different: a strong and vocal minority of dissidents voiced their complaints to a monarch at first opposed to their rebellion, but who later, for political expediency, embraced their cause and brutally forced it on an unwilling people. Through intermittent persecution and suppression over the next century or so, the Catholic faith slowly died out until, only generations later, one could truly say that England was a Protestant nation. But it was a slow, painful, unhappy process, despite what revisionist historians would have us believe.
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