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These works have been placed online so that those of a Catholic as well as a Protestant and Gospel faith might become more familiar with the points of controversy, the resources and methods, the debate itself and the manner in which the Church and her theologians have historically managed the discourse in defense of tradition and Church law over the simple faith of the Gospel that was originally preached.
HOME > Library > Books > A Defence Against The Execution of Justice in England or A True, Sincere and Modest Defence of English Catholics that Suffer for their Faith Both 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 Catholics with treason; how untruly they deny their persecution for Religion; and how deceitfully they seek to abuse strangers about the cause, greatness and manner of their sufferings, with divers other matters pertaining to this pamphlet." (Originally Published in 1584; 1914 Edition in 2 Vol.)
A Defence Against "The Execution of Justice in England"
A True, Sincere and Modest Defence of English Catholics
that Suffer for their Faith Both 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 Catholics with treason; how untruly they deny their persecution for Religion; and how deceitfully they seek to abuse strangers about the cause, greatness and manner of their sufferings, with divers other matters pertaining to this pamphlet.
Cardinal William Allen
Roman Catholic Cardinal, Society of Jesus, Founder of the English Jesuit Colleges at Douai and Rome
2 Volume 1914 Edition
HAIL & FIRE REPRINTS 2009
The first Seminary Priest to lay down his life was the Blessed Cuthbert Mayne, martyred at Launceston in 1577. In 1581 forty-three Priests were ordained at Douai, of whom no less than fifteen were ultimately put to death. And in the succeeding year each annual ordination prepared fresh victims for the hatred of the persecutors.
The coming of these companies of Priests ordained beyond the seas was a matter of deep concern and sore disappointment to those who were bent on separating England definitely from the Apostolic See, and of uprooting the Catholic Faith. They had treated the older clergy, survivors of those ordained under Queen Mary or earlier, with a certain clemency, looking forward to the day when these rapidly ageing men and the old belief would together die a natural death. And they now beheld descending upon the country younger men, full of zeal for the preservation of the older order in religion, and specially prepared and equipped to safeguard the faith of those who still believed, and to dissipate the errors and the prejudices of those who had been misled. A determined effort was made to exterminate the new-comers by death, if they dared to remain in the country. Such an outbreak of torture and bloodshed could not fail to excite astonishment and provoke hostile criticism on the part of Catholics in foreign countries; and, to justify the action of the Government, a pamphlet was issued entitled "The execution of justice," the whole object of which was to show that those who were suffering in England were condemned, not on account of their religious opinions, but solely because they were traitors to their Sovereign. The tract was issued anonymously, but it is known that it was written by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Lord High Treasurer and principal minister to Queen Elizabeth. It is thus the highest authority for the contemporary official Protestant view of the position of the Seminary Priests.
Meanwhile political events had obliged Allen, in 1578, to leave Douai and to take refuge at Rheims, and it was there that, in 1584, he wrote the treatise which is now reprinted.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of this work. It takes us at once to the very heart of the controversies which then divided, and still, unhappily, divide our country; and it makes us see again those controversies as they appeared to the eyes of those who were nearer than we are, by more than three hundred years, to the source and origin of the religious strife. Then the matters in real dispute were not obscured as they have since often been, either by forgetfulness of the cause of the contention, or by indifference as to its subject; but men on both sides knew perfectly well that the differences between those who desired to maintain the old order and their opponents were fundamental, and no mere superficial discord easy of adjustment. It is a clear-cut contest between Catholic and Protestant, terms unhesitatingly accepted as true and adequate on either side, neither side using or caring for the modern euphemisms of Anglicans, or Anglo-Catholics, or non-Catholics. To be a Catholic was to recognize the authority of the "See Apostolique." To be a Protestant was to declare that the Pope of Rome has no authority within these realms. No one, then, would have ventured to assert that no radical change had taken place at the Reformation. It was felt that there was a conflict between the old religion and the new of so determined a character that the upholders of the new settlement of religion felt themselves compelled to inflict the penalty of death upon their opponents.
Allen, as the readers of his book will see, had a comparatively easy task in showing the futility of Lord Burghley's plea that our martyrs were put to death, not for their religion, but for high treason; and he bases his argument mainly on the fact that the practices now regarded and condemned as treasonable find no place in the old English law on treason, "so made and set down by Parliament in Edward the Third's time," but are truly Catholic customs and usages now for the first time in our history made treasonable by statutes passed solely in the interest of the new religion, and bearing no relation whatever to treason in its commonly accepted sense. It is an easy way of getting rid of an opponent to declare treasonable the ordinances of his religion, such as "ministering the holy Sacraments, obeying the Apostolic See, persuading our friends to be Catholics, the Priesthood and the like," and then to condemn him to a traitor's death simply because he has practised what his religion prescribed. But he does not become a traitor thereby. In addition to this general argument, applied in many different ways, Allen replies at length to the various implications of participation in treasonable attempts urged by Lord Burghley, and shows that, however these attempts may be characterized in themselves, there is no shred of proof that any of our Martyrs were in any way connected with them.
Incidentally we get glimpses of Allen's opinion of the condition of Catholics in England at the period when he wrote. In the Preface he tells us how men "do glorify Our Lord God, that all the Clergy . . . and so many of the laity of all sorts constantly persist in their father's faith . . . and that the whole state . . . may yet be rather counted Catholic than heretical." In the eighth chapter he declares that two-thirds of the nation are "Catholic in their hearts, and consequently are discontented with the present condition of things": and he speaks of the other "zealous and sincere Catholics" as being "marvellous many" and "the number by God's goodness daily increasing." In the concluding chapter he bears testimony "to the infinite number of all estates that never consented to this iniquity," i.e., the persecution. And he recalls the interest in the religious condition of England shown throughout the Christian world. "No Church, no Company, no Monastery or College of name in Christendom, that with earnest devotion and public fasts and prayers laboureth not to God for mercy towards us."
Thus, in a few pages, this treatise gives us an answer to the charge, still sometimes renewed, that those who gave their lives for the Catholic Faith in England in the sixteenth century were in reality men disloyal to Queen and country. More valuable still, in view of the attitude of so many among the most earnest of our fellow-countrymen at the present day, is the light thrown upon the recently-discovered continuity that, we are told, exists between the Established Church of England and the Catholic Church in England before the Reformation. To such a groundless theory the lives and deaths of our Blessed Martyrs are the best and most conclusive reply. They knew, and they gave their lives because they knew, that a fundamental change was being wrought in the religious condition of our country. To those who know their history, and this treatise is a fresh illustration of the real causes of their martyrdom, - continuity of the kind now so often asserted is a very grim travesty of fact.
FRANCIS CARDINAL BOURNE
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THE PREFACE TO THE READER
Albeit the late pamphlet, entitled "The Execution of Justice," put forth in divers languages, for defence or excuse of the violent proceeding against (Catholics in England, and for accusation as well of them at home as of us their fellows in faith abroad, passing forth without privilege and name either of writer or printer (even thence where such matter is specially current, and might easily have been authorized); and moving indiscreet, odious, and dangerous disputes of estate, replenished with manifest untruths, open slanders of innocent persons, and namely with immodest malediction and seditious motions against the chief Bishop, the Prince of God's people; though (I say) it might rightly have been reputed an infamous libel, either to be contemned, or with such freedom of speech refelled, as that manner of writing doth deserve: yet considering the matter, meaning, and phrase thereof to be agreeable to the humour and liking of some in authority; and the book not only not suppressed (as divers others of that argument, seeming over simple to the wiser Protestants, of late have been), but often printed, much recommended, diligently divulged, and sought to be privileged in foreign places, where for shame they durst not publicly allow it at home, yes, and in a manner thrust manner thrust into the hands of strangers, and therefore like to proceed (though in close sort) from authority: we are forced, and in truth very well contented and glad it hath pleased God to give this occasion, or rather necessity, to yield (for the answer of the said book) our more particular account, in the behalf of our Catholic brethren dead and alive, at home and in banishment.
Which we will do sincerely, as in the sight of Christ Jesus, the just Judge of the world, and all His saints, in such humble, mild, and temperate manner as beseemeth our profession, and the audience; which audience we crave with tears of the whole Church and Christian world, and of all that are placed in power and sublimity over us in our own country or elsewhere; that so our cause may be discerned both by God and man, and our unspeakable calamities, either by the intercession of many, relieved, or by the general compassion of all our faithful brethren, made to us more tolerable. Loth we are, and odious it may be counted, to speak in such matter as must needs in some sort touch our superiors; but God's truth and man's innocency are privileged, and may in humble seemly wise be defended, against whomsoever. And our pen (God willing) shall be so tempered herein, that it shall displease no reasonable reader, nor surely scare them (if it may be), against whom in our inculpable defence we are forced to write.
We have in this case examples enough of Christian modesty in the ancient apologies of holy Fathers in Christ his Church, as of St. Justin, Tertullian, Athanasius, Hilarius and others, writing to their princes that persecuted, either
Saint Ignatious Loyola (Founder of the Jesuit Order, 1324-1384ad)
Saint Ignatious Loyola (Founder of the Jesuit Order, 1324-1384ad)
Whereupon otherwise, for our own only honour and interest, we would not so formally stand against so honourable adversaries in this world, if we thought their hearts (which are in God's hands) were not upon evident reason and remonstrance of our innocence, inclinable to mercy and better consideration of their own state and ours; or that their accusation of us afflicted Catholics, were not joined to the general reprehension of the whole Church, and the principal pastors thereof, whom by the law of our Christian religion we ought to respect more than our own lives, and in causes of our soul and conscience, to obey above any earthly prince, by ...
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Of excommunication and deprivation of Princes for heresy and falling from the faith; specially of wars for religion; and of the office and zeal of priests of the old and new law in such cases.
PRlNCES being not subject to superiors temporal, nor patient of correction or controlment by their inferiors, may easily fall to grevious disorders, which must tend to the danger and ruin of whole countries. In respect whereof great spirit, power, courage, and freedom of speech have been from the beginning granted by God, as well ordinary to priests, as extraordinary to some prophets and religious persons in all ages and times, both of the New and Old Testament. So by God's great providence (who by His prophet warned kings to take discipline, and to serve Him in fear, lest in His ire He should suffer them to fall to iniquity) the first kings of his peculiar people had lightly some prophets or priests in manner as overseers, that might from time to time charge them boldly, and as it were by office, with enormities, and namely with their fall from faith and the God of their fathers, to denounce His threatenings, yea and execute the same upon them, at sometimes if need so required. Which ministers of their Lord God all godly princes did hear, honour and obey; as contrariwise the kings that ...
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. ... Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 KJV