Catechisms and Catechesis in England, Part 2

Authored by Gerard Boylan in Issue #29.3 of The Sower

In 1678 Titus Oates announced his discovery of a Jesuit-inspired plot to murder King Charles II and replace him with his Catholic brother, James, Duke of York. In the wave of engineered hysteria that followed upon his allegations, thirty-five priests and laymen were put to death.

When the full extent of Oates’ perjuries was discovered, there was a widespread sense of revulsion towards the bloodletting, which they had occasioned. This would significantly affect official attitudes towards English Catholics and the laws under which they suffered. Penal legislation against seminary priests remained in force, and the Toleration Act of 1689 specifically excluded Catholics, but no priest in England was executed after1681. Although occasional test cases were brought as late as 1771, and a priest named Maloney was condemned at Croydon to perpetual imprisonment in 1769, this was commuted, ‘by the mercy of the Government’ to banishment after three years. Other cases were thrown out of court on the grounds of insufficient evidence.[i]

James II’s flight into exile in 1688 was marked in several places by outbursts of violence against Catholic chapels,[ii] but no priests or religious were killed. By and large, the government wished ‘to let sleeping dogs lie’, and throughout the eighteenth century, while the Catholic gentry would be penalised by exclusion from government office, by social ostracism and by the imposition of double land-taxes, the days of bloody persecution were over. The Stuart Risings of 1715 and 1745 were met with indifference by the great majority of English Catholics, and by the middle of the century the Vicars Apostolic and informed Catholic gentlemen had come to accept that the Stuart cause was hopeless, and that they should make their peace with the House of Hanover.

It was against this political background that the nucleus of Oscott College’s Recusant collection was formed.

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This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

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