Page 12, 4th December 1987

4th December 1987
Page 12
Page 12, 4th December 1987 — `Bloody question' for martyrs

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`Bloody question' for martyrs

THE lecture on the Reformation in Gloucestershire went well. The subsequent discussion was lively and informative.

There were, one regrets to admit, more Protestant than Catholic martyrs in Gloucestershire. In the six short years of Mary Tudor's reign, 14 men and women in the county were burned for heresy.

Over the religious persecution period as a whole, Gloucestershire had five Catholic martyrs and later this month there will be a Pontifical Mass at St Patrick's, Brockworth, to honour them. The five were among those recently beatified in Rome.

The Gloucestershire and North Avon Catholic History Society has meanwhile commissioned an excellent pamphlet (Gloucestershire Catholic Martyrs) to mark the occasion.

Catholics were executed during those blood-thirsty years not for heresy but for treason. In most cases the charge was justified given the law as it then was and the attitude of Catholics toward the idea, which they favoured, of a return to England of the one true faith, by force if necessary.

Blessed Henry Webley, for example, was brought to trial in the wave of arrests following the coming of the Armada in 1588. After his name on the list of those charged with him are two comments: "take the Queen's part," which is deleted, and "refuse pardon."

The first cancelled comment indicates that, when the famous "bloody question" was put to Webley (how he would behave in the event of the invasion of England organised by the Pope for the purpose of restoring the Catholic religion), he refused to declare that he would support the Queen.

The other comment, "refuse pardon", signifies that he was offered a pardon under the usual condition that he would conform to the Established church. But this he refused to accept.

Henry Webley was one of a group of 16 Catholics, clergy and laity (he himself was a layman) who were arraigned at Newgate Sessions in London in August, 1588. Three of the Gloucestershire Catholic martyrs were priests and two laymen.


THE other Gloucestershire layman to suffer martyrdom was a poor glovemaker, Blessed William Lampley. He was sentenced to death solely on the evidence of a fanatic who had sent his own wife to prison for not conforming. (Why was she not beatified, one wonders, considering there were no women among the 85?)

The judge knew that public sympathy was with Lampley and, in deference thereto, seemed reluctant to carry out the sentence he himself had passed. In court and again at the scaffold he offered a reprieve in exchange for attendance at a Protestant service.

Many others joined in the effort to persuade him to make some token gesture of recantation. This was all that would have been needed. But he gained the respect of many in his steadfastness. His crime was "persuading to popery," and his persecutors realised that he was no actual traitor to his country.

Provocative bull

UNFORTUNATELY, Pope Pius V, in his 1570 bull excommunicating Queen Elizabeth I (who would have condemned no one for merely saying or hearing a private Mass) used some rather provocative language which many took literally.

"He who reigns in heaven," said the Pope on that occasion, "to whom is given all power in heaven and on earth, gave the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which there is no salvation, to be governed in the fullness of authority, to one man only, that is to say, to Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and to his successor the Roman Pontiff. This one ruler he established as prince over all nations and kingdoms, to root up, destroy, dissipate, scatter, plant, and build, so that the Holy Spirit might bind together a faithful people, united in the bond of mutual charity, and present it safe and sound to the Saviour."

It was the part about rooting up, destroying, scattering, etc, that was taken at its face value by some over-zealous Catholics and viewed with intense alarm by members of the reformed religion in England.

No one can say how many of the 600 men and women who suffered for their Catholic faith in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries might have been spared had it not been for the words of Pope St Pius V.

There must have been many.

Bogus fame

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the reference to Our Lord in the Antiquities of Josephus. A kind reader has written to mention another passage. It turned out to be a famous one, but famous, unfortunately, for not being


It comes in Book XVIII of the work and speaks of "Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure." The passage goes on to speak of Jesus's messiahship, condemnation and resurrection.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia for School and Home comments that "critics are now agreed that this (passage) was added by someone else at a much later date." All other reference-book comments on the passage come, unfortunately, to the same conclusion.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states that "The famous reference to Christ in XVIII, iii, 3, calling Him a 'wise man, if indeed one should call him a man,' is in its present form not authentic."

Very disappointing!

The bell tolls

THE year of the centenary of the birth of H M Bateman is drawing to its close. But recollection of his numerous and memorable cartoons has been the pleasant result of many successful exhibitions.

Bateman first published drawings in Scraps in 1903 when he was still only 16. In the next year he began his long association with Tatler.

Here reproduced is one of his cartoons which fit today's mood on the stock exchange and in the city in general. It was entitled "The Underwriter who Missed the Total Loss."

It showed the inside of the old Lloyd's building and the famous "Lutine" bell which is rung, very

rarely, on certain occasions. The bell was taken from the Lutine, a ship that sank in the North Sea in 1799 with a cargo of bullion. The bell is rung when news arrives of a ship previously posted "missing, fate unknown."

One ring is for bad news and two for good news; after the bell has rung, business stops and a message is read. The ringing of the bell ensures that all underwriters receive the news simultaneously.

`Nonpersons' freed

RECENTLY, unpublished news came out of China about a number of old priests who have spent 30 or so years in prison for their faith. Because they are now considered too old to do any harm they have been released.

But they have not been given any documents, which means that they can't get a house, job or ration card. They are "nonpersons." They go from place to place getting whatever help the people can give them.

There is comment on this sad fact, in terms of optimistic faith, by Br Andrew, Co-Founder of the Missionaries of Charity Brothers. It comes in the latest Newsletter of the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa: "The totally unexpected surprise, after these long years of waiting, is that many people are finding faith and a new vision of their life through these old priests. Waiting can be long and painful. But it need not be wasted

Ena's epistle

SIR John ("Jock") Colville died too soon. His latest book was about to appear. He is much missed, not least for his fund of anecdotes.

He was present at 10 Downing Street when Irving Berlin was asked to lunch by mistake. The invitation had been intended for Isaiha Berlin, not then as famous as now but well known to the inner circle, particularly as an expert on Russia.

The war was still on and Churchill asked his guest what had been his most successful work. Irving Berlin replied "Dreaming of a White Christmas" which made conversation thereafter very difficult.

Jock Colville also told me a story about Queen Ena of Spain, which I was able to use in a book. Ena, as a child, lived with her grandmother, Queen Victoria. The latter was wont to ask her grandchildren unexpected questions about scripture and the catechism.

One day she turned to Ena and suddenly asked her what she knew about the epistles. Ena replied that she presumed they were the wives of the apostles. The Queen, so the story goes, was too amazed to be angry.

Educated guess

AFTER a successful similar production for 1987 the Economist Intelligence Unit has just published The World in 1988. Last year's predictions included an "alarming widening of the Gulf war," and a presidential challenge in the Philippines. 1988, they say, will see three men emerging as frontrunners to succeed Mrs Thatcher; a Moroccan taking Asia by storm; and another Republican bound for the White House.

Edwards and I'm applying for the vacancy at St Anthony's". "Hullo, Matthew. Tell me about yourself".

"Well, Canon, I'm 29, was at Ushaw for some years, took a degree in English at Bristol University and have recently got married".

"Arrr. Anything else?"

"Well . . . . I have a Licentiate in Sacred Theology . . . ."

"Arrr. Anything else?"

What was "anything else"??? Matthew felt as if he were being stripped naked over the 'phone. Did he want a Diploma in Girls' Rounders?

"Well, I'm quite strong on RI, Canon," he added, hopefully.

"Arrr . . . . what else?" boomed the Canon. "Anyone can teach RI."

And isn't that just the problem? . . . anyone can teach RI . . .? All you do is go to Mass on a Sunday and you can answer why the Virgin Mary was assumed into Heaven and why my mother died of cancer last night, sir, and why God let it happen. Would we employ maths teachers on a similar criterion that they attend supermarkets every week?

Matthew was lost to teaching after a few years, but he still remains one of my best friends.

Drawing by Mark Haddon. His "Gilbert's Gobstopper" is published by Hamish Hamilton, £5.95.

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