CHAPTER IV. THE REIGN OF QUEEN ELIZABETH (1558-1603)
Though the new laws were enforced strictly it is clear from the episcopal reports that in London itself, in Norwich, Winchester, Ely, Worcester, in the diocese and province of York, and indeed throughout the entire country Catholicism had still a strong hold. The old Marian priests were, however, dying out rapidly. The monasteries and universities, that had supplied priests for the English mission, were either destroyed or passed into other hands, so that it became clear to both friends and foes that unless something could be done to keep up the supply of clergy the Catholic religion was doomed ultimately to extinction. This difficulty had occurred to the minds of many of the English scholars who had fled from Oxford to the Continent, but it was reserved for Dr. William Allen, formerly a Fellow of Oriel College, and Principal of St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, and later in 1587 a Cardinal of the Roman Church, to take practical measures to meet the wants of his co-religionists in England. He determined to found a college on the Continent for the education of priests for the English mission, and as Douay had a new university, in which many of the former Oxford men had found a home, he opened a college at Douay in 1568. Depending on his own private resources, the contributions of his friends, and the pensions guaranteed by the King of Spain and the Pope, he succeeded beyond expectation. Students flocked from England to the new college, whence they returned on the completion of their studies to strengthen and console their co-religionists at home. Could Douay College boast only of the 160 martyrs whom it trained and sent into England Cardinal Allen would have had good reason to be proud of his work, but in addition to this the numerous controversial tracts of real merit that were issued from the Douay printing-press, and scattered throughout England, helped to keep alive Catholic sentiment in the country. In Douay too was begun the translation of the Scriptures into English, the New Testament being published at Rheims (1582) whither the college had been removed in 1578, and the old Testament in 1609. In 1576 Allen visited Rome and persuaded Gregory XIII. to found a college in Rome for the education of English priests. Students were sent in 1576 and 1577, and a hospice was granted in 1578 as an English seminary, over which the Jesuits were placed in the following year. A college was established at Valladolid by Father Persons (1589), another at Seville in 1592, and one at St. Omers in 1594.
The failure of the northern rebellion, the repressive measures adopted by Parliament in 1571, and the betrayal of Ridolfi's fantastic schemes, did not mean the extinction of Catholicism in England. On the contrary there was a distinct reaction in its favour, partly through the failure of the Protestant bishops and clergy to maintain a consistent religious service such as that which they had overthrown, partly to the revulsion created by the fanatical vapourings of the Puritans, but above all to the efforts of the "seminary priests," as the men who returned from Douay and the other colleges abroad were called. The older generation of clergy who had been deprived on Elizabeth's accession were content to minister to their flocks in secret, and were happy so long as they could escape the meshes of the law; but the new men who returned from Douay were determined to make the country Catholic once more or to die in the attempt. They went boldly from place to place exhorting the Catholics to stand firm, and they seemed to have no dread of imprisonment, exile or death. Many of them were arrested and kept in close confinement, while others, like Thomas Woodhouse (1573), Cuthbert Mayne (1577), John Nelson, and Thomas Sherwood (1578), gloried in being thought worthy of dying as their Master had died.
Nor did their fate deter others from following in their footsteps. It was reported in 1579 that a hundred students had been ordained and sent into England from Rome and Rheims. The result of the labours of these apostolic men was soon evident. The government, alarmed at the sudden resurrection of Popery, urged the bishops and officials to make new efforts for its suppression. Throughout the various dioceses inquiries were begun which served only to show that recusancy was no longer confined to Lancashire or the north. The bishops were obliged to admit (1577) with sorrow that papists "did increase in numbers and in obstinacy." They recommended the infliction of fines, and furnished the authorities with a list of recusants and the value of their property. In York the archbishop reported that "a more stiff-necked or wilful people I never knew or heard of, doubtless they are reconciled with Rome and sworn to the Pope," and what was worse they preferred to be imprisoned than to listen to the archbishop's harangues. From Hereford it was announced that "rebellion is rampant, attendance at church is contemptuous, and John Hareley read so loudly on his latin popish primer (that he understands not) that he troubles both minister and people." In Oxford and amongst the lawyers in the Inns of Court and in the Inns of Chancery popery and superstition were still flourishing.