The last seven days of July present us with a litany of English Reformation martyrs, nearly all of whom suffered under Elizabeth I:

  •             July 24, 1592: Blessed Joseph Lambton
  •             July 24, 1594: St. John Boste
  •             July 24, 1588: Blesseds Nicholas Garlick, Robert Ludlam and Richard Simpson
  •             July 26, 1594: Blesseds John Ingram and George Swallowell
  •             July 26, 1600: Blesseds Edward Thwing and Robert Nutter
  •             July 26, 1604: Blessed William Ward
  •             July 27, 1597: Blessed Robert Sutton
  •             July 30, 1540: Blesseds Thomas Abell, Richard Fetherstone, Edward Powell
  •             July 31, 1581: Blessed Everald Hanse

The three martyrs of 1540, during the reign of Henry VIII, were paired up on their sledges to Smithfield with three Protestants whom Henry had condemned because they denied the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, one Catholic doctrine he maintained religiously, even after he’d declared himself the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England. The Catholics were hanged, drawn, and quartered because they would not accept that title (they had been advocates of Queen Katherine of Aragon many years ago); the Protestants were burned alive at the stake. The Catholics had been held in prison for years; the Protestants had just lost their protector, Thomas Cromwell, and were executed just days after his beheading.

 

The Cut of His Boots

Father Everald Hanse visited some Catholic prisoners in Marshalsea prison in 1581; he had just returned to England after studying for the priesthood and being ordained in Reims three months before. Hanse had been born in Northamptonshire in an Anglican family; he had graduated from Cambridge and been ordained an Anglican minister, assigned to a rich parish. His brother William had become a Catholic and then had studied for the priesthood himself, returning to England in 1579. William had tried to bring his brother to the Church, but Everald rejected his theological arguments until he became very ill. His asked for his brother to receive him into the Church and has soon as he had recovered, he went to Reims to study for the priesthood, arriving there in July 1580 just as Fathers Edmund Campion, Robert Parsons and others were departing for missionary service in England.

That connection with Father Campion continued as Father Everald Hanse—or Father Evans Duckett, as he had taken an alias—just happened to be in Marshalsea prison soon after Campion and others had been arrested and imprisoned on July 15, 1581. The jailer looked at his boots and noticed that they were of foreign design. As the English authorities were on the lookout for suspicious travelers who might be Catholic priests in disguise, the jailer took him to a magistrate. Father Duckett admitted that he was what they thought he was. The authorities took him to Newgate prison.

The problem was that they had no crime to charge him with: it was not yet illegal for a Catholic priest to be in England (it would be starting in 1585). So the judge, as Bishop Richard Challoner tells the story, had to make him “commit a capital offense before he could charge him” by asking Father Duckett leading questions—questions that the judge could interpret as treason.

 

Questions of Entrapment

So the judge asked him where he had studied for the priesthood and why he had returned to England: Father Duckett replied that he had been ordained in Reims and had returned to call Catholics back to the Church. He replied to the next question that, yes, the Pope had authority over him and that the Pope’s spiritual authority over Catholics in every country on earth was the same, even in England. With that answer, Hanse, who acknowledged his alias, had committed the treasonous offence of denying Queen Elizabeth I’s supremacy.

Then the judge asked him if the “Pope could err”; Hanse answered that the Pope could err in his personal life—that the Pope could sin—and in certain decisions make mistakes, but not in matters of established Church doctrine.

The judge followed up on that answer by asking if Pope Pius V had erred in his Papal Bull, Regnans in Excelsis, which excommunicated the queen and released Catholics from their obligation to by loyal to her. The Pope had issued this document, just a little too late, in support of the Northern Rebellion of 1569, when Catholics had rebelled in the north against religious changes. Father Hanse answered, “I hope not.”

Finally, the judge asked if Father Hanse had answered these questions as he had in order to persuade those in the court to agree with his religious views. He answered that he didn’t know exactly what the judge meant by persuasion, but that yes, he wanted “all men to believe the Catholic faith as I do.”

From this interrogation, the judge indicted Father Everald Hanse for wanting to “seduce the queen majesty’s subjects from their obedience,” that he had stated the Pope had authority in England which denied the queen’s spiritual authority in her realm, that he had stated that Pope Pius V had not erred in his Papal Bull (that was a torturous interpretation of Hanse’s words), and that the Catholic priest, “one of the pope’s scholars,” wanted Elizabeth’s subjects to agree with him on these matters. Father Hanse replied to the charges by noting that wasn’t exactly what he had said, but that he did believe in the Pope’s authority and the truth of the Catholic faith; those words condemned him and he was sentenced to the death of a traitor because of what he believed.

Father Hanse had time to write to his brother, Father William Hanse, commending their parents to his care. On the day of his execution, he proclaimed his loyalty to Elizabeth I as the monarch of England, in all secular matters, and that he had never said that the Pope was incapable of sin or personal error. He cited a distinction that should have given the queen pause, for she had said that she did not want a mirror into men’s souls: that “he never offended Her Majesty otherwise than in matters of conscience, which their new made statutes had drawn to matters of treason.” As he was being vivisected, he was heard to exclaim, “O, happy day!” He was beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII.     

 

Meanwhile, Back at the Tower

To sew up the threads of the Campion connection, while Blessed Everald Hanse was being tried and convicted of treasonous thoughts, St. Edmund Campion and his companions (St. Alexander Briant and St. Ralph Sherwin) were undergoing torture in the Tower. They would be released from their cells to take part in theological debates in late August and September that year. In mid-November, they were arraigned and indicted for plotting against the Queen—a conspiracy for which there was no evidence except the fact that they had studied together in Reims and Rome, etc., and they were Catholic priests. Nevertheless, they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for treason on Nov. 30 and executed on Dec. 1, 1581. Campion and his companions were also beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and then canonized among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI.