The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1541-1588. "Our Way of Proceeding?"

By Carrafiello, Michael L. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 1997 | Go to article overview

The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1541-1588. "Our Way of Proceeding?"


Carrafiello, Michael L., The Catholic Historical Review


The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1541-1588. "Our Way of Proceeding? By Thomas M. McCoog, SJ. [Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, Volume IX.] (Leiden: E. J. Brill. 1996. Pp. xiii, 316; 7 plates.) This highly significant book may mark the beginning of a profound shift in the way that Jesuits write the history of their order and in the way they approach the history of English Catholicism. A good bit of the credit for compelling the Jesuit historians to so modify their views must go to recent scholars of early modern English Catholic politics such as Peter Holmes and Arnold Pritchard. Like Holmes and Pritchard before him, McCoog documents in this book what all parties must finally accept as indisputable fact: that English Jesuits like Robert Parsons worked actively and tirelessly throughout the 1580's to overthrow the political and religious establishment of Elizabethan England. According to McCoog, such political activities began no later than mid-1581, or immediately after the collapse of the ill-fated 1580-81 mission that resulted in Edmund Campion's execution and Parsons' permanent exile on the Continent. McCoog contends that most of the political activity of the early 1580's, moreover, was focused on Scotland as a means of forcibly reconverting England. Parsons in particular was convinced that James VI might yet be won over to the true faith. Here McCoog is, I think, drawing upon the thesis advanced in my 1994 article on the 1580-81 debacle.' He agrees that this Scottish strategy,"as I called it, lay at the heart of Parsons' plans in the years preceding the Spanish Armada.

Yet McCoog is at great pains to say that the original intention of the 1580-81 mission was pastoral. He cites the instructions given to Campion and Parsons by the Jesuit General Everard Mercurian that the missionaries were to limit their actions and conversations to religious matters. …

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