Final Public Oral Exam: Margaret Marie Barbara Sena
The Underground Catholic Church in England, 1558-1625
This dissertation analyzes the role of English Catholics as a religious group in post-Reformation Europe and as vital actors within the ideological and political history of England during the late Tudor and early Stuart periods. Whereas previous studies of post-Reformation English Catholics have explored their place within the English religious landscape or looked at the political activities within a particular region or family, this study examines the political implications of both the worship life of Catholics and the religious thought of Catholic clergy and laity throughout England. It does this by drawing on illegally-published Catholic books, unpublished gentry manuscripts, clerical letters, government documents, and records of local ecclesiastical courts. From these sources, this study shows that from the reign of Elizabeth I, communication networks existed between Catholic clerics and laypeople, especially between the gentry from disparate parts of the kingdom. These networks, in turn, enabled the establishment of distinctive and consistent worship patterns among English Catholics, influenced both by the English Protestant context in which they developed as well as the changes that came from Catholic reformers on the Continent. Communication between clerics and laypeople also facilitated the spread of ideas and principles that drew them together. Among their beliefs was a sense of Christian persecution peculiar to England because of its connection to ideas about the ancient constitution. They also expressed a strong opposition to both the English Protestant church and its ministry as heretical, false, and hypocritical, a position far exceeding criticism of puritans by their English Protestant brethren. This study concludes that both the religious practices and the ideological principles of post-Reformation English Catholicism implied a discernable, if divided, political engagement with the English Protestant state and church. At the same time, English Catholics practiced a distinctive version of Catholicism in the post-Reformation world, a religious shaped by its interactions with Protestantism as much as from reform movements within. The members of this underground church as a whole, therefore, played a more significant role in shaping religious politics in pre-revolutionary England than most narratives of the period suggest.
A copy of the dissertation will be available for review one week before the exam in the History Graduate Student Lounge: 105 Dickinson Hall.
All are welcome and encouraged to attend.