Thursday, February 12, 2015

Blessed George Haydock and Companions

Blesseds George Haydock, James Fenn, Thomas Hemerford, John Nutter, and John Mundyn were all executed at Tyburn on the charge of conspiring against Elizabeth  on February 12, 1584.

What of course truly sealed Father Haydock's fate was his answer to the question: Who is the head of the Church in England? which he even wrote down, according to Dom Bede Camm's telling of his imprisonment and trial:

For a year and three months, i.e. until May, 1583, George Haydock was kept in a narrow cell in an out-of-the-way part of the Tower, and access to him was for the most part strictly forbidden. On one occasion, however, a priest managed to obtain admission to his cell by a ruse, and gave him Holy Communion. On another occasion, as the Annals of the English College at Rome record, a Protestant minister came to dispute with him, and finding, after a lengthy discussion, that he made no way, asked him in a fit of rage whether or not the Queen was the head of the English Church. 'By what authority,' replied the priest, 'do you ask me this question? It must be remembered that, as this question involves danger of goods and life, none may put it unless under warrant from the Crown.' The minister answered, ‘Were you a true servant of Christ, you would surely not inquire as to my authority, but would make open profession of your belief before everybody'. ‘Do you, heretic as you are,' replied the priest, reproach me with cowardice in the cause of God? I believe that the Queen neither is, nor can be, the head of the English Church.' The minister asked, 'Who then?' 'The Roman Pontiff,' replied the other. ‘Traitor!' exclaimed the minister; you dare to say as much, because there are no fit witnesses to convict you of your saying.' ‘Not so,' rejoined the priest, but to make confession of my faith.' ‘If so,' said the minister, ' put down in writing what you have said just now.' ‘But,' said the priest, 'I have neither ink nor paper, yet will I gratify you to the best of my power,' and taking a piece of charcoal he wrote as follows on the door of his cell: Gregory XIII is head of the English and of the Universal Church, to whom the whole world must be subject if it would be saved'. He thus confounded the minister, and so impressed his gaoler that he was less opposed than heretofore to the Catholic religion."

On 5 February, 1583-4, he was indicted, with James Fenn and seven other priests, for having conspired against the Queen at Rheims, 23 September, 1581, and for agreeing to come to England on I October, and for setting out for England on I November. The absurdity of the accusation has been pointed out by Father Pollen. On the next day he and Fenn and three fellow-martyrs, whose indictments were equally erroneous, were brought before the Queen's Bench at Westminster. George Haydock had long ago chosen St. Dorothy as his patron, and was accustomed to commend himself and his actions day by day to her guidance. He therefore regarded it as of so happy an augury that he should be brought to the bar on her day, “that he made a note of it in the calendar of his breviary, which, on the eve of his departure from the prison of his body and soul, he presented to the venerable Archbishop of Armagh, then also a prisoner of Jesus Christ", On his appearance at the bar, George Haydock, though not, so far as we know, a member of the Society of Jesus, "was in Jesuit's weed". "So grave a man," says an eye-witness, "as ever I sett my eyes upon, he wore a coate of black very low and upon the same a cloke of black downe almost to the rounde. He had in his hand a black staff and upon his head a velvet coyfe, and there upon a broade seemly black felt." He pleaded Not Guilty. The next day the jury found all the five priests Guilty, and they were sentenced to death; but, whereas the other four were committed in shackles to the "pit" in the Tower, George Haydock, probably because his health was such that it was thought he was unlikely to outlive the rigours of that pestilential dungeon, went back to his old quarters. 

The Archbishop of Armagh, held in the Tower of London, was Richard Creagh. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

From his repeated examinations before the English Privy Council his enmity to Shane O'Neill [one of the great chiefs of Ulster] and his unwavering loyalty to England were made plain. But his steadfastness in the Faith and his great popularity in Ireland were considered crimes, and in consequence the Council refused to set him free. Not content with this his moral character was assailed. The daughter of his jailer was urged to charge him with having assaulted her. The charge was investigated in public court, where the girl retracted, declaring her accusation absolutely false. It has been said that Creagh was poisoned in prison, and this, whether true or false, was believed at the time of his death. His grand-nephew, Peter Creagh, was Bishop of Cork about 1676. He was imprisoned for two years in consequence of the false accusations of Titus Oates, but acquitted (1682), was transferred to the Archdiocese of Tuam in 1686. He followed James II to the Continent, was appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1693, but was never able to return and take possession. He became Coadjutor Bishop of Strasburg, where he died (July, 1705).

Blesseds George Haydock, James Fenn, Thomas Hemerford, John Nutter, and John Mundyn were all among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 1987.

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