Today's English Catholic martyr's story reveals some of the debates and conflicts between Catholics during the Elizabethan era. The Jesuits and a group of secular or seminary priests called the Appellants disagreed about the divided loyalties of Catholics in England and what they could do about them. You might remember this was an issue brought up in the 2011 book, The Trials of Margaret Clitherow--and she was completely opposed to the Appellant view. Some thought that Catholics could attend Church of England services sometimes: to be part of the only Christian community openly available to them and to avoid the recusancy fines. They would abstain from the Anglican holy communion, ignore Anglican/Reformed preaching, and remain true to Catholic doctrine, sacraments, and devotions. They would certainly be loyal to their queen Elizabeth I in temporal matters but remain true to the Catholic Church in spiritual and religious matters--except that by attending the Church of England services, they paid manifestly public "lip service" to her governance of the Church of England! The Jesuits and others like St. Margaret Clitherow who agreed with them believed that any outward compliance would lead to inward compliance and represented betrayal and division.
The reason for this background is the title of the book Blessed William Carter printed and for which he was arrested, tortured, and executed: Dr. Gregory Martin's "A Treatise of Schisme: Shewing, that Al Catholikes Ought in Any Wise to Abstaine Altogether From Heretical Conunenticles, to Witt, Their Prayers, Sermons, &c". According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Dr. Gregory Martin (c. 1542 to 28 October 1582) was the
Translator of the Douai Version of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate; b. in Maxfield, parish of Guestling, near Winchelsea, in Sussex; d. at Reims, 28 October, 1582. In preparing the translation he was assisted by several of the other great scholars then living in the English College at Douai, but Gregory Martin made the whole translation in the first instance and bore the brunt of the work throughout. He was well qualified for the undertaking. During his thirteen years' residence at Oxford, he bore the reputation of a brilliant scholar and linguist, whose abilities were only equalled by his industry. He entered as one of the original scholars of St. John's College, in 1557. Among those who entered at the beginning was Edmund Campion, the renowned Jesuit martyr. At this period of his life, however, he was possessed with the ambitions of youth, and although at heart a Catholic, he conformed to the Established Church, and even accepted ordination as a deacon. Gregory Martin was his close friend throughout his Oxford days, and himself remained a devout Catholic. When he found it necessary to quit the university, he took refuge as tutor in the family of the Duke of Norfolk, where he had among his pupils Philip, Earl of Arundel, also subsequently martyred. During his residence with the Duke, Martin wrote to Campion, warning him that he was being led away into danger by his ambition, and begging him to leave Oxford. It is said that it was in great measure due to this advice that Campion migrated to Dublin in 1570, and accepted a post in the university there. He continued to conform to the established religion outwardly; but his Catholic sentiments were no secret.
In the meantime, Gregory Martin left the house of the Duke of Norfolk, and crossing the seas, presented himself at Dr. Allen's College at Douai as a candidate for the priesthood, in 1570. During his early days there, he wrote once more to Campion, who yielded to his entreaties, and the following year saw the two friends once more united within the venerable walls of the English College at Douai. Campion was now a professed Catholic, and he received minor orders and the subdiaconate, after which he proceeded to Rome and eventually entered the Society of Jesus. Having finished his theology, Gregory Martin was ordained priest in March, 1573. Three years later he went to Rome to assist Allen in the foundation of the English College there, known by the title of the "Venerabile". Campion, however, was at that time absent from Rome. Martin remained two years, during which time he organized the course of studies at the new college; when he was recalled by Allen to Reims, whither the college had been removed from Douai in consequence of political troubles. Martin and Campion met once more in this world, when the latter made a short stay at Reims in the summer of 1580, on his way to the English Mission, and-as it turned out-to early martyrdom. . . .
The following is a list of Martin's works: "Treatise of Schisme" (Douai, 1578); "Discovery of the Manifold Corruptions of the Holy Scriptures by the Heretikes of our Daies" (Reims, 1582); Reims Testament and Douay Bible; "Treatise of Christian Peregrination" (Reims, 1583); "Of the Love of the Soul" (St. Omer, 1603); "Gregorius Martinus ad Adolphum Mekerchum pro veteri et vera Græcarum Literarum Pronunciatione" (Oxford, 1712); several other works in MS. mentioned by Pitts.
Today's martyr, Blessed William Carter was born in London, 1548; suffered for treason at Tyburn on 11 January 1584. Son of John Carter, a draper, and Agnes, his wife, he was apprenticed to John Cawood, queen's printer, on Candlemas Day, 1563, for ten years, and afterwards acted as secretary to Nicholas Harpsfield, last Catholic archdeacon of Canterbury, then a prisoner. Note that Harpsfield wrote an early biography of Thomas More, left England during the reign of Edward VI for Louvain, returned during the reign of Mary I and participated in heresy trials, and finally, opposed the ordination of Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury, for which he was imprisoned in the Fleet with his brother John. Therefore, William Carter was very brave, associating with an imprisoned cleric who had refused the Oath of Supremacy!
When Harpsfield died (after release from prison on grounds of ill health) Carter married and set up a press on Tower Hill. Among other Catholic books he printed a new edition (1000 copies) of Dr. Gregory Martin's "A Treatise of Schisme", in 1580, for which he was at once arrested and imprisoned in the Gatehouse. Before this he had been in the Poultry Compter--a small prison run by a Sheriff in the City of London--from 23 September to 28 October 1578. He was transferred to the Tower, 1582, and paid for his own diet there down to midsummer, 1583. Having been tortured on the rack, he was indicted at the Old Bailey--the central criminal court in England—on 10 January 1584, for having printed Dr. Martin's book, in which was a paragraph where confidence was expressed that the Catholic Hope would triumph, and a pious Judith would slay Holofernes. This was interpreted as an incitement to slay the queen. His wife died while he was in prison.
He was beatified in 1987 by Blessed Pope John Paul II.
Printing 1000 copies of Martin's book?--that seems a considerable press run. Evidently he knew there were customers for that book, Catholics concerned about the conflict between the Appellants and the Jesuits and what they should do. Carter was a well-to-do man, as he was able to pay for his room and board in prison for perhaps a year. The government tortured him to discover names of any "Judiths" out there ready to behead "Holofernes"--if they had found any evidence of a conspiracy they would have used better evidence than the interpretation of a certain line in a book! But that was the atmosphere of fear and suspicion at that time.
Image at the Top: Judith slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1614–18
Image at the Bottom: Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes (c. 1598-1599)