St. Edmund Campion is revered by Catholics for his championing of conscience over convenience, even at the cost of his death and the hands of his own countrymen. Even while he had been an Anglican, it was during the course of his studies at Oxford and upon reading the works and studying the lives of the Fathers of the Church that he became a Catholic. He went to Rome and was received into the Company of Jesus. As a Jesuit, he eventually returned to England were he embarked on secretly printing pamphlets denouncing the false doctrines of the Anglican Church. Among these was Ten Reasons, which was a pamphlet that was secretly placed in the pews of Anglican churches for their congregations to see. He was to receive the crown of martyrdom on December 1, 1581.
This earned him the enmity of both Crown and Established Church. For this he was pursued and finally captured by royal agents known as puirsivants. He was taken to the infamous Tower of London where he was jailed and repeatedly tortured. Having refused to recant his faith, in court he managed to refute the doctrines that he was being compelled to concede as a condition of remaining a subject in good standing with Queen Elizabeth. Protesting his innocence of treason, the Jesuit responded to his judge's questioning "I protest before God and His holy Angels,before Heaven and earth, before the world and I this bar whereat I stand, which is but a small resemblance of the terrible judgment of the next life, that I am not guilty of any part of the treason contained in the indictment, or of any other treason whatever." Speaking later to the jury, Campion said "Is it possible,to find twelve men so wicked and void of all conscience in this city or land that will find us guilty together of this one crime, divers of us never meeting or knowing one the other before our bringing to this bar?"
Convicted of treason against the realm, St Edmund was sentenced to death by hanging, followed by having his body torn apart and his entrails pulled out. Placed in a cart to stand before a crowd awaiting the execution of the sentence, St Edmund responded to demands that he beg the Queen's forgiveness. He said "Wherein have I offended her? In this I am innocent. This is my last speech; in this give me credit------I have and do pray for her." Not satisifed, a British milord taunted the priest asking for which Queen he prayed. St Edmund answered, "Yea, for Elizabeth your Queen and my Queen, unto whom I wish a long quiet reign with all prosperity." These were his last word. With a noose about his neck, the cart beneath was pulled forwarded, he then dangled on the rope and into eternity. A butcher was called to slice open his belly and pull out his entrails, possibly while he was still alive.
A witty bonvivant, Henry Walpole, was present at the saint's passion and was to receive flecks of the martyr's blood on his clothes. Walpole had not taken sides in the religious and political controversies of the day and was apparently content to observe the unchecked persecution of fellow Englishmen for their beliefs. But just as the blood of martyrs nurtures the roots of the Church, for Walpole it was the beginning of conversion. Ultimately, Walpole would follow St Edmund into the Company of Jesus and into the heavenly armies of martyrs, courtesy of the Crown in 1595. Both Edmund and Henry thus earned their ranks among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
Here below what has become perhaps St. Edmund's most famous work:
[Note: The English usage of his time is maintained throughout. There are no spelling errors.]
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE, the Lords of Her Majestie's Privy Council: Whereas I have come out of Germanie and Boëmeland, being sent by my Superiours, and adventured myself into this noble Realm, my deare Countrie, for the glorie of God and benefit of souls, I thought it like enough that, in this busie, watchful, and suspicious worlde, I should either sooner or later be intercepted and stopped of my course.
Wherefore, providing for all events, and uncertaine what may become of me, when God shall haply deliver my body into durance, I supposed it needful to put this writing in a readiness, desiringe your good Lordships to give it yr reading, for to know my cause. This doing, I trust I shall ease you of some labour. For that which otherwise you must have sought for by practice of wit, I do now lay into your hands by plaine confession.
And to ye intent that the whole matter may be conceived in order, and so the better both understood and remembered, I make thereof these ix points or articles, directly, truly, and resolutely opening my full enterprise and purpose.
i. I confesse that I am (albeit unworthie) a priest of ye Catholike Church, and through ye great mercie of God vowed now these viii years into the Religion of the Societie of Jhesus. Hereby I have taken upon me a special kind of warfare under the banner of obedience, and eke resigned all my interest or possibilitie of wealth, honour, pleasure, and other worldlie felicitie.
ii. At the voice of our General Provost----which is to me a warrant from Heaven, and Oracle of Christ----I tooke my voyage from Prage to Rome (where our said General Father is always resident) and from Rome to England, as I might and would have done joyously into any part of Christendome or Heathenesse, had I been thereto assigned.
iii. My charge is, of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reforme sinners, to confute errors----in brief, to crie alarme spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, where- with many my dear Countrymen are abused.
iv. I never had mind, and am strictly forbidden by our Father that sent me, to deal in any respect with matter of State or Policy of this realm, as things which appertain not to my vocation, and from which I do gladly restrain and sequester my thoughts.
v. I do ask, to the glory of God, with all humility, and under your correction, iii sortes of indifferent and quiet audiences: the first before your Honours, wherein I will discourse of religion, so far as it toucheth the common weale and your nobilities: the second, whereof I make more account, before the Doctors and Masters and chosen men of both universities, wherein I undertake to avow the Faith of our Catholike Church by proofs innumerable, Scriptures, Councils, Fathers, History, natural and moral reasons: the third before the lawyers, spiritual and temporal, wherein I will justify the said Faith by the common wisdom of the laws standing yet in force and practice.
vi. I would be loth to speak anything that might sound of any insolent brag or challenge, especially being now as a dead man to this world and willing to put my head under every man's foot, and to kiss the ground they tread upon. Yet have I such a courage in avouching the Majesty of Jhesus my King, and such affiance in His gracious favour, and such assurance in my quarrel, and myevi- dence so impregnable, and because I know perfectly that no one Protestant, nor all the Protestants living, nor any sect of our adversaries (howsoever they face men down in pulpits, and overrule us in their kingdom of grammarians and unlearned ears) can maintain their doctrine in disputation. I am to sue most humbly and instantly for the combat with all and every of them, and the most principal that may be found: protesting that in this trial the better furnished they come, the better welcome they shall be.
vii. Because it hath pleased God to enrich the Queen my Sovereign Ladye with notable gifts of nature, learning, and princely education, I do verily trust that----if her Highness would vouchsafe her royal person and good attention to such a conference as, in the ii part of my fifth article I have motioned, or to a few sermons, which in her or your hearing I am to utter----such manifest and fair light by good method and plain dealing may be cast upon these controversies, that possibly her zeal of truth and love of her people shall incline her noble Grace to disfavour some proceedings hurtful to the Realm, and procure towards us oppressed more equitie.
viii. Moreover I doubt not but you, her Highness' Council, being of such wisdom and discreet in cases most important, when you shall have heard these questions of religion opened faithfully, which many times by our adversaries are huddled up and confounded, will see upon what substantial grounds our Catholike Faith is builded, how feeble that side is which by sway of the time prevaileth against us, and so at last for your own souls, and for many thousand souls that depend upon your government, will discountenance error when it is bewrayed, and hearken to those who would spend the best blood in their bodies for your salvation. Many innocent hands are lifted up to Heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posteritie shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you Heaven, or to die upon your pikes.
And touching our Societie, be it known to you that we have made a league----all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England----cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so it must be restored.
ix. If these my offers be refused, and my endeavours can take no place, and I, having run thousands of miles to do you good, shall be rewarded with rigour, I have no more to say but to recommend your case and mine to Almightie God, the Searcher of Hearts, who send us His grace, and set us at accord before the day of payment, to the end we may at last be friends in Heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.
Taken from SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, PRIEST AND MARTYR, Evelyn Waugh, 1937, available from Amazon HERE.