1602. London England. A ‘crypto-catholic’ is sitting in worn chair, his face haggard and tired, his eyes staring out into the darkness-straining to see his questioners. The chair squeaks as its occupant lifts his hand to wipe away the sweat on his brow. The air is saturated with ‘the bloody question,’ as the chair’s occupant wages an internal war trying to decide whether he will be a ‘recusant’, thereby facing execution, or recount his faith and live. The tension in the space between the questioned and the questioners is palpable, and very representative of the atmosphere that enveloped the English nation during this time as each respective religion-Puritanism, Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, and Catholicism-struggled to find a cure for the religious tension and discord that ran rampant in 15th century England.
Richard Hooker in “A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and how the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown,” very aptly describes this theological tension and discord between the religions as a disease. Stating that although all preach that salvation is through Christ, “we disagree about the nature of the very essence of the medicine whereby Christ cureth our disease; about the manner of applying it.”  In fact this disease affected not only relations between Protestants and Catholics but also relations within these prospective groups. William Perkins gives us evidence of this malady within the Protestant groups citing in his “Cases of Conscience” that it is imperative “to discover the cure of the dangerousest sore that can be, the wound of the Spirit” . The Archpriest Controversy provides us evidence of the infectious ailment infiltrating the Catholic ranks as well. And everyone, as Hooker already mentioned, had their own medicine to cure it.
According to Perkins in his “The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity,” it was the Anglican Church and the idea of the ‘via media,’ that had the best directions for the application of the prescribed medicine of Christ. For the separatists, a series of anonymous tracts written under the pseudonym “Martin Marprelate” contained the best manner of application. Declaring that, “All true pastors in what place so ever they be placed have the same and equal authority”  refuting the idea of Supreme Governance as an acceptable application of the prescribed medicine. For the Puritans only a strict and pure application of the bible was considered the acceptable form of the appliance of the medicine of Christ. For the Catholics the Pope was the only doctor who was qualified and trained to administer any type of medication and anything prescribed by anyone other than him was to be considered poison to the soul and certain spiritual death.
The tension between the rivaling religious views was high and infevered every family as is evident by Francis Savage’s account of “A conference betvvixt a mother a devout recusant, and her sonne a zealous protestant,” in which the son did not want to speak ill to his mother because she did not understand his beliefs. She called his beliefs an act of heresy, believing the Catholic Church to be the only cure to the religious turmoil.  However, we also see from this account that while the tension was high and religious fever burned hot within, the cure lay not in the debating theologies of religion or the state, but rather in the family and the ability to tolerate other’s religious views. An idea that would plant the seed for the religious freedom that the founding fathers of the United States cultivated into a reality that not only we enjoy here in America but is now enjoyed through the vast majority of the western world.
 Richard Hooker, “A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and how the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown” at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hooker/just.txt
 “Epistle Dedicatory,” in William Perkins, The first part of The cases of conscience [Cambridge]: Printed by Iohn Legat, printer to the Universitie of Cambridge. 1604.
 “To the right puissant and and Terrible Priests, my cleargie masters of the Convocation House,” in Oh read ouer d. Iohn Bridges, for it is a worthy worke…by Marprelate, Martin, pseud. (East Molesey, Surrey). Available through Early English Books On-line, (STC #17453).
 Francis Savage, A Conference betvvixt a mother a devout recusant, and her sonne a zealous protestant ([Cambridge]: Printed by John Legat, printer to the Universitie of Cambridge, 1600)