John Ogilvie A Jesuit in Disguise (1579-1615) To Commemorate the 400th Anniversary of St John Ogilvieâ€™s Martyrdom at Glasgow Cross, Scotland
by Eleanor McDowell
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Contents Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1. Discord and Reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2. Church and State . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 3. A Life Apart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 4. Prayer of the Heart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 5. A Jesuit in Disguise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 6. The Informer Proves his Worth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 7. The King’s Jurisdiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 8. A Higher Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 9. “Mary, I’m Hungry” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 10. Faith Rewarded . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 All rights reserved. First published 2015 by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road London SE11 5AY Tel: 020 7640 0042 Fax: 020 7640 0046. © The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society. ISBN 978 1 78469 028 1
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Preface If “a life told is a life remembered” it is in this dignified spirit that this account of St John Ogilvie is written. Four hundred years have passed since St John’s untimely death and martyrdom at Glasgow Cross on 10th March 1615. He died to defend the right of religious liberty during the highly charged period of the Scottish Reformation. At the tender age of thirteen, John Ogilvie was sent by his family from the shores of Leith to receive a thorough education in mainland Europe. He was a Scot of noble birth, born in 1579 into a highly respected Calvinist family; on his capture in Glasgow he informed his captors that his father was “Walter Ogilvie of Drum”. His family background has therefore been associated with the wealthy laird, Sir Walter Ogilvie of Drum-na-Keith, in Strathisla, Banffshire. When John Ogilvie returned to his Scottish homeland after an absence of twenty-two years, he was an ordained priest of the Society of Jesus (SJ - the Jesuits). Governed by faith and conscience he returned to Scotland to preach at a time of great religious upheaval, in a reformed Protestant Scotland. During this period, life for many Scots was overshadowed by intense suspicion and conflict. As a measure of safety and in order to preach the prohibited Mass in secret, Fr Ogilvie adopted the disguise of a horse dealer. But, sadly, the course of his Scottish ministry lasted
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St John Ogilvie (1579-1615)
less than a year. He was betrayed and humiliated, suffered great brutality in prison, was put on trial for treason and hanged from the gallows for refusing to recognise the jurisdiction of the King. His final resting place was an unmarked grave, to ward off would-be pilgrims. Despite an ignominious death, John Ogilvieâ€™s influence endures. He is Scotlandâ€™s only Catholic Reformation martyr. He was beatified in 1929 and canonised in 1976. His steadfast faith and courageous death reinforce the need to defend and uphold religious liberty as we mark the 400th anniversary of his martyrdom.
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1. Discord and Reform Scotlandâ€™s Reformation Parliament signalled an unmitigated rupture with the papacy in 1560. The overall legacy of the Reformation is still hotly debated, but its escalation is often considered a vindication against the perceived faults and excesses of the Catholic Church, the Roman hierarchy and most notably, the papacy. It was a phenomenon which fundamentally altered the religious and political landscape of Scotland, culminating in the re-establishment of the Church along reformed lines. These changes included, amongst other things, the outright repudiation of the Popeâ€™s authority, the banning of the Catholic Mass and the promulgation of an approved Confession of Faith. Traditional analyses of the Reformation tend to view it as a single, momentous period in the history of the Church, highlighting key aspects of the Catholic-Protestant divide. As a result, a host of uncompromising and partisan views have littered pages of Reformation historiography, and perceptions of the Scottish Reformation have been vulnerable to half-myths and distorted facts. But, thankfully, advances in rigorous scholarship, particularly since the 1950s, have shed light on conflicting interpretations in a more even-handed manner. In order to gain a clearer understanding of St John Ogilvieâ€™s life, we must be aware
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of the constraints and circumstances which shaped his priestly mission. Everyone’s life has a context. Although we are shaped by our own agency, we are also influenced by the particulars of time and place: the period into which we are born, the people who are formative in our lives, and the environment in which we live. In an effort to be faithful to his spirit we must also try to perceive his life beyond the boundaries of our own modern-day perceptions. In the first half of the sixteenth century there was a growing consciousness that church reform was long overdue. Reforming preachers such as Martin Luther (1483-1546) and humanist scholars such as Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) posed antagonistic questions about church practice and doctrine, with rumblings of Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses” (a critique of the Church, especially the sale of indulgences) circulating in London as early as 1517. In Scotland, the sea ports of Ayr, Dundee and Leith were potential gateways for Lutheran and later Calvinist literature, although the extent to which this circulated is difficult to determine. Religious discontent in St Andrews was also galvanised by the brutal deaths of Protestant reformers Patrick Hamilton in 1528 and George Wishart in 1546, who were burned at the stake for heresy. Both men are considered important Protestant martyrs of the Scottish Reformation. Wishart was a confidant and mentor of John Knox (1514-1572), who became a fiery spokesman for reform in Scotland about a year after Wishart’s death.
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Although the year 1560 signifies its formal approval, the specific â€œbirthâ€? of the Scottish Reformation is inherently difficult to pin down. As a popular movement Protestantism had no deep roots in Scotland. Even among the reformers themselves there was a lack of agreement over the form and direction this alternative doctrine would take. During the fifteenth century, heresy (opinions at odds with the established religion) was generally confined to a small group and those who challenged the Church were inclined to flee from persecution to England and the continent. However, by the mid 1520s anti-heresy campaigns were established to quash a growing number of what were perceived as heretical notions. Heretics were considered traitors to the Church and, as such, traitors to God. The established Church was increasingly criticised for corruption and superstition, including the trade in holy relics, the selling of indulgences, church involvement in secular issues, and the inability of churchmen to keep their vows or maintain their parishes. An important aspect of this criticism resulted from the practice of unjust papal taxation and inappropriate appointments to church posts. During the reign of James III of Scotland (1460-1488), a commendatory system (where secular rulers nominate men to ecclesiastical office) was introduced enabling the King to appoint lay abbots whose primary interest was the accumulation of wealth. Under this system, James V of Scotland (1513-1542) appointed five of his illegitimate sons
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to the richest abbeys in the country when they were still children. His only surviving legitimate child, Mary “Queen of Scots”, succeeded him to the throne when she was just six days old. The secularisation of the Church was distinctly problematic, with the crown and nobility retaining much of its resources in thrall. Other indicators of change were evident in higher levels of literacy among sections of the male population, following a decree by James IV (1488-1513) enabling landowners’ sons to be educated. The invention of the printing press also promoted a wider dissemination of written materials, including William Tyndale’s English translation of the bible during the 1530s. These evolving trends brought the word of God to a wider audience, breaking the monopoly on worship that the Church exercised through the liturgy, then normally in Latin. In addition, a renewed thirst for knowledge and lay spirituality formed a central component of the major cultural, social, economic and religious changes of the 14th and 15th century European Renaissance. The bubonic plagues or “Black Death” during the 14th century had also had a devastating effect on ordinary clergy, who were open to infection when ministering to the sick. Many parishes were either without priests or filled by clergy who were untrained and unsuitable. Large numbers of clergy were also lost in long wars with England during the 13th and 14th centuries. Thus, the unity of medieval Christendom was seriously undermined by deep-rooted
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problems and external challenges that were difficult to control within the rigid structure of papal theocracy. Despite growing insinuations against the Church there was evidence of self-criticism and calls for reform from influential Scottish clergy such as Ninian Winzet and Quentin Kennedy of Crossraguel, who were notable for their skill in argument while retaining a firm allegiance to Catholicism. Within a Scottish context some commentators suggest that the Counter-Reformation (the period of Catholic revival) pre-dates the Protestant Reformation of 1560, notably Archbishop Hamiltonâ€™s reforming councils of 1549-1559. All things considered, the Protestant Reformation gained momentum, in no small part, because seeds of reform from the Catholic Church failed to take sufficient root until the Council of Trent (1545-1563), when change in doctrine, discipline and devotion became more tangible. In 1562, the Jesuit Nicholas de Gouda arrived in Scotland as a papal envoy on a fact-finding mission, shortly after the reformed Church was established. But the role of both pre- and postReformation Jesuits in the preservation of the Catholic faith is worthy of greater consideration. It is often said that â€œin a crisis cleverness is bornâ€?, and to be sure, a crisis in the ancient Church was brewing, but the root cause of the instability stemmed from a range of complex, unique and interrelated phenomena. The murky history of Church and State is a case in point, embodied in the political dynamics between Scotland, England and France.
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2. Church and State When King James V of Scotland (1513-42) married French-born Mary of Guise in 1538 it reinforced support for Catholicism and the “auld alliance” of 1295, when Scotland and France signed a Treaty of Friendship and mutual support against England, their common adversary. King Henry VIII of England (1491-1547), laid the foundation for the English reformation by rejecting the spiritual jurisdiction of the Pope who disagreed with his decision to divorce Catherine of Aragon (considered too old to produce a male heir for Henry, who wanted to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn). Consequently, Henry renounced Catholicism and induced Parliament to make him head of the Church in England; he dissolved the monasteries, drove out the monks and confiscated land to the benefit of his supporters. To prevent Scotland supporting France in a war against England, Henry’s army marched north and defeated the Scots at Solway Moss in 1542. In the same year, Mary “Queen of Scots” was born at Linlithgow Palace. Her father, James V of Scotland, died when she was only six days old and she became queen, with her mother, Mary of Guise, acting as regent. Hoping to disrupt an alliance between Scotland and France, Henry commended that Mary and his infant son
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Edward be married. To his fury, Scots nobles (fearing an English takeover) would not consent to this arrangement and Henry retaliated with the so-called “Rough Wooing” (1544-1551), a series of mostly unsuccessful, brutal attacks on Scotland. At the age of five Mary was packed off to France for safe-keeping, where she was betrothed to four-year-old François, heir to the throne of France. The young couple were married in magnificent splendour in the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris in 1558. In 1559, Mary’s husband was crowned François II, making Mary his queen consort. However their reign was cut short when the sickly François died aged sixteen, the year after he ascended to the throne, leaving Mary an inconsolable widow at eighteen. The Queen Regent of Scotland, Mary of Guise, was a formidable defender of the “auld alliance” until her death in 1560, when French troops left Scotland. In the same year, an Act of the Scottish Parliament put an end to the Pope’s authority, establishing Scotland as a Protestant country. From this time, Protestant England was an ally of Scotland and the Reformation in Scotland and England was staunchly supported under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). In 1561, a resplendent Mary Queen of Scots stepped ashore in Leith after an absence of thirteen years. She was to begin her rule of Protestant Scotland following the deaths of her mother, her father-in-law Henry II of France (1519-1559) and her young husband, François II.
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Faced with enormous challenges, Mary accepted the Protestant-led government with cautious moderation. Her rule as a Catholic was inherently fragile, due to the threat of rebellion by Protestant noblemen. At twenty-two she married her cousin, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley (15451567), a man whose jealously and drunkenness exceeded his superficial charm. Although disastrous in many ways, the marriage did produce a much-desired heir. Their son, James, was born in Edinburgh Castle on 19th June 1566 and baptised a Catholic at Stirling Castle. However, a dark shadow hung over Mary due to Darnley’s involvement in the death of her personal secretary David Rizzio, shortly before her son’s birth. Events then turned from bad to worse after Darnley was murdered at Kirk o’ Field in 1567. Then, under bizarre circumstances, Mary was abducted by a powerful Scottish nobleman, the Earl of Bothwell, who became her third husband. Suspicions of Bothwell’s involvement in Darnley’s murder outraged many of Mary’s subjects who subsequently turned against her. In 1567, she was compelled to abdicate in favour of her infant son, James (aged thirteen months), who was crowned King of Scots at the Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling. John Knox preached at the coronation and James was raised as a member of the Protestant Church. After attempts to restore her rights as queen were defeated, Mary fled to England, seeking help from her rival and cousin Elizabeth I. However, the “tragic queen” was
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imprisoned in a variety of houses and castles for nineteen years, put on trial over the “casket letters” and found guilty of taking part in a plot to kill Elizabeth. Mary was beheaded at Fortheringhay Castle on 8th February 1587. As yet, the precise identity of Darnley’s murderer is still unknown and grounds for Mary’s alleged complicity are unresolved. Her only son was to become James VI King of Scotland, and James I King of England following the death of the childless Elizabeth in 1603. This same King would have an important role in the fate of Fr John Ogilvie during his captivity in Glasgow and Edinburgh: the “Jesuit in disguise”, who returned to Scotland to “un-teach heresy”.
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3. A Life Apart Although much of John Ogilvie’s early life remains hidden and obscure, we can say with a degree of certainty that he was born on or very close to the year 1579. His upbringing was in the reformed Calvinist faith (later known as Presbyterianism); as we have seen, Scotland had embarked on the rocky road to Reformation around twenty years beforehand. In 1592, when John Ogilvie was thirteen years old, he was sent by his family to Europe to broaden his education. Some might say he was just a boy, but by sixteenth century standards this practice was not uncommon. As far as we know, there are no genealogical records verifying John Ogilvie’s parentage. However, during his captivity Ogilvie stated he was born in the north of Scotland, and that he was the firstborn son of Walter Ogilvie of Drum. This is sometimes referred to as Drum-na-Keith due to its proximity to the small town of Keith, in the Scottish county of Banffshire. John Ogilvie also identified himself as belonging to this area on entering the Jesuit order in 1599, when he was twenty years old. His father has therefore been identified with the wealthy Scottish landowner, Sir Walter Ogilvie of Findlater, on the grounds that Sir Walter’s property included the land of Drum-na-Keith. If this account of his ancestry is true, John Ogilvie would have had the right
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of inheritance in one of the most influential families in the north-east of Scotland. His mother would have been Lady Agnes Elphinstone (whose brother George entered the Society of Jesus shortly after John’s birth in 1579). In 1582 Walter Ogilvie remarried following the death of his first wife. Thus their firstborn son would have had a new stepmother named Lady Mary Douglas “of Lochleven”. The infant John would have been no more than three years old at the time of his mother’s death. At the time of his trial John Ogilvie stated, “They ask me if I am of noble birth. I say that I am and so were my parents before me.” Walter Ogilvie’s father, James, had been treasurer to Mary Queen of Scots and there are claims that the family tree can be traced back to William, King of Scotland, and Queen Margaret. Pride in his Scottish ancestry was also evident with his reference to King James VI of Scotland and I of England: “I am as much a subject as he”. Within months of John Ogilvie’s death in 1615, Walter Ogilvie was granted the peerage of Lord Ogilvie of Dexford; his son James succeeded to the peerage in 1625 and was later appointed Earl of Findlater in 1638. It is very probable that Walter Ogilvie’s Calvinist position would have been helpful to the family in obtaining for their son the government permit required for travelling abroad. This policy was enforced to guard against unwanted Catholic influence and to deter Catholics from developing their faith outside their own country.
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