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The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605
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The Gunpowder Plot (Dec 2018) > 7. Justification

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John Seymour | 1889 comments Mod
7. Were the plotters justified? Basic Catholic moral theology teaches that one may not do evil that good may result. Are there any exceptions? If the plotters were not justified, are there any circumstances in which Catholics would be justified in undertaking illegal acts of violence?


Manuel Alfonseca | 1512 comments Mod
Along history there have been many occasions where this discussion has been held. We had an example in Eusebius History of the Church, when we tackled the question on whether suicide is justified for women who were going to be raped. There was another similar situation in the sixteenth century about whether it is right to kill a tyrant. The Gunpowder Plot fits in this discussion, whose start can be traced back to St. Thomas Aquinas.

It is curious anyway that the English Jesuits did not think that the Gunpowder Plot was justified, even though Jesuits have usually been permissive in frontier questions such as these.

In relation to this, the discussion in chapter 15 about "equivocation" (also called "mental restriction") is very interesting. I had heard about this before, since I was in high school, and knew that Jesuits were specially loose in this regard. What I did not know was that their position probably came from their difficult situation as illegal support for Catholics in England, where they were pursued and had sometimes to recur to mental restriction to prevent their being turned into martyrs.

I don't think their actions in this context (such as the surprising examples provided by Fraser in this chapter) were wholly unjustified. I think it is possible that at least some priests should hesitate before turning themselves into martyrs (what would have happened if they had confessed that they were priests), because that would leave their sheep without a shepherd.


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Jill A. | 697 comments -I found the idea of "equivocation" fascinating and very appealing, though the examples she (and her subjects) give are pretty weak. I would never lie, but I can imagine coming up with a partial truth that might be misleading.
-I don't think violence or killing a tyrant is ever justified, but its appeal is certainly understandable. In times of oppression, such a hard choice to stand for what you believe and risk certain punishment or to compromise and live a misleading double life.
-Perhaps things are clearer for us now when the Pope's power is purely spiritual and we can't imagine him installing or deposing a king or at the head of an invading army. The two realms were much more entangled in this era. Why would the ruler being "excommunicated" from the Church have any bearing on whether he or she was a legitimate ruler and whether Catholic subjects could be loyal to him/her? St. Paul urges us to obey Roman rulers, certainly neither Christian nor virtuous.
-I don't understand what was so "brave" about any of the conspirators with the possible exception of Guido Fawkes, who was on the spot with the explosives.
-I also don't understand what they thought they would gain if they blew up king and parliament. Chaos would ensue, but what are the chances that Catholics would be better regarded or given more freedom after the dust settled, even if they managed to kidnap a royal heir? And I'm mystified by their persistence after the plot was discovered. What could they hope to gain by battling at that point?


Fonch | 1264 comments We must think that the members of Gunpowder plot were a minority. This is not the opinión of the all catholics. Besides the King made promises that afterwards he did not respect. It is posible the conspiracy was provoked and exaggerated by Cecil to continue having the favor of the King.
In some case although the action was rejectable is necessary to appear a murderer as the case of Adolf Hitler for instance. Curiously the first who wrote essays defending the disobedience to the authority were the calvinist of France Theodore Beza, and the Anonymous autor of Vincidicie against tyrant. The calvinist in France had tried to kidnap. It is posible that the excess of the supporters of the Cathoplic League in France influenced to the English involved in the conspiracy to commit this action.


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John Seymour | 1889 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "Why would the ruler being "excommunicated" from the Church have any bearing on whether he or she was a legitimate ruler and whether Catholic subjects could be loyal to him/her?"

I am not certain, but suspect this has to do with the concept of integralism, the idea that the legitimate ruler guides state policy in line with Church teaching. If the ruler is excommunicated and is illegitimate, it frees the faithful subject from their duties of obedience and loyalty - as you note problematic in light of Paul's injunctions.


message 6: by John (new)

John Seymour | 1889 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "I also don't understand what they thought they would gain if they blew up king and parliament."

It seems as if they anticipated that in killing the entire royal family with the exception of the princess who they would control they would effectively become the government of England and would be able to command loyalty from a sufficient number of suspects, perhaps just long enough until the Spanish could be induced to support them.


Fonch | 1264 comments John wrote: "Jill wrote: "I also don't understand what they thought they would gain if they blew up king and parliament."

It seems as if they anticipated that in killing the entire royal family with the except..."


However Spain was not interested in this business. They waited that James concluded the war that Queen Elisabeth started with my country and they hoped that James offered several tolerance to the catholics. Despited the fact of the Gunpowder Plot at finally this thing happened although England did not come back to be catholic more or less James and Charles were more tolerants with the catholics and Charles II and James II converted to the catholic faith for this reason the Stuart were expelled of England installing the protestant Stuart root.


message 8: by Mariangel (last edited Dec 19, 2018 07:13AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mariangel | 554 comments Jill wrote: "And I'm mystified by their persistence after the plot was discovered. What could they hope to gain by battling at that point?"

It seems to me that Catesby was still expecting Catholics throughout the country to raise and join their rebellion. The gunpowder was only one part of his plan, and he still trusted the second part could be effected.


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