chapter  Chapter XIV
The Council at Pontefract
WithMadeleine Hope Dodds, Ruth Dodds
Pages 48

At the great council which was now approaching, the Pilgrims were confronted by the very serious business of stating and justifying their position. Obedience to the government in the sixteenth century was not merely a theory or a convenience, as at the present day, it was a fundamental duty. There were none of the methods of peaceful opposition which are so common now. To resist the government meant civil war and social anarchy—cattle driven, houses burnt, women ravished, men slaughtered. The duty of non-resistance was the first principle of self-preservation, and the Pilgrims were not fulfilling that duty. They had risen in arms, and they were seriously anxious to show that they had sufficient grounds for this desperate step. Their justification was that the Church was in danger. The Church had always upheld the duty of obedience to the secular government, with but one important reservation, that the Pope had the power to release subjects from their allegiance if the King’s conduct was such that to obey him was mortal sin. In the opinion of Pope Paul III, the crisis in England entitled him to use this extreme power. He had prepared a bull of deposition against Henry, but he lacked courage to publish it. Though the people of England had heard rumours of this bull, they knew nothing with certainty. The Pilgrimage of Grace had lasted for two months without the smallest sign of approval arriving from Rome.