Gunpowder on BBC1: the Persecution of Catholics

The BBC is broadcasting a new three-part series called Gunpowder, a dramatisation of the events surrounding plot of that name, which is commemorated in a few weeks. The wonderful Kit Harrington plays Robert Catesby, but it is too bloody and realistic for me. 

Readers of this blog will know my rejection of Romanism and its idols, but I also abhor the terrible persecutions that Catholic people suffered in this country. The less committed reluctantly attended their Anglican parish churches; the rest were fined, or executed for hiding priests. Our chapel outing this year was to Towneley Hall, the home of a wealthy Catholic family, complete with priest-hole where Catholic clergy hid during searches. 
Part of the blame for this horrible persecution can be laid at the feet of the papacy itself. Pope Pius V issued the Bull Regnans in Excelsis, ordering excommunication and deposition against Queen Elizabeth in 1570. This encouraged fanatical Catholics to kill her as a heretic, and replace her as monarch. Furthermore, the pope informed Catholics that their chief loyalty was to him, not her. The English government responded by trying to suppress Catholicism, painting it as disloyal and un-English. 
The dedication of these persecuted people was really quite incredible and I salute their loyalty. Protestantism does not offer salvation to its members any more than the Roman Church, only Christ can do that. Religious devotion and loyalty are not in themselves worthy goals. Paul writes, in the third chapter of Philippians:
though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;  concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.

He was a devoted and loyal Pharisee. He would have died for his faith. Salvation, however, is not given as a reward for loyalty. It’s offered to those who trust Christ alone for their forgiveness of sin.