When English Catholics were considered as dangerous as jihadis

Martyrdom, these days, does not get a good press. Fifty years ago English Catholics could take a ghoulish pride in the suffering of their 16th-century Tyburn heroes, but in a western world that has learned to be wary of extremist talk of ‘holy war’ or the intoxicating visions of the martyr’s crown that fuelled the prayers of England’s young exile priests — ‘the supreme privilege, of which only divine grace could make them worthy’, as Evelyn Waugh put it — somehow makes for less comfortable reading.