Today in Catholic History – England passes Act of Toleration

On 24 May 1689 the English Parliament passed the Act of Toleration or “An Act for Exempting their Majestyes Protestant Subjects dissenting from the Church of England from the Penalties of certaine Lawes”.

This Act granted religious freedom to non-Anglican Christians but deliberately excluded Catholics, which referred to Catholics as “Popish Recusants” and non-trinitarians. Catholics continued to be viewed as a threat to the English government both due to memories of the Gunpowder Plot under James I and hostility to the pro-Catholic policies of the recently overthrown James II.

All English citizens were required to take an oath which promised not only obedience to King William and Queen Mary but also to “renounce, as impious and heretical, that damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the pope, or any authority of the see of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any other whatsoever.” They were also to reject the belief that any foreign person might have spiritual or secular authority over England. Both of these statements were directed against the pope.

Act of Toleration

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