Bad Catholics: anti-Popery in This is a Short Relation (Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers, 1662)

2010-12-08T12:20:44Z (GMT) by Catie Gill
This article explores how two Quaker women who were imprisoned by the Italian Inquisition encoded their critique of Roman Catholicism into their prison narrative. Quaker writing is typically antinomian and antiauthoritarian when discussing the imprisonment of Friends for religious crimes, and these two women follow this bold approach. Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers employ words and signs to indicate the extent of their resistance to their warders’ desires to convert them to Catholicism. Yet their text, This is a Short Relation, is also unusual in its obliqueness. In this article, I argue that there is a complex relation between speech and act, between censorship and the Quaker women’s desire to critique the prison system, its interrogators, and the Catholic faith. The result is a text that shows the Quaker message is conveyed as much through non-verbal signification on the one hand, and highly encrypted language on the other, as it is through the self-evidently critical accounts of the Roman faith which are a part of the literal meaning of the text. The women reveal, as a result, how internalised is the understanding of sacrifice and, moreover, the degree to which censorship, isolation, and fear of repercussion, has affected them.