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The Catholic Defender: Blessed William Carter


William Carter was born in London in 1548, the son of John Carter, a draper, and Agnes, his wife.


Born in London, William Carter entered the printing business at an early age. For many years he served as apprentice to well-known Catholic printers, one of whom served a prison sentence for persisting in the Catholic faith.


William Carter, a married bookseller, established his own printing press in London to publish Catholic literature for England's persecuted Catholic population.


William himself served time in prison following his arrest for “printing lewd [i.e., Catholic] pamphlets” as well as possessing books upholding Catholicism.


In December 1579 he was committed the Gatehouse "for not conforming himself in matters of religion"


William himself served time in prison following his arrest for “printing Catholic pamphlets” as well as possessing books upholding Catholicism. But even more, he offended public officials by publishing works that aimed to keep Catholics firm in their faith.


But even more, he offended public officials by publishing works that aimed to keep Catholics firm in their faith. Officials who searched his house found various vestments and suspect books, and even managed to extract information from William’s distraught wife. Over the next 18 months, William remained in prison, suffering torture and learning of his wife’s death.


But he got caught. He was imprisoned and tortured for eighteen months. His wife died while he was in prison. Finally, he was put on trial. The jury was out for fifteen minutes. Guilty. William made his final confession to a priest on trial with him. Condemned for printing Catholic books. The next day he was hanged, drawn, and quartered, with all that entailed.


Having been tortured on the rack, he was indicted at the Old Bailey, the central criminal court in England, on 10 January 1584, for having printed Dr. Martin’s book, in which was a paragraph where confidence was expressed that the Catholic Hope would triumph, and pious Judith would slay Holofernes. This was interpreted as an incitement to assassinate the Queen.


William’s final arrest occurred in 1581, after he published A Treatise of Schisme, a booklet written in the hopes of preventing Catholics from becoming members of the state-spronsored Church of England. His home was invaded and various liturgical vestments and other Catholic publications were found. After his wife, Jane, was tricked into providing damning evidence against her husband, William was tortured in the hopes he would reveal the names of prominent Catholics.


+ Imprisoned in the Tower of London for another eighteen months (during which time his wife died), William was condemned to death on the charges of treason after only 15 minutes of deliberation. William spent that time making his final confession to a priest who as being tried with him.


He was eventually charged with printing and publishing the Treatise of Schisme, which allegedly incited violence by Catholics and which was said to have been written by a traitor and addressed to traitors.


While William calmly placed his trust in God, the jury met for only 15 minutes before reaching a verdict of guilty. William, who made his final confession to a priest who was being tried alongside him, was hanged, drawn, and quartered the following day: January 11, 1584.


Today is the feast of Blessed William Carter, 1548-1584, who was martyred in England for printing Catholic books. He was beatified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II.


William, who made his final confession to a priest who was being tried alongside him, was hanged, drawn, and quartered the following day: January 11, 1584. He was beatified in 1987.


He was beatified in 1987.


“Among these eighty-five martyrs we find priests and laymen, scholars and craftsmen. The oldest was in his eighties, and the youngest no more than twenty-four. There were among them a printer, a bartender, a stable-hand, a tailor. What unites them all is the sacrifice of their lives in the service of Christ their Lord.”—Pope Saint John Paul II, Beatification of the Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales

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