The Act of Uniformity (1559) provides punishments and fines to be levied for various offenses against the Established Church (the Church of England).
Fine for failing to attend English prayer book services:
At any time, you can be fined and jailed for attending Mass or hiding a priest. More often prosecuted after 1580.
There are not very many (openly) Catholic priests left, anyway, since most of them converted along with the populace, according to the prevailing wind. Said the vicar of Bray, having seen too many people burnt for their beliefs: "I always keep my principle, which is this--to live and die the vicar of Bray."
There is an English college in Douai (France) training Catholic priests. At the end of the 1570s, these priests begin returning to England and creating trouble. Edmund Campion is one of these.
The Catholic stronghold in England is in the North (notably Northumberland and Cumberland, but anything north of Norfolk). The Puritan stronghold is in the West Country (Devon, Somerset, and Cornwall.)
Of the two great universities, Oxford is said to be the most Catholic, Cambridge the "hot-bed of Lutherism".
Burghley, Bedford, and most of the other notable Protestants were educated at Cambridge. However, Bedford sent his sons to Oxford.
Anyone may be required to swear to the Oath of Supremacy, which states that you believe that the Pope, being a foreign potentate, has not and ought not to have any spiritual power in England. Peers are assumed to agree. Others may have to prove it.
The text of the Oath of Supremacy, 1559
I, A. B., do utterly testify and declare in my conscience that the Queen's Highness is the only supreme governor of this realm, and of all other her Highness's dominions and countries, a s well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes, as temporal, and that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within this realm; and therefore I do utterly renounce and forsake all foreign jurisdictions, powers, superiorities and authorities, and do promise that from henceforth I shall bear faith and true allegiance to the Queen's Highness, her heirs and lawful successors, and to my power shall assist and defend all jurisdictions, pre-eminences, privileges and authorities granted or belonging to the Queen's Highness, her heirs or successors, or united or annexed to the imperial crown of this realm. So help me God, and by the contents of this Book.
People take an oath very seriously, and thus honest people are not inclined to swear to an oath they don't believe in. (See A Man for All Seasons for a graphic demonstration.)
Anthony Viscount Montague speaking in Parliament against the Oath of Supremacy, 1559
A redaction of salient points:
Montague boldly pointed out that the prince or commonwealth that will make a new law ought to consider three things: First, that it be necessary, then that it be just and reasonable, and finally that it be apt and fit to be put into execution. He argued:
For the first point, the law is not necessary because "the Catholics of this realm disturb not, nor hinder public affairs of the realm, neither spiritual nor temporal."
For the second point, it is neither just nor reasonable, for it is "contrary and repugnant to all laws of man, natural and civil. No man ought to be constrained in a matter he holds doubtful."
And for the third, the law is not enforceable. "What man is there without so much courage and stomach, or void of all honour that can consent... to receive an opinion and new religion by force and compulsion? ...And it is to be feared [that] rather than to die, they will seek out how to defend themselves."
As for the lay Lords, he added:
"Let them take good heed and not suffer themselves to be led by such men that are full of affection and passions, and that look to wax mighty and of power by the confiscation, spoil, and ruin of the houses of noble and ancient men."
25 March 2008 mps