Doran believes that Elizabeth had 'considerable success' in introucing Protesantism with only 1 to 2 % of population claiming to be Catholic at the end of Elizabeth's reign. Haigh suggests that Catholicism was strong in the 1590s and only decreased because of 'strategic and logisitcal errors' made by Seminary Priests and Jesuits. It is debatable how much of this is due to the actions of Elizabethan government; as Doran says, the 'decline of Catholicism was a gradual but inevitable process'.
Elizabeth and the Pope
Doran believes that the 'pope was certainly slow to act against Elizabeth and gave no spiritual guidance to the Catholics in 1559 [but] there were some papal attempts to encourage recusansy in the 1560s'. For example, in 1562 the Council of Trent said that Catholics should not be allowed to attend Protestant services and later in 1556 Pope Pius V banned attendance. The same Pope also refered to Elizabeth as 'one who pretended to be Queen of England'.
Dealing with the Catholics
Susan Doran says that in the 1560s Elizabeth 'preferred to employ persausion rather than coercian against her Catholic subjects'. Doran also notes that 'the Queen and her servants usually only took vigorous action against individuals when they openly defied the law'. Elizabeth's tactics were however often beneficial; 'while in the short term the government's avoidance of confrontation with Catholics allowed Catholicism to survive throughout the country during the 1560s, in the longer term it helped to ensure its eventual failure'. In 1572, a Catholic prison was made at Wisbech on the Isle of Man. This supports the quotation that 'Elizabeth had no real intention in granting any religious toleration'.
How big was the Catholic Threat?
The Catholic threat varied with geographical location; in Yorkshire for example, 75% of leading families were Catholic along with two thirds of 300 Catholic recusants households between 1580- 1603 were gentry. In Cheshire, one third of known recusants between 1594 and 1603 were gentry. In the end, 63 people were martyrs to the Catholic cause, along with 71 men and 23 women who died in prison for the cause. 20% of priests in England were hanged, drawn and quatered, and many others were tortured or killed at traitors if they didn't conform. Nevertheless, Doran believes that 'danger from English Catholics was exagerrated. The vast majority of them were loyal to their queen and country and simply hoped for better times when the Catholic Queen Mary Stuart would succeed to the throne'.