By spring of 1558 the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland was fighting a losing battle. Protestantism had begun making inroads into the country in the 1520s, and had been progressively picking up steam since then, powered principally by the importation of English bibles (which were accessible at least to Scots speakers of the Lowlands) and reforming literature from the continent. Efforts to counter the spread of Protestantism by killing its chief advocates, beginning in 1528 (with the execution of Patrick Hamilton) and peaking in 1539 (with the execution of at least eight various Protestant agitators), had backfired, creating martyrs whose message merely intrigued, rather than repulsed, the people. Internal efforts to address, in a series of provincial church councils, the most obvious shortcomings of the Scottish Kirk’s clergy—namely, sexual immorality and theological ignorance—and so to undermine Protestant criticisms of the established church had proven unfruitful and, at least from the reformers’ perspective, far too conservative in diagnosing the Kirk’s ills. Keep reading
Among the offenses for which Walter Milne was burned at the stake were defending clerical marriage; denying sacramental status to confirmation, penance, marriage, ordination, and extreme unction; preaching without a license; and denying that the Mass was a sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead. It was for similar offenses that English Protestants, including Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, suffered martyrdom during the reign of Mary I.