Recusant confessional texts were discursively produced by and productive
of secret spaces – the confessional itself and the torture
chamber. They were sites of private, intimate probing that enabled
disclosures of truth, which, to the English recusant community of the
late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, had a particular resonance.
The confessional was a site of Catholic reconciliation, but to
the state it was a signifier of Catholic treason. The state used the torture
of recusants, particularly priests, to reveal the truth, but here the
‘truth’, ostensibly a list of people, places and actions that can be discovered
in the body of the victim, was opposed to the recusant’s
‘truth’ as internal belief. But despite these opposing concepts of the
location and nature of truth, the discourses of its revelation are similar.
Torture binds together the perpetrator and victim through the
secrets the participants strive to reveal or conceal. In the confessional
too, the confessor and the confessant are bound together by what is