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History of the Catholic Church from the Renaissance to the French Revolution Volume 2 by Rev. James MacCaffrey

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permanent inferiority by depriving them of all means of education at
home and abroad, to uproot their religion by banishing the bishops and
clergy, both regular and secular, and in a word to reduce them to the
same position as the native population of the English plantations in
the West Indies.

For some years, however, after the overthrow of the Irish forces, it
was deemed imprudent by the king and his advisers to give the Irish
Protestants a free hand. Louis XIV. was a dangerous opponent, and till
the issue of the great European contest was decided it was necessary
to move with caution at home. Besides, Leopold I., William's faithful
ally, could not afford, even from the point of view of politics, to
look on as a disinterested spectator at a terrible persecution of his
own co-religionists in Ireland. But once the fall of Namur (1695) had
made it clear that Louis XIV. was not destined to become the dictator
of Europe, and above all once the Peace of Ryswick (1697) had set
William free from a very embarrassing alliance, the Protestant
officials in Ireland were allowed a free hand. Parliament was convoked
to meet in 1692. The Earl of Sydney was sent over as Lord Lieutenant,
and in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Limerick Parliament
should have confirmed the articles. But men like Dopping, the
Protestant Bishop of Meath, took care to inflame passion and bigotry
by declaring that no faith should be kept with heretics, and when
Parliament met it was in no mood to make any concessions. The few
Catholic members who presented themselves were called upon to
subscribe a Declaration against Transubstantiation prescribed by the
English Parliament, but which had no binding force in Ireland. Having
in this way excluded all Catholics from Parliament, an exclusion which
lasted from 1692 till the days of the Union, the Houses passed a bill
recognising the new sovereigns, and another for encouraging foreign
Protestants to settle in Ireland,[3] but they refused absolutely to
confirm the Treaty of Limerick. After Parliament had been prorogued
the privy council endeavoured to induce the Earl of Sydney to issue a
proclamation ordering the bishops and clergy to depart from the
kingdom, but under pretence of consulting the authorities in England
he succeeded in eluding the would-be-persecutors, who were obliged to
content themselves with indirect methods of striking at the priests,
until Sydney was recalled, and until Lord Capel, a man after their own
heart, arrived as Lord Lieutenant in 1695.

In August of that year Parliament met once more. In his opening speech
the Lord Lieutenant struck a note likely to win the approval of his
audience. "My Lords and Gentlemen," he said, "I must inform you that
the Lords Justices of England have, with great application and
dispatch, considered and re-transmitted all the bills sent to them;
that some of these bills have more effectually provided for your
future security than hath ever hitherto been done; and, in my opinion,
the want of such laws has been one of the greatest causes of your past
miseries; and it will be your fault, as well as misfortune, if you
neglect to lay hold of the opportunity, now put into your hands by
your great and gracious king, of making such a lasting settlement,
that it may never more be in the power of your enemies to bring the
like calamities again upon you, or to put England to that vast expense
of blood and treasure it hath so often been at for securing this
kingdom to the crown of England."[4] The measures taken to secure the
Protestant settlement will repay study. It was enacted that no parent
should send his children beyond seas for education under penalty, both
for the sender and the person sent, of being disqualified "to sue,
bring, or prosecute any action, bill, plaint, or information in course
of law, or to prosecute any suit in a court of equity, or to be
guardian or executor, or administrator to any person, or capable of
any legacy, or deed of gift, or to bear any office within the realm."
In addition such persons were to be deprived of all their property,
both real and personal. Any magistrate, who suspected that a child had
been sent away could summon the parents or guardians and question them
under oath, but failing any proof the mere absence of the child was to
be taken as sufficient evidence of guilt. Popish schoolmasters in
Ireland were forbidden to teach school under threat of a penalty of
20 and imprisonment for three months. But lest the Catholics might
object that they had no means of education, it was enacted that every
Protestant minister should open a school in his parish, and every
Protestant bishop should see that a "public Latin free-school" was
maintained in his diocese. Having fortified Protestantism sufficiently
on one flank, the members next proceeded to forbid Papists to keep
"arms, armour, or ammunition," empowered magistrates to search the
houses of all suspected persons, threatened severe penalties against
all offenders, forbade the reception of Popish apprentices by
manufacturers of war materials, prohibited all Catholics from having
in their possession a horse over the value of 5, and empowered
Protestant "discoverers" of infringements of this measure to become
owners of their Catholic neighbour's horse by tendering him five
pounds. Lest these laws might become a dead letter it was enacted that
if any judge, mayor, magistrate, or bailiff neglected to enforce them
he should pay a fine of 50, half of which was to go to the informer,
and besides, he should be declared incapable of holding such an office
for ever. To prevent any misconception it was explained that all
persons, who, when called upon, refused to make the Declaration
against Transubstantiation, should be regarded as Papists.[5]

For so far, however, the opportune moment for a formal rejection of
the Limerick Treaty had not arrived. But when Parliament met in 1697
it was deemed prudent to carry out the instruction of the Bishop of
Meath, that no faith should be kept with Catholics. The Articles of
Limerick were confirmed with most of the important clauses omitted or
altered. The first clause guaranteeing toleration was deemed unfit to
be mentioned in the bill. It is clear that in the House of Lords grave
difficulties were urged against such a wholesale neglect of the terms
of the treaty, and that it was necessary to invoke the authority of
the king and of the English privy council before the measure was
passed. Seven of the lay lords, and six of the Protestant bishops
lodged a solemn protest against what had been done. Amongst the
reasons which they assigned for their disagreement with the majority
were: "(1) Because we think the title of the Bill doth not agree with
the body thereof, the title being, An Act for the Confirmation of
Articles made at the Surrender of Limerick, whereas no one of the said
articles is therein, as we conceive, fully confirmed; (2) because the
said Articles were to be confirmed in favour of them, to whom they
were granted, but the confirmation of them by the Bill is such, that
it puts them in a worse condition than they were before, as we
conceive; . . . (4) because several words are inserted in the bill,
which are not in the Articles, and others omitted, which alter both
the sense and meaning, as we conceive."[6]

The way was now clear for beginning the attack upon the clergy. An Act
was passed ordering "all Popish archbishops, bishops, vicars-general,
deans, Jesuits, monks, friars, and all other regular Popish clergy,
and all Papists exercising any ecclesiastical jurisdiction" to depart
from the kingdom before the 1st May 1698, under threat for those who
remained beyond the specified time, of being arrested and kept in
prison till they could be transported beyond the seas. They were
commanded to assemble before the 1st May at the ports of Dublin, Cork,
Kinsale, Youghal, Waterford, Wexford, Galway, or Carrickfergus,
register themselves at the office of the mayor, and await till
provision could be made for transporting them. All such ecclesiastics
were forbidden to come into the kingdom after the 29th December 1697,
under pain of imprisonment for twelve months, and if any such person
ventured to return after having been transported he should be adjudged
guilty of high treason. If any person knowingly harboured, relieved,
concealed, or entertained any popish ecclesiastic after the dates
mentioned he was to forfeit 20 for the first offence, 40 for the
second, and all his lands and property for the third offence, half to
go (if not exceeding 100) to the informer. Justices of the peace were
empowered to summon all persons charged upon oath with having aided or
received ecclesiastics and to levy these fines, or to commit the
accused person to the county jail till the fines should be paid. All
persons whatsoever were forbidden after the 29th December 1697, to
bury any deceased person "in any suppressed monastery, abbey, or
convent, that is not made use of for celebrating divine service,
according to the liturgy of the Church of Ireland as by law
established, or within the precincts thereof, under pain of forfeiting
the sum of ten pounds," which sum might be recovered off any person
attending a burial in such circumstances. Justices of the peace were
empowered to issue warrants for the arrest of ecclesiastics who came
into Ireland, or remained there in defiance of these statutes, and
were commanded to give an account of their work in this respect at the
next quarter sessions held in their counties. Finally, it was provided
that any justice of the peace or mayor who neglected to enforce this
law should pay a fine for every such offence of 100, half of which
was to be paid to the informer, and should be disqualified for serving
as a justice of the peace. An Act was also passed "to prevent
Protestants intermarrying with Papists." If any Protestant woman, heir
to real estate or to personal estate value 500 or upwards, married a
husband without having first got "a certificate in writing under the
hand of the minister of the parish, bishop of the diocese, and some
justice of the peace," and attested by two witnesses that her intended
husband was a Protestant, the estates or property devolved immediately
on the next of kin if a Protestant; and if any man married without
having got a similar certificate that the lady of his choice was a
Protestant he became thereby disqualified to act as a guardian or
executor, to sit in the House of Commons, or to hold any civil or
military office, unless he could prove that within one year he had
converted his wife to the Protestant religion. Any clergyman assisting
at such marriages was liable to a penalty of 20, half of which was to
be paid to the informer.[7]

In order to secure that none of the bishops or regular clergy should
escape, the revenue officers in the different districts were
instructed to make a return of the names and abodes of all priests on
the 27th July 1697. According to the digest compiled from these
returns there were then in Ireland eight hundred and ninety-two
secular priests and four hundred and ninety-five regulars. The houses
of the regular clergy were broken up; their property was disposed of
or handed over in trust to some reliable neighbour, and the priests
prepared to go into exile. During the year 1698 four hundred and
forty-four of them were shipped from various Irish ports, several
others were arrested and thrown into prison, and a few escaped by
passing as secular priests. Many of the unfortunate exiles made their
way to Paris, where they were dependent upon the charity of the French
people and of the Pope. Similar vigorous action was taken to secure
the banishment of the bishops and vicars, in the hope that if these
could be driven from the country the whole machinery of the Catholic
Church in Ireland would become so disorganised that its total
disappearance in a short time might be expected. Several of the
bishops had been declared traitors for having supported the cause of
James I., and had been obliged to flee to the Continent. Two others
were shipped in accordance with the law of 1697; three were discovered
by the revenue officials, of whom the Bishop of Clonfert was arrested,
rescued, and died; the Bishop of Waterford made his escape after a few
years of hiding, and the Bishop of Cork was arrested and transported
(1703). So that there remained in Ireland only the Archbishop of
Cashel and the Bishop of Dromore. News of what was taking place in
Ireland was conveyed to the Emperor, who instructed his ambassador to
lodge a strong protest, but the ambassador was put off with empty
promises or with a bold denial of the truth of his information. Nor
were these acts allowed to remain a dead letter. The revenue
officials, the magistrates, sheriffs, judges, Protestant bishops, and
Protestant ministers joined in the hunt for regulars, bishops, vicars,
deans, etc., and generous rewards were offered to all informers.[8]

The accession of Queen Anne (1702-14) led only to a still more violent
persecution. Parliament met in September 1703, and proceeded almost
immediately to attack both priests and lay Catholics. Most of the
bishops were dead or had been driven from the country. The regulars,
it was thought, could not survive. It was determined, therefore, to
attack the remaining secular clergy in two ways, first by enforcing
strictly the laws against Catholic education in Ireland, and by making
more severe the laws against going to colleges abroad,[9] as well as
by enacting that any priest who entered Ireland after 1st January 1704
should be punished in accordance with the terms of the law laid down
previously against bishops and regulars,[10] so that by these means
the supply of clergy might be cut off; and second, by obliging all the
priests in Ireland to register themselves so that the government could
lay hold of them whenever it wished to do so. According to this latter
measure all priests were commanded to give an account to the clerks of
the peace of their district, of their place of abode, their parishes,
together with the time and place of their ordination, and were to
provide two securities of 50 for their future good behaviour; those
who neglected to make this return were to be imprisoned and
transported; and it was provided later on that no parish priest could
have an assistant or curate.[11] To crush the Catholic laymen it was
enacted that in case the eldest son became a Protestant his father
could not sell, mortgage, or otherwise dispose of the family property;
that no Catholic could act as guardian to orphans or minors, but that
these should be handed over to the custody of some Protestant who was
required to bring them up in the Protestant religion; that no Catholic
could purchase any lands, tenements, or hereditaments, or any profits
or rents from such possessions, or acquire leases for a term exceeding
thirty-one years or inherit as nearest of kin to any Protestant; the
estates of a Catholic landowner dying without a Protestant heir were
to be divided equally among his sons; no person could hold any office,
civil or military, without subscribing to the Declaration against
Transubstantiation, and the oath of abjuration, and receiving the
sacrament; no Catholics, unless under very exceptional circumstances,
could be allowed to live in Galway and Limerick, and no person could
vote at any election without taking the oaths of allegiance and
abjuration. Sir Theobald Butler appeared at the bar of the House of
Commons to plead against these measures, and to point out that as no
laws of the king were in force in the days of Charles II. the proposed
bill was in direct opposition to the terms of the Treaty of
Limerick,[12] but his protest produced no effect in England or in

The whole army of government officials, Protestant ministers, and
spies were set to work to discover what persons had left Ireland to go
abroad for education, to seize all priests found entering the country,
and to take measures against those in the country who neglected to
register themselves as they had been commanded to do. One hundred and
eighty-nine priests were registered in Ulster, three hundred and
fifty-two in Leinster, two hundred and eighty-nine in Munster, and two
hundred and fifty-nine in Connaught.[13] Against the laity, too, the
full penalties of the law were enforced, but yet it is satisfactory to
note that in the year 1703 only four certificates of conformity were
filed, sixteen in 1704, three in 1705, five in 1706, two in 1707, and
seven in 1708.[14] It was clear, therefore, that if the Catholic
religion was to be suppressed recourse must be had to even more
extreme measures. In 1709 an act was passed ordering all priests to
take the Oath of Abjuration before the 25th March 1710, unless they
wished to incur all the pains and penalties levelled against the
regular clergy.[15] By the Oath of Abjuration they were supposed to
declare that the Pretender "hath not any right or title whatsoever to
the crown of this realm or any other the dominions thereunto
belonging," that they would uphold the Protestant succession, and that
they made this declaration "heartily, willingly, and truly." Rewards
were laid down for the encouragement of informers, 50 being allowed
for discovering an archbishop, bishop, vicar, or any person exercising
foreign jurisdiction, 20 for the discovery of a regular or a non-
registered secular priest, and 10 for the discovery of a Popish
schoolmaster. To facilitate the arrest of the clergy it was provided
that any two justices of the peace might summon Catholics before them
and interrogate them under oath when and where they heard Mass last,
what priest officiated, and who were present at the ceremony. Failure
to give the required information about Mass, priests, or school-
masters was to be punished by imprisonment for twelve months or until
the guilty person paid a fine of 20. A pension of 20 a year,
increased afterwards to 40, was provided for those priests who left
the Catholic Church.[16] As regards lay Catholics further measures
were taken to encourage the children of Catholic parents to become
Protestant by ordaining that in such a case the Court of Chancery
could interfere and dictate to the father what provision he must make
for such children. Similarly wives of Catholics were encouraged to
submit by the promise that the Court of Chancery would interfere to
safeguard their interests. Stringent regulations were made to ensure
that all pretended converts engaged in the professions and in public
offices should rear their children in the Protestant faith, and to
ensure that no Catholic could teach school publicly or privately or
even act as usher in a Protestant school.

The priests, though not unwilling to take a simple oath of allegiance,
refused as a body to take the Oath of Abjuration, and immediately they
became liable to all the punishments directed against the bishops and
regulars. Wholesale arrests took place over the country; spies were
employed to track them down; the men who had gone security for their
good behaviour in 1704 were commanded to bring them in under threat of
having the recognisances estreated; judges were ordered to make
inquiries at the assizes; and Catholics were called upon to discover
on their clergy by giving information about the priests who celebrated
Mass. The search was carried on even more vigorously in Munster and
Connaught than in Ulster and Leinster, so that during the remainder of
the reign of Queen Anne no priest in any part of Ireland could
officiate publicly with safety.[17] Petitions were drawn up and
forwarded to all the Catholic sovereigns of Europe, asking them to
intercede for their co-religionists in Ireland, but though many of
them did instruct their representatives in London to take action,
their appeals and remonstrances produced very little effect.[18] At
the same time the laws in regard to Catholic property, and Catholic
education were enforced with great severity, particular care being
taken that only Protestants should be recognised as guardians of
Catholic minors or orphans, and that the guardians should rear the
children as Protestants. Against the law, the wishes or even the last
testament of a dying father were of no avail.[19]

During the reign of George I. (1714-27) there was very little
improvement in the condition of the Catholics of Ireland. Indeed, in
regard to legal enactments their condition was rendered much worse.
They were obliged to pay double the contribution of their Protestant
neighbours for the support of the militia; their horses could be
seized for the use of the militia; they were prevented from acting as
petty constables or from having any voice in determining the amount to
be levied off them for the building and repairing of Protestant
churches or for the maintenance of Protestant worship. In 1719 a new
and more violent measure was passed by the House of Commons, according
to one of the clauses of which all unregistered priests caught in
Ireland were to be branded with a red-hot iron upon the cheek. The
Irish privy council changed this penalty into mutilation, but when the
bill was sent to England for approval the original clause was
restored. For purely technical reasons the bill never became law.[20]
In 1742 another bill was introduced and passed by both Houses in
Dublin by which all unregistered priests who did not depart out of
Ireland before March 1724 were to be punished as guilty of high
treason unless they consented to take the Oath of Abjuration; a
similar punishment was decreed against bishops, vicars, deans, and
monks without allowing them any alternative; all persons adjudged
guilty of receiving or affording assistance to priests were to be put
to death as felons "without benefit of clergy;" Popish schoolmasters
and tutors were to undergo a like punishment, and to ensure that the
law would be enforced ample rewards were given to all informers. But
when the bill was sent to England it failed to receive the sanction of
the king and privy council, and was therefore allowed to lapse.[21]

The results of these laws made to secure the extirpation of the
Catholic religion were to be seen in 1731 when a systematic inquiry
was conducted by the Protestant ministers and bishops into the
condition of the Catholics in every single parish in Ireland. In
Armagh there were only twenty-five "Mass-houses," some of them being
mere cabins; in Meath there were one hundred and eight; in Clogher
only nine although in addition it was reported that there were forty-
six altars where the people heard Mass in the open air; in Raphoe one
"old Mass-house," one recently erected, "one cabin, and two sheds;" in
Derry there were nine Mass-houses, all "mean, inconsiderable
buildings," but Mass was said in most parts of the diocese in open
fields, or under some shed set up occasionally for shelter; in Dromore
there were two Mass-houses, and "two old forts were Masses are
constantly said;" and in Down there were five Mass-houses, but in
addition the priests celebrated "in private houses or on the
mountains." In the diocese of Dublin it was reported that the number
of Mass-houses amounted to fifty-eight, sixteen of which were situated
within the city; in Ferns there were thirty-one together with eleven
"moveable altars in the fields;" in Leighlin, twenty-eight, besides
three altars in the fields and three private chapels, and in Ossory
their were thirty-two "old Mass-houses" and eighteen built since the
reign of George I. In Cashel there were forty "Mass-houses," and it
was noted particularly that one was being built at Tipperary, "in the
form of a cross, ninety-two feet by seventy-two;" in Cloyne there were
seventy Mass-houses. In Tuam the Protestant archbishop reported that
there were Mass-houses in most parishes; in Elphin it was reckoned
that there were forty-seven "Mass-houses," a few of them being huts;
in Killala there were four, in Achonry thirteen, in Clonfert forty,
and in Kilmacduagh there were thirteen. But in a remarkable fact that
in spite of all the legal penalties directed against the priests, and
of all the work that was being done by the government officials, the
"priest-catchers," whose profession according to the Irish House of
Commons was an honourable one, and by the magistrates, and ministers,
there was a very large number of secular priests still ministering to
the people and also of friars, who were reported as being active in
preaching to the people sometimes in private houses and sometimes in
the open fields. And it is even still more remarkable that despite the
vigilance of the Protestant bishops there were even then over five
hundred "popish schools" in some of which the classics were taught,
and there were besides several schoolmasters who moved from place to
place. The Protestant Bishop of Derry announced with a considerable
amount of pride that there were not any popish schools in his diocese.
"Sometimes," he said, "a straggling schoolmaster sets up in some of
the mountainous parts of some parishes, but upon being threatened, as
they constantly are, with a warrant, or a presentment by the church-
wardens, they generally think proper to withdraw."[22]

During the reign of George II. (1727-60) the persecution began to
abate, though more than one new measure was added to the penal laws.
Primate Boulter, who was practically speaking ruler of the country
during his term of office, was alarmed at the large number of Papists
still in the country--five to one was his estimate--and at the
presence of close on three thousand priests, and suggested new schemes
for the overthrow of Popery. The Catholics were deprived of their
votes at parliamentary or municipal elections lest Protestant members
might be inclined to curry favour with them by opposing the penal
code; barristers, clerks, attornies, solicitors, etc., were not to be
admitted to practice unless they had taken the oaths and declarations
which no Catholic could take; converts to Protestantism were to be
treated similarly unless they could produce reliable evidence that
they had lived as Protestants for two years, and that they were
rearing their children as Protestants. Very severe laws had been laid
down already against marriages between Catholics and Protestants, but
as such marriages still took place, it was declared that the priest
who celebrated such marriages was to be reputed guilty of felony, that
after the 1st May 1746 all marriages between Catholics and persons who
had been Protestants within the twelve months preceding the marriage,
should be null and void, as should also all marriages between
Protestants if celebrated in the presence of a priest. Later on the
death penalty was decreed against priests who assisted at such
unions.[23] Finally, through the exertions of Primate Boulter and
Bishop Marsh, the Charter Schools were established. They were
intended, as was explained in the prospectus, "to rescue the souls of
thousands of poor children from the dangers of Popish superstition and
idolatry, and their bodies from the miseries of idleness and beggary."
The schools were entirely Protestant in management, and the children
were reared as Protestants. Once a Catholic parent surrendered his
children he could never claim them again. In 1745 the Irish Parliament
appropriated the fees derived from the licences required by all
hawkers and pedlars to the support of the Charter Schools, and it is
computed that between the years 1745 and 1767 these same institutions
received about 112,000 from the public funds.[24] Though emancipation
was still a long way off, yet after 1760 it began to be recognised
that the penal code had failed to achieve the object for which it had
been designed.

[1] Lecky, op. cit., i., 140.

[2] Lecky, op. cit., i., 140.

[3] /Irish Statutes/, iii., 241 sqq.

[4] /The Journals of the House of Commons/ (Ireland) ii., 44-5.

[5] /Irish Statutes/, ii., 249-67.

[6] /Journals of the House of Lords/ (Ireland), i., 635-6.

[7] /Irish Statutes/, ii., 339 sqq.

[8] Cf. Burke, op. cit., 131 sqq.

[9] /Statutes/, 2 Anne, cap. 6.

[10] Id., 2 Anne, cap. 3.

[11] Id., 2 Anne, cap. 7; 8 Anne, cap. 3.

[12] Curry, op. cit., ii., 387.

[13] Cf. /Irish Eccl. Record/, 1875. /Cath. Directory/, 1838.

[14] /Ir. Th. Quart./, ix., 148.

[15] /Statutes/, 8 Anne, cap. 3.

[16] /Statutes/, 2 Anne, cap. 7; 8 Anne, cap. 3. In 1780 it was
enacted that this pension should "be levied off the inhabitants of
the country or town wherein such priest resided or officiated
before conformity" (19 & 20 George III., cap. 39).

[17] Cf. Burke, op. cit., chap. iv. (a full account given of the
proceedings against the clergy in all the dioceses of Ireland).

[18] Cf. Moran, /Spicil. Ossor./, ii., 399 sqq.

[19] Lecky, op. cit., i., 154 sqq.

[20] Lecky, op. cit., i., 162-3.

[21] Id., 164-5.

[22] /Report on the State of Popery, 1731/. /Archiv. Hib./, i., ii.,

[23] /Statutes/, 19 George II., cap. 13; 23 George II. cap. 10.

[24] Lecky, op. cit., i., 234. /Reports of Royal Commission on
Education/, 1825, 1854.

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