IRELAND DURING THE CENTURY.
New Zealand Tablet, Rōrahi XXVIII, Putanga 44, 1 Whiringa-ā-rangi 1900, Page 3
IRELAND DURING THE CENTURY.
One of the most interesting papers read at the Australasian Catholic Congress was that by the Right Rev. Dr. Htgirirm on ' Thf» Catholic Church in Ireland during the Nineteenth Century.' His Lordship said that the condition of the C'huroh in Ireland at the opening 1 of the century was pitiable in the extreme. Fifty years before (.174.1) Catholic chapele were allowed to be opened, and in 1 782 the Catholic »ohi»ulwi»»ler oeuouil lo Lv au OutluA. Th^ Churjh thus c.ir,c tc enjoy a certain amount of toleration, but this was so much at variance with the prevaiuLiK bpiril of the time that, the opening of the century found her in a state not far removed from slavery. Her people were rigidly excluded from all positions of trust, profit, or influence ; they were weighed down by excessive rack-rents, ex irbitant taxes, and by another tribute more galling still, the payment of a tenth of the fruits of their industry towards the support of an alien and bitterly hostile Church. The faint gleam ot hope that had been awakened by the liberal administration of Fitzwilh.un in 179.5 was quickly extinguished by his hasty recall, and the outbreak of the insurrection of 171)8 only furnished fresh pretexts for the exercise of those cruelties which formed so marked a feature of the period. Mr Froude, no over-partial sympathiser, has drawn for us his pictures Gf the times. 'The aristocracy and Legislature were corrupt beyond the reach of shame. The peasantry were hopelessly miserable ; and. finding in the law not a protector and a friend bat a sword in the hands of the oppressor, they had been taught to look to crime and rebellion as their only means of self-defence.' Now, the Church in Ireland at thia time shared to the full in the miseries of her persecuted children We learn that in 1800 there were in Ireland 4 archbishops. 20 bishops, 1026 parish priests, and about the same number of curates, while the regulars amounted to 450. This body of 24 prelates and 2500 priests lived on the free offerings of the impoverished people. If the provision for the support of the clergy was poor, that for the material wants of the Church was miserable. Few. if any, Catholic edifices of the time showed anything more pretentious than a structure of mud walls, with a thatched roof, placed in some back lane or in the hollow of some sequestered sand-pit, and were hidden away from the angry gaze of the dominant class that the people might worship their God with less fear of disturbance At the opening of the century Mass was celebrated at Athy for some years in a storehouse on the batiks of the canal, and subsequently under a canopy erected in the market place until a suitable structure was erected for divine worship in 1810. Similar statements might be made, and perhaps with more emphasis, touching many other parts of Ireland in illustration of the miserable hovels in which the Catholics of Ireland were compelled to worship, though comprising eight-ninths of the population, and while the imposing churches and cathedrals erected in the past by the generous piety of their ancestors were held fast by the dominant few and devoted to the services of a new creed. If the provisions for the needs of divine worship were bad, those for the education of Catholic children were much worse. Asked by the Royal Communion in IS .:,""> how ami where he had received his early training, the late Archbishop of Tuam answered, 'The school in which I was brought up had been planned by the Author of thel universe, and fashioned by Nature ; its halls were most majestic, its dimensions magnificent, the blue vault of heaven was its canopy, and the deik on which I essayed to write the bosom of my mother earth, and her lap the sent on which 1 reclined.' The hedge-schools continued in a modified torm long after the repeal of the law that had called them into existence. At the same time the proselytising sohools were in active operation and favoured by the landowners, but with their iaauy attractions they were left severely alone.
THE RIPE OF MAYNOOTH.
Writing of this period Mr. Lecky says, ' The passion for knowledge among the Irish poor is extremely strong, and the zeal with which they maintain their hedge-schools under the pressure of abject poverty, and in the face of the prohibition of the penal law, is one of the moßt honorable features of their history.' Besides these hedge-schools there were some noble attempts made in the interests of higher intellectual culture. The venerable Bmhop of Kildare erected the firnt Catholic College built in Ireland since the Reformation. St. Kieran's, Kilkenny, followed soon after. But the educational development which was destined to overshadow all others not only in the magnitude of its proportions, but also in the potency of the influence it was destined to exercise over the Catholic Church in Ireland for generations to come, was the establishment of St. Patrick's College, Maynooth. During the preceding 200 years priests had been educated in colleges on the Continent. The political disturbances occurring at the time, particularly in France, had suddenly interrupted this beneficent work, and Ireland was practically left without the means of providing for her priesthood. In the emergency the Irish Bishops petitioned Parliament for a Royal license to endow a Catholic College where young men might be trained for the ministry, and protected at the Bame time from the pernicious influence of those revolutionary principles so arbitrarily propagated on the Continent. The Government acceded to the request, largely influenced, no doubt, by the latter consideration. Commencing 100 years ago with a body of 65 students, the college of Maynooth numbers no less than 650 students to-day, domiciled in the largest and best appointed college in the world, and supplied with every requisite for the due diffusion of the highest scriptural, theological, and philosophical knowledge.
THK POWER OF VETO.
The social and political torpor prevailing among the Catholics daring the first decade of this century was suddenly disturbed by the one thing perhaps that was oapable of galvanising ihem into action, and that was a dreaded attack upon the independence of their Church. I refer to the memorable proposal of the English
Government to make competent provision for the clergy if they were illowed in turn to exercise a controlling influence over the election of the future Bishops of the Church. In the year 1808 Grattan presented a petition to Parliament in favor of the emancipation of Catholics. Mr. Ponsonby startled the nation by the declaration that if the prayer of the petition was granted the bishops would have no objection to make the King the virtual head of the Catholic Church in Ireland. This was a erosa misrepresentation of the bishops" views, but still it had the effect of throwing ih" nun rt try intn n ut^tp of int^nap PTfMtfmPTit Tn view of such manifestation of feeling on the part of their people, the hi>Vmp« felt the I'ocpoqity of immediate action, and noeordingly at their meeting at Maynooth in June, the following resolution waa passed . • That it is inexpedient to introduce any alteration in the canonical moie hitherto observed in the nomination of bishops in Ireland.' This declaration united the whole nation in their opposition to the unpopular measure. There were some dissensions among the Irish Catholic aristocracy, supported by the English Catholic hierarchy, with the exception of Dr. Milner. Thus there were two parties — the vetoists and the anti-vetoißts— and eventually the dispute wa<* referred to Rome. The Pope (Piuh VII.) failed to recognise the force of the bishop« contention, and issued a rescript expressing himself favorable to the concession. On the receipt of this rescript the bishops held a meeting at which they drew up a reply which, though duly respectful to the Supreme Head of the Church, assumed a very firm and uncompromising tone But the question never went further. The united voices of 6 000,000 declared in no uncertain sounds that they were prepared to remain for ever in chains rather than see their bishops the nominees of an anti-Catholic Government, and the powerful convincing evidence of the bishops who were examined before the Royal Commission in '2."> set the question at rest fur ever. When interrogated as to the part he should act in the event of the veto being approved Dr. Doyle replied : ' I woulo remonstrate against it. I would remonstrate a second time, and if this was not sufficient to ward it off, I should certainly resign my See, and I hope there is not a bishop in Ireland who would not do the same,'
THE FIGHT FOE EMANCIPATION
Next to the vexed question of the veto the measure that received the largest share of attention from the Catholics during the first three decades of this century was Emancipation. O'Connell waa the leader of the movement and the popular idol of the hour, and never had a people or a cause a more able and devoted advocate. Their first efforts were confined to petitions presented regularly to the British Parliament, and as regularly rejected. Henry Grattan no doubt represented the cause in Parliament, and never failed to bring forward his annu.il motion for the emancipation of Catholics with that matchless eloquence which must render his name ever famous in the records of Irish oratory. His last appeal was made in ISl'.t. when he was defeated by a majority of two in a House of 4SI members. In the following year he again proceeded to the post of duty, t} plead once more the cause he had so closely at heart. But he became ill on the journey, was conveyed to London in an exhausted eomiitinn, and died two days after his arrival with a prayir on his hp-> fjr his oppressed country.
Th re now appeared in the public arena two ecclesiastics, who immediately shot up into striking prominence in the political and religious life of the nation. One was Dr. James Doyle, Bishop of Kildare, of whom O'Connell has said, 'Of all the intellects I have ever encountered that of Dr. Doyle was the most mighty and stupendous, while his manly, gentle manners formed a fine contrast to the towering strength of his intellect, and illustrated the idea of the thunderbolts of Jove in the hands of a child.' The other was Dr. John Mllale, at the time professor in Maynooth College, and sub"<t quentlv the illustrious late Archbishop of Tuam, who was destined to fill as large a place in the history of his Church and country as any other whom the latter half of the nineteenth contury has produced. In IS2B Dr. Doyle addressed a letter to the Prime Minister on the justice and political wisdom of granting emancipation to Catholics, which produced a profound impression on the public mind, and soon after O'Connell carried the Clare election. A bill was introduced on March 10, IS2'.), by the Tory Government of Wellington, which was carried through both houses by large majorities, and at last the portals of the legislature, and the other public offices of post and emolument were then thrown open to Catholics. Such was the close of a struggle which had lasted for 4') years, and in which some of the brighest intellects of the time had a share. In the year 1802 the venerable Edm. Ignatius Rice founded his congregation of teaching Brothers, who have since played such a prominent part in the education of the Catholic youth of Ireland. His fir^t school was opened in Water ford in ISOI, and to-day the schools of the Christian Brothers in Ireland alone amount to 320, with a school roll of 3<J,000 pupils. In 18.il was introduced a new scheme of education for the poor which eventually became known as the National System.
THE TITHES WAR,
During the years 1819-21 there were 100,000 prosecutions in connection with the collecting of the unjust tithe tax from a poor and impoverished people, and £2,000,000 were taken annually by one-ninth of the population to go into the pockets of bishops and miuisters, nearly one half of whom hardly ever saw their parishes. Hut now the collection of these tithes assumed a new feature. Hitherto the priest was exempt by an act of grace. For the future there should be no immunities, and the Irish Catholic saw his priest and himself taxed alike, and the money thus extorted employed in supporting attempts to pervert himself and his children. At Rathcormack, in December, 1834, an Archdeacon Ryder demanded £5 tithes from a poor widow. She hadn't it to give him, and the
sympathetic neighbors who gathered round asked him to condone it. But he refused, and on ordering the military who came to enforce his demands to load and fire nine persona were killed and nine wounded. Amongst the former were the widow's son and two sons of another widow who went mad on peeing the dead bodies of her two murdered boys. This occurred in a parish where there ■were 3000 Catholics and only 2'J Protestant*, half of whom belonged to the parson's household, and where the tithes exacted from these poor 3000 Catholics amounted to £1 "ii)o a year. In 182:5 there were (>,000,000 Catholic-, ,<oo O')O Episcopalians, and 000,000 Presbyterians, ana liotu stu n r,^ m l in^u.ij oiL: Iby Parliament in IS.'JI we learn that while the whole population amounted to 7,'Jt's,'UO, h.">2,ot>4 only were ;nj|>inj,ui>. Tiiu-. -v ..:.! a half million Catholics were compelled to contribute «o largely that the arrears due for three years amounted to the sum o"f £3,2.">0,000. This went to support the bishops and ministers of a minority that were not the 1-itth of the population, and to keep the cathedral and churches in repair. The incomes varied from tsOO to £3000 paid to incumbents, nearly the half of whoui were absentees. In enforcing- this tax, not only the cattle and the crop*, but the household furniture and the clothing- of the wretched halfnaked people were seized in payment of these rates. All this to support the church of the rich minority, and to enable its bishops to provide for their families ; and that they did po is pretty clear from a return made to the House of Commons, by which eight biahops and three archbishops left £2,075,000 in legacies to their children. Eventually, in 1838, Parliament resolved to apply a remedy. This was done by the passing of the ' Tithes Commutation Act.'
FAMINE AND EMIGRATION
The Right Rev. Dr. Higgins then referred to the establishment of the National school system, and to the preponderating Protestant influence which was maintained in the Board of Management for many years. The Board has at present under its control 8100 primary schools, with a school roll of G.">0.000. After dealing with the shameless manner in which the Catholics of Ireland have been treated in the matter of higher education, and the efforts made by them to supply the want, his Lordship went on to speak of the dreadful famine years, and how 300,000 went down before this dreadful visitation in 1,84(i, whilst in the following 10 years 2.500 000 persons left the land of their fathers, the total emigration during the past 50 years amounting to 7,200,000 persons.
DISESTABLISHMENT OF THE PROTESTANT CHURCH
The annual income of the Protestant Church amounted to £700,000, and of this the sum of £78,794 was paid t>) two archbishops and 10 bishops. This waa taken from the poor to support the ministers of the rich, while they had their own bishops, priests, and teaching nuns and brothers to maintain out of the pittance that remained after the payment of rent and taxxe. The man to who* lot it fell to deal successfully with this national wrong was the hue distinguished English statesman. Mr. Gladstone, who introduced a Bill into Parliament for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Protestant Church in Ireland, whi.-h passed into law on the 26th July, 18t>8, thus abolishing for ever one of the nw*t unjust and hateful grievances that ever afflicted a free people. Of the entire ■wealth she received back soinewb.it over £10,000,000 as compeiHaUon for invested right, which would seem almost a re-eudowu^nt on a smaller scale.
In 1891 Ireland contained a population of 1, 70 1.7.10, of which the Catholics formed over three-fourths. The spiritual interests of these are being administered to by tour archbishops, '24 bishops and 3282 priests, 2736 seculars, and ."16 regulars. Besides the many anpoßing Cathedrals there are 2'32"> churches, many of which are models of architectural beauty. There are 120 convents of nuns, 21 diocesan colleges, 16 colleges for the education of lay students, 22 intermediate schools, 48 boarding schools for girls, with an aggregate attendance of 15,430 pupils. In the primary education dtpayment under the National Hoard we had in I.V.U 830 1 schools, with an attendance of 4 y0,.")3,> Catholic children, Christian Brothers :S2O Bchoola and 30, 000 pupils, besides, the Patrician Brothers, and Presentation Brothers, and the Brothers of the Christian s 'hools who are working in the cause of the education of youth. In the domain of Christian charity the monuments of Ireland's active benevolence are no less striking. The hospitals of Dublin. Cork, Limerick and Belfast are the admiration of every visitor. The asylums for the blind at Merrion and for the deaf mutes at Cabra, the orph ana ires, the industrial schools, the reformatories and penitentiaries to be found in the various centres of population, and under the management o? devoted religious, all bespeak an exercise of generosity on the part of a poor people that is simply astounding, springing, as it does, from one source only — the deep, active, enduring faith ol! a believing people.