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Some Account of the Property and Statistics of the
1. Necessity of ascertaining the real object aimed at by Irish Church
Reformers.—2. In this Essay the Church dealt with only as an Establishment.—3. The question eminently a practical one.—4. The Church a Body Corporate possessing property since the twelfth century.-5. How constituted. Title by succession.—6. How Church property was first acquired in Ireland.—7. No Diocesan Jurisdiction there before the twelfth century.-8. Grants of land from native Princes.-9. Monastic system of the Middle Ages in Ireland.-10. Lay Impropriations and their results.—11. Terms on which Lay Impropriators receive their grants, and their violation of them.-12. Act of Settlement. Charles II.-13. Seizure of the Tithe of Agistment: consequent loss to the Church: subsequent Protestant emigration.–14. Union of parishes.-15. Church Temporalities Act.–16. Ministers' Money. Summary.–17. Present position of Church in Ireland. Census of 1834 a compilation, not a census.—18. Comparison of censuses of 1834 and 1861.-19. Protestant Dissenters have decreased since 1834.-20. Difference between a civil parish and a benefice.-21. Gross Church population of parishes.—22. Difference of area of English and Irish parishes.—23. Tithes not paid by Protestants or Roman Catholics, but are of the nature of a reserved rent.--24. Revenues of Irish Church in 1834 and 1861. Bishops : beneficed clergy.25. Five-sixths of the glebe lands granted to the Church since the Reformation.—26. Results of seizing the property of the Church forcibly put by two Roman Catholics, Professor Nicholas Slevin and the Right Hon. Anthony R. Blake.--27. Present demands of Roman Catholic Bishops and clergy. Mr. Alderman Dillon, M.P. Irish differences caused by race more than religion.—28. Parochial system of the Roman Catholics and the Established Church: its great value.—29. The Irish clergy—their use in spreading civilization amongst the people of remote districts. Testimonies of Major Woodward and Mr. Gladstone.-30. Vested interests: what are they ?–31. Fiery ordeal through which the Irish Church has been made to pass.—32. Its past and present condition. Conclusion.
1. THE Irish Church question would be freed from much of the difficulty by which it is at present surrounded if the real objects sought for by those who
are dissatisfied with the position which the Church now holds in Ireland were clearly understood and thoroughly ascertained. An active and energetic party aim at the total abolition of the Church in Ireland as the Established Church of that country. They openly proclaim that nothing less than this will satisfy them; that the “intolerable nuisance” must be forthwith removed; and that no improvement in its working would in any way diminish the unmitigated hostility with which they regard it. It is useless, therefore, to discuss questions of its reform with them. To increase the efficiency of the Irish Church is the last thing they wish for; their object is to destroy it utterly. But there is another and a very different class of thinking men, who whilst thoroughly convinced that the real interests of Ireland require that the Established Church there should be preserved in its integrity, are at the same time sincerely desirous of adding by every possible means to its efficiency. They desire to reform where reform is clearly shewn to be useful and necessary, but they are decidedly opposed to all crude and ill-digested theories, which however taking they may appear in the abstract, are found to be utterly impracticable when brought to the test of past experience, or when attempted to be applied to the existing circumstances of the case. Many others there are, who whilst interested in this question have no time to study it for themselves; and therefore it becomes a matter of great importance to lay before them, what the true position of the Irish Church really is, how it arrived at the condition in which we now find it, what that condition is, and how best its future efficiency can be secured.
2. We must premise, in the first place, that in this Essay the Church in Ireland will be considered only in the light of an Establishment, apart from its position as a branch of the Church of Christ. The Irish Church will remain the Catholic Church in Ireland, whether established or disestablished. She derives her right to that sacred title from no favour of the State, neither can any act of the State deprive her of it. Be her members many or few, be she the national Church of the country or not, she is undoubtedly the old, ancient Catholic Church of Ireland, the only Church in that country which can trace her spiritual lineage in direct and unbroken succession, through St. Patrick, to the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour; the Church which through centuries of unmitigated hostility from without, and oftentimes of oppression and weakness from within, has maintained, and still maintains, the true faith of Christ as Apostles proclaimed it and primitive martyrs bore witness to it; a Church which, despite the false accusations of unscrupulous foes, and the over-anxious care of overzealous friends, remains still the only religious body in Ireland possessed alike of Apostolic truth and Apostolic order.
3. Neither must it be forgotten that the question we have to consider is eminently a practical one. It is not what would be the duty of the State in the abstract had the Government now, for the first time, to provide an established religion for Ireland, but what is the duty of the State towards the Irish Church under the circumstances in which it is actually placed. All theories, therefore, respecting the right of the majority in the abstract to have the Established Church of the country the same as their own, however plausible they may appear to some minds, are beside the
question ; they might be admissible if we were considering it ab initio, but under existing circumstances they are entirely out of place.
4. Dismissing, then, these points from our minds, let us proceed to consider the question more immediately before us. Christianity has been planted in Ireland for more than fourteen centuries. During the latter half of this period an Established Church has existed in that country under the protection of the Crown of England. In the reign of Henry II. this Church, upon submitting to the supremacy of the Pope, was confirmed in its original possessions, and endowed with tithes, by that monarch. In the reign of Henry VIII. the same Church renounced the Papal Supremacy, and the king, with the assent of the legislature, confirmed to the same Church the same lands and tithes. If the investiture was valid the re-investiture was also valid. If for three centuries previous to the Reformation the clergy of the Irish Church were in lawful possession of the temporalities of the Established Church, the clergy of the same Church since the Reformation have an equally legal title to them. The Church is a body corporate, and the State has always acknowledged the Church in this character, and her capacity to hold property as such. The Church is a corporation; so also is every parson. In the eye of the law the king never dies, nor does a corporation ; each has a perpetual succession. “The law,” says Blackstone”, “has wisely ordained that the parson (quatenus a parson) shall never die any more than a king, by making him and his successors a corporation; by which means all the original rights of the parsonage are preserved entire to the succes
* Commentaries, vol. i. chap. 18.
sors : for the present incumbent and his predecessor who lived seven centuries ago are in the eye of the law one and the same person, and what was given to the one was given to the other."
5. What then constitutes that body corporate which can hold property as a Church in any country ? It is the successive body of clergy and people. It is not a mere number of individuals, it is a body corporate. The clergy are not the Church, but it is in the succession of the clergy that the succession of the Church consists. They who separate themselves from the succession of the clergy lawfully continued, are not the body corporate: they who adhere to it are. These are the principles upon which even those who differ from us will admit that the question must be determined. Now at the Reformation the corporate continuity of the Irish Church was not broken. There was no transfer of property from the Roman Catholic to the Reformed Church, no substitution of one set of bishops in it for another. During the reign of Henry VIII. the Reformation in Ireland was limited to one point, viz. the acknowledging the Royal Supremacy; and, says Dr. O'Conor, “ The Oath of Supremacy was approved of and taken by the bishops and clergy in 1532–1534, before any other reformation was talked of b." In the reign of Queen Elizabeth all the bishops of Ireland took the Oath of Supremacy, and conformed to the Liturgy, with the exception of two, who had been placed by Queen Mary in the sees of Meath and Kildare, the lawful bishops of which sees had been ejected because they were married men. These two Roman Catholic Bishops were afterwards in their turn ejected, and replaced by two other
• Hist. Address, ii. 278.