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prayers; while, instead of the holy seclusion and deadness to the world which characterized their predecessors in the early days, they were gradually imbued with a worldly spirit, and were too often partakers in the pursuits, the follies, and even the gross crimes of those around them".
There is abundant evidence, likewise, to prove that the secular clergy, as a body, degenerated during this period to a deplorable extent, not only in piety, but even in outward morality and decency of conduct; a result not a little furthered by the introduction of large numbers of English and Welsh ecclesiastics, who flocked over to seek preferment, and who were frequently men of loose and immoral lives, the offscourings of the Anglican Church. The bishops, moreover, soon learned to make use of their spiritual powers of anathema, excommunication, and interdict, in order to advance their own profit, to avenge some real or supposed injury, or not unfrequently to give force and effect to the otherwise nugatory edicts of the English government; by which means the whole system of Church discipline and censure, wholesome and scriptural in itself, fell into absolute loathing and contempt.
24. Another feature which marked the period now under consideration was the general decay of learn
* The rise of the various orders of mendicant friars in the thirteenth century should also be mentioned, as the beginning of a system of scandal and extortion which speedily proved almost intolerable. Their profligacy and rapacity were strongly denounced by Archbishop Fitzralph of Armagh, before the Pope at Avignon, A.D. 1357.—(See Ware's “ Bishops," p. 82; Usher's “Religion of Ancient Irish,” chap. vi.)
6 Lanigan, “ Eccl. History," vol. iv. p. 243; Mant's “ History," : vol. i. p. 34, &c.
ing, and increase of superstition. We have seen what Ireland was in the early days of her independence, the school of Christendom, the torch-bearer of Europe; and though her light waxed dimmer during the troubles which marked the latter period of that independence, still it was bright compared with the thick darkness which now settled down upon her. Scarcely a single star shines forth to relieve the midnight of superstition and ignorance. Scarcely a name can be mentioned worthy of remembrance h. The Word of God was almost universally neglected and unknown. Fables, legends, and pretended miracles constituted the chief part of such writings as were produced; while the clergy in general had so degenerated in learning and become so grossly ignorant, that many of them were unable even to pronounce correctly the words of the Latin Mass, much less to understand their meaning. In an Act of Parliament, passed about the middle of the fifteenth century, it is expressly stated that there were “but few in the land able to teach or preach the Word of God." And if such was the condition of the clergy, what must have been that of the people? When the Word of God was so disregarded and forgotten even by their teachers, what wonder if the knowledge of true religion had all but died out of the land!
25. We have seen with what general willin and alacrity the Irish authorities, both in Church and State, acquiesced in the supremacy of the Roman pontiff and in the sovereignty of the English king,
h One splendid exception was Richard Fitzralph, Archbishop of Armagh in the fourteenth century, afterwards known as St. Richard of Dundalk. He is said to have translated the Holy Scriptures into Irish.
induced by the hope of deliverance from the miseries of strife and division. They were not long, however, in discovering that, in seeking to escape from one evil, they had exposed themselves to a far greater; that, like the horse in the fable, they had purchased assistance against present dangers, only by submitting themselves to a yoke which they were unable by-and-by to shake off. The native chieftains, disgusted by the rapacity and lawlessness of the new colonists, as well as by their contemptuous and insulting demeanour, became generally disaffected, in which they were of course followed by their clans; and although the bishops (who were now appointed by the King or the Pope, as either was successful for the moment in the perpetual struggle for patronage and power) sided for the most part with the English Government, as did likewise the monastic bodies of the later foundations, there was still a large number of the native Irish clergy and monks who sympathized with, and, as far as they dared, supported the malcontents. Hence it came to pass that there were virtually in Ireland not only two separate nations, but two separate Churches, each as far as possible ignoring the other, the one existing within the Pale, and those portions of the country within reach of its influence, and the other in the more remote
i The English Pale was the designation given to a tract of country around the metropolis, co-extensive with the present counties of Louth, Meath, Kildare, and Dublin, where English laws were in force, and the jurisdiction of the Viceroy was acknowledged. This district was, by a pleasant legal fiction, considered to be “the land of Ireland,” to which the interest and attention of the Government were chiefly confined. Nearly the same limits bounded the favour and patronage of the Court of Rome. (See Phelan, pp. 11 and 111; Todd, p. 241.)
parts, where the native language and customs continued to prevail. Turbulence and outrage on the one side, were followed by cruel and barbarous enactments on the other, and these by mutual hatred and animosity, which became every year more and more intense, and were rather fostered than discouraged by the measures of the English Government and of the Papal Courtk. . For more than three centuries this policy was carried out by these powers in mutual harmony, but the time was now at hand when the same weapon was to be turned by each against the other.
26. The circumstances which led first to the questioning, and finally to the rejection of the Papal Supremacy in Engand are too well known to need rehearsal. To the query propounded by Henry VIII. in the year 1534, to the bishops and clergy of England, “Whether the Bishop of Rome has, by the
* In illustration of this, it may be mentioned that the Irish inhabiting within the Pale were not admitted to the benefits or protection of English law, though on one occasion they sought to purchase the privilege from King Edward I. (A.D. 1280) by an offering of 8,000 marks. The king was willing to earn the money, but his purposes were thwarted by the authori. ties temporal and spiritual in Dublin. On the other hand, the Statutes of Kilkenny (A.D. 1367) contain the most stringent enactments against the adoption by Englishmen of the dress, customs, language, &c., of the Irish, or the intermixture with them by marriage, fostering, &c. By the same statutes, all Irish clergymen were debarred from admission to monasteries or benefices among the English, all Irish bards or minstrels from being entertained in English houses, and all Irish horses from grazing in English pastures! These enactments were enforced not merely by temporal penalties, but by the spiritual anathemas of three archbishops and five bishops. (See Phelan, p. 110; Todd, p. 233.)
Word of God, any greater jurisdiction in the realm of England than any other foreign bishop ?” an answer in the negative was all but unanimously returned, the Universities, chapters of cathedrals, monks, and other ecclesiastics all concurring, and thereby justifying the several measures which, in the two preceding years, had been passed by the English Parliament, abolishing the various imposts and exactions which, on the ground of this jurisdiction, had been · heretofore levied by the Popes. This important change having been effected in England, was soon after sought to be extended to Ireland also. Indeed the very nature of the measure was such that it could not with any consistency be confined to one part only of the Royal dominions. If the Papal Supremacy was an unscriptural usurpation of the rights of the Sovereign and the liberties of the Church and people in England, it could not be reasonable or just in Ireland ; (unless indeed the pseudo-gift of Constantine might be supposed to make a difference, a figment which was now justly disregarded); and it was therefore to be expected that very strenuous efforts would be made by the Government to have the example of England followed in Ireland. In these efforts, however, they found a strong opponent in the Primate Cromer, a prelate of much influence both of station and character, and a resolute upholder of the Papal claims; but at length, in a Parliament held in Dublin in the year 1536, several Acts were passed abolishing the Pope's jurisdiction in Ireland, establishing the King's supremacy, prohibiting appeals to Rome, and suppressing Peter's pence and other similar exactions ; while about the same time, at the consecration of a new Archbishop of Dublin, the oath of obedience to