Page images
PDF
EPUB

to receive their orders from the primates of Armagh, the true successors of St. Patrick. These Danish bishops* aided the Popish bishops of England in subduing and harassing the old Church of Ireland, and one of them (Gilbert, bishop of Limerick) was appointed Pope's legate (the first that ever existed in Ireland), A.D. 1139. The Irish clergy, deluded by false promises, and pressed with many difficulties, consented to have the number of their bishops reduced, and thus rendered it easier for the Pope and his legate to manage them. They soon found that the promises held out were deceitful, and they rose up in resentment against the treachery ; but it was too late : they had, with their own hands, opened the floodgates, and now they were unable to close them against the tide of English power and British usurpation.

Henry II., having ascended the throne of England, took advantage of this state of things, to annex Ireland to his dominions ; but let it be told, to the everlasting disgrace of the Church of Rome, that it was the Roman Pontiff who betrayed it into his hands. Henry applied to Pope Adrian IV., for his sanction of the proposed invasion, falsely representing that the Irish were a barbarous and heathenish people, whom he was anxious to bring within the pale of the Christian Church, and promising that he would in return for the Pope's sanction, uphold the Romish authority in Ireland, and pay a

* The principal Danish colonies were at Dublin, Waterford, and Limerick.

yearly tribute to the papal treasury of one penny for every house in the conquered territory. Adrian was an Englishman, the only one that ever sat on the pontifical throne, and actuated partly by a desire to add to England's dominions, but chiefly by the meaner motive of enriching his own coffers, and extending the authority of the Roman See, he basely acceded to the ambitious proposal, and closed the infamous compact with the English King, in a bull, which will be found in the appendix. Such was the audacious and avaricious act which gave up Ireland to the Norman sword, and sacrificed for pence the liberties of the Irish nation and the Irish Church.

Under the sanction of this bull, Henry and his Norman followers invaded this island, and soon compelled the inhabitants to proclaim him "Lord of Ireland.” One act was still wanting to complete the melancholy tragedy, namely, the subjugation of the Irish Church. To effect it, Henry summoned a council at Cashel, A.D. 1172 ; the bull of Adrian was read, and another confirmatory one from Pope Alexander III.(a copy of which will be found also in the Appendix); and then, amongst others, was passed the following fatal enactment, which assimilated the Church of Ireland to the then Popish Church of England, and sealed its subjugation to the power of Rome :

"Likewise that all offices of divine service shall, for the future, in all parts of Ireland, be regulated after the model of holy church, according to the observances of the Church of England."-Syn. Cashel, vii.

Thus was a novel and alien creed forced upon Ireland at the point of the Norman sword—thus were the fetters of religious slavery riveted on the Irish Church through the intrigues of a Pope, and the last wreck of its independence stretched helpless at the feet of a foreign pontiff--and alas ! what a melancholy picture does her history present from the date of this fatal council. Wherever English law and arms could prevail, the ruinous enactment was enforced. Ignorance in all its unscriptural deformity; superstition in all its unmitigated absurdity; tyranny in all its unblushing effroutery, took the place of former truth, piety, and liberty. The Irish Church, once the day-star of northern Europe, set in gloom and darkness. Ireland, once renowned amongst the nations, sank into insignificance and degradation. No more in her green valleys was heard the free sound of gospel truth; no more among her sunny hills was heard the unrestrained sound of prayer and praise ; no longer in her ancient churches was read the unrestricted Word of God; no longer from her sacred shores went forth the heralds of salvation to distant lands. Throughout a long 300 years, we trace her history in rapine, bloodshed, and contention ; we behold her people degraded and debased, her clergy ignorant and infamous, her nobles contentious and disloyal, her conquerors severe and cruel. To quote the words of a Roman Catholic historian :

" That ominous apostacy has been followed by a series of calamities, hardly to be equalled in the world. From the days of St. Patrick to the Council of Cashel, was a bright and glorious career for Ireland. From the sitting of this council to our time, the lot of Ireland has been unmixed evil, and all her history a tale of woe.

III. Once more we turn to a pleasing themenamely, the EMANCIPATION of the Irish Church from her sad captivity. There were still in Ireland many who refused to submit to the rule of the Roman Pontiff, or adop the novel doctrines and practices enjoined by the synod of Cashel. We are informed by Dr. Lanigan, a Roman Catholic historian, that wherever the natives maintained their independence clergy and people followed their own ecclesiastical rules as if the synod of Cashel had never been held.Thus arose two Churches in Ireland—the one the Church of an alien, and a novel creed forced upon a conquered people, the other the ancient Church of the country, embalmed in the affections of the people ; the one upheld by power, interest, and wealth, the other persecuted and oppressed, yet still retaining her distinctiveness and vitality. So late as the reign of Henry VII. we meet with a bull, issued by Pope Innocent VIII., for the establishment of a collegiate church at Galway, in which mention is made of “ those wild highlandmen of the Irish nation,” who would not conform to the Romish ritual, and there follows an enactment, that none of them should hold office in the said college-a plain proof that up to that time there were found Irishmen who protested against

• O'Driscoll's Views of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 85.

the alien Church, which had been forced upon the country by the intrigues of the Italian Pontiff, backed by the pointed arguments of the Norman lance. Even in the reign of Henry VIII., who, though he threw off the Pope's authority, both lived and died a Romanist, * we read that Cardinal Wolsey sent over a quantity of indulgences to be sold to the Irish, but Allen wrote him back word that there was little sale for them, and that the Irish "questioned his grace's authority in Ireland, especially without the pale."

About this time commenced the blessed Reformation, when the light of the gospel, long hid in darkness, burst over Europe, and men's eyes were opened to the true nature of the superstitions by which they had been so long enslaved. Ireland, groaning under the heavy yoke imposed upon her by the synod of Cashel, saw that the day of her deliverance was come. With one accord, clergy and laity seized the precious opportunity to recover their independence, and return to their ancient faith; the bishops took the leading part in this noble work. All of them, except Walsh of Meath, and Leverous of Kildare, f renounced the authority of the foreign prelate, and returned to the primitive Church of St. Patrick. The Bible was once more reinstated in its deserved place of honour; the

* Henry left by his will a sum of money to pay for masses or his soul- See Hume's History of England.

+ These bishops were deprived of their sees for rebellion against the sovereign, in refusing to acknowledge her authority over the clergy as well as the laity. Leverous afterwards kept a school in Limerick. Walsh, who was a more serious offender, was banished, and died in Spain.

« PreviousContinue »