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FROM THE ACCESSJON OF CHARLES I. TO THE DEATH OF
STRAFFORD. A.D. 1625 TO A.D. 1641.
CHARLES I. was married to Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV. of France. As the queen was a Romanist, the Irish recusants were led to entertain high hopes when he commenced his reign; for they argued that a prince, who permitted his wife to attend their worship, could not well refuse to extend the same indulgence to his subjects across the Channel. His pecuniary difficulties also inspired them with encouragement. They were aware that his treasury was exhausted; that money was urgently required to meet the expenses of the wars in which he was involved; and that the necessary funds could not be expected from a vote of his English parliament. By an offer of a voluntary contribution, they expected to be able to prevail on him to grant them toleration. So confident were they of success, that they began to celebrate their services as openly as if they had already obtained the sanction of the government. The
1 A contemporary R.C. ecclesiastic and an Irishman, thus describes the state of his Church at this period :-"Catholics were honoured with the commission of the peace in town and country in many places ; and Catholic lawyers were permitted, without difficulty, to plead at the bar. The bishops exercised their episcopal functions ; the priests, their parochial duties ; almost every city and town in Ireland had religious communities, which lodged in houses hired for the purpose, and were not prohibited to perform all the duties of their orders. They had not, it is true, any formal permission for these duties, but they were tolerated and connived at. . . . Our bishops, deans, archdeacons and other dignitaries had no regular or fixed revenues or property; thcy, as well as all the other clergy, were
Protestant party took the alarm; and their hierarchy, headed by Primate Ussher, denounced the proposed indulgence. A protest, designated, “The judgment of divers of the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland concerning Toleration of Religion,” was accordingly drawn up; and in this document the prelates declare it to be “a grievous sin ” to consent that the errorists “may freely exercise their religion, and profess their faith and doctrine.” 1
We of the present day may be astonished to find men of intelligence and piety maintaining such positions; but we are to remember that, for upwards of a thousand years, this doctrine had been currently believed throughout Christendom. The Papal Church still continued to act upon it, and to deny the lawful authority of Protestant princes. Pope Urban VIII. had recently issued a bull in which he had exhorted British and Irish Romanists to lose their lives rather than take the oath of allegiance. The pretensions put forth in this document were dangerous alike to civil and religious liberty; for the proud pontiff claimed implicit obedience; and affirmed that the condemned form of oath wrested the sceptre of the Catholic Church out of the hand of the vicar of the Almighty. Protestants feared that any legal recognition of the right of Romanists to celebrate their worship would lead to their political ascendency; and thus it was that they opposed so strenuously their claim for toleration. But it soon appeared that the King was not unwilling to concede the required privilege. The recusants-aware that they had nothing to fear from him-proceeded, in various ways, to reoccupy the position lost at the Reformation. Churches were seized for their accommodation; new friaries and nunneries
supported by the voluntary munificence of the Catholics, who .
supplied all their clergy, not only with the necessaries, but what may be called the luxuries of life. . . . Whenever a priest entered a house, the whole family fell on their knees and humbly asked his blessing."-Cambrensis Eversus, by Kelly, iii. 117, 119, 121.
i Leland, ii. 481-2. This Protest was signed by the Archbishops of Armagh and Cashel and by the Bishops of Meath, Ferns and Leighlin, Down and Connor, Derry, Cork and Cloyne, Killala, Kilmore and Ardagh, Dromore, Waterford and Lismore, and Limerick. It may be found in Elrington's Ussher, pp. 73-74.
This Bull is dated 30th of May, 1626. See King, Supplementary Volume,
were established; their ecclesiastical discipline --often involving civil punishment-was boldly administered ; and, even in Dublin, another College was set up as a rival to the University. The Lord Deputy at length interfered and issued a proclamation declaring that “the late intermission of legal proceedings" against persons professing to derive their authority from the See of Rome "had bred such an extravagant insolence and presumption in them, that he was necessitated to charge and command them, in his Majesty's name, to forbear the exercise of their Popish rites and ceremonies." 2 But this manifesto was treated with the utmost scorn. Not long afterwards a fraternity of Carmelites, arrayed in the habit of their order, ventured, in one of the most public thoroughfares of Dublin, to celebrate their ritual. The Mayor of the city and the Protestant Archbishop, accompanied by a troop of soldiers, hastened to the spot, and attempted to disperse the assembly. But the sturdy friars were not easily intimidated. They opposed force to force; and, backed by the crowd around them, successfully repelled their assailants. His Grace, Primate Bulkeley, managed, with difficulty, to escape personal violence by taking refuge in an adjoining dwelling house."
Before the Reformation bishops had large magisterial powers; they could inflict civil penalties on those who incurred spiritual censures ; they could whip, fine, incarcerate, and even consign to death. The Protestant prelates succeeded to their jurisdiction. Their authority was soon considerably curtailed ; and, in the beginning of this reign, Irish Churchmen were forbidden to "keep any prisons of their own" for the confinement of ecclesiastical offenders. But still they were expected to perform services totally unbefitting their character. When Primate Bulkeley hastened, at the head of a body of military, to disperse a'congregation met for what he deemed heretical worship, he was only acting as Archbishops had often done before; and yet he was uselessly irritating and alienating those whom he should have rather sought to conciliate and enlighten. Government felt bound to support him in the course he had pursued, and ordered the house in which the riot had occurred to be demolished. To demonstrate more fully its determination to maintain the laws, it suppressed the Popish College ; and bestowed the buildings pertaining to it on the Protestant University.
i Leland, iii. 3.
2 Leland, iii. 5.
Some of the dignitaries of the Established Church were, however, pursuing a more excellent way of advancing the cause of the Reformation. Archbishop Ussher was endeavouring to win over intelligent Romanists by convincing them of the superior claims of the Protestant religion. Nor did he labour without encouragement. He had already made some notable converts; and, among the rest, Lord Mordant, afterwards Earl of Peterborough. His Lordship had been a zealous Romanist; but he was married to a Protestant-the daughter and heiress of Howard Lord Effingham. He was exceedingly anxious for his wife's conversion ; and it was arranged between them that each should choose a divine to hold a disputation in their presence on the points controverted. On the fourth day of the discussion, the Romish championa priest named Beaumont-failed to appear; and sent an excuse, stating that he had forgotten his arguments. His Lordship saw through this ridiculous apology; and, convinced by the reasoning of the Archbishop, joined the Church of England. About the same time, Ussher gained another important convert in Mr. James Dillon, afterwards Earl of Roscommon. “ He made it his business," says one of his biographers, “to reclaim those deluded people who had been bred up in the Roman Catholic religion from their infancy; for which end he began to converse more frequently and more familiarly with the gentry and nobility of that persuasion, as also with divers of the inferior sort that dwelt near him, inviting them often to his house, and discoursing with them with great mildness of the chief tenets of their religion ; by
1 Elrington, p. 106.
3 Ibid. p. 68. 3 The Countess of Peterborough was ever afterwards the attached friend of Ussher; and her kindness soothed and comforted him in his last days.- Elrington,