Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section III.: RELIGIOUS CONSEQUENCES. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1
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Section III.: RELIGIOUS CONSEQUENCES. - Gustave de Beaumont, Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1 
Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, ed. W.C. Taylor (London: Richard Bentley, 1839). Vol. 1.
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Legal and official Establishment of Protestant Worship in the midst of Catholic Ireland—The University and the Protestant Schools.
We have seen the influence exercised by the English and Protestant origin of the Irish aristocracy on civil and political society; it only remains to examine the consequences of the same principle on religious society. Thus, having considered how this principle affected the mutual relations of the rich and the poor, governors and subjects, we are about to consider its influence on the reciprocal relations of Catholic and Protestant.
We have already noticed under what circumstances England became Protestant, and how, when she made the change, she was anxious that Ireland should do the same. This anxiety was not merely the consequence of a religious passion, it was also the result of a political principle. No one in the sixteenth century could comprehend the complete separation of the temporal from the spiritual power; but, perhaps, in no country was the union of secular government and religious authority more close than in England, because nowhere else was the head of the state also the head of the church. It is easy, then, to see why the English, having based their own government on Protestantism, should have laid a similar foundation for the government of Ireland. The church and state were then but one. At a later period, a race of kings was hurled from the throne on suspicion of Catholicism; it was then required not only to be Protestant, but Anglican, in order to reign. This is sufficient to show that the English must have wished not only to render Ireland Protestant, but Anglican.
In the same way, as it is generally impossible to comprehend the existence of a religion without a system of public worship, the aristocracy could not understand a church without wealth and privileges; it was resolved that the church of Ireland should be wealthy and splendid, and that the aristocracy of Ireland should have an aristocratic church.
In England, the Catholic church was deprived of its lands and rights, which were transferred to the Protestant church. This spoliation might have been unjust, but it was effected for the advantage of a creed accepted by the majority of the nation. In Ireland, the same means of endowing the new church were adopted. It obtained the confiscated church-lands, and a right to the tithe of all Irish produce; but whilst the aristocracy introduced and established the new creed in Ireland, the people of the country clung to the ancient faith; so that a Protestant church was established at great expense in the midst of a Catholic population. Hence arose a forced alliance between the Anglican church and the aristocracy; the latter being naturally attached to the religious system it had founded, and by which it alone profited; the former being entirely devoted to the political power that had created it, and which could alone protect it from the common enemy. We shall hereafter see that the links which united them from their cradle were drawn closer together: although the king ceased not to be the head of the church and state, the aristocracy soon domineered over both; the rich managed the state, and the bishops the church. Perhaps we may be permitted to see, in this parity of origin and precocious confusion of church and state, the germ of a common destiny.
From the time of this union the invasion of Ireland was not simply political, it was also religious. Ireland was not only covered with an army of soldiers and greedy conquerors, but also with a spiritual militia of archbishops, bishops, and Protestant ministers, who came with the avowed intention of changing the national creed; and the people, from the very outset, saw their religion menaced by the pious auxiliaries of those who had taken away their country.
England, which had been, turn about, Catholic and Protestant at the caprice of Henry VIII., which returned to Catholicism under Mary, became Protestant under Elizabeth, Puritan under the republic, and Anglican after the restoration of Charles II.—England, I say, without doubt, believed it sufficient to establish a religious creed in Ireland, supported by the civil law, to effect the conversion of the country. The Anglican church was therefore instituted under the presumption that Ireland would shortly become Protestant. We have already seen the evils that were derived from this delusion; we have seen the persecutions, the massacres, and the cruelties perpetrated by the church and the civil government, in order to convert Ireland to Protestantism. All these rigours have been vain; Ireland has remained Catholic, and it is now a truth established by the irresistible evidence of statistical documents, that the Protestants of Ireland are fewer in proportion to the Catholics than they were two centuries ago. Their ratio to the Catholics in 1672 was as three to eight—at present it does not exceed three to twelve.1 Thus Ireland is more Catholic after the persecution than it was before; a consoling result to every one who is the enemy of violence, and superior to the efforts of tyranny.
The age of the religious wars is past; the throats of Papists are no longer cut in Ireland; banishments to Connaught are no longer in force; the penal laws against Catholics have been successively abolished. Persecution has disappeared, but the Anglican church remains. At the present day, as in the first age of the Reformation, there is in Ireland a Protestant militia spread over the whole surface of the country.
The Anglican church envelops Ireland in a vast administrative net; four provinces, thirty-two dioceses, thirteen hundred and eighty-seven benefices, two thousand four hundred and fifty parishes—such is the religious division of the country. The parish is only an administrative fraction of the benefice which constitutes the smallest ecclesiastical unity; the Protestant worship has establishments everywhere, even where there is no Protestant congregation. Thus, there are in Ireland eighty-two benefices and ninety-eight parishes in which there is not a single member of the Anglican church to be found. The services of the church are not dispensed in the ratio of the Protestant population, but a Catholic country is partitioned in reference to the Anglican church. There are entire dioceses where the population is almost exclusively Catholic, but this does not hinder them from possessing a complete establishment suited to Protestantism. To cite only one example, the diocese of Emly contains ninety-five thousand seven hundred inhabitants, of whom only twelve hundred belong to the Established Church; all the rest, to the amount of more than ninety-four thousand, are Catholics. Nevertheless, the Anglican form of worship has in this diocese fifteen churches, seventy-one benefices, and thirty-one salaried ministers.
The establishment of the Anglican church is naturally divided into the higher and lower clergy; four archbishops,2 twenty-two bishops, three hundred and twenty-six dignitaries, such as deans, prebendaries, archdeacons, &c., compose the higher clergy; the inferior or parochial clergy comprises thirteen hundred and thirty-three beneficed ministers, to which must be added seven hundred and fifty-two curates.3 A great number of the Anglican ministers possess benefices exclusively tenanted by Catholics, consequently they have nothing to do, and hence are frequently non-resident. It was calculated, in 1830, that out of thirteen hundred and five beneficed clergy, there were three hundred and seventy-seven absent from their posts, and in 1835 there were a hundred and fifty benefices without a resident rector or curate.
The clerical body in Ireland is nevertheless magnificently endowed. Besides its right to tithes, it possesses six hundred and seventy thousand acres of land. On the most moderate and authentic calculation its annual revenues amount to about a million sterling, and all these revenues go to the maintenance of the clergy.4 The higher clergy, most of whose employments are sinecure, possesses immense wealth,—it takes to itself alone more than 320,000l. annually. The Primate or Archbishop of Armagh has over fourteen thousand a year; the revenue of the Dean of Derry is three thousand seven hundred pounds.5
Here, then, is a country where half of the population is annually famishing, and where a million of money is spent every year on the ministers of a creed which is not that of the people!
Whatever objections may be made to the great wealth of a clerical body, it may still be conceived that a church endowed with large property may be popular and beneficial, when the creed that it represents is that of the entire population.
A religious nation may derive pleasure from surrounding the priests of its faith with splendour and magnificence. The more elevated the notions of the sacerdotal office are, the more such a nation desires to aggrandise its ministers. Among a believing people, the priest is the sacred intermediate between God and man. Without him there is no public worship, no solemn devotion. The priest blesses man in his cradle, pronounces the benediction on his union when he takes a companion, stands by him in all the changes of life; he knows nothing of the joys of the rich, but he is never wanting in the hour of misery: the priest hears the first and the last cry of man. It is he who instructs the people in the duties of this life, and the requisites for that which is to come. The people receiving from the priest the knowledge of things human and divine, bestow on him in turn a merited and splendid support.
Besides, there is commonly in the fortunes of the church a principle of charity expressed or understood, which protects them against the apparent scandal of their enormity: this principle is, that the church has only the wardship and distribution of the property entrusted to it. The church is the natural patron of the indigent. It seems as if it could not be made too rich, because its riches are those of the poor. Whatever may be the liberality of political institutions, there is a multitude of individual miseries that escape them, and which charity alone can discover and relieve. A church is religious charity personified. Thus understood, the opulence of the church is easily comprehended, if it be not justified.
But how are we to explain the immense riches of a church which is not that of the people? How are we to understand the immense revenues of a clergy instituted for the cure of souls, as its canons declare, and placed in the midst of a population to which its spiritual aid is odious? What means this charge of instructing the people entrusted to men whose teaching the people rejects? What is the sense of entrusting public charity to a clergy which cannot feel sympathy for the temporal distress of its religious enemies?
The Established Church of Ireland is, in reality, useful only to the small number of Anglican Protestants whose religious wants it supplies, and who pay just so much less for the expense and support of their religion as they compel the entire population, hostile to their creed, to contribute. If the members of the Church of England in Ireland, who amount to about eight hundred thousand, were to support their own church themselves, it would cost each of them, on the average, one pound sterling annually; but, by distributing the charge over six millions and a half of Catholics, and six hundred thousand dissenters, the cost to each member of the Anglican church is only two shillings. What a singular foundation for a church is a system which plunders the poor in order to assist the rich!
A generous or wise aristocracy would endow a church out of its own property, in order that this church, its ally and its friend, might be an intermediate between it and the Pope, and alleviate to the people the injustice and rigours of an aristocracy; but here is an aristocracy seeking its support in a church, useful only to itself, and the burden of which is thrown upon the people.
Such, nevertheless, is the institution with which the fate of the Irish aristocracy is linked.
The bond that unites both, is not only moral, political, and religious, it is also judical; the Protestant ministers have not only the same creed, the same interests, the same passions as the landlords, but they moreover discharge the same administrative and judicial functions.
A great many clergymen of the Church of England are justices of the peace;6 that is to say, in other words, the Catholics are placed under the civil jurisdiction of churchmen, whose religious jurisdiction they reject. Thus the Irish Catholic, who only knows the Protestant ministers by the tithes he pays them, finds them on the bench, as judges at petty sessions and quarter sessions, meets them at the assizes, sharing in every process, whether civil or criminal, where favour prevails over right, where the rich condemn the poor. It is bad, as a general principle, to unite temporal and spiritual power in the same hand; it is bad that the voice of the pious minister, which proclaims pardon in the name of the All-merciful, should be charged with the application of a law which does not pardon. And what will be the rule of the priest that is a magistrate? Will he judge crime as a sin, or sin as a crime? Whatever efforts his conscience may make, will he be able to separate one from the other? Will he not condemn, from pious motives, what the law will command him to absolve? and will not christian charity render him indulgent to faults, for which the law prescribes punishment? But, if it is bad to entrust a clergyman with the office of condemning or absolving those whom his religious conscience judges differently from his reason as a magistrate, what will be the result if this minister be the pious enemy of those whom he is to punish in the name of the laws,—that is to say, if counsels of severity be found at the very source of charity; if, even without his own knowledge, every legal severity he inflicts on a misdoer flatters the first passion of his heart; if this same man, who, as a Protestant minister, levies tithes on the Catholics, sends them to prison as a justice of the peace? It must follow, that a church so constituted will excite universal hatred, and will have the power of rendering not less odious than itself, every authority of which it is the auxiliary or the friend.
The University and the Protestant Schools.
In England, the Established Church not only distributes amongst the people spiritual succour for the soul, it believes also that it has a right to direct the faculties of the mind; it not only regulates the form by which prayers are to ascend to heaven, it aims at guiding man in the efforts he makes to perfect his intelligence, and thus raise himself towards the Divinity. The church believes that it is called to superintend instruction as well as worship.
In England, the church and the university are sisters, and this explains the strict union between the university and the aristocracy. The university is bound to the aristocracy by the same link which unites that to the church. In Ireland, the church and the university are joined by the same bonds, and consequently so are the university and the aristocracy. But it is easy to understand that the same causes which have rendered the establishment of the Anglican church in Ireland a grievance, must exercise the same influence on the university, which is an integral part of that church.
The university of Dublin was founded by Queen Elizabeth, on the same principles as the English universities, and endowed with the confiscated lands of Catholic monasteries, and has at present a revenue of about eighty thousand pounds annually. It is just, however, to state, that it is less intolerant than the English universities, and that its statutes not only admit students of every creed, but that it grants degrees in all the faculties, (except divinity,) without any distinction as to the religion of the candidates.
But is it now necessary to state what renders an institution vicious in Ireland, which, though more exclusive in England, presents there some advantages in the midst of monstrous abuses? Can we not discover, at the first glance, that this institution, which entrusts the highest degree of instruction to a Protestant church, can only excite in Ireland sentiments of repugnance and hatred? What Irish Catholic, supposing him wealthy, will be inclined to incur for his son the expenses of an education, of which Protestantism is the foundation?7 Who will tranquilly entrust his son to the bosom of an establishment which is regarded in Ireland as the very focus of Protestant proselytism? Who does not understand that the Irish university, which in principle is, perhaps, less defective than the universities of England, is in point of fact a thousand times worse?
The university of Dublin is open to persons of every denomination, but, from the nature of its institutions, it is only suited to a minority. On one side, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge attract, by their greater fashion and celebrity, all the young Irishmen of wealthy families; and on the other, the principles and passions which the Irish university conceals within its bosom, repel from it the children of the Irish Catholics; so that, in a country almost exclusively Catholic, the Protestants alone receive the higher instruction requisite for the discharge of public functions. Moreover, the Protestants, to whom this instruction is given, do not belong to the upper ranks of society. Thus, the University of Dublin does not correspond with the purpose of its foundation; it has never been national, and it has lost the aristocratic character which belongs to the English universities. It is, in fact, nothing but a seminary of candidates for the ministry of the Church of England: in this respect it is far from being abandoned; all who aspire to enter the church flock to the university, enticed by the numerous benefices and magnificent livings which it has at its disposal.8
We see, then, that this institution has nothing of a university but the name; it was, at the very outset, paralysed, as an instructing body, by its union with the church. It was founded, like the Anglican church itself, on the presumption that Ireland would cease to be Catholic. Nevertheless, Ireland has remained such, and the university on its side has continued Protestant.
The fate of the Irish university, which is nothing more than a school for superior instruction directed by the upper classes, explains the nature and destiny of the other schools which the church has founded in that country. Once the Protestant church said to the poor Catholics of Ireland, “Entrust your children to us, we will educate them in the principles of pure morality and the knowledge of the true religion.”9 The Catholic population gave credit to the offer, and sent its children to the charter-schools founded by the Established Church, but they were soon withdrawn with horror, when it was found that in these schools the children were taught nothing but hatred of their own creed, and respect for the hostile creed. A second experiment was made; several benevolent Protestants, sincere in their intentions, instituted schools for the education of poor Catholics, from which it was professed that the spirit of proselytism would be rigorously excluded; the enterprise was noble, it was pursued with ardour, good faith, and charity,10 but success was impossible. In spite of themselves, or rather in consequence of their living and ardent faith, these Protestants could not remain impartial between their own faith and that of the young Catholics entrusted to their charge; and for such impartiality, even if it were possible, the people would not give them credit.
Thus, the Anglican church in Ireland, by the operation of one single principle, finds insuperable obstacles to the execution of everything which it accomplishes in England. This principle renders even charity impossible; and the benefits which the church dispenses in England, and which procure for it the respect and sympathy of the lower classes, become in Ireland new causes of hostility from the people.
END OF VOL. I.
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