網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

enough,-safe with the English public, safe in the Cabinet, safe in the Commons, safe in the Lords, if the Representatives of the Irish Catholic People, have the courage and disinterestedness which are required for its protection. Whether we succeed in our defence of it or not, the shackles of the Charitable Donations' and Bequests' Act are rivetted upon us for ever.

Do you then counsel us, it may be asked, to become accomplices in the wrong which afflicts a majority of the Queen's subjects in a large portion of the Irish benefices—a church supported by the State without a people-a people without a church acknowledged and cherished as a good by the Government under which they live? Far from it. But what I do ask of the Irish People, offering to them at least such earnest of my good faith as the study of a complicated question, perseverance and consistency afford,-is, that cor. recting the fatal habit of hot pursuit, too peremptory dictation, and too quick discouragement which is the real cause of more than half their disappointments ; they familiarize the minds of those among their Protestant fellow subjects who are considerate and just, with some Catholic-born scheme of Irish Church Reform, which reco.no inending itself by its manifest reasonableness to their consciences, may harmonize with that system of publicity and accountability which is the sure protection of all good institutions-be compatible with. and in completion of, previous legislation in our favour-with the independenee secured by that legislation to our Church - with the 21 and 22 George the 3rd., c. 24, by which its Bishops and Clergy were relieved from the merciless laws of the Revolution, declared “ entitled to be considered good and loyal subjects “of Ilis Majesty, his Crown, and Government,' and to use the emphatic language of Mr. Flood, “ embosomed in the body of the State,"_with the Maynooth College Endowment Act, the Easement of Burials' Act; the Catholic Emancipation Act: the Act which secured to pauper and orphan children the religion of their Catholic parents, and with that express condition, on which the inmunities, privileges, and exeinptions which the more important of those acts contain, were offered and accepted -the continuance of the Church Establishmont as settled by law within the Realm.

It is now twenty years since a Whig Government, backed by large majorities, presented in the person of Lord Morpeth, its Irish Secretary, to the House of Commons a “ Bill for the better regulation of Ecclesiastical Revenues, and the promotion of moral and religious instruction in Ireland." Twenty years !! What a multitude of vested interests in Ecclesiastical superfluities have grown up during their course! Shall the Vice Royalty of Lord Carlisle expire to be remembered only for the profanations and blasphemies of a proselytism which, in the diocese of Ossory at least, in defiance of the remonstrances of the most attached and influential members among the Laymen of the Established Church, has roved under Episcopal pa. tronage and special government protection about our streets and market-places, unawed even by that wholesome fear, which shields in all other civilized countries the religious convictions of the people from insolence and outrage? Shall the trust of the Irish Represen

tation be surrendered, and restored under his influence to the supporters of a liberal Government; and no security obtained for the redress of the great wrong which frustrates the Legislative Union ? Well do I remember how the People of our county crowded about the stone in their church-yards on which was placed for signature, the heartfelt expression of their regret at his resignation of the office of Irish Secretary. Shall no attempt be made to awaken the now experienced Statesman to the promises of his mature age, and to the sorrowful disappointment occasioned by his forgetfulness of them ? Are the Irish Catholic Constituencies and their Representatives so “lost," as Mr. Miall says, “ to all self respect" as to be content with Church matters as they now are ?

I trust, I earnestly hope not. But I should infinitely prefer the apathy which Mr. Miall condemns, to an adoption of the agitation which is now proposed to us. My object in publishing the following pages is to prove to them, and to our Protestant and Presbyterian fellow-subjects, how easy it would be to secure religious contentment, and put down sectarian ascendancy in every parish of Ireland, without subverting the Church Establishment, repealing the laws of the Reformation, or compromising the religious consistency of the State.

The greatest of all the difficulties in the way of Irish Church Re. form, is the doubt, an utterly groundless one, whether anything short of a total deletion of the Protestant Establishment would satisfy the Catholic Church and people. By that doubt multitudes of right. minded men in England, the supporters upon principle of Church Endowments, are deterred from helping us. Nusquam tuta fides," is their lament when irritated by unmeasured language in and out of parliament, they refer to the Catholic Oath. Naturally reluctant as we also in their places should be, wholly to withdraw a light destined as they fondly hope, in its appointed time, to lead their Roman Catholic fellow countrymen from error unto truth, they are not to be confounded with the selfish few in Ireland, who look upon the sinecures and rich benefices of the Church as means of patronage and provision for their families, to be preserved at all hazards to the loyalty of the people and the peace and safety of the empire, Detesting ecclesiastical abuses as much as we do, they would cheerfully assist in any fair and honest plan for their correction. It is our duty while exposing the enormities of the existing system, to indicate by what means other than the havoc of destruction they may be reinoved or mitigated. “Show us," said Sir George Grey, in one of the debates upon the Irish Church, “some well considered plan of Church Reform which we could consistently adopt, and which would be acceptable to your own prelates and people, before you call upon us to enter upon the thankless course of remedying the evils, which we, as well as you, deplore." It is impossible to deny the justice of that answer, or the wisdoin of regulating our condnct on this question by it.

That my reasons for what I now suggest for consideration may be apparent to the general reader, I have appended to some of the

66

sections of my proposed Bill, notes, explanatory of the nature and extent of the modifications which they would effect.

I feel very confident that its provisions will recommend themselves to many sincere members of the Protestant and many sincere members of the Catholic and Presbyterian Churches.

Although, regard being had to the available amount of the Irish Ecclesiastical revenue, it would eventually be sufficiently effective as a measure of justice and reform—there would be nothing sudden, violent, or humbling in its operation. Under it the diminution of income in every Bishoprick and Benefice would be contemporaneous with promotion, increase of rank and of worldly means to a new incumbent. It preserves to the Prelates of the Protestant Church the legal precedence which is the fitting attribute of their connexion with the Ecclesiastical Establishment of the Seat of Empire. It leaves all vested interests and all episcopal and parochial incomes during the lives of those who now enjoy them, untouched It deprives no Protestant congregation of the opportunities of Religious worship or the blessing of pastoral superintendence. It increases the incomes of the incumbents of small livings, and of the working curates. It retains the Church patronage in the hands of those by whom it is now dispensed. On terms undeniably just to all parties, it gets rid of the perpetual pother about the flea-bite of Ministers' Money. It relieves the clergy of the Established Church from the disheartening consciousness that for spiritual service to a small and rich minority they receive the whole of the Ecclesiastical Revenue of their country.

Without departing from the settled policy of the Catholic Church of Ireland, which rejects all connexion by means of pecuniary provision between its clergy and the State, it secures to every parochial minister a suitable residence, and a certain amount of visible inalienable comfort, leaving him still dependent for support on the voluntary offerings of his flock. It preserves to the Catholic Prelates-restored to the legal status for which, after two centuries of outlawry, they had for seventy years acknowledged a debt of gratitude to the House of Brunswick—that entire freedom from control, influence, or interference, which is much better than temporal dignity or State favour, and essential to the independent exercise of their authority and jurisdiction. It relieves the Catholic People from the burthen of maintaining the fabrics of the National Churches, and throws it, as in all other countries, upon, without increasing the burthens of, the land. It secures as much of religious equality in every parish as is consistent with the connexion of the Protestant Church with the State, and the repugnance of the Catholic Church to such a connexion.

I am much mistaken if any person well informed upon the subject with which it deals, can say that is not a just arbitrament between the claims of the three Religions professed in Ireland on the Irish Ecclesiastical Revenues.

It is published in the firm belief that until Protestants and Catholics are convinced of the wisdom of effecting a settlement of the Irish Church question, in a spirit of religious respect for solemn engagements of thrifty appreciation of advantages already gained and of

doing as respects further reforms to others as they would have done unto themselves—its adjustment on any satisfactory or equitable basis is impossible-but that if it were once commenced in a conciliatory temper, and with the approval of the Catholic Prelates and Clergythe wounds of the Reformation, the Restoration and the Revolution would ere long be healed, the Union would become a reality, and Ireland cease to be a cause of difficulty and anxiety to the Empire

My place in Parliament, I may be told, is the proper place to moot this question. And I agree that it is. But having made the endeavour in the Session of 1854 and failed, mainly as I believe, for lack of Catholic support, to obtain even permission to bring in a Bill, I am satisfied that public opinion, not only as to the necessity of Ecclesiastical Reform in Ireland, but as to the character, the limits, and practical objects of that Reform, must aceompany all hopeful parliamentary effort to effect it, and that until that opinion is formed and pronounced, no government can reasonably be expected to peril the success of its general policy, on what would probably be a very thankless attempt at Irish Church Legislation,

We pass by for the present the plausible, and we doubt not well considered and honestly believed arguments in the pages just quoted. Looking to the Bill itself, two considerations occur to us, and we are prompted to enquire, first :—is the measure practicable? and secondly:-would it be satisfactory? It would be difficult, we should think, in the present temper of the English mind, to induce Parliament to consent that any fund hitherto applicable to the endowinent of the Established Church, should be diverted from its present use to the endowinent of other churches, and more especially of our own. If it be a task

""A Bill to alter and amend the laws relating to the temporalities of the Irish Church, and make provision for the increase and maintenance of Church accommodation for her Majesty's Subjects in Ireland." I did not propose this Bill without good advice, nor without being fully satisfied after many years attention to the question, that all attempts to induce the House of Commons to embark, without chart or compass, on the Sea of Irish Church Reform-or in any course of deviation from the Settlement of 1829, would fail as they had before done, though made by able and eloquent men, Mr. Hume, Mr Ward, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Bernal Osborne, Mr. Moore. I was met by daring denials from Mr. Napier of incontro vertible statistical facts. It was of little use to expose as I did, the recklessness of those denials. I had no effective Catholic support, and the government would have been less wary than governments are, if it had allowed itself to be much troubled about a matter which had slept quietly for some sessions, and about which, when presented in a practical business-like shape, nobody seemed to care. It was intimated to me afterwards that a vague but wholly unfounded impression prevailed, that the bill contained clauses to secure a pecuniary provision for the Catholic clergy.

of some difficulty to maintain the Maynooth Endowment from the general resources of the State, who would have the courage to propose a Catholic endowment out of what has always been considered a purely Protestant fund ? The State might possibly consent to any other application of the fund, how reinote soever from its original purposes; but we cannot realize it to ourselves that England could ever be brought to strip a Protestant corporation of any portion of its revenue in aid of Catholics and of Catholic Priests, as such. On the part of Catholics themselves, the idea, we believe, is entirely discountenanced. They would not fail to consider an endowment of this description as involving a connexion with the State, although it might not imply any actual dependence. They make no claim to the enjoyment of Church property, for Church purposes, but they certainly cannot, without deep dishonor, in any way sanction its enjoyment by the present occupants. Their acceptance of any portion would imply an acquiescence in the possession of the remainder by the Established Church, a thing which, although they may endure, it would be criminal in them to approre. Looking upon Church property to be held in Ireland by no right more sacred than the right of the highway-man, they would be auswerable to conscience for compounding a felony did any consideration induce them to give a direct sanction to the retention of any, even the smallest portiuni, of the ancient Church Property by its actual holders. It is one thing to forbear the prosecution of their own claim, and another to admit the claim of a pretender; a claiın too upon which they might rightly charge three hundred years of bloodshed, confiscation,

disgrace, enforced ignorance and its attendant barbarism ; a claim which has within the last twenty years been urged to keep them in ignorance still, by the obstruction of the National Systein of Education ; a claim which, while it continues to be acknowledged, depresses the spirit, lowers the character, tarnishes the honor, distracts the councils, and deadens the energies of the nation.

But there is another feature in Sergeant Shee's proposal for religious equality strangely inconsistent with its professed object. It maintains and confirms the supremacy of the anti-national institution over the national Church, a thing, as we before observed, to which submission may be inevitable, but to which it is impossible that Catholics could give consent. We do not allude to the wretched question of precedence ; we lay no claim to Lording or Gracing for our prelates ; for we may

« 上一頁繼續 »