Maynooth College

Maynooth College.

In consequence of the English Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland lost all its rights and possessions. At the Synod of Dublin, in 1560, seventeen bishops out of nineteen endorsed the Act of Uniformity, and, upon the principle that "ubi episcopus ibi ecclesia," the English Reformed Church was declared the only legal Church in Ireland. The Roman Catholics were therefore compelled to worship in private, and to get their priests educated abroad. With the assistance of foreign princes they established, during the years 1582-1688, a number of seminaries in Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands (namely, at Salamanca, Alcala, Lisbon, Evora, Dacay, Antwerp, Tournay, Lille, Rome, Prague, Caupranica, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Poitiers, Nantes, Bouley, and Paris). As most of the students were poor and dependent on the aristocracy of Ireland, a great attachment grew up between them and the class by whom they were patronized. But in consequence of the French Revolution intercourse between Ireland and the Continent became more difficult. The Irish colleges of France and Brabant were closed, and the necessity became apparent of establishing a seminary at home. The most opposite political parties agreed in supporting this measure: the aristocracy from fear that the young priests might imbibe democratic ideas abroad, and the democrats from the hope of gaining over to their views the priests, who had heretofore always sided with their patrons. The middle classes especially thought to find in home-bred priests useful auxiliaries to their emancipation. When therefore the Roman Catholic prelates submitted to the lord lieutenant of Ireland their plan of establishing a college, he immediately gave his approval; the Irish Parliament, composed of Protestants, sanctioned it, voted an appropriation of £8000, and readily obtained the approbation of the Parliament of England in 1795. A board of trustees was organized, consisting of four Protestants, the Irish lord chancellor, three chief justices, six Roman Catholic laymen, and ten bishops. Dr. Hussey, who had been eminently active in organizing the whole affair, was elected president of the college. The whole care and management of the college was vested in this board of managers. The four Protestant members were changed every five years (being replaced by election of the other members), and, together with three Roman Catholics, fulfilled the duties of inspectors, yet without the power of interfering with either the doctrines or the discipline of the college. The most liberal among the Roman Catholics wished the college to be established at Dublin, the seat of the University, and where members of the different denominations were already studying harmoniously together. But the Roman Catholic bishops opposed this, as they desired their priests to be educated under stricter discipline. The board of managers therefore chose the village of Maynooth, eleven miles from Dublin, and commenced building a seminary for fifty students on, a piece of land purchased from the duke of Leinster. When the Irish Parliament was incorporated with the English, in 1801, an appropriation was made for the College of Maynooth amounting to some £8000 a year for the next twenty years. In 1808 some £13,000 more was voted for the purpose of enlarging the seminary, as it was inadequate to educating the number of priests required. Indeed in that year there were 478 obliged to study abroad, chiefly in France, while there were only 200 to 250 attending at Maynooth. The seminary continued a long time without attracting much attention; even the report of the board of trustees, presented in 1826 to Parliament, did not throw much light on the real character of the institution; in fact, the true state of things was rather covered up than revealed in that document. But when O'Connell's agitation broke out, it became apparent that its principal champions were priests educated in Maynooth College. It was also found that the alumni of Maynooth took an active part in the Roman Catholic emancipation in 1829 by unfairly influencing the elections. The seminary, instituted for the purpose of suppressing democratic ideas, seems thus to have become a center of political as well as religious agitation. But the interior workings of the institution remained hidden from the public gaze until a zealous Protestant minister, M'Ghee, procured the theological text-book of Peter Dens, used at Maynooth, which was published to the extent of three thousand copies in 1804; another edition of the same number appeared in 1832. This work, which breathes to the utmost the Roman Catholic spirit of aggression and persecution, and upholds the most offensive doctrines of that Church, was considered there as the highest authority, and gives a striking contradiction to the statement so often made by interested parties that the Roman Catholicism of the 19th century is animated by an entirely different spirit from that of former times. These revelations provoked much opposition to Romanism, and a growing desire to abrogate the privileges of the Romanists. June 28,1835, a great meeting was held at Exeter Hall, which was followed by others in various cities of England and Scotland. It was proved that the Romish Church still displayed the same zeal for the destruction of heretics, still claimed to relieve from oaths, retained auricular confession, with all its attendant evils, and all from unequivocal passages in the aforesaid textbook. Numberless pamphlets were published on this occasion; Protestant associations were formed in Ireland to defend evangelical freedom, and chief among these were found the Orangemen. The old hatred between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants was thus revived, and trouble with Ireland seemed imminent. On the side of the Romish Church the "liberator of Ireland" gained crowds to his party by his eloquence and his fiery denunciations of the English; his attitude became so threatening that the government was obliged to prosecute him for high- treason. This repressed the rebellion in its very infancy, but at the same time embittered the feelings of the Roman Catholic population. Previous experience for seven centuries had shown that persecution could indeed weaken, and almost destroy, but never conquer Ireland; and this was still more the case with regard to their Church, which the Roman Catholic Irish clung to the more as it was weaker and more oppressed. There remained nothing but to try whether kindness would succeed where harshness had failed. The occasion was favorable, the insurrection was suppressed, and, if the victors met the vanquished as friends, much might be gained. This Irish question proved almost insolvable to the English government. Cabinet after cabinet were wrecked upon it, without arriving at any result. And this is not to be wondered at, for the civil as well as religious relations in Ireland had for a long time been in so abnormal a state that all attempts at reform seemed either inefficient or dangerous. Every effort to improve the condition of the peasantry was met by the opposition of the landed aristocracy, while every assistance rendered to the weak and oppressed, but de facto national Church of Ireland, exasperated the Protestant element of the population. The passage of any bill concerning Ireland was a most complicated piece of politics. But, said an Irish paper, "Protestantism is not as powerful as landed property, and religion must give way before ground- rents." Without attributing such views — as was often done — to the British government, for attempts at conciliation were made from religious motives, it would appear that Sir Robert Peel inclined to this theory when, in 1845, he presented the Maynooth Bill to Parliament. Indeed for the last fifty years Parliament had been voting an annual appropriation of over £8000 for the education of Roman Catholic priests, the preceding year the Charitable Bequest Bill had been passed almost unanimously, and the Roman Catholic prelates had assured Peel that the passage of his new bill would be thankfully received by the Roman Catholics as a pledge of reconciliation. But hardly had the bill been presented to the House of Commons when a storm of opposition arose. The Protestants of the various denominations united to denounce it, and to petition against a bill which would modify the Protestant character of the administration. A large meeting, chiefly of Dissenters, was held at Exeter Hall, March 18, 1845, and a Central Anti-Maynooth Committee organized to oppose the bill, and to overwhelm the Parliament with petitions. On April 3 Peel presented the bill to the House of Commons. He attempted to prove that there were but three ways of acting: to maintain things as they were, to suppress the usual appropriation, or to increase it. The first he declared impracticable, as so insufficient a sum for the purpose could not gain much gratitude for the donors; the second, he said, was still less advisable, as the withdrawal of assistance to which they had been accustomed for fifty years would not fail to exasperate the Irish; but the third he looked upon as a certain remedy. He therefore proposed to raise the yearly appropriation for Maynooth to £26,000, making it a part of the regular budget, and thus transforming the grant into a dotation; he moreover proposed to incorporate the board of trustees, and to vote a special grant of £30,000 for building purposes. Besides, the existing ex officio inspectors were to be replaced by five inspectors appointed by the crown, who, however, would leave the control of the doctrines and discipline to the three Roman Catholic inspectors. The opposition was headed by Sir R. Inglis. He attacked the bill on religious ground, as opposed to Protestant principles. He did not mean to withdraw the usual appropriation, but wanted Roman Catholics, like Dissenters, to educate their ministers at their own expense. All those opposed to the Established Church sided with him. The bill received 216 votes against 114 at the first reading. This, however, was but the prelude. At the second reading the struggle commenced in earnest, and lasted through six sittings. They first argued about the new principle, which converted a yearly grant into a dotation, for this gave to the previously ignored Roman Catholic Church a legal existence and official recognition. The friends of the bill sought to defend this principle in various ways. Some claimed that it was the duty of the Parliament to care for Maynooth, either because, by uniting with itself the Irish Parliament, it had assumed its charges, or as a sort of restitution for the former possessions of which the Church of Rome had been deprived. Yet the assumption of the liabilities of the Irish Parliament did not guarantee the continuance of the grant longer than twenty years more, and, on the other hand, calling £26,000 a restitution, when the yearly income from the confiscated Church property amounted to over £600,000, sounded like bitter mockery. Others preferred to take the broader ground of moral obligation, claiming that it was necessary to aid oppressed and impoverished Ireland. Others again, leaving the past to consider only the future, argued from the political point of view. They hoped that this conciliatory measure, and the better education of the priests, would open a new aera to Ireland. None of these views satisfied Gladstone, who, after criticizing them all, finally arrived at the negative principle that the support granted to Maynooth should only be withdrawn at the last extremity, as it would have the worst consequences on the relation existing between England and Ireland. Some even sought to treat it as a mere educational question. Still the majority could not blind themselves to the fact that it really involved the weighty and difficult question of the relation between the English government and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. The opponents of the bill had an easier task. They could readily attack it from an abstract religious stand-point. They divided themselves, however, into two great sections, according to the ground they took. The Churchmen and some of the Dissenters did not oppose the continuation of the former support, but its increase; the Dissenters, as a body, opposed this, like all other government support towards churches. Both parties clamored loudly against the abuses of the Church of Rome, its political as well as religious tendencies, and particularly the Jesuitical spirit inculcated at Maynooth. Yet Parliament perceived that something must be done to allay the hostile feelings in Ireland, and the bill passed the second reading with 323 votes against 176. After another protracted and severe struggle, it received at the third reading 317 votes against 189. The discussion of the bill in the House of Lords was a repetition of that in the House of Commons. The most eminent jurists decided in favor of the bill. Brougham established a precedent in bringing forward a previous act in which the principle of dotation was clearly expressed. On the bench of bishops, six voted in favor of the bill; among them the archbishop of Armagh and the bishops of Norwich and St. David. The bill finally went through with 181 votes against 50, and received the royal sanction on June 30, 1845. While the bill was under discussion in Parliament, the opposition outside was very active. A large meeting was held on April 13 at Covent Garden, in which both Churchmen and Dissenters took part. Other meetings were also held in the principal cities. The Dissenters were especially active. Churchmen and Dissenters asserted as the ground of their opposition: 1, that by increasing the grant to the seminary, the papacy would be legally recognized in Ireland; 2, that the practice of employing government funds for the support of religion is wrong in principle; 3, that there were special objections to the bill under consideration, namely, the Jesuitical tendencies of Maynooth, the danger of the influence over the masses of a more thoroughly-educated clergy, the evil of binding the clergy to the support of the government, leading them to oppose the progressive social tendencies of the people; and, finally, the spirit of aggression inherent to the papacy. Some of the Dissenters, however, found this platform too indefinite; they wanted the bill rejected wholly on and-State-Church principles, and on May 2 formed a special committee at Salter's Hall, distinct from the original Central Anti- Maynooth Committee. On May 20 they held a meeting at Crosby Hall, in which 300 ministers and 400 laymen (principally Baptists, Presbyterians, Independents, and Calvinistic and Arminian Methodists of the new Connection) took part. They urged the Roman Catholics to decline the assistance of the Government to their Church for their own sake and that of their religion. Sir Culling Eardley, president of the Central Committee, spoke in a quite different tone in a letter to O'Connell. He accused the Roman Catholic leader of inconsistency if he accepted the new grant, and threatened to use every means in his power to gain his end. An Anti- Maynooth Committee was also organized at Dublin, and in a meeting held on June 5 an address to the House of Lords was drawn up, which received 3627 signatures, and also a petition to the queen. On the whole there were some 10.000 petitions drawn up against the bill, which received about 1,130,000 signatures. The government, however, remained unmoved, and the excitement gradually subsided. It was thought that now the Roman Catholic party would rest satisfied, and be truly reconciled; yet at one of the very first synods held by them the royal colleges were excommunicated and the national school condemned. The Roman Catholic prelates in Ireland — Cullen, Slatery, and M'Hale — had already attracted considerable attention by their Ultramontane views, but at this last outrage the old opposition spirit kindled again into a flame. Spooner provoked a visitation of Maynooth College by a bill he proposed May 11, 1852. Yet more moderate advice prevailed: it was claimed that the papal aggression in no wise affected Ireland, but rather England, and that the most Ultramontane among the Irish prelates, Cullen, was educated at Rome, not at Maynooth. Spooner finally withdrew his motion. Yet every year, for some time after, the proposition of stopping the appropriation was renewed; and was not dropped until quiet had been fully restored in Ireland, and general harmony re-established.

The agitation of the Irish population in late years, provoked, no doubt, in a great measure in Ireland, as in Poland, by the immaculate emissaries of the pontiff of Rome, has led the government of England to consider the propriety of granting the three millions of Irish Romanists such liberty in worship and education as should make them as fit subjects as the other twenty millions of the northern isles who enjoy the protection of the British crown, and worthy associates of their English-speaking neighbors. In 1868 Mr. Gladstone, whose very earliest work had been "marked by a plain inclination to elevate the Church above the State," and who, in the very maiden-days of his political career, had "exhibited an unfailing tenderness for the whims, the complaints, and the growing claims of his friends the papal prelates," was called to the premiership of Great Britain, to establish, if possible, perfect accord between the English and Irish people. Almost the sole aim of the policy which the new premier inaugurated was the conciliation of the Romanists of Ireland. For this one purpose he has labored uninterruptedly. No sooner had he succeeded Mr. Disraeli than he urged the disestablishment of the Church of England principles as the ecclesiastical principles of Ireland. His success in this attempt is now a matter of history. SEE IRELAND. Flattered by the easy victory gained in his first effort, Mr. Gladstone followed it by a proposal for the establishment of compulsory education and denominational schools. Herein, also, he succeeded, but only measurably. Encouraged by these repeated successes, he has lately come forward with a scheme which only a few days ago (February, 1873) threatened his ruin, and even now holds him in suspense. His new scheme now on foot is a proposition to dismantle Trinity College, long the eyesore of Romanists, and to found an immense educational establishment, called the Irish University, in which Catholics shall study only their own history and philosophy, Protestants a different series, and which shall be endowed with a vast revenue from the spoliation of Trinity and the wrecks of the Established Church. Both Dissenters and Conformists are alarmed at the step Mr. Gladstone stems determined upon. Even Romanists disfavor the proposal, for of the three or four millions of Catholic Irish it is probable that not one third of suitable age can read and write. The greatest opposition, however, has come from Rome, and suddenly the premier of Great Britain finds himself confronted by those whom he had always had reason to look upon as his chief supporters. Well has it lately been said that "the policy of Rome knows neither friendship nor gratitude; to serve 'the Church' it strikes indiscriminately at its friends or foes; and the British statesman has shown himself no match for the Italian priests, who have preyed upon his eminent renown, and would now, perhaps, exult over his fall. They throw him aside as the instrument they can no longer use, and demand that Ireland shall be ruled and educated by Catholics alone. With mediaeval mummeries they have dedicated the island to 'the sacred heart of Jesus,' and plainly intend nothing less than the total subjugation of its Protestant population to a priestly despotism." The endowment of Maynooth, and later the establishment of the queen's colleges, and even the open doors of Trinity, cannot and will not pacify Rome. She seeks control of Ireland both in Church and State; and so long as the papacy shall remain tainted by a zest for temporal power, both England and Prussia will find defilement and abasement, aye, not unfrequently rebellion in the ranks of those of her subjects who claim fidelity to the hierarchy. The last days certainly are teaching even the most liberal-minded politicians that the Church of Rome is built upon a foundation which is political as well as ecclesiastical, and that the severe measures, as inaugurated by Bismark, will alone save the Protestant world from ruin and decay.

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