08 March 2013

Church History (full-time) 10.2: The Boyne and the Penal Laws

James II … his accession raised many dilemmas for the Church of Ireland

Patrick Comerford,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Church History Elective (TH 7864)

Friday 8 March 2013:

10 a.m., 10.2
, The Boyne and the Penal Laws


We have just discussed how the course of the Reformation was settled by the time James I ascended the throne in 1603 … before the Authorised Version or King James Version of the Bible was published; and before The Book of Common Prayer and the Bible were translated into Irish.

Indeed, the course of the Reformation had been decided in most European countries by the beginning of the 17th century. Yet, throughout the 17th century, both the Government and the Church of Ireland continued to indicate that the island could still be won over to the cause of the Reformation.

This may have been one of the driving forces behind Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland. It certainly was the hope of John Bramhall, Jeremy Taylor and the Caroline Divines at the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. It was a hope that was revived after the defeat of James II at the Boyne in 1690. And it was hope that continued to be used to justify the Penal laws for much of the 18th century.

The Church of Ireland in the 17th century

A monument to Charles II outside Lichfield Cathedral … the restoration of the monarchy brought with it the restoration of the episcopacy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The restoration of Charles II was accompanied by the restoration of episcopacy in both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. It marked the end of a period of great turbulence both in Church and State on these islands, and the introduction of a period of relative calm that would last for the best part of 25 years.

In this sense, these islands were catching up on the state of affairs that was unfolding throughout many parts of Europe. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) had already brought an end to a generation of war and a century of strife, and marked the end, not only of the 30 Years War, but also of religious wars in general.

By 1660, the impetus of the Puritan revolution had run its course. It had produced no leader to replace Cromwell, and it had no policy to enable it to continue to hold political power.

At the time of the restoration of the monarchy and the Episcopal model of the Church, the population of Ireland was about 1.1 million, of whom probably 800,000 were Roman Catholics and 300,000 Protestants.

Of those 300,000 Protestants, more than half were members of the Church of Ireland, with the rest mainly Presbyterians concentrated in Ulster – many of them Covenanters driven from Scotland by persecution.

The population of Dublin was probably 32,000, and the majority were members of the Church of Ireland. So, what was the state of the Church of Ireland in 1660 as it recovered its episcopal structures and reintroduced its defining, Anglican liturgy?

We must remember that under Cromwell, while it suffered gravely, the Church of Ireland had not been disestablished.

Nevertheless, during the Cromwellian era, vacant bishoprics had not been filled; the parish system had been suspended; instead the church was served by 376 “ministers of the Gospel.” They might be Congregationalists (or Independents, probably the majority), Presbyterians (67), Baptists and Anabaptists, and we must remember that at least 65 of those clergy were Episcopalians of the Church of Ireland.

In some instances, the clergy of the Church of Ireland had remained in their parishes, officiating without salary, as was the case of Diggory Holman, Rector of Magheralin and Precentor of Dromore. Others had co-operated openly with and supported the Commonwealth: Henry Jones, Bishop of Clogher, was Scoutmaster-General to Cromwell. But the use of The Book of Common Prayer had been banned; there were no church courts or synods, church laws, &c.

These changes, issues and personalities raised questions not just about law and order within the Church in Ireland, but raised fundamental questions of ecclesiology, the theology of the church:

What was the nature of the Church in Ireland, who had authority, how was that authority to be exercised, and what force did it have, what were the visible symbols and signs of office? Who could hold office in the Church, and how was authority to be shared and delegated?

In those days, those questions could not be resolved without some consideration by the civil powers. But who exercised civil power in Ireland in the aftermath of the Cromwellian Commonwealth before the king had been restored legally? There was a king, at least in theory. But he had not been proclaimed king legally by the beginning of 1660, and there was no parliament to legislate in his name. In January 1660, three people were appointed Commissioners for Government and Management of Affairs in Ireland. Instead of a parliament, a General Convention met and this also had the oversight of ecclesiastical affairs.

At the time, clergy numbers were estimated at about 500. A petition from Church of Ireland clergy from Co Cork for their tithes indicated the Episcopal clergy were ready to return and, slowly, the clergy began to recover their parishes.

The Restoration and the Church of Ireland

In May 1660, Charles II was restored to the throne, and he was proclaimed king in Dublin on 14 May. Despite the restoration, in Scotland there was still a debate about the form the new establishment should take: should it be Presbyterian or Episcopalian? Charles II had signed the covenant, the Presbyterians had played an important part in the Restoration, and so Presbyterians felt their hopes were well-founded in both Ireland and Scotland, and they had some hopes for a greater role in church and state affairs in England. A deputation of Presbyterian ministers arrived in Dublin to petition the General Council, only to find the majority were “prelatical.”

Lord Charlemont deemed the Presbyterians the “most dangerous” faction, saying they “preach up the authority of the kirk to be above that of the crown and our dread sovereign,” and that “the kirk hath power to excommunicate their kings.”

And so, from the beginning, questions of ecclesiology were also questions of politics, and church/state relations were inseparable. Preparations quickly began for the re-establishment of the Episcopal Church of Ireland.

Eight Irish bishops survived the Cromwellian era: John Bramhall, Derry; Henry Jones, Clogher; Henry Leslie, Down; John Leslie, Raphoe; Robert Maxwell, Kilmore; Griffith Williams, Ossory; Thomas Fulwar, Ardfert; and William Baylie, Clonfert. But there were 16 vacant dioceses in 1660, including the four archbishoprics: Armagh, Meath, Ardagh, Dromore, Tuam, Killala, Elphin, Dublin, Kildare, Ferns, Cashel, Waterford, Cork, Cloyne, Limerick and Killaloe.

Consider the names of those eight remaining bishops: at least four were of Scots birth or descent: Leslie of Down, Leslie of Raphoe, Maxwell of Kilmore and Baylie of Clonfert, and a fifth, Williams of Ossory, was of Welsh descent. This alone challenges the myth that the Ulster-Scots heritage is the preserve of Northern Presbyterians, or the image conveyed by some that the Church of Ireland was merely a transplant of the Church of England.

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in the snow last year: Archbishop John Bramhall of Armagh was an undergraduate here in the early 17th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

In August 1660, Bishop John Bramhall of Derry was nominated as Archbishop of Armagh.

Declarations and Instructions issued by the King on 30 November 1660 formed the basis for the later Act of Settlement. Lands held by the Church in 1641 were to be restored, a glebe was to be provided for every parish, there were new provisions for the two cathedrals in Dublin, and provision was made for church endowments. But the doctrine and discipline of the church were not yet settled.

On 18 January 1661, Bramhall was formally appointed Archbishop of Armagh. Without waiting for Parliament to sit, he threw himself into reorganising the dioceses: Parker of Elphin became Archbishop of Tuam; Fulwar of Ardfert became Archbishop of Cashel; Henry Leslie moved from Down to Meath, but soon died and was replaced by Jones who moved from Clogher to Meath, and would be replaced in Clogher by John Leslie, who had been consecrated for Raphoe; Robert Leslie moved from Dromore to Raphoe; Maxwell remained in Kilmore, to which Ardagh was united; and Cloyne was united to Cork.

John Bramhall (1594-1663), Archbishop of Armagh ...portrait in the Old Library in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Bramhall also moved ahead to fill the ranks of the depleted episcopate: on 27 January 1661, more than three months before Parliament met, two new archbishops and ten new bishops were consecrated in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. The new archbishops were James Margetson of Dublin and Samuel Pullen of Tuam. The new bishops were: Michael Boyle (Cork and Ross); John Parker (Elphin); Robert Price (Ferns and Leighlin); Henry Hall (Killala); George Baker (Waterford and Lismore); Edward Synge (Limerick); Edward Worth (Killaloe); Robert Leslie (Raphoe); George Wild (Derry); and the saintly Jeremy Taylor (Down and Connor). The five consecrating bishops were Bramhall of Armagh, Maxwell of Kilmore, Williams of Ossory, Leslie of Raphoe, and Jones of Clogher. Some weeks later, Thomas Price was consecrated for Kildare, giving the Church of Ireland a complement of four archbishops and 17 bishops. And these diocesan structures were, more or less, retained unchanged for the next 170 years.

The attendance of church, university, state and civic officials at the large consecration in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral provided a striking demonstration of the unity of church and state.

William Fuller, Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and later Bishop of Limerick, composed a special anthem, Quam denuo exaltavit Dominus coronam, with the opening lines:

Now that the Lord hath re-advanced the Crown;
Which Thirst of Spoyl, and frantick zeal threw down:
Now that the Lord the Miter restored
Which, with the Crown, lay in the dust abhor’d:
Praise him ye Kings,
Praise him ye Priests.

Jeremy Taylor … preached at opening of the Restoration Parliament in Dublin

It was not until 8 May 1661 that Parliament met in Dublin, with one of the newly-consecrated bishops, Jeremy Taylor, preaching at its opening. Taylor argued for a state composed of none but those who accept the Apostles’ Creed, and that “tenderness of conscience” could not be pleaded against the law of the land.

Membership of the new parliament was overwhelmingly Protestant, with only one Roman Catholic MP. Archbishop Bramhall of Armagh presided in the House of Lords, where the bishops would often form the working majority.

By the beginning of June, Bramhall could claim victory: “We have established the liturgy, doctrines and disciplines of the Church. We have condemned the Covenant engagement.”

At the same time as Parliament met, the Convocation – the equivalent of a National Synod – met. This consisted of two houses: the archbishops and bishops formed the upper house, and the Lower House was composed of the archdeacons, deans and “proctors” of the clergy. It continued sitting until 1666, but from 1666 to 1692 there was neither Parliament nor Convocation, and although Parliament would meet again in 1692, convocation did not meet again until 1703.

In 1662, the Act of Settlement restored and protected much, though not all, of the property of the Church of Ireland. But in the north-east, particularly in Jeremy Taylor’s diocese, the clergy of the Church of Ireland found it difficult to assert their claims against the Presbyterians, with many Presbyterian ministers remaining in place.

Bramhall also wanted to exclude from the Church of Ireland those clergy who had served during the Commonwealth. He insisted on episcopal ordination and refused to accept Presbyterian ordinations, even when these had been legal in the past.

Church and State

The 1662 revision of The Book of Common Prayer brought with it the introduction of special services for 30 January, 29 May, 23 October and (later) 5 November. These four special commemorations cemented the links between Church and State, and reinforced the established nature of the Church of Ireland:

● 30 January: The martyrdom of Charles I (commemorated in the dedication of the chapel at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham);
● 29 May: The anniversary of the Restoration;
● 23 October: The anniversary of the massacre of 1641;
● 5 November: The anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot.

Meanwhile, many of the bishops also held high office in the state, and this also supplemented their income. In 1668, Primate Margetson had over £3,500 a year, including his fees as Prerogative Judge and King’s Almoner; Archbishop Boyle of Dublin had £1,200 a year, and was Lord Chancellor; Robert Mossom of Derry was the best paid bishop with £1,800 a year; of the rest, 12 had incomes ranging from £1,600 to £1,000, and five between £1,000 and £600. The poorest bishoprics were Clonfert (£400) and Kildare (£200).

The end of an era

Perhaps the end of an era came in 1671 with the death of John Leslie, Bishop of Clogher: he had been consecrated in Scotland in 1628, and at the time of his death is reputed to have been the oldest bishop in the world. In a way we could say that his death marked not only an end of the personal links that bridged the Jacobite or even the Tudor and Elizabethan church with the Church of the restoration, but also symbolised the shift in thinking that was taking place in the Church and throughout Europe.

The restoration era was distinguished by far-reaching intellectual changes. Evidences of a new spirit had started to appear with the Cambridge Platonists, who turned from the way in which religious problems had been conceived and debated. With the Puritans, the prevailing theology had become dogmatic and theoretical; the Cambridge Platonists showed that a broader and simpler system was necessary. They believed that preoccupation with abstruse doctrines did more harm than good. They sought a middle way between the Laudians and the Calvinists, and adopted a mediating position.

Nor should we should be in any doubt that the church was still in need of reform.

In 1678, the new Primate was Michael Boyle, who came from a family that might appear to have been a line of hereditary bishops: his father had been Archbishop of Tuam and his uncle Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. When he was Bishop of Cork he held six other benefices until his kinsman, the Earl of Orrery, as President of Munster, forced him to resign them.

Boyle was the last prelate to fill the office of Lord Chancellor. But as Primate his biggest challenge was the change in religious culture throughout the land with the accession of James II in 1685.

James II was a professed Roman Catholic, and with his succession Anglicanism faced real dilemmas. For 25 years, the Anglican Church – both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England – had long been, effectively, the handmaiden of the state. For long, the concept of non-resistance had been regularly preached from the Anglican pulpit. What role would the Church now have with an antagonistic monarch on the throne? And how could it consider legitimately oppose any measures against its interests that were introduced by the king?

According to the Church historian Murray, with the accession of James II “the Church of Ireland once more fell upon evil days. The Duke of Ormond was replaced as Viceroy by the king’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Clarendon, while Richard Talbot, Earl (and later Duke) of Tyrconnell, and brother of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, became commander-in-chief of Ireland.

Matters become worse for the Church of Ireland in 1687 when Tyrconnell succeeded Clarendon, and the outlawries resulting from the events of 1641 were reversed. Church of Ireland clergy lost their tithes, churches were seized and the Mass said in them, vacant sees, including Cashel, Clonfert, Clogher and Elphin, were not filled, and their revenues were handed over to the Roman Catholic bishops of those dioceses.

As a Church, with close political relations with the state, this bond produced great problems during the reign of James II, for the Church found itself – in that wonderful description by Professor Raymond Gillespie of Maynooth – “caught between a Catholic anvil and a Protestant hammer.”

James II was a professed Roman Catholic, and with his succession Anglicanism faced real dilemmas. For 25 years, both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England – had long been, effectively, the handmaiden of the state. For long, the concept of non-resistance had been regularly preached from the Anglican pulpit. What role would the Church now have with an antagonistic monarch on the throne? And how could it consider legitimately oppose any measures against its interests that were introduced by the king?

John Vesey, Archbishop of Tuam, and Richard Tennison, Bishop of Killala, fled to England, and were soon followed by the Archbishop of Dublin and the bishops of Kilmore, Dromore, Kildare, Ferns and Leighlin, Cloyne, Raphoe, and Derry. Those who are unkind would say they abandoned the Church of Ireland at the time, but many of them would return. And, indeed, many of the bishops remained, including the Archbishop of Armagh and the bishops of Meath, Ossory, Limerick, Cork and Ross, Killaloe and Waterford and Lismore.

Dean King, who had been left behind by Archbishop Marsh as his commissary in Dublin, said he knew of 16 or 17 clergymen who were assaulted, imprisoned and threatened with death.

In an effort to recover his throne after the Williamite revolt, James II left his exile in France in 1689, and landed in Ireland. The Irish Parliament was summoned, but few Protestants were in attendance: apart from four bishops, four lay peers and six MPs, the rest of parliament was made up of Roman Catholics. Those who were attainted and had their estates confiscated included Archbishop Marsh and Archbishop Vesey, and Bishop Hopkins, Sheridan, Moreton, Smith, Marsh of Ferns, Jones and Wiseman, and 83 of the clergy of the Church of Ireland.

The vacant sees were to be filled by Roman Catholics, churches were seized, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, was seized and mass was celebrated in it, part of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, was used as military stables, and an order was issued, under penalty of death, forbidding more than five Protestants to meet together.

The Battle of the Boyne … fought on 1 July 1690

We can never separate the developments in the Continental Church from what was happening in the Church on this island: if the Popes saw their power and influence declining after the Peace of Westphalia, and declining in the face of the assertions of the French King and the Gallicans, then was it any wonder that – having heard that James II was ending his exile in France, and that with French support he had come to Ireland in the hope of regaining his throne – the Pope should say Mass in Rome giving thanks for the victory of William at the Boyne?

William III landed in Ireland on 1 July 1690, he defeated the forces of James at the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July, and entered Dublin on 6 July, the same day a solemn service of thanksgiving was held in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and the sermon was preached by Dean King. A new era was ushered in, for both the island of Ireland, and the Church of Ireland. But there were problems for the Church of Ireland too.

The Church of Ireland after the Boyne

18th century Dublin … by 1715, the population of Dublin had risen to 89,000, and two-thirds of the people were Protestants

Between 1690 and 1714, both Ireland and the Church of Ireland went through a period of change. Dublin was the second city of the Empire and grew at an unprecedented rate after the Williamite Revolution. In 1695, Dublin had a population of 47,000, and 12 parishes, with 78% of the population living south of the River Liffey. By 1715, the population of Dublin had risen to 89,000, of whom two-thirds were Protestants.

Non-resistance and the divine right of kings had become central assumptions in the relations between Church and State for both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. There were those who had taken an oath of loyalty to the reigning monarch and who – despite the turmoils during the reign of James II – felt bound by their oath.

Those leaders who felt unable to renounce that oath, who refused to take a new oath to William and Mary, and who lost their offices, became known as the Nonjurors. They included: William Sheridan, Bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh, the Archdeacons of Connor (Baynard) and Dublin (John Fitzgerald), the Dean of Lismore (Barzilai Jones), the Chancellor and Treasurer of Connor (Charles Leslie and W. Jones), and Henry Dodwell and George Kelly of Trinity College Dublin.

Although this dissent was hardly as significant as the Nonjuring schism in England, it nevertheless shows that:

1, There was dissent within the Church of Ireland on the question of Church/State relations;
2, The Williamite revolution did not have complete support within the Protestant community;
3, the opposition to William within the Church of Ireland came from the core of the clergy rather than from the margins.

Archdeacon John Fitzgerald of Dublin was a brother of Bishop William Fitzgerald of Clonfert, a son of Dean John Fitzgerald of Cork, and a grandson of Archbishop Richard Boyle of Tuam. Sheridan had been Dean of Down and chaplain to the Duke of Ormond when he was Lord-Lieutenant, and his brother Patrick Sheridan was Bishop of Cloyne (1679-1682).

Sheridan and Fitzgerald moved to London, where they lived among the English Nonjurors. Leslie and Dodwell would be recognised as a theologian and an historian of importance within Anglican thought. They set an example of honesty in politics, emphasised the view that there is moral foundation for the State as well as for the Church, and that there is a sacredness of moral obligation in public life.

Apart from losing the Nonjurors, the Church of Ireland lost many leaders who had fled during the reign of James II, while others such as Hugh Gore of Waterford had died as a consequence of their suffering. As at the Restoration in 1660, the Church of Ireland once again faced the problem of reorganisation and filling vacant dioceses. In 1691 and 1692, a new archbishop and eight new bishops were appointed: Narcissus Marsh (Cashel), Fitzgerald (Clonfert – a brother of the Nonjuring Archdeacon of Dublin), Digby (Elphin), Tennison (Clogher), Vigors (Ferns and Leighlin), Lloyd (Killala), King (Derry), Foy (Waterford) and Wilson (Limerick).

Archbishop Narcissus Marsh: brought fresh vigour to the office of Archbishop in Cashel, Dublin and Armagh

Archbishop Narcissus Marsh brought a fresh vigour to his roles as Provost of TCD, Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin, and then as Archbishop of Cashel (1691-1694), Dublin (1694-1703) and Armagh (1703-1714). He was regular in visitations, combating the abuses he encountered. He forbade preaching in private houses, ordered every incumbent to preach each Sunday, and to “preach upon the royal supremacy four times a year.” As archbishop, he insisted on visiting his suffragan dioceses, and he also played a part in establishing Marsh’s Library and the Dublin Philosophical Society (now the Royal Irish Academy).

The other key reforming figure in the Church at this time was William King, Archbishop of Dublin.

The bishops were regarded as tending towards “High Church” preferences or leanings, and their political loyalties were tested with the introduction of the oath of abjuration in 1697, which was opposed by all four archbishops and three of the bishops.

But the relations between Church and State were strengthened in the years that followed with an increasing political role for the bishops. The Lords Lieutenant were largely non-resident, and during their lengthy absences the island was governed by two or three Lords Justice, one of whom was inevitably either the Primate or one of the three other archbishops.

Narcissus Marsh complained that the offices of state occupied too much of his working time, and during the parliamentary recess in 1707, the Council sat no less than eight or ten hours a day, leaving him little time for study or to administer his diocese. King too complained that he was over-burdened by the affairs of state. Many bishops complained that they had to spend much of their time in the House of Lords.

The Irish-born clergy also complained about being overlooked when it came to promotions in the Church: every primate who held office between 1702 and 1800 was of English birth, and a very normal path to promotion to the bench of bishops was to come to Ireland as chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant. Many of these, as Chart describes them, were “political hacks or obsequious intriguing courtiers.”

Among the clergy of the Church of Ireland, there was unease at the failure to call Convocation, which had not met since 1661, and which was not summoned again until 1703. When it was called, the bishops claimed for convocation the right to deal with all Church matters, to make ordinances and decrees that had the force of ecclesiastical canons and constitutions, while the clergy claimed the right to impose their own taxation.

The full convocation met for the first time in the chapter room of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, on 11 January 1704, and met for several months. They pressed for stricter observance of the Lord’s Day, a ruling by the bishops on churchwardens’ rights to punish those who failed to attend church, and debated profane swearing, public drunkenness, travelling on Sundays, the morals and manners of stage plays, and proposals for theatre censorship.

A major part of the debate was devoted to the conversion of Roman Catholics, and the use of the Irish language in this mission, including the use of Irish Bibles, sermons, hymnbooks and prayer books.

But Convocation also gave the incentive and initiative for a new wave of church building.

At this time, King reported, for example, that in the Diocese of Ferns, containing 131 parishes, only 32 parishes – the poorest parishes, needless to say – were in the hands of the officiating clergy. Neither the bishop, nor the dean nor the archdeacon was resident in the diocese, which was served by only 13 beneficed clergy and nine curates, with incomes at £30 to £100. Pluralism and non-residence were major problems for the Church of Ireland, and reform was proving a very slow process.

However, Alan Acheson judges the calling of Convocation a pyrrhic victory for the Church of Ireland, with its meetings exposing the disunity of the Church. Convocation gradually declined in importance in the closing years of Queen Anne’s reign, leaving the Church of Ireland dependent on the secular power, and therefore on the landed interest.

Primate Marsh died in 1713. Convocation was convened for the last time at the end of that year in December 1713, and it was dissolved with the death of Queen Anne on 1 August 1714.

Church and State were as divided over whether the throne should pass to another member of the House of Stuart or to the German princes of the House of Hanover. With the accession of the Hanoverian monarchy in 1714, Church and State would enter a new phase. The Church of Ireland moved from being in the hands of the heirs of the Caroline tradition to being part of the new latitudinarian age. It would not escape the challenges posed for the wider Church in the decades to come by Rationalism and Deism.

The legacy of the Penal Laws

The Treaty Stone, Limerick … the Penal Laws left a legacy of bitterness

For the Roman Catholics, the new Penal Laws have left a legacy of bitterness. Were they inspired by theological antipathies or by fear of the political influence of the Pope? The historian Lecky points out that the Penal Laws were a product of the time, when church and state were inseparable, and claims they were modelled on French laws against the Huguenots.

But inherited memory among many recalls the Penal Laws as sectarian in their intent and in their impact. This memory is reinforced by the fact that the bishops of the Church of Ireland were often instrumental in enacting and in enforcing these laws.

A state paper of the time on the state of Roman Catholics on the island lists: 838 secular priests and 389 regular priests, and three bishops (Cork, Galway and Waterford). Several Roman Catholic bishops had been expelled, and those that remained lived a precarious life, depending on the shelter provided by courageous members of their flock.

Archbishop Edward Comerford of Cashel, who was living in Thurles, Co Tipperary, and was protected by his kinsmen, the Matthew family and the Butlers of Kilcash, wrote to the Pope, Innocent XII, in 1698: “Several of our brethren have stayed, hiding in cisterns, in mountains, caves and holes. I am sustained by the bread of tribulation and the water of scarcity, but I have not given up my office and will not do so.” He remained in office until his death in 1710.

But the Lord-Lieutenant, the Duke of Portland, knowing that without bishops there could be no priests, argued that if needed Roman Catholic bishops would have to come from the continent to continue ordinations.

Meanwhile, the tracts and pamphlets of the times, and the sermons preached on 30 January, 29 May, 23 October and 5 November (the new commemorations in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer), teem with references to the enormous evils of the powers claimed by the Pope.

William King, Bishop of Derry and later Archbishop of Dublin, argued that the Roman Catholics must be held in subjection because of their religious views. They could not hold any office because they might betray their trust to the Pope. He conceded their rights to personal liberty – but not their political liberty and or any rights to the full benefits of citizenship.

King objected, for example, to a Roman Catholic priest in his diocese who was reported to have taken on himself to marry and divorce people and to dissolve marriages. On the other hand, King severely censured a landlord who took advantage of the Penal Laws to acquire the land of a Roman Catholic tenant for his own benefit.

Some of the bishops of the Church of Ireland advocated extreme measures: Bishop Anthony Dopping, in a sermon in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, urged that there was no moral obligation on the Government to observe the terms conceded to Roman Catholics in the Treaty of Limerick. On the other hand, on the following Sunday, Bishop Moreton of Kildare, anxious to find some accommodation, urged Roman Catholic priests to accept the authority of William III, and suggested that their bishops could be paid by the state. Even one leading figure in the Church of Ireland, Peter Manby (1638-1697), Dean of Derry, became a Roman Catholic as a consequence of reading Archbishop William King’s Answer to the Considerations.

The Convocation summoned in 1703 devoted much time to debating the Penal Laws, including prohibitions on the entry of Roman Catholic priests from abroad, the opening of a register of Roman Catholic priests in Ireland, extending the vote to Roman Catholics only if they took the oaths of abjuration and allegiance, and demanding that holders of Crown offices must first receive Holy Communion in the Church of Ireland.

In wrestling with these memories, historians of the Church of Ireland have failed to deal adequately with the real and shameful memories. A disingenuous example is provided by Murray (in Alison Philips) as late as 1933, when he writes: “At such times, however, the priest walked abroad at night and vanished in the early dawn, and when ardent Protestant neighbours came in search of arms they were apt to find pistol and corselet hidden away with pyx and chasuble” (Philips, vol 3, pp 160-161).

And yet, throughout all this time, pilgrimages were thriving – despite the Act banning them in 1702 – and especially at Lough Derg, which was owned by the Leslie family of Glaslough, who had provided generations of bishops and priests to the Church of Ireland.

Did the Penal Laws have any effect on the population? More than 40 years after the Treaty of Limerick, Roman Catholics still outnumbered Protestants in every part of Ireland, except the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Derry and Dublin.

An analysis of population figures calculated by using the register of hearth taxes in the 1730s shows:

Ulster: 62,624 Protestants; 38,459 Catholics; Ratio: 3:2.
Leinster: 25,241 Protestant; 92,434 Catholics; Ratio: 2:7.
Munster: 13,337 Protestants; 106,407 Catholics; Ratio: 1:8.
Connacht: 4,299 Protestants; 44,101 Catholics; Ratio: 1:10.

The Presbyterians too suffered under the Penal Laws, and also strongly resented the Sacramental Test Act. Any legislative efforts to provide relief for the Presbyterians were effectively vetoed in the House of Lords, where the bishops had a working majority. Those who were more favourable towards the Presbyterians and their plight included a Dr Wright, FTCD, who, as a consequence, found his nomination as Bishop of Cork and Ross was blocked. Instead, the vacant see was filled by Peter Brown, who was suspected of Jacobite sympathies, and who wrote a discourse attacking the practice of drinking to the “pious and immortal memory” of William III.

On the other hand, the Convocation of 1704 discussed providing the Huguenots with space in church buildings and a French version of The Book of Common Prayer, which was published in various editions in Dublin from 1715 to 1817.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin: hosted a French-speaking congregation of Huguenots (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the death of Queen Anne, the Church of Ireland – like the Church of England – was divided between those who wanted a Jacobite restoration and those who wanted the throne to pass to the House of Hanover. In 1715, in the face of the rebellion of the Old Pretender, Thomas Lindsay, Archbishop of Armagh, was reluctant to sign a covenant drawn up by the House of Lords; and eventually, when he signed it, it was said he had placed it at the end so it could be torn off in the event of a Jacobite victory.

And so the two principal archbishops – Thomas Lindsay of Armagh as a suspected Jacobite and William King of Dublin as a Lord Justice – were opposed to each other politically. King was worried that Convocation would give a voice to and an excuse for assembly to the clergy who were sympathetic to the Jacobite Pretender, and so Convocation was not called again once the Hanovers had ascended the throne.

The Bolton Library, Cashel … built to house the book collection of Archbishop Theophilus Bolton (1678-1744) and to provide a chapter house for Cashel Cathedral

The tensions continued between the English-born and Irish-born bishops and senior clergy in the Church of Ireland: King’s recommendation of Theophilus Bolton, who was born in Co Mayo, for a vacant see was turned down, although Bolton later went to Clonfert and Kilmacduagh in 1722, and later became Archbishop of Cashel in 1729.

Many of the English-born clergy were more likely to be Whigs, and therefore sympathetic to legislation conceding greater liberties to the Presbyterians. Eventually, a law was passed freeing Protestant dissenters from the penalties of the Act of Uniformity if they took the oaths of allegiance and abjuration, and made a declaration against transubstantiation.

Archbishop King finally fell out of favour with the Government, and in 1719 he was omitted from the list of Lords Justice.

Christ Church, Oxford … Hugh Boulter was dean – and Bishop of Bristol – before becoming Archbishop of Armagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Archbishop Lindsay of Armagh died in 1724, and Archbishop King of Dublin, who was about to be reconciled with his Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, was not promoted to Armagh. King was the leading churchman of the land, but he was native-born, he was independent-minded, he was quarrelsome at times, he did not promise subservient co-operation with Whitehall, he opposed the Toleration Act, and he was 74. The new Primate, instead, was Hugh Boulter (1672-1742) who, before coming to Ireland, was both the Dean of Christ Church Oxford and Bishop of Bristol at one and the same time, and was a former chaplain to the Hanoverian King George I.

As Archbishop of Armagh, Boulter became unpopular as he filled top judicial, political, and ecclesiastical posts from England, due to his distrust of the Irish-born clergy and to provide more Whig bishops who would be more favourable to the government. In his own words, he set out “to break the present Dublin faction on the bench.”

Yet, despite his staunch political allegiance to England, Boulter attempted to do his best for the people of Ireland. When the harvest failed in Ulster in 1729, he bought food and supplied to help relieve hunger. He opened new schools, and forced through parliament a bill that revalued the price of gold in 1738, to the benefit of the poor. He also tried to reform clergy incomes and to improve the standards of living for the clergy, and he tried to tackle the thorny issue of pluralism.

Archbishop William King ... died in 1729 and was buried in Donnybrook under two feet of water and nine feet below the ground

Archbishop King died in 1729 and was buried in a country churchyard – Donnybrook in Dublin – reportedly under two feet of water and nine feet below the ground. His bequests included £400 to buy glebes for churches in rural parts of Dublin, and £500 to endow a lectureship in theology in Trinity College Dublin, which he had earlier endowed with another sum of £500.

King’s place as Archbishop of Dublin was filled by an Englishman – John Hoadly (1678-1746), who was translated from Ferns and Leighlin, where he was bishop (1727-1730) to Dublin and later became Archbishop of Armagh (1742-1746).

In this period, we also find the foundation of the first Protestant Charter Schools, principally through the initiatives of Bishop Henry Maule (1679-1758), with a royal charter was issued in 1730. In other fields of education at this time, John Stearne (1660-1745) endowed a printing press at TCD, which became the foundation of the University Press, and left other bequests for TCD.

Bishops – including the English-born bishops of Irish dioceses – often had the best wishes of the Church of Ireland at heart. When Primate Boulter died in 1742, he bequeathed the bulk of his property, worth over £30,000, for the purchase of glebes for clergy and for supplementing the income of clergy in smaller parishes. Archbishop Bolton of Cashel, who died the following year, left behind a library that still bears his name and is of cultural importance to this day.

The Roman Catholics of Ireland remained under deep suspicion of Jacobite loyalties, suspicions strengthened by the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, although they had little direct impact on Ireland. But the first stirrings towards toleration were being heard among the Bishops of the Church of Ireland.

Preaching in 1725 before the House of Commons on the anniversary of the massacres of 1641, Bishop Edward Synge condemned the persecution of religious belief as useless and improper because belief is a function of the mind and cannot be affected by external force.

Bishop Synge found two Roman Catholic doctrines subversive of the state – the power of the Pope to depose, and his power to absolve subjects from their oaths of allegiance. But he was not convinced that these doctrines were held and believed by all Roman Catholics, and argued that they should be given the opportunity to disclaim them.

However, at the same time, Boulter promoted legislation introducing tougher restrictions on Roman Catholics. It was claimed that many members of the legal profession were covert Roman Catholics, and that they had only conformed nominally to qualify for their profession and office.

Boulter’s legislation required court officers and lawyers to make a declaration against Popery; to take an oath of abjuration; imposed an initial probation of five years on converts from Roman Catholicism to the Church of Ireland being admitted to the legal profession; and required those converts to rear their children as Protestants. He also promoted an act forbidding Roman Catholics to vote at elections.

This last act marks the climax of the Penal Laws and within two years Josiah Hort, Bishop of Kilmore, was arguing for its repeal. In 1745, an act was passed making null and void any marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant or ex-Protestant if a Roman Catholic priest officiated.

In the mid-18th century, the towns and cities of Ireland were governed and controlled by self-appointing and self-perpetuating ruling oligarchies with exclusively Church of Ireland memberships, and the greatest proportion of Irish land was in the hands of Protestants, and more particularly in the hands of members of the Church of Ireland.

By 1745, a vigorous campaign was under way in Dublin to overturn the oligarchic powers of the self-selecting aldermen who ruled the city, now with a population of 110,000. This campaign was led by two members of the Church of Ireland – Charles Lucas and James Digges La Touche. Lucas was also more open to the rights of Presbyterians, which further alienated him from many of the bishops and clergy of the Church of Ireland. But the successes of Lucas and La Touche inspired similar reforms in other cities and towns.

The Church of Ireland was also arousing increasing hostility because of the contentious tithes. Tithes were an important factor in agitation in the 1760s associated with the Hearts of Oak (drawing support from Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics) in Ulster, and the Whiteboys (mainly Catholics) in Munster. Draconian legislation was introduced in 1776, and in that year 20 Whiteboys were executed, some on the orders of magistrates who were also clergy of the Church of Ireland.

The Volunteer movement was aimed on the one-hand at controlling the Whiteboys and on the other at replacing soldiers withdrawn from Ireland to fight in America.

The next wave of agrarian unrest came with the Rightboys in the 1780s. By now, some of the gentry realised that release from the burden of tithes would quieten their tenants, and also leave them able to pay their rents more easily. This challenge provoked a famous response from Richard Woodward, Bishop of Cloyne, who warned in 1786 that if the existing Established Church were overturned, the State would soon share its fate.

But the Roman Catholic Church was gaining in confidence, and Catholics were gaining in the extension of liberties by a government anxious to secure their loyalty, particularly in the face of threats from revolutionary France. Catholics were admitted to the legal profession in 1792, allowed to take degrees at Trinity College Dublin, in certain circumstances even allowed to bear arms or to become army officers – between 1793 and 1815 about 200,000 Irish recruits, the vast majority of them Roman Catholics, entered the British army and navy. And the franchise was extended to a limited number of Roman Catholics.

Dáire Keogh asks whether the Penal Laws were a draconian code, or merely “reasonable inconvenices,” as has been suggested by Sean Connolly and other recent historians.

The Age of Revolution would rock thrones and change the world: America in 1776, France in 1789, and Ireland in 1798. In Dublin and London, The government was worried that continuing clerical training in France would provide a new generation of revolutionary priests – those trained in France at the time of the French Revolution included Father John Murphy of Boolavogue. And so, in 1795, the same year as the formation of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, government funding was used to establish the Royal College of Saint Patrick at Maynooth.

The effect of the Penal Laws on the Roman Catholic majority were being eased with successive relief acts that owed much to revolution in the American colonies, the growth of a patriotic spirit among Irish Protestants, and the obvious loyalty of the majority of Catholics in Ireland during the American Revolution.

As Keogh says, the story of the Roman Catholic community in the 18th century is more one of “endurance and emergence” than of blanket persecution as was previously accepted.
What were the consequences of this period for both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church? We shall try to deal with this question in our next session.

Additional reading:

John R Bartlett and Stuart D Kinsella (eds), Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Ireland (Dublin: Columba Press, 2006).
Brendan Bradshaw and Dáire Keogh (eds), Christianity in Ireland: Revisiting the story (Dublin: Columba Press, 2002).
Nicholas Canny, The Irish Constitutional Revolution of the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1979).
SJ Connolly, Religion, Law, and Power, The Making of Protestant Ireland 1660-1760 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).
Alan Ford, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland, 1590-1641 (Frankfurt am Main 1985).


10.3, Disestablishment and the Ultramontane triumph

Week 9 (13 March 2013) Field-trip: Field trip to Kilkenny: Freshford, Kilkenny Cathedral and Saint John’s, Kilkenny.

Week 10 (22 March):

11.1, From Kant and Schleiermacher to Pugin and Biblical Criticism: rethinking and reshaping Christianity.
11.2, Slaves, soldiers and women: new challenges that shaped new priorities.
11.3, Preparing for the third millennium.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture on 8 March 2013 was part of the Church History Elective (TH 7864) on the MTh course, Year I.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr Comerford,

I should like to point out to you that Peter Manby converted to Catholicism prior to 1687; William King wrote his "Answer to the Considerations" in Response to Manby's printed justification for becoming a Papist. Consequently King was not responsible for the Dean of Derry's conversion; instead it is likely that Manby converted to gain favour under James II.


J A Gilliland