« PreviousContinue »
a treatise, entitled De sacris alienis non adeundis, endeavouring to prove it unlawful to go to a schismatical worship, and to join in the use of a lawful liturgy, with persons that were not of the papal communion. This doctrine was not immediately received : the Jesuit's book was answered by some of the secular priests of the church of Rome; and the matter was argued pro and con in various tracts till the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign. King James, incensed at Pope Clement the Ninth’s bull, which enjoined the Roman Catholics to keep out the Scotch heretic, unless he would reconcile himself to Rome, and hold his crown of the papacy ; and alarmed by the discovery of the gunpowder treason, — enacting severer laws against recusants, and the Jesuits by the support of the court of Rome, getting the better of the secular priests, the papists universally withdrew from the parish churches in England. The case was much the same in Ireland, where the bishops complied with the Reformation, and the Roman Catholics in general resorted to the parish churches, in which the English service was used, until the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign. But swarms of Jesuits and priests, educated in the seminaries founded by King Philip II. in Spain and the Netherlands, and by the Cardinal of Lorraine in Champagne, (where, pursuant to the views of the founders, they sucked in as well the principles of rebellion, as of what they call catholicity,) coming over into that kingdom, as full of secular as of religious views, they soon prevailed with an ignorant and credulous people to withdraw from the public service of the church.' – Life of Ormond, i. 32.
And the Roman Catholic bishop Berrington:
. For some time, the great body of the clergy conformed exteriorly to the law. ... ... ... It was, afterwards, more than once, publicly declared by Sir Edward Coke, when attorneygeneral, (which the queen herself confirmed in a letter to Sir Francis Walsingham,) that, for the first ten years of her reign, the Catholics, without doubt or scruple, repaired to the parish churches. The assertion is true, if not too generally applied. I deny not,' says Father Parsons in reply to Coke, but that many throughout the realm, though otherwise Catholics in heart, (as most of them were,) did at that time and after, as also now, (i.e. in 1606) either upon fear, or lack of better instruction, or both, repair to Protestant churches.” — Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani, Introduction, 15. 19.
And Leland :
• In Ireland, the remonstrants of 1644 contended, that the act of uniformity was not at all executed in the reign of Elizabeth. Their answerers assigned a reason, because there were no recusants; as all of the Roman communion resorted to the established churches. But, though the allegation on either side be not strictly true, yet the law, though not entirely dormant, was generally relaxed.'
Carte and Leland concur in stating, that the legal fine of a shilling a week, (i.e. a shilling Irish, equal to ninepence English,) on those who absented themselves from the reformed worship, was levied in no part of Ireland, but the county of Dublin. That county was selected for a more rigorous execution of the statute, because the eyes of the whole kingdom were upon it, waiting to see what course the inhabitants would take. And yet, all that was levied in that county, did not amount to above fourteen or fifteen pounds a year.' Leland, who states fully and feelingly whatever has been said on the Roman Catholic side, gives the general result in these words: — * However the foreign clergy and popish emissaries might have encouraged the people to repine at the penal laws, yet it is certain, and acknowledged by writers of the Roman communion, when it serves the purposes of their argument, that these laws were not executed with rigour, in the reign of Elizabeth.'— ii. 381.
Mr. Butler, however, wishes to make a contrary impression. • What language,' he asks, 'can adequately describe the barbarity of Elizabeth's religious legislation, in respect to Catholic Ireland, immediately upon her coming to the throne? Her spiritual supremacy was required to be professed by all the nation, (a nation which consisted wholly of Roman Catholics) under the successive penalties of all the party's real or personal estate, of præmunire, and the punishment of traitors by death and embowelment alive. Absence from the Protestant service was punishable by a forfeiture of twelve pence for each offence, equal, at that time in Ireland, to ten shillings of our present money. The service was to be read in the English language, then wholly unintelligible to the Irish people, but with liberty to the clergyman, if he should think proper, to read it in Latin, a language equally unintelligible to all but the clergy. Is this the legislation of a princess, whose tolerating principles and mildness, and of counsellors, whose wisdom and justice you so highly eulogize ? Does history record an instance of intolerance equally savage ?' — Vindication of Book of the Roman Catholic Church, 104.
Mr. Butler knows, that confused expressions are regarded by critics as proofs of impassioned sincerity; perhaps it was this knowledge that suggested the blundering vehemence of the accusation, that the Irish recusants were first to be put to death, and then emboweled alive. But whether this cool writer was, or was not, « affecting to be unaffected,' his opening charge would not be absurd, if he had made any attempt to prove these three particulars; that the supremacy claimed by Elizabeth was spiritual, in the sense to which he chuses to pervert the ambiguity of that term ; that the oath of supremacy was proposed to all the Irish Roman Catholics; and that even one of those who refused, was treated in the manner he seems willing to describe. Mr. Butler has not made the attempt; and the reasons which dictated, or might have dictated, this forbearance, will be deemed unexceptionable by every sober
For the first of the three particulars, Mr. Butler had before him the solemn and concurrent declarations of the queen herself, of the parliament, and of the church, that no other supremacy was claimed for the crown, than the right of ruling all estates and degrees of men within the realm, and of restraining evil doers with the civil sword :' for the second, he had the voice of history, supported by contemporary state papers, acts of parliament, and other records, that the oath of supremacy was administered only to the principal magistrates and officers of the executive : and for the third, he had the same testimony, that the penalty upon refusal was generally suspension from office; that suspension was not always followed by dismissal ; that sometimes the recusant was allowed to retire upon a pension; and at the worst, in a case of the most aggravated contumely, was imprisoned for a few days. Finally, Mr. Butler knew, from the acknowledgment of modern associations, if more respectable authority was not to his taste, that these recusant magistrates, whether removed or suspended, pensioned or imprisoned, were admitted into both houses of the Irish parliament. Such is the amount of the barbarity which Mr. Butler would have related, had he been the historian of the Roman Catholics.
But Mr. Butler does not wish that his charges should be received too seriously. Had he been asked Horace's question
Amphora cæpit Institui; currente rota cur urceus exit ? he doubtless would have pleaded his veracity or his good nature. The alleged cruelties of Elizabeth and her ministers, • fine by degrees and beautifully less,' dwindle delicately, from embowelment alive, to the infliction of — prayers in an unknown tongue! The Irish Roman Catholics were condemned, it seems, either to make up amongst them the enormous fine of fifteen pounds a year, (in persecuting years,) or to hear a service, which the pope had pronounced to be unobjectionable; which their happy ignorance of either Latin or English, rendered almost as harmless as their old liturgy, which was to be read, if they pleased, in the former language, and for nine tenths of it, in the very words of the missal or the vulgate : - and this is what Mr. Butler calls, such an instance of savage intolerance as is not recorded in history. His readers must be very morose, if they do not part in good humour from a man, who, at his venerable years, gambols thus lightly for their entertainment.