« PreviousContinue »
tions, by which the Catholic clergy, and the A. D. 1614. people committed to their charge, may be assisted and guided; saving the rights of the better judgment and authority of the apostolic see, to whose correction we willingly record our submission.” After such a preface, commences the “Minute of this Provincial Conference," divided into four capitular distinctions or chapters, and an appendix. The headings of the four chapters are first given, and are as follows :
“ The First Capital Distinction relates to the The titular subject of the maintaining of an hierarchy and usurp spirisystem of jurisdiction for this province, to avoid tual juris
diction; confusion, during the absence of its prelate, and while the suffragan sees are without bishops.
“The Second Capital Distinction relates to interfere the rites of religion, and the due and uniform nistry and administration of the sacraments.
sacraments; “ The Third Capital Distinction relates to the take on them reformation of manners, and the abolition of cer- ers of mantain abuses, whether of recent introduction or of ners, &c.; older standing.
“ The Fourth Capital Distinction relates to and also to the appointment and observance of days of fast- fasts, festiing and of abstinence, and of holidays; to which vals, &c. is subjoined an ancient constitution relative to tithes and church furniture.
• The appendix to the conference is concern
A. D. 1614. ing the marriage reforms of Trent, and the Gre
gorian calendar.” Their plan The first of these chapters is again subdivided
for the set- into five sections called Documents, or lessons of ecclesiasti- instruction, for the guidance of the northern cal discip- recusants. And although it be not our purpose
to give here a full account of the records of this papal synod, yet there are in this first chapter in particular, and in the documents of which it consists, matters worthy of our attention, which deserve to be illustrated by further extracts, as will appear from what follows:
Document 1, ch. 1, “concerns the settlement of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and of an hierarchy.” It intimates “that in order to repair the state of ecclesiastical discipline, and extricate it from its present confusion, and for the purpose of tracing the outline and semblance, at least, of a legitimate hierarchy; forasmuch as there have been already appointed for the several dioceses of this province vicars general or officials, on whom devolves, according to their proper office and authority, in the absence or defect of rightful bishops, the care of governing and the admi
nistering of jurisdiction within the proper limits The titular of their districts,—it has been determined on as vicars-general to ap
expedient, by common consent, that the said point new vicars-general shall make a selection of suitable priests. persons, with sufficient literature, probity, and prudence," to be appointed and authorized by A. D. 1614. these vicars-general, to act as parish priests in the several dioceses, and “to administer the sacraments according to the exigency of the people dwelling in them.” “And all,” adds this document, “as well vicars-general as rural deans and parish priests, are to summon and invite frequently persons of the regular orders, and others noted for zeal and learning, to preach, catechize, and assist in the better performance of ecclesiastical offices, according to their opportunities and the necessities of their localities; and are to lend to these fellow-labourers, according to their ability, a cheerful and ready aid, as occasion may require.”
Document 2, of the same chapter, is “con- Their clergy cerning directions for ecclesiastical persons, not
separation to involve themselves in matters of public busi- from worldly
affairs, &c. ness, or merely secular cares, which do not appertain to them.” In this the priests are forbidden to meddle with matters of state policy, or give any offence to the king or government, except by attending to their spiritual duties; or to mix themselves up in the concerns of any private family ; or undertake the office of steward, receiver, agent, or accountant, for any secular person, however high his rank; or have any dealings about the setting of houses, lands, or farms, or money at interest, or secular contracts;
A. D. 1614. or to act the part of dependent, parasite, buf
foon, or jester to any person, however great his quality : “ from which practices, if they shall not refrain after due admonition,” say these papal authorities,
we ordain that they inay and ought to be punished by the ordinary, in pro
portion to the gravity of their contempt.” Wisdom & Such regulations as these exhibited no small policy of
wisdom, according to the manner in which they were intended to be put in practice ; and could not fail to help in raising the dignity of the newly appointed clergy in the eyes of the people, and to increase the sacredness of their character; especially when contrasted with some of the clergy and prelates of the Church, who, besides their being much involved in state affairs and public business, were also in many cases leading very careless and worldly lives, and were moreover too often guilty of injuring the welfare and interests of the Church, in order to promote their private ends, and gain advantages for their own families, and friends, and relatives. At the same time, the history of that age fully shows us, how little the agents of Rome thought in reality of refraining from intermeddling with state affairs, their peculiar doctrines rather leading men, almost of necessity, to such schemes of
* See the extract from Bp. Bramhall's letter in Appendix Ixvi. inf. already referred to at p. 863, sup.
rebellion as have been repeatedly exemplified in A. D. 1614 this history. Only to a certain extent, and in a certain way, the subordinate officers and humbler ministers of their system were, by the prudent policy of the Jesuits and other members of this conference, to be restrained from entering upon plans of the kind on their own account. Thus would they, while attending to their spiritual concerns, and learning and teaching lessons of blind obedience to Rome, be formed into a force more manageable and better available for the general movements of their ecclesiastical chieftains.
Document 3, of the same chapter, helps to The synod illustrate these remarks, by an instance of licen-condemns sed hostility to the proceedings of the civil gov- James's ernment. For this document is directed against giance. King James's oath of allegiance, and the oaths of supremacy of the preceding monarchs, Henry VIII., &c. The members of the synod profess that they detest, with the Catholic Church, treason and rebellion, but that they cannot, without most evident and serious insult to the honour of God, take these oaths, considering them to be opposed to the Catholic faith, and to the salvation of souls.*
Document 4, “Contains a statement with The laity, directions relative to the duty of lay persons
cautioned See Appendix, No, 72, inf. and the illustrations of the popular doctrines of this age and party there given,
oath of alle