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The commissioners consisted of five gentlemen of the highest respectability, of whom one is a Roman Catholic, two others Protestants, favorable to the claims of the Roman Catholics, and the remaining two adverse to them. No suspicion of unfair prejudice can, therefore, attach to the commissioners; and they appear to have conducted their inquiries with the greatest diligence, intelligence, and impartiality. They published, in this eighth report, the examinations on oath of the president, professors, and some of the students of the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth, founded and chiefly supported by government, for the education of the Irish priesthood. There cannot, therefore, be a more authentic record of the avowed principles and sentiments of the Irish Roman Catholic priests, collected under the most favorable circumstances. The question will then be, to examine how far they have departed from those doctrines and principles which, in former times, are considered as dangerous to the security of government, and the preservation of the principles of morality and virtue among mankind.
I shall call your attention to only three instances, anxiously recommending the examinations at large to the careful consideration of such members of both Houses of Parliament as are favorable to the Roman Catholic cause, and to such other gentlemen as may be desirous of taking a complete view of this important subject.
I know no part of the history of the Roman Catholic church which has more justly excited the astonishment and indignation of mankind than the proceedings of Pope Innocent the Third, and the fourth Council of Lateran, which established the inquisitionpreached the crusade against the Albigenses, in which historians compute that a million of persons of every age and sex were put to the sword—and declared that all princes who did not exterminate heretics in their dominions should be excommunicated and deposed.
The Rev. Dr. Crotty,' president of the college, and the Rev. Dr. Slevin, prefect of the Dunboyne establishment in Maynooth, were examined as to the decree of the Council of Lateran. They coolly state, that as the council was composed of temporal as well as ecclesiastical authorities, they do not think the church answerable if there was any thing erroneous or blamable in its proceedings (though the pope presided and the council is known to have been only an instrument in his hands), but that they do not consider the deposing decree as now in force.
If any transaction could be worse than those of the Council of Lateran, it would be the treacherous and cruel execution of John
Huss, at the Council of Constance, after the safe conduct granted to him by the emperor, with the consent of the council. Here, indeed, Dr. Crotty is bolder,' for he justifies the council, on the ground that Huss merited his fate by attempting to escape when he found he was about to be burnt alive.
In these two instances I have only stated the sentiments of individuals, though it may be judged what an influence the 'sentiments of men in such situations must have over the minds of their pupils; and I do not refer to transactions of this remote date with any view of dwelling on their enormity, but it is highly important that the Protestants of this country should know in what light they are represented by the leading Roman Catholic divines of the present day, and especially those who are charged with the education of our fellow-subjects, and who, in their examination before the commissioners, must have been supposed to have spoken with as much caution and wish to avoid offence as a candid statement of their sentiments would admit, and who were allowed the fullest opportunity of revising and correcting their statements. But the next that I shall mention is taken from the Public Text-book of the Course of Divinity, and is to be found in the examinations of the Rev. Dr. Anglade, the present professor of moral theology, and Dr. M•Hale, the late professor, now Bishop of Maronia.
I know no tenet ever imputed to the Roman Catholic church more destructive to morality and good faith among mankind, and of all confidence between rulers and their subjects, than the power claimed by the pope of dispensing with oaths.
In this Text-book it is distinctly laid down, that there is in the church a power of dispensing with oaths and vows, as well as sins ; so that the people of England are taxed to the amount of nine or ten thousand pounds a year, for the purpose of maintaining professors to teach the Roman Catholics of Ireland, that in some cases a priest, in others a bishop, and in all the pope, can release them from their sins, their vows, and their oaths !
I shall perhaps be told that the Roman Catholic laity have no objection to renounce the dispensing power of the pope, and are ready to do it on oath, I have no doubt of this
for it is remarkable that Dr. Anglade and Dr. M Hale have themselves set them the example ; as all the officers and students of Maynooth are required to take an oath of allegiance, in which this dispensing power is disavowed in the strongest possible terms; and 1 Page 88.
· Page 173-183. 3 In the year 1825, the total amount of the increase of the College of Maynooth was 10,6001. of which 96001. arose from the parliamentary grant, and the remainder from estates and bequests.
it is not a little curious to observe, in some of the subsequent ex.. aminations, in what manner some of the members of the college express the scruples they have felt on this account. Leaving, however, these reverent doctors to settle this matter with their own consciences, or to obtain such dispensations as they may think most efficacious, I must mention a circumstance respecting Dr. M Hale, which strongly illustrates the discipline of Maynooth.
There is a regulation of the college, that any officer or student who may write an anonymous letter, or publish any work or pamphlet, without the approbation of the presidents, shall be expelled. Dr. M Hale, while professor of moral theology, published a series of letters, under the signature of Hierophilos, grossly reflecting on the Established Church. He presented his pamphlet to the president, and it was widely circulated among the professors and students. But was Dr. M.Hale expelled ? No-he was continued in the professor's chair, and was shortly afterwards promoted to a bishopric. I do not mean from these circumstances, or from many others equally striking which might be collected from the reports, to infer that Maynooth College ought to be suppressed, or the parliamentary grant hastily withdrawn from it; but I do contend that too little vigilance has been exercised in the superintend. ence of the college, and a confidence much too implicit placed in its conductors; and that in particular it appears that a Jesuitical influence of a very suspicious kind has been allowed to establish itself there at different times.
Yet what task can be more important or delicate in its nature than that of forming the principles of men placed in the very peculiar situation of the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland-men of whom their partisans and admirers assert that on them exclusively repose the loyalty of Ireland and the peace of the empire, and that they rule the consciences and regulate the actions of seven millions of our fellow-subjects. Whether this number is exaggerated, and whether the proportion of the Protestants is (as I believe) falsely and injuriously diminished in these representations, is of no consequence to my argument.' On the contrary, the smaller the proportion of Protestants may be, the more they must need the protection and support of their fellow Protestants in England: we are, however, sometimes told that the power of the priests is only of a spiritual nature, and only exercised for the most beneficial purposes. Whether the right of election is a purely spiritual
The best estimates laid before parliament in 1825 made the Roman Catholics amount to about 4,800,000, and the Protestants to about'1,900,000, of whom two-thirds were of the Established Church. The estimates of the Roman Catholic priests made their Hocks about 5,500,000, and the Protestants about 1,600,000.
matter, I leave to the freeholders of Kent to judge; but we already know, that in the elections of Ireland the priests have begun to exercise a tremendous power. They have already, in two counties, defied the influence of property, and returned members avowedly as their mere creatures, and we are threatened that they will do so in all the counties in Ireland. That they have the power of doing so, if their influence over the forty-shilling freeholders is every where
equally great, appears from a document printed by the House of Commons in 1815, and which I believe to be the latest that has appeared. In this paper the freeholders who had been registered in Ireland for some years before were divided into three classes ; of fifty pounds a year, twenty pounds, and forty shillings. Of this last class the number returned was 177,000, while the aggregate of the two remaining classes amounted to no more than 25,000.' Those who have contended for the admission of Roman Catholics to parliament, have always represented the number likely to be returned as too inconsiderable to be of any importance; but how grossly they have deceived themselves, this document, combined with recent events, too plainly proves.
We are, however, told that the Roman Catholic laity, when once admitted to all political privileges, would throw off their bondage to the clergy, and only consider themselves as members of the state. I cannot, however, discover any instance in which they have shown a steady resolution to do so ; nor can I conceive it possible, while they remain members of a religion, the very substance and essence of which consists in unlimited obedience to the church.
An able and indeed pathetic address has been largely circulated among you on behalf of the British Roman Catholics, signed by some of the most illustrious and ancient names among our nobility; but, I must confess, that the effect of this address on my mind was greatly weakened, when I observed that the British Catholic Association afterwards returned its thanks to the fortyshilling freeholders of Waterford for obeying the dictates of their priests, in opposition to the wishes of their landlords; and that, more lately, one of the most ancient of that body of nobility had just published a letter highly commending the fortyshilling freeholders of Clare for driving out a Protestant gentle. man (though one of the ablest advocates of the Roman Catholic cause) from the representation of the county, for the purpose of returning a Roman Catholic demagogue; though they had every reason to believe that he could not legally take his seat; and thus attempting, either by intimidation or chicane (and I care not which it is) to establish a claim which has already been steadily rejected by the legislature.
| Journals of the House of Commons, vol. 70, p. 1058.
One of the most common reproaches urged against the opponents of the Roman Catholic claims is, that we are now the only intolerant and persecuting nation remaining; and this sarcasm is repeated till some at least of those who use it must be supposed to believe it. They forget that in Spain and Portugal no Protestant is allowed to live, except a very limited toleration to foreigners -that in the new states of Spanish America, though admitting the most revolutionary systems of government, the principle of religious toleration has been uniformly rejected, and that even the right of sepulture was not long since refused to British officers—that in Piedmont the Protestants are confined to a few narrow mountain valleys, beyond which they are not allowed to possess property or exercise professions--that in other parts of Italy they are only tolerated by connivance; and that in these and all other Roman Catholic countries, without exception, the use of the Bible is denied to the laity by the ecclesiastical, and in most by the civil authorities.
It is indeed extraordinary how little even among the ecclesiastical students at the College of Maynooth, and the Jesuit seminary at Clongowes (respecting which there is some evidence in the report so often referred to), the Bible appears to be known; and it is notorious that the priests take away, under pain of excommunication, even the Roman Catholic version of the New Testament, if given to the laity.
There remain the instances, so much relied on, of Prussia, France, and Holland, where it is said that all citizens enjoy equal rights;
and toleration, philanthropy and concord universally prevail. The government of Prussia is so different from our own (as having no legislative assembly), that no fair analogy can be drawn between them ; but the state of religion in that country is understood to be any thing but satisfactory, notwithstanding the very laudable endeavors of the present king to introduce a better state of things.
In France, the Roman Catholic church had received such a shock from the events of the Revolution, that its power could not possibly be restored, and a principle of toleration unavoidably took place, notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of the late pope, who, at great personal risk, opposed Buonaparte's endeavors to introduce religious freedom.
But the state of France is so far from being one of religious peace and union, that it is easy to see the symptoms of a great religious struggle in that country, which may end in some tremendous convulsion.