Letter to the Catholic Clergy of Ireland by Dr. Bartholomew Woodlock, Rector of the Catholic University of Ireland
3rd November, 1873
Rev. Dear Sir,
Some months ago, as you are aware, a scheme of University Education for Ireland was introduced into Parliament. In it the declarations of our Prelates, and our own oft-repeated profession of the necessity of Catholic Education for Catholics, were ignored, nay, openly set at nought. While the existing system was acknowledged to be “miserably bad, scandalously bad” it was sought to substitute for it a more gigantic scheme of godless education under the supreme control of the State.
To the men who, during the last few years have done much to redress the numberless grievances of our country, and who have so often promised to undo, as far as possible, the misgovernment of the past, we ought not to impute other motives than those avowed by them when introducing the Irish University Bill of last session. But, judging the measure on its own merits, we are compelled to say that it evinced a total ignorance of the wants, or disregard for the wishes, of Catholic Ireland. And if English statesmanship, even when swayed by feelings the most friendly to our country, can or will produce nothing better, it is time for Irish Catholics to look for the redress of their admitted grievances elsewhere than to those with whom false liberalism and the theories of doctrinaires prevail over the sacred convictions of a whole nation in a matter which is part of their religion.
Our Prelates, ever watchful for our spiritual welfare, and feeling that the question of University Education can no longer be left unsettled, have, by the resolutions adopted at the late meeting in Dublin, traced out for us the line of conduct we are to follow in order to secure for the youth of our country teaching in conformity with the principles of the Catholic Religion.
Having long looked in vain to our rulers for the establishment of an educational system not repugnant to our principles as Catholics, it is now full time for us to take the matter into our own hands, and use the means in our power to obtain a Catholic education, thus repudiating all attempts to force our consciences in this momentous matter. There are between 5,000 and 6,000 Catholic boys and youths in the classical schools and colleges of this county a number quite sufficient to enable us to maintain a University of our own, with its subsidiary institutions.
Many of our people have ample means for giving their sons the highest education in literature and science, and parents would confer upon them, and upon the country generally, the greatest advantages by allowing them to profit of a more extensive education, instead of removing them from school, as is now done but too frequently, some years before they are fit to enter on the busy career of life. Many fathers of families desire to secure for their sons advancement in some one of the honorable careers now open to all educated young men. And in the Catholic University and Catholic Colleges facilities for obtaining those advantages are offered to the youth of our country. In particular, the Prelates, by securing for our University the ablest men in the various departments of learning, will make it worthy to be the centre of thought, and of intellectual advancement for our Catholic people. The Catholic Church of Ireland will do as the Church has done throughout Christendom.
The Sovereign Pontiff, from whom nearly all the Universities of Europe, including some of the most celebrated in England and Scotland, hold their academical privileges, has given our Catholic University the power of granting Degrees. This privilege will be used for the purpose of advancing learning in our Schools and Colleges. These institutions will be affiliated to the Catholic University. Exhibitions and other prizes will be established in them out of the proceeds of the Annual Collection in each diocese, and a uniform course of studies, arranged after the best models, will be prepared, so that the young men who study in those Colleges may, as far as possible, share in the advantages of the University, the examinations of which they will be invited to pass at stated times.
Steps are also being taken for setting up, in connection with the University, a training school for masters for our primary schools throughout Ireland. Our Prelates desire that the Catholic University, which, in accordance with the wishes of our Holy Father Pope Pius the Ninth, and supported by your liberal contributions, they have founded, should extend its benefits as far as possible for the advancement of Catholic Education in every class throughout the length and breadth of the land.
In order to give practical effect to their resolutions, our Bishops appeal to you, Rev. dear Sir, and to our brothers of the Clergy, and through you and them to our faithful people throughout Ireland, for the pecuniary means to carry out this glorious work, which of its nature is an expensive one, and in which the Government of the country, so liberal to non-Catholic Institutions, refuses to help Catholic Ireland. “We pledge ourselves,” the Prelates say, “to have the prescribed Collection for the Catholic University made every year on the third Sunday of November, in every parish of our respective dioceses, giving it precedence of all local claims.”
In accordance with this Resolution of their Lordships, allow me to beg your valuable co-operation, and the generous aid of your flock, for the Catholic University, on Sunday, the 16th November instant.
I have the honor to be, Rev. dear Sir, your faithful Servant,
BARTH. WOODLOCK, Rector.
Catholic University, Dublin.