An Account of the Decrees and Acts of the Conciliabulum Held by the Four Heretic Archbishops of the Kingdom of Ireland in the Year 1611, in Dublin, to Extinguish the Catholic Faith, and Establish their Impious and Perfidious Sect, Remitted by Persons of Credit to the Superiors of the Irish Colleges of Spain; to which are Added Some Strange Cases, and Some Notice of the Preceding State of Things
The following resolutions were adopted at a meeting in Dublin in 1611 by the four Protestant Archbishops of Ireland. This Spanish transcript was sent to the Irish Colleges in Spain by Fr Richard Conway (1573-1626) and is translated here by Fr William McDonald, Rector at the Irish College of Salamanca from 1871 until 1876. The report is headed with the (long!) title of this post. (Note that there is an English equivalent of this statement which does not differ from the following except in its antiquated phraseology.)
In as much as the king our lord [James I — Shane], with his usual care and religious zeal for the advancement of the true faith and religion in this kingdom of Ireland, has commanded us, the archbishops and bishops of said kingdom, by his royal letters of the 12th of last April, to come together to confer and treat about the means to carry out and put in execution his Majesty’s will on this head; we, the four archbishops of this kingdom, summoned by the viceroy according to the directions he had from his Majesty for this purpose, having met here in Dublin in discharge of our consciences before God Almighty, and in compliance with the sacred royal commands of his Majesty, to whom we owe loyalty and obedience in temporal and spiritual things according to our oaths, after due deliberation, do swear and undertake, in order to realize the end his Majesty has in view, as far as in us lies, to procure the observance as well in our dioceses as in those of our suffragans the following statutes and ordinances:
1. That as far as possible we observe conformity in the order of uprooting papistry, and planting in its place the true religion, and spare no kind of labour of body or mind to carry this into execution.
2. That for this purpose we reside each of us in his own diocese and district, nor leave it without the express permission of the viceroy: remarking that we understand by district all the tract of country where we have command and authority, as in the instance of the archbishop of Cashel, who has two other dioceses annexed to his by the king’s favour.
3. That each of us, as also of our suffragans, annually visit in person all the deaneries and divisions of our jurisdiction, summoning all the pastors and ministers to appear before him to give an account of themselves and their ministry, and of the flocks they have under them, and receive instructions for the good government and proper conduct as well of themselves as of their parishioners.
4. That no one be acknowledged as pastor, minister, or priest, whose title is not confirmed by the royal authority and seal.
5. That the oath of allegiance and supremacy be offered to and required from all classes of people, and that said prelate give faith and testimony to the lord viceroy of all those who would not take it.
6. That we undertake and promise not to admit any person to promotion or ecclesiastical dignities in our dioceses who will not first willingly take the oath of supremacy, and publicly conform with all the laws of the king, and that we will give said benefices in reward to those who display zeal in this particular.
7. That each of us and of our suffragans will make diligent inquiry after such persons as may entertain or lodge vagabond clerics, Jesuits, seminarists, friars, and such like, forming a list of the parties receiving them, as also of those they receive, which shall be sent in due time to the viceroy, together with our opinion of how they may be come at, and offering at the same time our aid and assistance.
8. That we will do everything possible to repair and rebuild all the parochial churches of our dioceses; and wherever our authority is not strong enough to effect it, we will with all submission ask the favour and assistance of the viceroy.
9. That we will take special care that there be established in each of our dioceses public schools, in which freely and without any payment the natives may be taught conformably to the order of his Majesty to that purpose; and that we will not consent that any papist master may have a school and teach either publicly or in secret; and any remissness in this matter must be denounced to the viceroy.
10. That we will spare no kind of labour or diligence to withdraw the papists from their superstitions and idolateries. We will also employ all diligence and care in instructing them in the principal points of our true religion, imitating in this the zeal of the prelates of England, with whose mode of proceeding we are well acquainted.
Finally, we resolve to meet here in this capital, we the four archbishops with our suffragan bishops, at Easter of next year, that his Majesty may know and understand the diligence employed by each of us in carrying out these holy and salutary ordinances.
Attached to the report, Fr Richard Conway gave a commentary on the resolutions and their implementation. The following is an extract and translated from the Spanish by Fr William McDonald: (Father Conway subsequently goes on to quote authorities to show the holiness and intellectual vibrancy of the early Irish Church, quoting St. Bernard, Jocelyre, Theodosius, Baronius, and Jonas Abbas, among others.)
For the fulfilment and observance of these resolutions the viceroy gave them certain furious and diabolical ministers, called constables, who are Englishmen and who go about with power to rob and despoil whomever they like, without respect to person or quality; and also companies of horse and foot, who live on the Catholics, and act, some as setter dogs, others as gripers to seize and maltreat, and others to glut on these servants of God their mad fanaticism with unheard-of cruelty and tyranny.
One night they travelled an immense distance with the intention of seizing certain Jesuit priests, who were to meet in a particular place, and although they found the house-directly, our Lord was pleased to send some impediment so that there was no meeting that day, and their wicked intentions were thus frustrated; but they wreaked their vengeance on the people of the house, plundering everything they could lay hands on. All priests keep out of sight: by day they do not dare to go out in public even disguised, because for them there is no place secure, nor village, nor town, nor even the woods and mountains, for these infernal ministers leave no corner unsearched.
They have their Inquisition which goes from place to place to inquire and discover, to condemn and chastise, those who were not at their heretical meetings and sermons, or who harbour Catholic priests, or hear Mass, or wear a rosary beads, agnus Deis, crosses, images or medallions, or go to confession and communion. They also inquire who married them, baptized their children, or buried their dead; who has in his house a Bull or Brief, or any document emanating from the Pope and the holy Church of Rome. All these things have their penalty and chastisement, and the informer his reward.
In the month of August last there was a judicial inquiry in Drogheda after priests in the form customarily employed in the discovery of the perpetrators of great crimes, obliging those summoned to inform on them on oath; but the Lord gave His own in this difficulty os et sapientiam cui non poterant resistere adversarii. One said his own occupations did not allow him time to look after the affairs of his neighbours; another, that an humble man like him could not be expected to know anything of matters so far above him; another, that he wondered people so learned as the members of the Inquisition should be, could want to know anything from him who had never studied a word; and the beauty of it all was that they could never get anything else from them; and such was the confusion of the Inquisitors that they thought well to close the business and get away as quick as they could, without effecting their purpose.
They are making all haste in rebuilding the churches, which were destroyed by the heretics themselves, perhaps by the will of heaven, which desires the Catholic Faith, when restored, to find its churches ready built, though this is far from the thoughts of those engaged in the work. All is done at the cost of the Catholics, even to the expenses of the inspectors appointed to oversee the building. In the course of one year over 100 parochial churches have been repaired in the archdiocese of Dublin alone, to which a great number of heretical Englishmen have been appointed.
The greatest injury they have done, and one of most serious consequences, was the prohibition of all Catholic schools in our nation, naturally so inclined to learning, except an odd infant school in the principal cities and towns, where only reading, writing, and a little grammar are taught, with the object of sinking our people to degradation, or filling the universities of England with the children of those who had any means to educate them, where they might become more dependent on the heretics and contaminated with their errors. They have also taken singular care that all children be taught English, and chastise them if they hear them speak their own native tongue. But as these crafty heretics saw that all their efforts did not produce the desired effect, and that the natives not only did not go to England, but rather preferred to remain in ignorance than run the risk of their faith and religion by doing so, or went secretly and quietly to many foreign parts, but particularly to Spain, where his Catholic Majesty [King Philip III of Spain — Shane] protected them, and gave them some colleges, and by his example in allotting a subscription for the support of a certain number, encouraged his vassals to assist them, and placed them under the direction of the fathers of the Society of Jesus; and as they also found that from these colleges came a crowd of priests in a very short time, full of virtue and learning, who boldly opposed them, discovered their designs, brought back the erring, and pointed out the way of truth to the ignorant, prohibiting them at the same time from attending the sacrilegious meetings of the Protestants, which maddened them completely, they determined, in order to stop the ravages these colleges were committing, to found a University in the capital of the kingdom, in which they put heretical masters to teach their pestiferous doctrines, and uproot the desire of the Catholics to cross the sea. But the active diligence of our evangelical labourers frustrated their intent, and induced many more to come to Spain than formerly, so that the heretics were left without more hearers than their own children and relatives.
Convinced in the end that none of their plans produced the desired effect, they commenced to publish the fierce edicts issued against the Catholics, in which, besides what is stated above, it is commanded that no one send his son to these colleges under penalty of incurring the serious indignation of the king, confiscation of property and imprisonment. When their sons come home priests, if their fathers admit them into their house, they incur the same penalty, so that fathers whose sons at any time became seminarists run risks and are exposed to trouble all their life; and when the fathers suffer so, what will be the fate of the children if caught? We may guess what it will be from the cruelty of the heretics to Dermot Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, who, after various torments in prison, was put into boots filled with boiling pitch, butter, salt, and vinegar, which in an instant consumed his flesh to the bones, and was then brought to the scaffold and hanged with a rope of osiers to make his death more cruel and prolonged. The venerable abbot, Gelasius O’Cullenan, will tell us, whom they hung up by the feet and robbed of life with musket shots, shortly after he had finished his studies in Salamanca. [Gelasius O’Cullenan, after completing his studies in the prestigious University of Salamanca, joined the Cisterians, passed his novitiate in Paris, and became Superior of the monastery of Boyle. Henriquez refers to him as: “Ordinis Cisterciensis decor, saeculi nostri splendor et totius Hiberniae gloria.” He was martyred on 21st November, 1580. The only response he made while being tortured in prison, and offered bribes to convert to the Protestant religion, was thus: “Though you should offer me the crown of England, I will not forfeit my reward.” — Shane] The Blessed Cornelius O’Duvena, bishop of Down and Connor, will also tell us, who, on the 5th of February of this present year, 1612, suffered glorious martyrdom in this form: They took him from the prison at a horse’s tail to the gallows, where they half hanged him, and then cut off his head, tore out and burned his bowels, and cut his body into quarters; as also Bishop O’Gallagher, who being unable to ride on account of his great age he was over eighty was supported on horseback with the points of their lances, so that the poor old man’s body was covered with blood on the way to the scaffold, which they found he was unable to reach, and they cut off his head and threw him into a ditch.