A Short Account on the State of Ireland by the Archbishop of Cashel, Some Jesuit Fathers and other Important Persons to the Superiors of the Irish Colleges of Spain, 1612
In July of last year, 1611, a new and furious persecution commenced against the Catholics of this Kingdom, excited principally by two heretical bishops, the one a Scotchman called Knox [the infamous Andrew Knox was Protestant Bishop of Raphoe – shane], the other an Englishman named Babington [Brute Babington was Protestant Bishop of Derry – shane], whose miserable end became soon after notorious. The one died suddenly, and the other was lost at sea, after they had satisfied their rage on an Image of Our Lady renowned for its miracles, which was the pride of the Christians of that part of the country which it adorned. This image the heretical bishops twice cast into the fire with their own hands, for none of their servants would venture to do so, and it came out on both occasions as safe and sound as ever. They then bored holes in it which they filled with chips and tar, and then our Lord permitted it to burn, repaying the miserable bishops for this great sacrilege with the deaths mentioned above. Others write to say that an arm of this image has been saved, which the Catholics carried off, while the heretics carefully scattered the ashes of the image lest anyone might collect them. This happened last September, 1611.
The native and Catholic magistrates, and other ministers of justice, have been deposed from their offices, and declared ineligible for any other under Government, for refusing to take the oath of the supremacy of the King [James I, first (Stuart) King of Great Britain and whose Plantation of Ulster saw the confiscated lands of the exiled Gaelic princes planted with British Protestant settlers – shane] over the Church, and absenting themselves from the sacrilegious meetings of the heretics; others are in prison, and the lives of many of them run a great risk. Cruel edicts have been published against the Catholics, and particularly against the alumni of the foreign seminaries, their parents, relatives, and friends, as also against all such as contribute to their education. In opposition to your colleges the heretics have established various schools, though till lately they had closed the door of all such establishments, and have placed heretical masters in them to corrupt the children from their tender infancy.
As to the noblemen and gentlemen, they annoy them in many ways, inspecting their written titles, and raising difficulties and objections to them, no matter how legally they may be drawn up, that they may by this means and through vile calumnies deprive them of their lands and possessions; and whoever does not submit to this must take out new writings made to the taste of the heretics and subject to a thousand penalties and nullities. Openly, and without disguise, they seize the lands of many who can prove the long possession of them by their ancient Irish families; and if they spare their lives, they think they show them great mercy, though they condemn them to exile, and prohibit their return under the penalty of death.
Many apostate families from England and Scotland come over to these lands which the heretics divide among them [a reference to the Plantations – shane], and one of the conditions they impose is, that they must take the oath of the supremacy of the King; and in this way they have peopled [ie. planted – shane] the possessions of the illustrious princes and Catholic Counts O’Neill, O’Donnell, Desmond, MacCarthy More, O’Rourke, Maguire, etc. They have also seized the counties and baronies of the De Burgos, O’Sullivan, O’Moore, O’Connor, O’Keenans, and others who took up arms against the heretics, and joined the forces of his Catholic Majesty [King Philip III of Spain – shane] in the wars [see here – shane] which lasted many years, in which they inflicted severe losses on the English.
Though the heretics are so anxious to extend their sect and draw people to it, yet when they find any priest weak enough to come over to them and leave the Christian religion, they regard him with contempt, and look on him as a person of low sentiments and evil life, as was seen in the case of an English priest who, when offered the oath of supremacy, said he would take it, and added that he did not consider anyone a good and loyal subject who would refuse it, by which he scandalized the Catholics, and lost the good opinion of the Viceroy, who told the Chancellor that the man would swear anything, and he would not honour him with the oath.
Latterly, after harassing the nobles, they have turned their hand to the merchants, whom they prevent from trading with foreign countries, allowing none but English to engage in this business; or if they permit any Irishman, it is only on condition of halving the profits with the King.
The object of the English in all these injuries is no other but to destroy the spirit and energy of the Irish, and compel them to become fugitives and leave their lands, or, remaining, to make them crouch in subjection like slaves, and thus root out the Catholic faith. To this end also they closed all the schools and places of study, exiling or murdering those who taught in them if ecclesiastics, removed the magistrates, prohibited the lawyers from pleading, and substituted in the place of all these, not persons better qualified, but the scum of society, who one and all rob the Christians, and in many instances murder them; so that not only the gallows are crowded with Christians, but even the trees are loaded with them, the lasting proof of the mad hatred and cruel tyranny of their enemies. All this, though occurring daily, is more marked at the Quarter Sessions, when they thus punish those who committed no other crime but that of harbouring priests in their houses.
What keeps everyone in a state of intense suspense is the fear of the approaching Parliament, which is to assemble after St. John’s festival, in which the heretics intend to vomit out all their poison, and infect with it the purity of our holy religion, and it is expected that things will take place in it such as have not been seen since the schism of Henry VIII began.
The wickedness and cruelty of these people may be seen in the Martyrdom inflicted the 1st of February, this year 1612, on the Bishop of Down, Cornelius O’Devany [see here – shane], of the holy Order of St. Francis, at the age of eighty years and thirty of episcopacy, together with his chaplain, an Irish priest. In this Martyrdom they did not observe the ordinary course of justice, for though the jury should be composed of natives, out of the twelve there was only one Irishman, and he declared that he did not understand what was said, nor agree to the verdict, and the law is that if all do not agree the verdict is null and void. But notwithstanding all this, they were condemned to be dragged at horses’ tails and hanged, to have their hearts and bowels burned, to be quartered, and to be left on the roadside to become the prey of the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. They could not find a native to act as hangman in spite of the rewards they offered, and so an Englishman had to perform the duty; nor did any Irishman take part in the proceeding.
The reason they assigned for the death of the bishop was that he was an accomplice of the Counts O’Neill and O’Donnell and others, who with the authority and approbation of the Pope, took up arms in defence of the Faith, aided and assisted by the Catholic King [Kings Philip II and Philip III gave extremely generous military aid and support to the Irish in the Nine Years’ War against England – shane] — an old artifice of persecutors to get up charges of treason and conspiracy against the Christians to cover their own malice and wickedness and their hatred of the Church, of which the cruel decrees and edicts issued here are more than ample proof.
They made enticing promises of wealth and honours to the holy Bishop if he would acknowledge the supremacy of the King [the Stuart King James I – shane], and attend their sacrilegious meetings and ceremonies, to which, like another Polycarp, he answered:— “How do you ask me to offend God, now in my eightieth year, when I have served Him so long, and He has always showered blessings on me in innumerable ways? On other occasions He rescued me from your hands, and brought me out of the prisons in which I have lain several times. A very little life now remains to me, but if it were ever so long, it is all due to Him, and I offer it to Him now with whatever kind of torments you may be pleased to deprive me of it.” At the gallows he delivered a devout and fervent discourse with a serene and peaceful countenance. The people went on their knees to get his blessing, which he bestowed on them, and then they struggled to get a bit of his garments, which the blows of the soldiers could not prevent them from seizing; and they would certainly have rescued him from their hands if he had not prayed them not to deprive him of the crown he had so long earnestly desired, and to remember that his rescue would entail evils on them and do him no good. He exhorted them to perseverance in the Faith and in obedience to the Roman Pontiff, through torments, loss of property, and even death, and placed before their eyes the eternal reward, the end of all sacrifices. When he was mounting the scaffold, the people raised a terrible wail, and shed copious tears, and uttered such tender laments that even the executioners were softened. At that moment the clouds opened, and the sun appeared with a resplendent ring of reddish colour, which lasted till the butchery was over. That same night the Lord was pleased to honour his body with a miracle which was wrought on a paralytic, who, as best he could, crawled to it with reverence and faith, and as soon as he touched it was cured. In the end the Catholics carried off the body in spite of the soldiers.
See also: Letter of Dr. David Kearney, Archbishop of Cashel, to the Irish College of Salamanca, 18th July, 1612
Persecution of Catholicism in Ireland: Letter of Fr Richard Conway, 1611
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
Irish Colleges on the Continent: Salamanca, Madrid and Alcalá de Henares (and Alcala, Seville and Lisbon)