CHAPTER IX. THE CHURCH IN IRELAND DURING THE REIGNS OF MARY AND ELIZABETH (1553-1603)

Shortly after the coronation of Queen Mary Sir Thomas St. Leger was sent over to Ireland as Deputy with instructions that he was to take steps immediately for the complete restoration of the Catholic religion. Primate Dowdall was recalled from exile, and restored to his See of Armagh; the primacy, which had been taken from Armagh in the previous reign owing to the hostile attitude adopted by Dowdall towards the religious innovations, was restored, and various grants were made to him to compensate him for the losses he had sustained.[2] In April 1554 a royal commission was issued to Dowdall and William Walsh, formerly prior of the Cistercian Abbey of Bective, to remove the clergy who had married from their benefices. In virtue of this commission Browne of Dublin, Staples of Meath, Thomas Lancaster of Kildare, and Travers, who had been intruded into the See of Leighlin, were removed. Bale of Ossory had fled already, and Casey of Limerick also succeeded in making his escape. O'Cervallen of Clogher, who had been deposed by the Pope, was driven from his diocese, and an inquiry was set on foot at Lambeth Palace before Cardinal Pole to determine who was the lawful Archbishop of Tuam. Christopher Bodkin, Bishop of Kilmacduagh, had been appointed to Tuam by the king in 1536, while two years later Arthur O'Frigil, a canon of Raphoe, received the same See by papal provision. At the inquiry before Cardinal Pole it was proved that though Bodkin had contracted the guilt of schism he had done so more from fear than from conviction, that he had been always a stern opponent of heresy, and that in the city and diocese of Tuam the new opinions had made no progress. Apparently, as a result of the inquiry, an agreement was arranged whereby Bodkin was allowed to retain possession of Tuam.[3] The other bishops were allowed to retain their Sees without objection, a clear proof that their orthodoxy was unquestionable.

In place of those who had been deposed, Hugh Curwen, an Englishman, was appointed to Dublin, William Walsh, one of the royal commissioners, to Meath, Thomas Leverous, the former tutor of the young Garrett Fitzgerald, to Kildare, Thomas O'Fihil, an Augustinian Hermit, to Leighlin, and John O'Tonory, a Canon Regular of St. Augustine, to Ossory, while John Quinn of Limerick, who had been forced to resign the See of Limerick during the reign of Edward VI., was apparently restored. The selection of Curwen to fill the archiepiscopal See of Dublin was particularly unfortunate. However learned he might have been, or however distinguished his ancestry, he was not remarkable for the fixity of his religious principles. During the reign of Henry VIII. he had acquired notoriety by his public defence of the royal divorce, as well as by his attacks on papal supremacy, though, like Henry, he was a strong upholder of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and of Transubstantiation. Like a true courtier he changed his opinions immediately on the accession of Queen Mary, and he was rewarded by being promoted to Dublin and appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1555). The Cathedral Chapter of St. Patrick's that had been suppressed was restored to "its pristine state;" new dignitaries and canons were appointed, and much of the possessions that had been seized were returned.[4]

The Mass and Catholic ceremonies were restored without any opposition in those churches in Dublin and Leinster into which the English service had been introduced. A provincial synod was held in Dublin by the new archbishop (1556) to wipe out all traces of heresy and schism. Primate Dowdall had convoked previously a synod of the Northern Provinces at Drogheda to undertake a similar work. In this assembly it was laid down that all priests who had attempted to marry during the troubles of the previous reign should be deprived of their benefices and suspended; that the clergy who had adopted the heretical rites in the religious celebrations and in the administration of the Sacraments should be admitted to pardon in case they repented of their crimes and could prove that their fall was due to fear rather than conviction; that all the ancient rites and ceremonies of the Church in regard to crosses, images, candles, thuribles, canonical hours, Mass, the administration of the sacraments, fast days, holidays, holy water, and blessed bread should be restored; that the Book of Common Prayer, etc., should be burned, and that the Primate and the bishops of the province should appoint inquisitors in each diocese, to whom the clergy should denounce those who refused to follow the Catholic worship and ceremonies. Arrangements were also made to put an end to abuses in connexion with the bestowal of benefices on laymen and children, with the appointment of clerics to parishes and dignities by the Holy See on the untrustworthy recommendation of local noblemen, with the excessive fees charged by some of the clergy, with the neglect of those whose duty it was to contribute to the repairs of the parish churches, and with the failure of some priests to wear a becoming clerical dress.[5]