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

For so far the Catholic religion was the only one recognised by law in Ireland, and consequently when Elizabeth instructed the Deputy to see that her English born subjects in Ireland should use the English service in their private houses, she took care to promise that none of them should be impeached or molested for carrying out her commands.[19] But her Deputy was instructed to summon a Parliament in Ireland "to make such statutes as were lately made in England mutatis mutandis."[20] The Parliament met in Dublin on the 11th of January 1560. According to the returns[21] seventy-six members representing several counties and boroughs were elected. Dublin, Meath, Westmeath, Louth, Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford, and Tipperary were the only counties represented, each of them having returned two members. Of the boroughs represented seventeen were situated in Leinster, eight in Munster, two, Athenry and Galway, in Connaught, and one only, namely, Carrickfergus, was situated in Ulster. Twenty-three temporal peers were summoned to take their seats, all of whom belonged to Anglo-Irish families except O'Brien of Thomond and MacGillapatrick of Upper Ossory. According to the record preserved in the Rolls' Office, three archbishops and seventeen bishops took their seats, the only absentees being Clogher, Derry, Raphoe, Kilmore, Dromore, Clonmacnoise, Achonry, Kilmacduagh, Kilfenora, and Mayo. Armagh was vacant, Primate Dowdall having died in August 1558, and his successor not having been appointed by Rome till February 1560. But for many reasons it is impossible to believe that the twenty bishops mentioned in this list were present at the Dublin Parliament. At best it is only a rather inaccurate account of those who were summoned to take their seats, as is shown by the fact that for seven of the Sees no names of the bishops are returned; and that Down and Connor are represented as having sent two bishops although both Sees were united for more than a century. If it be borne in mind that according to the returns in the State Paper Office four archbishops and nineteen bishops are represented as having attended the Parliament of 1541,[22] although, in his official report to the king, the Deputy stated expressly that only two archbishops and twelve bishops were present;[23] and also that gross errors have been detected in the lists of spiritual peers supposed to have been in attendance at the Parliaments of 1569[24] and 1585,[25] it will be obvious to any unprejudiced mind that the return for the Parliament of 1560 cannot be accepted as accurate.

No reliable account of the proceedings of the Parliament of 1560 has as yet been discovered. It met on the 11th January, was adjourned on the following day till the 1st of February, when it was dissolved.[26] It is more probable, however, that it lasted till the 12th February. According to the Loftus manuscripts the Parliament was dissolved "by reason of [its] aversion to the Protestant religion, and their ecclesiastical government." "At the very beginning of this Parliament," according to another distinguished authority, "Her Majesty's well wishers found that most of the nobility and Commons were divided in opinion about the ecclesiastical government, which caused the Earl of Sussex to dissolve them, and to go over to England to consult Her Majesty about the affairs of this kingdom."[27] This latter statement is confirmed by the fact that the Earl of Sussex certainly left Ireland in February 1560. And yet, according to the accounts that have come down to us, it was this assembly that gave Protestantism its first legal sanction in Ireland. It abolished papal supremacy, restored to the queen the full exercise of spiritual jurisdiction as enjoyed by Henry VIII. and Edward VI., enjoined on all persons holding ecclesiastical or secular offices the oath of royal supremacy under pain of deprivation, imposed the penalty of forfeiture of all goods for the first offence on those who spoke in favour of the Pope, the punishment laid down for praemunire in case of a second such offence, and death for the third offence, and enjoined the use of the Book of Common Prayer in all the churches of the kingdom. Any clergyman who refused to follow the prescribed form of worship was liable to forfeit one year's revenue and to be sent to prison for the first offence, to total deprivation and imprisonment at will for the second, and for the third to perpetual imprisonment. The laity were obliged to attend the service under threat of excommunication and of a fine of twelve pence to be levied off their goods and chattels by the church-wardens. The First Fruits were restored to the crown, and the formality of canonical election of bishops was abolished. For the future in case of a vacancy the right of appointment was vested directly in the sovereign.[28]

In view of the fact that the cities and counties from which the members were returned resisted stubbornly the introduction of the English service, that most of the lay peers clung tenaciously to the Mass, some of them, like the Earl of Kildare, being charged with this crime a few months after the dissolution of Parliament, and that the bishops with one or two exceptions, opposed the change, the wonder is how such measures could have received the sanction of Parliament. According to a well-supported tradition they reached the statute book only by fraud, having been rushed through on a holiday, on which most of the members thought that no session would be held. Later on, when objection was taken to such a method, the Deputy, it is said, silenced the resisters by assuring them that they were mere formalities which must remain a dead letter.[29]