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

It is sometimes said that the Irish bishops of the period acknowledged Elizabeth's title of "supreme governor in spirituals," and abandoned the Mass for the Book of Common Prayer. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. With the single exception of Curwen, from whom nothing better could have been expected considering his past variations, it cannot be proved for certain that any of the bishops proved disloyal to their trust. There is some ground for suspicion in case of Christopher Bodkin of Tuam and Thomas O'Fihil, both of whom were represented as having taken the oath, but the strong recommendation of the former to the Holy See by the Jesuit, Father David Wolf, and the fact that the latter is consistently passed over by contemporary writers in their enumeration of the Protestant bishops, show clearly that their lapse, if lapse there might have been, was more or less involuntary. The fact that some of the bishops, as for example Roland Fitzgerald of Cashel, Lacy of Limerick, Walsh of Waterford, De Burgo of Clonfert, Devereux of Ferns, O'Fihil of Leighlin, and Bodkin of Tuam, were appointed on government commissions does not prove that they had ceased to be Catholics, just as the appointment of Browne on a similar commission during the reign of Queen Mary[30] does not prove that he had ceased to be a Protestant. That the Irish bishops remained true to the faith is clear from some of the official papers of the period. In 1564 two of the commissioners, who had been appointed to enforce the Acts of Royal Supremacy and Uniformity of Worship, reported that there were only two worthy bishops in Ireland, namely, Adam Loftus, who had been intruded into Armagh but who dare not visit his diocese, and Brady, who had been appointed by the queen to Meath. "The rest of the bishops," they say, "are all Irish, we need say no more." In the following year it was announced that Curwen of Dublin, Loftus, and Brady were the only bishops zealous "in setting forth God's glory and the true Christian religion"; and in 1566 Sir Henry Sidney reported that, with the exception of Loftus and Brady, he found none others "willing to reform their clergy, or to teach any wholesome doctrine, or to serve their country or common-wealth as magistrates."[31] In a document[32] drawn up by one of Cecil's spies in 1571 the bishops of the province of Armagh, Cashel, and Tuam are all described as Catholici et Confoederati, while in the province of Dublin, Loftus, Daly, Cavenagh, and Gafney, the three latter of whom had been intruded by the queen into Kildare, Leighlin, and Ossory, are described as Protestants, as is also Devereux of Ferns, about whose orthodoxy there may be some doubt, though unfortunately there can be very little about his evil life.