CHAPTER VII. RELIGION IN IRELAND DURING THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY

In the beginning, as has been shown, the Holy See interfered to express its disapproval of the policy of exclusion whether adopted by the Normans or the Irish, but later on, when it was found that a reconciliation was impossible, the Pope deemed it the lesser of two evils to allow both parties to live apart. Hence the Norman community of Galway was permitted to separate itself from the Irish population immediately adjoining, and to be governed in spirituals by its own warden (1484); and Leo X. approved of the demand made by the chapter of St. Patrick's, Dublin, that no Irishman should be appointed a canon of that church (1515).[9] But though the Holy See, following the advice of those who were in a position to know what was best for the interests of religion, consented to tolerate a policy of exclusion, it is clear that it had no sympathy with such a course of procedure. In Dublin, for example, where English influence might be supposed to make itself felt most distinctly, out of forty-four appointments to benefices made in Rome (1421-1520) more than half were given to Irishmen; in the diocese of Kildare forty-six out of fifty-eight appointments fell to Irishmen (1413-1521), and for the period 1431- 1535, fifty-three benefices out of eighty-one were awarded in Meath to clerics bearing unmistakably Irish names.[10] Again in 1290 Nicholas IV. insisted that none but an Irishman should be appointed by the Archbishop of Dublin to the archdeaconry of Glendalough, and in 1482 Sixtus IV. upheld the cause of Nicholas O'Henisa whom the Anglo-Irish of Waterford refused to receive as their bishop on the ground that he could not speak English.[11]

But though attempts were made by legislation to keep the Irish and English apart, and though as a rule feeling between both parties ran high, there was one point on which both were in agreement, and that was loyalty and submission to the Pope. That the Irish Church as such, like the rest of the Christian world, accepted fully the supremacy of the Pope at the period of the Norman invasion is evident from the presence and activity of the papal legates, Gillebert of Limerick, St. Malachy of Armagh, Christian, Bishop of Lismore, and St. Laurence O'Toole, from the frequent pilgrimages of Irish laymen and ecclesiastics to Rome, from the close relations with the Roman Court maintained by St. Malachy during his campaign for reform, and from the action of the Pope in sending Cardinal Paparo to the national synod at Kells (1152) to bestow the palliums on the Archbishops of Armagh, Dublin, Cashel, and Tuam. Had there been any room for doubt about the principles and action of the Irish Church the question must necessarily have been discussed at the Synod of Cashel convoked by Henry II. to put an end to the supposed abuses existing in the Irish Church (1172), and yet, though it was laid down that in its liturgy and practices the Irish Church should conform to English customs, not a word was said that could by any possibility imply that the Irish people were less submissive to the Pope than any other nation at this period.[12]

After the Normans had succeeded in securing a foothold in the country, both Irish and Normans were at one in accepting the Roman supremacy. The Pope appointed to all bishoprics whether situated within or without the Pale; he deposed bishops, accepted their resignations, transferred them from one See to another, cited them before his tribunals, censured them at times, and granted them special faculties for dispensing in matrimonial and other causes. He appointed to many of the abbeys and priories in all parts of the country, named ecclesiastics to rectories and vicarages in Raphoe, Derry, Tuam, Kilmacduagh, and Kerry, with exactly the same freedom as he did in case of Dublin, Kildare or Meath, and tried cases involving the rights of laymen and ecclesiastics in Rome or appointed judges to take cognisance of such cases in Ireland. He sent special legates into Ireland, levied taxes on all benefices, appointed collectors to enforce the payment of these taxes, and issued dispensations in irregularities and impediments.

The fiction of two churches in Ireland, one the Anglo-Irish acknowledging the authority of the Pope, the other the Irish fighting sullenly against papal aggression, has been laid to rest by the publication of Theiner's Vetera Monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum , the Calendars of Papal Letters, the Calendars of Documents (Ireland) and the Annats. If any writer, regardless of such striking evidence, should be inclined to revive such a theory he should find himself faced with the further disagreeable fact that, when the English nation and a considerable body of the Anglo-Irish nobles fell away from their obedience to Rome, the Irish people, who were supposed to be hostile to the Pope, preferred to risk everything rather than allow themselves to be separated from the centre of unity. Such a complete and instantaneous change of front, if historical, would be as inexplicable as it would be unparalleled.