CHAPTER VIII. THE CHURCH IN IRELAND DURING THE REIGNS OF HENRY VIII. AND EDWARD VI. (1509-1553)

It is true that on the 17th May Brabazon informed Cromwell that the Act of Attainder against Kildare, the Acts of Succession, of Royal Supremacy and of First Fruits had already passed the Commons, and that on the 1st June the Deputy wrote that all these, including the Act against Appeals to Rome, had passed the Parliament, and that in the same month Cromwell expressed his thanks to some of the Irish officials for having secured the assent of Parliament to all these measures. But in spite of these assurances of victory secured before Parliament had been a month in session, there must have occurred some very serious hitch in the programme. In October 1536, Robert Cowley wrote to Cromwell to complain that certain acts had been rejected owing to the action of some "ringleaders or bellwethers," who had decided to send a deputation to England to argue stiffly against them, that Patrick Barnewall, the king's sergeant was on the side of the discontents, and that he declared in the House of Commons that "he would not grant that the king had as much spiritual power as the Bishop of Rome, or that he could dissolve religious houses." As nothing could be done, the session was adjourned till February (1537), when the Deputy announced that owing to the confusion caused in the Commons by the reported return of Silken Thomas, and to the boldness of the spirituality on account of the religious rebellion which had taken place in England, no measures could be passed, and a further adjournment was necessary. When Parliament met again matters were still going badly for the king. The Deputy informed Cromwell that the spirituality was still obstinate; that the spiritual peers refused to debate any bill till they should receive satisfactory assurances that the spiritual proctors or representatives of the clergy should be allowed to vote, and that as the Parliament had refused to pass the bill imposing a tax of one-twentieth of their annual revenues on the holders of benefices, he was obliged to adjourn till July. He warned Cromwell that as the proctors and the bishops had formed a combination little could be passed until the proctors were deprived of their votes, and he suggested that as a means of overcoming the resistance of the spirituality the king should send over a special commissioner to be present at the opening of the next session.

Acting on this suggestion a royal commission, consisting of Anthony St. Leger, George Poulet, Thomas Moyle, and William Berners, was dispatched to Ireland (July 1537) to deliver the following acts to be passed by Parliament, namely, acts depriving the spiritual proctors of their right to vote, and against the power of the Bishop of Rome, together with acts giving to the king the tax of one-twentieth on benefices, enforcing the use of the English language and dress, and prohibiting alliances with the "wild Irish." At the same time Henry wrote to the Deputy and council warning them to obey the instructions of the commissioners, and to the House of Lords ordering them to ratify the bills to be submitted, and telling them that if any member be unwilling to do so, "we shall look upon him with our princely eye as his ingratitude therein shall be little to his comfort." When Parliament met again in October the spiritual proctors were deprived of their votes, and it was only then that the Act against the Bishop of Rome could be carried. The threats of royal vengeance seem to have produced the same effects in the Dublin assembly as in the English Parliament. Probably, as happened in England, those who could not agree with the measures were content to absent themselves during the discussions.[5] The truth is, therefore, that Archbishop Cromer was supported in his attitude by the bishops and the representatives of the clergy, and that the acts against the jurisdiction of the Pope were carried against the wishes of the spirituality.