CHAPTER VIII. THE CHURCH IN IRELAND DURING THE REIGNS OF HENRY VIII. AND EDWARD VI. (1509-1553)
But many difficulties still remained to be overcome before he could boast of final victory. Con O'Neill, Manus O'Donnell, and many of their adherents were still threatening; Desmond, O'Brien of Thomond and the nobles of Munster generally could not be relied upon; while the Irish and Anglo-Irish of Connaught paid but scanty respect to the king or his deputy. Rumours, too, were in circulation that North and South were about to unite in defence of the heir of the Geraldines, that secret communications were carried on with Scotland, France, and the Empire, and that the Pope was in full sympathy with the movement. Surrounded by discontented subordinates, who forwarded complaints almost weekly to England in the hope of securing his disgrace, Lord Grey was resolved to push forward rapidly even though the campaign might prove risky. In 1538 he marched south and west, passing by Limerick through the territories of O'Brien and Clanrickard to Galway, having received everywhere the submission of the princes except of O'Brien and the Earl of Desmond. In the following year (1539) he directed his attention towards the North, but O'Neill and O'Donnell, having composed their differences, and having strengthened themselves by an understanding with the Earl of Desmond and the adherents of the Geraldines, marched south in the hope of joining hands with their allies. Having learned when in the neighbourhood of Tara that the Deputy was on the march against them, they retreated towards the confines of Monaghan, where they were overtaken and routed at Bellahoe near Carrickmacross (1539). Their defeat seems to have destroyed the spirit of the Irish princes. One by one they began to beg for terms, so that before Lord Grey was recalled in 1540 he had the satisfaction of knowing that he had vindicated English authority in the country. Instead of rewarding his deputy for all that he had done, Henry VIII., giving credence to the stories circulated by Archbishop Browne and others that Lord Grey had connived at the escape of the young Kildare and had supported the cause of Rome, committed him to the Tower, and later on he handed him over to the executioner (1541).
Meanwhile how fared it with the new archbishop who had been sent over to enlighten the Irish nation? In July 1537 Henry felt it necessary to reprove his spiritual representative for his lightness of behaviour, his vain-glory, and his remissness in preaching the pure word of God, and to warn him that if he did not show himself more active both in religious matters and in advancing the king's cause he should be obliged to put a man of more honesty in his place. The archbishop issued a form of prayer in English to be read in all the churches, extolling royal supremacy and denouncing the Pope, but it produced no effect. Once, when the archbishop attended High Mass in St. Andrew's, the rector mounted the pulpit to read the prayer, but immediately one of the canons gave a signal to the choir to proceed, and the archiepiscopal message was lost to the congregation. In January 1538 he acknowledged that though the influence of the king ought to be greatest within the city and province of Dublin, yet, notwithstanding his gentle exhortation, his evangelical instruction, his insistence on oaths of obedience, and his threats of sharp correction, he could not induce any one to preach the word of God or the just title of the king; that men who preached formerly till Christians were tired of them, would not open their lips except in secret, when they gave full vent to their opinions and thereby destroyed the fruits of the labour of their archbishop; that the Observant Friars were the worst offenders of all, refusing to take the oath and showing open contempt for his authority; that he could not persuade the clergy to erase the name of the Pope from the Canon of the Mass and was obliged to send his own servants to carry out this work; that a papal indulgence had been published in Ireland of which many had hastened to take advantage by fulfilling the conditions laid down, namely, fasting on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and receiving Holy Communion, and that all bishops "made by the king" except himself were repelled to make way for these appointed by Rome. Although the chapter in Dublin had been packed carefully to prepare the way for the election of Browne, the archbishop was forced to complain that he had been withstood to his face by one of the prebendaries, James Humfrey, and that of the staff of the cathedral, twenty-eight in number, there was scarce one "that favoured the word of God."
In a letter sent to Cromwell (1538) Agarde informed him that the power of the Bishop of Rome was still strong, that the Observant Friars upheld it boldly, that nobody dared to say anything against them as nearly all in authority were in favour of the Pope except Browne, Alen, Master of the Rolls, Brabazon the Vice-Treasurer, and one or two others of no importance, and that the temporal lawyers who drew the king's fees could not be trusted. Everywhere throughout the country it was the same story. Those who should set an example to others resorted to the Friars for confession, and were encouraged in their boldness; Nangle, who had been intruded into the See of Clonfert by the king, was driven out by Roland de Burgo, the papal bishop, and dared not show himself in his diocese; never was there so much "Rome- running" in the country, four or five bishops together with several priors and abbots having been appointed lately by the Pope, while a friar and a bishop, probably Rory O'Donnell of Derry, who had been arrested, were tried and acquitted at Trim, because the people in authority were hypocrites and worshippers of idols.