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

From 1536 therefore till 1538 the new gospel had made small progress in Ireland. Had the men entrusted with its propagation been of one mind they might have used the king's power with some effect, but the Deputy, the Archbishop of Dublin, and the Bishop of Meath were at each others throats almost continually. The Deputy treated the archbishop with studied contempt, spoke of him as a "poll-shorn" friar and obstructed his plans. According to Browne and his friends Alen and Brabazon, the Deputy befriended the papists and the friars, knelt in prayer before the shrine of Our Lady of Trim, and supported a bishop appointed by Rome against one appointed by the king. Edward Staples, a former protégé of Cardinal Wolsey, by whom he was recommended to Rome, was appointed by the Pope to Meath in 1530, but being a steady opponent of the Geraldines he was obliged to escape to his own country in 1534. There he took the side of the king against Clement VII., and on his return to Ireland, after he had received a sharp admonition from the king, he undertook to preach in favour of royal supremacy. But his views did not coincide with those of the Archbishop of Dublin. The latter was obliged to complain that Staples denounced him as "a heretic and a beggar with other rabulous revilings," and that not content with this, he preached in the church at Kilmainham where "the stations and pardons" were used as freely as ever, and attacked the archbishop before his face with "such a stomach as I think the three- mouthed Cerberus of hell could not have uttered it more viperously." He glossed every sentence (of the archbishops sermons) after such opprobrious fashion that every honest ear glowed to hear it, and "he exhorted them all, yea, and so much as in him lay he adjured them, to give no credence to (their spiritual guide) whatsoever he might say, for before God he would not."[14] The Bishop of Meath replied that the archbishop had given himself such airs that every honest man was weary of him and that he (the bishop) had come to the conclusion that "pride and arrogance hath ravished him from the right remembrance of himself." In reply to Browne's covert hint that Staples was conniving at the authority of the Pope, the latter charged the archbishop, whom he described as his purgatory, with abhorring the Mass, and prayed that an inquiry should be held.[15] An attempt was made to patch up the quarrel, but the archbishop was far from content that his authority had not been upheld.[16]

For so far the Reformation had made little or no progress in Ireland, and apparently bishops, clergy and people were still strong on the side of Rome. But during the successful military expedition undertaken by Lord Grey into the centre, south, and west of Ireland in 1538, he claimed to have achieved great success. In March 1538 O'Connor of Offaly made his submission, promising at the same time not to admit the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff or to allow others to admit it.[17] The Earl of Ormond and the Butler family generally were attached to the king's cause on account of their opposition to the Geraldines. O'Carroll of Ely agreed to accept the king's peace, but there is no evidence that he agreed to the king's religious programme. At Limerick, according to the Deputy's own story, the mayor and corporation took the oath of Royal Supremacy, and renounced the authority of the Pope, as did also the bishop, who promised furthermore to induce his clergy to follow this example. Similarly in Galway, he assured the king, he had sworn the mayor, corporation and bishop to resist the usurped jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome.[18] But as against the trustworthiness of this report it should be remembered that it is contradicted in very important particulars by another official account of the proceedings written by eye-witnesses, that the Deputy's doings on this occasion were belittled and disparaged by the privy council, that Browne charged Grey with having deposed, while he was in the neighbourhood of Limerick, a bishop appointed by the king to make room for a Franciscan friar provided by the Pope,[19] and with having supported the Mayor of Limerick, who was a strong adherent of the Geraldines, that according to the same authority, while Grey was in Galway he entertained right royally a bishop, probably Roland de Burgo, "who had expelled the king's presentee from the Bishopric of Clonfert," and that, finally, in Robert Cowley's opinion Grey's expedition had for its object not so much the extension of the king's territory as the formation of a Geraldine League amongst the Irish and Anglo-Irish of the South and West to support O'Neill and O'Donnell.[20]