Page images
PDF
EPUB

directions, and of all others want them most ; and, indeed, what do they not want ?

If the abject and general penury which Berkeley goes on to describe in this publication has disappeared, the problem he attacked still awaits solution, whilst Ireland is yet among the most backward and poorest parts of Europe, and its rate of progress less than, possibly, any province of His Majesty's dominions. It remains to consider the appropriateness of Berkeley's remedy, especially under the altered political circumstances of Ireland.

When he wrote this exhortation the penal laws were in force. Catholics could not legally own property in land; as farmers, their tenure was uncertain and insecure; civil appointments and the legal and military professions were closed to them; and it might be argued with some reason (as indeed Berkeley himself anticipated) that it would be futile to preach industry when the natural fruits of industry were unattainable. The very persons, moreover, to whom this expostulation was addressed were at the time, by law denied education at home, and liable to penalties for seeking it abroad. To deny men the means of improving our ó nature' was, in Burke's opinion, the worst species of • tyranny that the insolence and perverseness of mankind

ever dared to exercise.'* Yet this was the common fate of priesthood and people in the middle of the last century. All this has been happily changed. Ireland was allowed the benefits of free education long before England; the majority of her clergy have been trained for over a century in an institution founded and largely subsidised by the State; the shackles oa industry have been removed; so that there has been a fair field for the noble work recommended by the Bishop of Cloyne. The Catholic clergy of the Diocese of Dublin published an answer to his appeal, in which they assured him that they were determined to comply with

every particular recommended in it to the utmost of their power. Has this promise been fulfilled by themselves or their successors? The examination of this question will not be without interest.

Burke himself lived to see the first step taken to remedy the evil he denounced, by the establishment in 1795 of the College of Maynooth by the Irish Parliament, and its endowment with a public grant of 8,0001. a year. His correspondence shows his enthusiastic interest in the project,

* Letter to a Peer of Ireland. VOL. CXCIII. NO. COCXCVI.

G G

and how heartily he coincided with Berkeley's views as to
the civilising influence of an enlightened clergy. In a letter
to Dr. Hussey, the first President of the new College, he
declared that the welfare of Ireland essentially depended on
its ecclesiastical seminaries; and to Lord Kenmare he
expressed the hope that men in power would at last learn
(to consider the good order, decorum, virtue, and morality
• of every description of men among them, of more import-
*ance to religion and to the State than all the polemical

matter which has been agitated among men, from the • beginning of the world to this hour.'*

We do not, unfortunately, possess a report of the proceedings of the Irish Parliament in 1795, and cannot, therefore, gauge precisely the reasons which induced a body, composed altogether of Protestants, to give their unanimous vote in favour of the establishment of a Roman Catholic seminary. It is, however, abundantly clear that the Beresfords, the Fitzgibbons, and the kind of men who had just brought about the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, were not likely to favour a project of educating priests at the public expense, merely out of sympathy with them for having lost the advantage of the Continental seminaries. The colleges at Paris, Douai, Louvain, and elsewhere, having been closed by the French Revolution, it is probable that the extreme ascendency party were determined that there should be no excuse for a revival of institutions where (it was feared) clerical students might imbibe the doctrines and policy of French Jacobinism. Maynooth would be under their eyes; its programme of instruction and methods of discipline would be in some degree under the control of State nominees, and the fear of losing the grant (they probably thought) would be a wholesome restraining influence on the governing body.

Whether, in the fear and haste of the moment, precisely the best plan was adopted for attaining a very desirable end, is, as we shall see, very open to question. For the time, no doubt, the gap was filled ; without timely State assistance during the Continental wars and troublous times that followed, there would have been no means whatever of educating the clergy ; and, in any event, education abroad never could have remained the permanent system. The

ikely tought 16. hitzgibowever, shment to give

* Letter to a Peer of Ireland,' Burke's Works, vol. vi., p. 280; cf. Sheil's statement that it is at Maynooth that the great business of national reformation should commence' (' Sketches,' vol. ii. p. 242).

establishment of Maynooth, moreover, secured the enduring advantage of relieving a poor population from a serious tax on their resources; and the far more important result, from the point of view of the State, of furnishing a body of men who have been, in the main, zealous and efficient guardians of good order and morals. In realising, however, the large aims of Burke and Berkeley the best friends of the College can hardly claim for it conspicuous success. Looking back on the century that has passed, though the clergy may boast of having kept the people virtuous, they have done little or nothing in the way of making them energetic, well-informed, skilful, and industrious. It can no longer be said that those who practise these virtues are prevented from meeting their due reward; whilst those whose mission it is to preach them have vastly greater scope and opportunity now than in the last century. The national system of education, which is gradually becoming compulsory, has become strictly denominational in practice, and in the great majority of schools the Catholic priest is the manager. In most Irish cabins or farmhouses the only form of literature or source of information is the daily or weekly press; and if a few newspapers make it their business to oppose the influence of the priests, the rest make up for it in fervour of sentiment on the clerical side. We do not propose to touch on the vexed subject of the interference of priests in politics, except to say that the fact that a section of the press is devoted to opposing such influence is in itself a testimony to its existence. The rebuking and exhorting which, in Berkeley's day, were confined to the pulpit and the fireside, can now be extended to the schoolroom and the polling-booth.

Treating this power of the clergy as a fact, and not considering for the moment whether it is desirable or not, let us see how it has been exercised, and judge by the result of a century's working.

On some matters there can be no doubt, for there is general agreement. Taking the verdict, not of party politicians, but of the mass of observers, both travellers and resident, the mainspring of Irish poverty (apart from lack of native coal or iron) is either ignorance or indolenceusing these terms to cover, on the one hand, lack of skill in arts and industry, and on the other, want of enterprise, assiduity, and perseverance. A third causa causans, intemperance, may be ranked apart, as causing a direct material loss which is perhaps measureable, and an indirect moral injury that is incalculable. Here is a triple field of work

pate Canon Bathods of dairying organisationed it, have brom

for men who can speak with authority-where silence is almost equivalent to encouragement, where reproval, rebuke, exhortation, might work reformation. Clergymen need not be agricultural experts, or masters of the industrial arts, to enable them to show the advantage of technical knowledge and skill, and to give useful and encouraging suggestions. In this direction little or nothing has been done by the priests. It was reserved for a Protestant clergyman, the late Canon Bagot, to start the movement for scientific and improved methods of dairying and butter making; and the co-operative and agricultural organisation societies, which have taken up his work and greatly extended it, have been established and spread with little or no assistance from the Catholic clergy, who, if not openly opposed to this movement, have adopted a general attitude of suspicion and distrust. It is remarkable that the Dublin daily newspaper which specially voices the interests of the clergy, and is generally read by them, has for years denounced the Irish Agricultural Organisation and all its works. 'Political

dodgery’and Plunkettian nonsense'is some of the language used to describe the co-operative movement.* It is generally recognised that to the Report of the Recess Committee in 1896 is due the recent establishment and endowment of the Department of Agriculture and Industry; but out of twentythree names on the list of that committee, there were only two Catholic clergymen-one a Jesuit, the other a Fellow of the Royal University who has never taken part in missionary work. Not a single Catholic bishop or parish priest took part in the deliberations of the Committee, and this was certainly not for want of invitation or opportunity.t

So with the attempts (in many districts highly successful) to establish cottage and home industries, such as lacemaking, wood-carving, and embroidery. This has been the work of local residents and of zealous communities of nuns, as, for example, the convents at Youghal and Foxford. With few exceptions the clergy have taken no part in it.

We need not say much on the well-worn theme of indolence. Seldom or never is the pulpit used to preach the

* See letter addressed by Mr. Horace Plunkett to the . Freeman's Journal,' January 23, 1899.

+ It is significant that when the Rev. T. A. Finlay, S.J., went to Maynooth a short time ago to expound the principles of the cooperative movement (of which he has long been a leader), his views met with strong opposition from the professors and others taking part in the discussion.

simple virtue of honest, strenuous labour, or to denounce idleness, lounging, and carelessness; and private rebuke or exhortation is as rare, to judge by well-known facts and experience. The inefficiency of labour is, beyond all doubt, one of the causes which have induced employers to dispense with it, as far as possible, both in agriculture and industry. A feature almost peculiar to Ireland is the swarm of loafers, to be seen, at all seasons and in all weathers, at street corners, staring curiously at the passers-by-able, yet unwilling, to work. Their characteristics were much the same in Bishop Berkeley's days as now. “Ask them,' be states, why they do not labour to earn their own livelihood, 'they will tell you they want employinent; offer to employ ' them and they shall refuse your offer; or if you get them • to work one day you may be sure not to see then the 'next. I have known them decline the lightest labour, that of haymaking, having at the same time neither clothes for their backs nor food for their bellies.

The Assistant Commissioners appointed under the user Labour Commission did not fail to notice thós clase idlers, but suggested no remedy except (to be the wa one of the commissioners, Mr. W.P. O'Brien, kan je

as they themselves elect ... to follow their use • devices. There is, perhaps, no remedy, enes tas na the authority and influence of the clergs uz Da F they actively and systematically denonuset tas ne fession of idleness, there is reason those tas I OK shamed out of existence.

As to the evils resulting from SET DE material loss exceeding the wine granita Tas Ireland, and a moral and pbrain mo tat . SER serious—the clergy in general man w cree en g as the evil demands. It is tar ti m e tax ra intemperance causes wrongdane me te # * * of denunciation ; but that imemsa

2

* Bishop Doyle cannot be un

m e s : countrymen when in his Paxona s

a

ang bis flock : What are the suure Torso selves, springing out of yote

na your own drunkendent tur

p

k to impose = improving your own soutien m

zir improve until increasing DONE

.. to the laws and see

on JB Appendix to Lords ke Isus a v i by Nassau Senior.

3.

« PreviousContinue »