« PreviousContinue »
quantity equal to one-seventh of the land so granted should be reserved for the clergy. This apple of discord did not fail to produce its natural effects, by giving rise throughout Canada to dissensions between Protestants and Romanists, Churchmen and Dissenters. Not until after many years of dangers and conflicts of every kind between the colonies and the mother-country, as well as between the various national, political, and religious sections of the colonists themselves, was the system changed. At length the attempt to override one class or section by another was abandoned, the Clergy Reserves were swept away, and a system of perfect religious equality was inaugurated. From that time discontent died out, peace and order flourished. And so it has come about that loyal attachment to England pervades the whole of our North American colonies; nor are those feelings anywhere stronger than in Roman Catholic Lower Canada, the language and customs of whose people still denote their French origin. Let English statesmen profit by the lesson, and do without more delay in Ireland that which has borne such good fruit in America.
The question of what is to be done with the tithes when the Irish Establishment ceases to exist, though a question requiring serious consideration, is not one presenting insuperable difficulties. If nothing were left but the choice of either continuing the present system, or of simply abolishing the legal obligation to pay tithes upon the death of the incumbent of each parish, the second alternative would certainly
be by far the least of the two evils. There are, however, other modes of dealing with the moneys derived from the tithes. That of handing over a certain portion of them to the Catholic priests can no longer be entertained, both as being repugnant to the principles of many Protestants, (especially to those of the Protestant Dissenters,) and, above all, because the Roman Catholic clergy refuse such aid. These ideas are set forth in a resolution of the "National Association," of which most of the Roman Catholic prelates in Ireland are members. The resolution, adopted in December 1864, was as follows:
"That we demand the disendowment of the Established Church in Ireland, as the sole condition upon which peace and stability, general respect for the laws, unity of sentiment and action for national objects, can ever prevail in Ireland. And in making this demand we emphatically disavow any intention to interfere in the vested rights, or to injure or offend any portion of our fellow-countrymen, our desire being rather to remove a most prolific source of civil discord, by placing all religious denominations on a footing of perfect equality, and leaving each Church to be maintained by the voluntary contributions of its members." These principles have been very recently affirmed afresh by the Irish Roman Catholic hierarchy. By thus abolishing the Establishment, the incomes arising from tithes would lapse to the State, as benefices became vacant. It would be for Parliament to decide to what purposes such revenues should be applied. It is pretty clear that no better use could be made of them than by applying them, in great part at any rate, to educational purposes.
The recent refusal of the Roman prelates to receive State aid was no doubt wise. It is also a course that deserves the approbation of all the friends of perfect religious liberty. Thus the Irish Roman Catholic clergy renounce all support of a temporal character, conferred by a temporal power. Having taken up this position, they may still (from their point of view) say to their people: We possess no legal means of enforcing your support, much less of wringing support from those who are not of us; we have no temporal arm to call to our aid, neither do we possess temporal power, for " the weapons of our warfare are not carnal;" we stand before you as the ministers of Christ's Church, not as the paid agents of the State; we serve the Altar, and we are content to live only by the Altar; we ask nothing of Cæsar, and we receive nothing from Cæsar; we have neither rich revenues nor sumptuous palaces; we have no other blessings to offer but the ministrations and consolations of the Church-her teachings and those of her Lord; these gifts, and these alone, have we to bestow-"silver and gold have we none."
Surely such a position and such language are those most really in keeping with the character of the ministers of Christ, who refused all temporal power, who said "My kingdom is not of this world," who used no other means of propagating or maintaining His teaching save those of awakening the conscience, convincing the judgment, and converting the heart. Can similar language be used by the bishops and clergy of the Anglican State Church, whose temporal
power and position is established and maintained. by the strong arm of the law, in opposition to the wishes and religious liberties of Roman Catholic Ireland? That Church Establishment contains numbers of benefices whose populations, varying from 500 up to 7000, very rarely include 100 churchmen, and often the number is far less. The incomes of those benefices run from £100 up to £500, £600, and even £900 per annum. Only a very few examples can be given here, as both our space and time are limited :
The actual number of those who are members of the Irish Church Establishment is only 693,357, while its annual revenues amount to £559,763. Parliamentary returns give the public grants of money made to the Irish Church from the Union in 1801 to the year 1844 as follows:
In 1842, during a debate in the House of Com
mons, statistics were produced, extracted from the probates of wills in the registry office, Dublin, from which it appears that—
Archbishop Fowler, of Dublin, left
Agar, of Cashel
Making in all the goodly sum of £1,575,000. These prelates died at various dates between 1800 and 1833, in which latter year the Church Temporalities Act was passed, limiting episcopal revenues, reducing the Irish archbishoprics from four to two, and the bishoprics from eighteen to ten. Such accumulations of wealth are assuredly not in harmony with the apostolic saying, "Silver and gold have I none." Neither are rich benefices united to immense poverty of church members in keeping with apostolic precedents. It is true, indeed, as regards the wealth left by the prelates mentioned, that those golden days belong rather to the recent past than to the actual present. The ,wealth so left arose in some cases from the possession of private property as well as from ecclesiastical revenues; but it is not the less true that while bishops of the Establishment were thus heaping to themselves riches, Roman Catholic prelates and clergy had no other means of subsistence save the voluntary contributions of their flocks. Some of the worst and