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sense and honest principles of Englishmen be brought to bear upon the momentous subject of Church patronage. And let us not be afraid of looking at Episcopal Charges and Sermons, and bringing them (as the Bereans did the preaching of Paul) to the test of Scripture. And a main question to be asked, in reference to these Charges and sermons is, how many of them, (looking back on the last ten or twelve years) have evinced either such soundness of Protestant principles, or such soundness of theological learning, as might prove the writers to be able to grapple with Tractarianism.
V. D. M.
EXCOMMUNICATION BY BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE, IN THE
NORTH OF IRELAND, IN THE YEAR 1846. Verdict of 701. Damages against the Rev. Luke Walsh, P. P.., at the late
Carrickfergus Assizes, for having “cursed," and excommunicated Charles
M'Loughlin, one of his Congregation. SINCE the article in our preceeding number for April was printed, the following report of a most important trial has been sent us. It is a case so important in itself, and so entirely illustrative of the statements in our former article, that we do not scruple to give it at full length. For the one case of this man who is bold enough to encounter the danger of opposing the priest, there may be hundreds and thousands who quail beneath his power in abject and unscriptural servility.
This was an action brought by the plaintiff, a miller, in the parish of Culfeightrin, and an Irish Scripture reader, against the parish priest, the Rev. Luke Walsh, for injury and damages received, in consequence of being cursed from the altar by the defendant. The case excited very great interest, and the Court was crowded to excess during the trial.
The declaration contained two counts—first, that the plaintiff was a parishioner of Culfeightrin, and the defendant parish priest of that parish ; and that the plaintiff, as a teacher of the Scriptures, in the Irish language, and the owner of a mill, had lived on terms of intimacy with, and possessed the good opinion of his neighbours, and made gain by his mill; and the defendant, intending to injure the plaintiff, &c., on the 18th of August, 1844, during divine service in a Roman Catholic chapel, pronounced the plaintiff excommunicated, meaning, thereby, that the plaintiff was unworthy of the general society of the parishioners, and that they should not have any dealings with him. The second count set out the words in which the excommunication was alleged to be made, viz :-“My curse and God's curse on Charles M'Loughlin, Hugh Shields, and John M'Cay, and on all who will work with, and hold any communication with, the accursed teachers of the Irish Bible”-and alleged special injury. Damages, 5001. Defendant pleaded the general issue.
Mr. Tomb, Q.C. stated the plaintiff's case. He said that the jury had heard the pleadings opened, and were aware of the nature of the action they had to try. It now became his duty to lay before them an outline of transactions and circumstances which, if he had been correctly instructed, would be proved in evidence. The case excited great public interest; and he did not wonder that it should be so, for it involved a question of great importance to all the inhabitants of these countries, and especially of vast importance to the Roman Catholic portion of them, whether the clergy of that church possessed the power claimed and exercised by the reverend defendant in this case-whether the law suffered any individual to have the power to denounce another from the altar-to curse him, and expose him to the hatred and execration of his neighbours and friends—to exclude him from social intercourse, and deprive him of the means of earning his bread, because he had displeased some Roman Catholic clergyman, and had committed no offence or crime known to the laws of his country or the laws of God. If this tremendous power were possessed, his client must go out of court to remedy it; and he (the learned counsel) would only have to lament that such a power as was claimed and exercised by the reverend defendant could be exercised in this country; and to regret that Roman Catholics were what some people said—said, he believed, unjustly-namely, what they were not, the meanest slaves on the face of the earth. He did not believe that the law recognised any such authority as was claimed by the defendant; and he was convinced that their verdict would show that no clergyman, bishop, or other individual could with impunity act in the manner his client complained of. The plaintiff, Charles M'Loughlin, was a man in an liumble situation in life; he was a miller, and resided at Culfeightrin, in the glens—the lower part of this county. He had been brought up as a member of the Roman Catholic Church-a faith which, he (the learned counsel) believed, the inhabitants of that district were almost exclusively of. They were the descendants of some Highland clans, which had come to this country under the protection of one of the ancestors of the Antrim family; and they still . continued their native language, the Gælic or Erse, to which they were much attached. His client was better educated than most of his neighbours ; he understood the Irish language, and could read and speak it well and grammatically; he was a man of good character, and of honest and industrious habits. About 1843 he became what is called an Irish Scripture teacher, in the employment of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in this country, which was the governing body of that Church in Ireland. It consisted of clergymen and laymen, who believed in the written Word of God; and held that it was not only the privilege, but the duty, of every person to be acquainted with the contents of that book. They also held that it was their duty to communicate to others the precepts contained in that Sacred Volumea book which was recognised by every branch of the Church of Christ, and which should be recognised by all God's rational and accountable beings. The General Assembly employed certain persons to read the Scriptures in the Irish language to as many individuals as were inclined to receive instruction, and those teachers also communicated such information to those who desired to be educated, as enabled them to read the Scriptures themselves. One of ihose persons was the plaintiff, M'Loughlin ; and he undertook that
occupation, not considering it any harm to do so, not considering it a crime nor an offence against any individual in the community. He had thought, and he still thought, he had a right to do as he had done. He (Mr. Tomb) claimed it as the right-the indubitable right-of his client to read the Bible himself, to read it to others, and to teach others to read it. He said to the jury, under the correction of the learned and venerable judge, and in the presence of that crowded court, that in doing as he (Mr. Tomb) had stated, M'Loughlin had committed no offence against any law-divine or human; and that no body of men liad the right to prohibit him, in the exercise of that occupation-still less to punish him for following it. The learned counsel was anxious to state that distinctly. He was anxious to know if the defendant had instructed his counsel to deny that right there, as he had denied it elsewhere; or, had he the power to crush any man who persevered in it, contrary to his (the defendant's) prohibition ? He (Mr. Tomb) was not there to enter upon a polemical or doctrinal discussion. As a lawyer, he was not going to contend that it was not open to the reverend defendant to endeavour, by reasoning or persuasion, to prevent his hearers from reading the Bible-he could not contend, as a lawyer, that the defendant bad not a right to persuade them that it was dangerous to read the Bible, however difficult it might be for him to succeed in establishing that ; and, because the defendant could not succeed in putting down his client, strong and unjustifiable means had been resorted to. When the effects of his client's labours had been discovered, the defendant set about forbidding and preventing him; persuasion had been used; that had failed; threats of no slight kind had been held out; he said he would curse him at the altar, and tell his hearers not to speak to him. On one occasion when accompanied by his curate, he overtook the plaintiff on the road, and read him a long lecture, with a view to prevent him from reading the Scriptures. Finding persuasion would not do, he threatened him, in a manner that would satisfy the jury of his (the defendant's) conception of his power. He said he would “put man, woman, and child, from speaking to him," that “they would not walk on the saine side of the road with him," that he would not get a single hand's turn to do,” and that he would "leave his mill as dry as the road," and that this would be intimated in the chapel, and that the plaintiff would be cursed “by bell, book, and candle.” When this curse was about being made in the chapel, some of the flock interceded on behalf of Mr. M.Loughlin, saying that they would remonstrate with him, and make him submissive to his reverence. He said, nothing but the plaintiff ceasing to be a teacher would satisfy him. Witnesses would be there, and would tell the jury, if they were willing, or if they dare, that they were told by the defendant, that if the plaintiff were due to them any debts, they would have to collect them within a stated time; for, after a certain day, they would not have the power to communicate with him. Some persons remonstrated with the defendant, that an injunction of this kind would be a serious injury to them, as they were bound, by clauses in their leases, to have their corn ground by M'Loughlin's mill; or, in default, to subject themselves to a penalty. The reverend gentleman taught them how to evade that agreement; he told them to sell their corn and buy meal. He (Mr. Tomb) need not detail all the means of intimidation that had been resorted to; but it was all of no avail ; and the reverend defendant gave notice that he would proceed to curse the plaintiff at the altar,
On the 18th day of August, 1844, after celebration of the mass, the defendant addressed his congregation in an animated harangue. He (Mr. Tomb) understood he spoke in a manner which showed that he was greatly excited. He denounced this reprobate sinner (the plaintiff) as having been guilty of reading and teaching the Scriptures; and in the presence of a woman, who had become penitent for the commission of a like offence, and received favour and communion, he proceeded to deliver the curse—the greater excommunication, against the plaintiff, and some other persons, in words to the following effect:-“My curse and God's curse upon Charles M.Loughlin, Hugh Shields, and John M-Cay, and upon all that work in the same field with them, or eat at the same table.” Witnesses would prove, substantially, that that curse had been uttered. He knew how reluctant and timid the witnesses would be, but he ventured to anticipate that they would prove enough to shew that the malediction complained of had been spoken against his client; and that the form had been observed with the greatest solemnity; that a bell was rung; that candles were extinguished; that a book was shut; and the congregation was in a great state of agitation ; and that it was necessary to carry out some females that had been greatly affected by the imposing character of the ceremony. It was lamentable to contemplate such a scene, as occurring in a Christian church, and at the instigation of a minister of the Gospel of Christ, which inculcated “peace on earth and good will towards men,”-a professing servant of him who desired his people “ to love one another,”—and a follower of the Apostle Paul, who told us to “bless and curse not.” It was deplorable to think of such a curse being spoken by a man against his fellow-man, for no other cause than that of reading the Bible, and teaching others to read it. The consequences which the reverend gentleman anticipated, did not fail to be accomplished. He said, that “man, woman, or child, would not speak to the plaintiff, or walk on the same side of the road with him." Nor did his neighbours speak to him, for they passed on the other side of the road without acknowledging him. He said that he “would not get a hand's turn to do, and that his mill would be as dry as the road." Not one hand's turn did he get to do, and his mill was idle. Nay, further, persons who sold little commodities in that remote district, would not allow him to make purchases from them; and he had to go to Ballycastle to buy any articles that he might require. At fairs and markets people shunned him as they would shun a leper; and on an occasion when he went to purchase corn in Ballycastle, on his approach a person fled from a cart rather than communicate with the accursed man. Doors were closed against him, his children were persecuted, and his son had been beaten by other children. Had the plaintiff not been supported by some gentlemen in the neighbourhood, he might have left his place, and begged his bread where a priest's curse was of less fearful consequences. He, however, stood his ground; and he (Mr. Tomb) thought he had done right. How the reverend defendant would justify the acts that had been detailed, he (counsel) could not conjecture. No laws of any Church could authorize such conduct. Were the court and jury to be told that it had been done by the consent or approbation of a bishop; or was that to be alleged in defence as justification of acts, wicked, illegal, and unchristian ? He felt it difficult to believe that such a defence could be set up. Were these men infatuated ?—was such a plea to be put forth in the nineteenth century ? -- were they blind to what was passing around them ?-to what was going on in Germany, France, Switzerland, aye, even in Italy? If they think such a defence sustainable, or that the intelligent Roman Catholic laity would submit to it, he warned parties entertaining such an opinion that they were mistaken. He denied the legality of the alleged right of priest or bishop to exercise such a power. The acts were illegal, and they knew them to be illegal. [Counsel read an extract from evidence given by Dr. Doyle, Roman Catholic Bishop, before a Parliamentary Committee, in 1824. It stated, respecting "the greater excommunication,” that parties in some cases, had “ redress at law," and that the priesthood were careful, for their own safety sake, not to denounce persons, even when “most obdurate, wicked, and scandalous," lest they should bring upon them temporal evils.] Even when an offending party was most obdurate, wicked, and scandalous, they did not venture to denounce him. If, however, a man were scandalous, obdurate and wicked, he might escape ; but no mercy would be shown to the man whose offence was that of reading the Scriptures in the Irish language. The priest thought it necessary to put down that sin; and he had done so, declaring the effect he had been intending to produce, namely, to deprive the plaintiff of the means of earning his bread, and to bring him to a state of starvation. The case of his client would be laid before them in evidence; and he trusted they would not sanction such a power as was claimed by the defendant; nor need he tell them any man was at full liberty to act as his client had done. He would also tell them, that if the legislature would pass an Act of Parliament-it was almost indecent to supposé such a thing ; but, if it were possible for the legislature to pass an Act of Parliament, requiring the subjects of these realms not to read the Holy Scriptures, no man in the country would, he (the learned counsel) submitted, under the correction of the Court, he obliged to obey the law. - He would obey the Higher Tribunal, and would read the Word of God. Such an Act of Parliament would be void ; and that the legislature could not do, was not to be supposed as capable of being accomplished by the parish priest of Culfeightrin, who would prohibit the gospel message being sent to
ods intellig ent and rational creatures. From a Church law, which seemed alike incompatible with civil and religious liberty, he (the learned counsel) appealed to the law of the land. He asked his Lordship to tell them (the jury) that that law did not recognise the acts complained of by the plaintiff; and if the Court told them that they were illegal, he called upon them to give his client redress for the injury he had sustained; and to declare to the world that no individual could prevent that which the law did not prohibit, and which was no offence against God or man, and which could do no injury to any