Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

372

ECCLESIASTICAL PAYMENTS.

If it depended upon me, I would send the Duke of Devonshire there to-morrow, with nine chaplains and several tons of Protestant theology. I have no love of popery, but the pope is at all events better than the idol of Juggernaut, whose chaplains I believe we pay, and whose chariot I dare say is made in Long Acre. We pay £10,000 a year to our ambassador at Constantinople, and are startled with the idea of communicating diplomatically with Rome, deeming the Sultan a better Christian than the pope!

The mode of exacting clerical dues in Ireland is quite arbitrary and capricious. Uniformity is out of the question ; everything depends on the disposition and temper of the clergyman. There are salutary regulations put forth in each diocese respecting church dues and church discipline, and put forth by Episcopal and synodical authority. Specific sums are laid down for mass, marriage, and the administration of the Eucharist. These authorized payments are moderate enough, but every priest, in spite of these rules, makes the most he can of his ministry, and the strangest discrepancy prevails, even in the same diocese, in the demands made upon the people. The priest and his flock are continually coming into collision on pecuniary matters. Twice a year the holy man collects confession money under the denomination of Christmas and Easter offerings. He selects, in every neighbourhood, one or two houses in which he holds stations of confession. Very disagreeable scenes take place when additional money is demanded, or when additional time for payment is craved. The first thing done when there is a question of marrying a couple is, to make a bargain about the marriage money. The wary minister watches the palpitations, puts on a shilling for every sigh, and two-pence on every tear, and maddens the impetuosity of the young lovers up to a pound sterling. The remuneration prescribed by the diocesan statutes, is never thought of for a moment; the priest makes as hard a bargain as he can, and the bed the poor peasants are to lie upon is sold, to make their concubinage lawful;- but every one present at the marriage is to contribute ;- the minister, after begging and entreating some time to little purpose, gets into a violent rage, abuses and is abused ;-—and in this way is celebrated one of the sacraments of the Catholic Church !-- The same scenes of altercation and abuse take place when gossip-money is refused

IRISH CHURCH SUPPORT.

873

66

at baptisms; but the most painful scenes take place at extreme unction, a ceremonyt, which the common people in Ireland attach the utmost importance. Pay me beforehand—this is not enough - I insist upon mi re, I know you can afford it, I insist upon a larger fee!”—and all this before the dying man, who feels he has not an hour to live! and believes that salvation depends upon the timely application of this sacred grease.

Other bad consequences arise out of the present system of Irish Church support. Many of the clergy are constantly endeavouring to overreach and undermine one another. Every man looks to his own private emolument, regardless of all covenants, expressed or implied. The curate does not make a fair return to the parish priest, nor the parish priest to the curate. There is a universal scramble !--every one gets what he can, and seems to think he would be almost justified in appropriating the whole to himself. And how can all this be otherwise ? How are the poor, wretched clergy to live, but by setting a high price on their theological labours, and using every incentive of fear and superstition to extort from six millions of beggars the little payments wanted for the bodies of the poor, and the support of life! I maintain that it is shocking and wicked to leave the religious guides of six millions of people in such a state of destitution ! — to bestow no more thought upon them than upon the clergy of the Sandwich Islands! If I were a member of the cabinet, and met my colleagues once a week, to eat birds and beasts, and to talk over the state of the world, I should begin upon Ireland before the soup was finished, go on through fish, turkey, and saddle of mutton, and never end till the last thimbleful of claret had passed down the throat of the incredulous Haddington: but there they sit, week after week; there they come, week after week; the Piccadilly Mars, the Scotch Neptune, Themis Lyndhurst, the Tamworth baronet, dear Goody, and dearer Gladdy,* and think no more of paying the Catholic clergy, than a man of real fashion does of paying his tailor! And there is no excuse for this in fanaticism. There is only one man in the cabinet who objects from reasons purely fanatical, because the Pope is the Scarlet Lady, or the Seventh Vial, or the Little Horn. All the rest are entirely of opinion that it ought to be done that it is the one thing needful; but they are afraid of bishops and

* Lord Goderich and the Right Hon. William Ewart Gladstono.

[blocks in formation]

county meetings, newspapers, and pamphlets, and reviews; all fair enough objects of apprehension, but they must be met, and encountered, and put down. It is impossible that the subject can be much longer avoided, and that every year is to produce a deadly struggle with the people, and a long trial in time of peace with O' somebody, the patriot for the time being, or the general, perhaps, in time of a foreign war.

If I were a bishop, liviug beautifully in a state of serene plenitude, I don't think I could endure the thought of so many honest, pious, and laborious clergymen of another faith, placed in such disgraceful circumstances! I could not get into my carriage with jelly-springs, or see my two courses every day, without remembering the buggy and the bacon of some poor old Catholic bishop, en times as laborious, and with much more, perhaps, of theological learning than myself, often distressed for a few pounds ! and burthened with duties utterly disproportioned to his age and strength. I think, if the extreme comfort of my own condition did not extinguish all feeling for others, I should sharply commiserate such a church, and attempt with ardour and perseverance to apply the proper remedy. Now let us bring names and well-known scenes before the English reader, to give him a clearer notion of what passes in Catholic Ireland. The living of St. George's, IIanover Square, is a benefice of about £1500 per annum, and a good house. It is in the possession of Dr. Hodgson, who is also Dean of Carlisle, worth, I believe, about £1500 more. A more comfortable existence can hardly be conceived. Dr. Hodgson is a very worthy, amiable man, and I am very glad he is as rich as he is : but suppose he had no revenues but what he got off his own bat — suppose that instead of tumbling through the skylight, as his income now does, it was procured by Catholic methods. The Doctor tells Mr. Thompson he will not marry him to Miss Simpson under £30; Thompson demurs, and endeavours to beat him down. The Doctor sees Miss Simpson ; finds her very pretty; thinks Thompson hasty, and after a long and undignified negotiation, the Doctor gets his fee. Soon after this he receives a message from Place, the tailor, to come and anoint him with extreme unction. Ile re. pairs to the bed-side, and tells Mr. Place that he will not touch him under a suit of clothes, equal to £10: the family resist, the altercation goes on before the perishing artisan, the price is reduced to

[blocks in formation]

£8, and Mr. Place is oile l. On the ensuing Sunday the child of Lord B. is to be christened; the godfathers and godmothers will only give a sovereign each; the Doctor refuses to do it for the money, and the church is a scene of clamour and confusion. These are the scenes which, under similar circumstances, would take place here, for the congregation want the comforts of religion without fees, and will cheat the clergyman if they can; and the clergyman who means to live, must meet all these artifices with stern resistance. And this is the wretched state of the Irish Roman Catholic clergy!-a miserable blot and stain on the English nation What a blessing to this country would a real bishop be! A man who thought it the first duty of Christianity to allay the bad passions of mankind, and to reconcile contending sects with each other. What peace and happiness such a man as the Bishop of London might have conferred on the empire, if, instead of changing black dresses for white dresses, and administering to the frivolous disputes of foolish zealots, he had laboured to abate the hatred of Protestants for the Roman Catholics, and had dedicated his powerful understanding to promote religious peace in the two countries. Scarcely any bishop is sufficiently a man of the world to deal with fanatics. The way is not to reason with them, but to ask them to dinner. They are armed against logic and remonstrance, but they are puzzled in a labyrinth of wines, disarmed by facilities and concessions, introduced to a new world, come away thinking more of hot and cold, and dry and sweet, than of Newman, Keble, and Pusey. So mouldered away Hannibal's army at Capua ! So the primitive and perpendicular prig of Puseyism is softened into practical wisdom, and coaxed into common sense. Providence gives us generals, and admirals, and chancellors of the exchequer; but I never remember in my time a real bishop-a grave, elderly man, full of Greek, with sound views of the middle voice and preterperfect tense, gentle and kind to his poor clergy, of powerful and commanding eloquence; in Parliament never to be put down when the great interests of mankind were concerned ; leaning to the government when it was right, leaning to the people when they were right; feeling that the Spirit of God had called him to that high office, he was called for no mean purpose, but rather that, seeing clearly and acting boldly, and intending purely, he might confer lasting benefits upon mankind.

[blocks in formation]

We consider the Irish clergy as factious, and as encouraging the bad anti-British spirit of the people. How can it be otherwise ? They live by the people; they have nothing to live upon but the voluntary oblations of the people; and they must fall into the same spirit as the people, or they would be starved to death. No marriage; no mortuary masses; no unctions to the priest who preached against O'Connell !

Give the clergy a maintenance separate from the will of the people, and you will then enable them to oppose the folly and madness of the people. The objection to the state provision does not really come from the clergy, but from the agitators and repealers: these men see the immense advantage of carrying the clergy with them in their agitation, and of giving the sanction of religion to political hatred; they know that the clergy, moving in the same direction with the people, have an immense influence over them; and they are very wisely afraid, not only of losing this co-operating power, but of seeing it, by a state provision, arrayed against them. I am fully convinced that a state payment to the Catholic clergy, by leaving to that laborious and useful body of men the exercise of their free judgment, would be the severest blow that Irish agitation could receive.

For advancing these opinions, I have no doubt I shall be assailed by Sacerdos, Vindex, Latimer, Vates, Clericus, Aruspex, and be called atheist, deist, democrat, smuggler, poacher, highwayman, Unitarian, and Edinburgh Reviewer! Still, I am in the right and what I say requires excuse for being trite and obvious, not for being mischievous and paradoxical. I write for three reasons ; first, because I really wish to do good; secondly, because, if I don't write, I know nobody else will; and thirdly, because it is the nature of the animal to write, and I cannot help it. Still, in looking back I see no reason to repent. What I have said ought to be done, generally has been done, but always twenty or thirty years too late ; done, not, of course, because I have said it, but because it was no longer possible to avoid doing it. Human beings cling to their delicious tyrannies, and to their exquisite nonsense, like a drunkard to his bottle, and go on till death stares them in the face. The monstrous state of the Catholic Church in Ireland will probably remain till some monstrous ruin threatens the very exist.

« ElőzőTovább »