|Rev. Joseph Hocking|
Catholicism means universal, and the Pope is a supranational authority claiming not only spiritual but temporal dominion. W.E. Gladstone wrote in 1874, ‘The Vatican Decrees in their bearing on Civil Allegiance':
"The Rome of the Middle Ages claimed universal monarchy. The modern Church of Rome has abandoned nothing, retracted nothing."Percy Bysshe Shelley writing in 1812 foresaw the poison of Rome Rule in his 'Address To the Irish People':
"Some teach you that others are heretics, that you alone are right, some teach that rectitude consists in religious opinions, without which no morality is good, some will tell you that you ought to divulge your secrets to one particular set of men; beware my friends how you trust those who speak in this way. They will, I doubt not, attempt to rescue you from your present miserable state, but they will prepare a worse. It will be out of the frying pan into the fire. Your present oppressors it is true, will then oppress you no longer, but you will feel the lash of a master a thousand times more blood-thirsty and cruel. Evil designing men will spring up who will prevent your thinking as you please, will burn you if you do not think as they do. There are always bad men who take advantage of hard times. The monks and the priests of old were very bad men; take care no such abuse your confidence again… Take care then of smooth-faced imposters, who talk indeed of freedom, but will cheat you into slavery. Can there be a worse slavery than depending for the safety of your soul on the will of another man?"William Walker, a protestant socialist counterpoint to James Connolly, opposed Home Rule on the ground that workers would be better off within a liberal British state than a conservative, clerically dominated Irish one. Walker wrote in 1910 in ‘Rebel Ireland: And Its Protestant Leaders’:
"Bunkum, friend Connolly; you are obsessed with an antipathy to Belfast and the black North, and under your obsession you advocate reactionary doctrines alien to any brand of Socialism I have ever heard of."Seamus Heaney said:
"I remember Ben Kiely saying that if you were living in the Republic of Ireland you didn’t need a passport to go to Lourdes because it was part of the jurisdiction!"W.B. Yeats said:
"It is one of the the glories of the Church in which I was born that we have put our bishops in their places in discussions requiring legislation."Richard Geib, an American tourist visited Dublin in August 1991, here he described a conspicuous Catholic piety:
"Catholicism here is sort of fanatical and there is a strong sense of guilt, sin - hell, itself. They subordinate a degree of sovereignty to blind obedience to the edicts of the Church, and their views about sex are clearly antiquated, at least among the old."‘Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine’ was published in 1932 and was taught in Irish schools until the 1950s and 60s. Here are some of excerpts from the publication on the subject of Protestantism:
"The Protestant Church is not the true church... Protestantism, as a doctrinal system, is perhaps the weakest heresy ever proposed…"The Marxist Harry Quelch wrote in 1902 ‘Home Rule and Rome Rule’:
"We hear from time to time that the Irish people are determined to formulate their own politics, and not to take them from Rome; but events constantly demonstrate that not only the religion but the politics of Ireland are those of the Church of Rome, and that the Irish people are still being exploited in the interest of clericalism and for the proselytising of England. The question is: How long will the people of Ireland permit themselves to be used in this way, and to constitute one of the most effectual barriers to Irish independence by the suspicion that Home Rule only means Rome Rule?"William O'Brien left the Irish Parliamentary Party and founded the All For Ireland League on March 31 1910. William O'Brien wrote in 1923, ‘The Irish Revolution and how it came about’, and in that he charged the political establishment in nationalist Ireland as a "squalid sham-Catholic Ascendancy which was reducing the National Ideal to something scarcely distinguishable from Orangeism".
William O'Brien explained the goal of the League:
"We believe the surest means to be a combination of all the elements of the Irish population in a spirit of mutual tolerance and patriotic good-will such as shall guarantee to the Protestant minority of our fellow-countrymen inviolable security for all their rights and liberties, and win the friendship of the people of Great Britain, without distinction of Party... The inspiring principle of the new movement was the healing of animosity between Irishmen of all the warring classes and religious persuasions, and, upon that basis, an international peace with England."O'Brien also wrote:
"The Ulstermen had more than once expressed their view that if Home Rule were sure to mean Redmond’s rule, their objection to it would be materially lessened. Now they saw Redmond thrown over, and by a combination in which the Clerical ascendancy, so much distrusted by them, was paramount."The concerns of protestant were not unfounded or ill-placed. In September 1960 JFK gave a famous speech to the Greater Houston (Texas) Ministerial Association to allay fears about his Catholicism.
William O'Brien also wrote:
"The fact stands that the Bill which emerged from their deliberations did not contain in its forty-eight clauses a single provision to satisfy, or even to recognize the existence of those deep-lying discontents of more than a million of the Irish population which were afterwards to make shipwreck of the Home Rule Government and of their Bill, and to start a new and more virulent blood-feud between the two countries, if not in a very considerable degree to precipitate the world-wide conflagration from whose effects civilization is still staggering."He also wrote:
"The United Irish League... As in the foundation of Orangeism, it was the worst of the Protestant body who prevailed over the best; so in the sham-Catholic ascendancy now substituted for it, it was the most ignorant elements of the Catholic community who gave the most ignorant of the Protestants a new lease of power by throwing the mass of the sober-minded Protestant and Dissenting population into their arms for protection...
The Board of Erin put a convenient reply in the mouths of honest doubters, who feared for the future of their children in a Hibernian-ridden Ireland, as well as of those with whom the breeding of evil party-passions was a profession. The new ascendancy was in actual operation in the daily life of the country, and it spared neither those Protestant Unionists who had ceased to be Unionists, nor tolerant Catholics who would have welcomed them to the National fold with gladness."The reverend Joseph Hocking, wrote in 1913 ‘Is Home Rule Rome Rule?' The methodist clergyman and novelist sought to give an objection consideration of the idea that Home Rule in Ireland meant Rome Rule. In the Chapter 'The Ne Temere Decree, And My Visit To Mrs. McCann' Hocking considered the implication of the papal decree which de facto outlawed marriage between practising Catholics and Protestants. He also considered the infamous case of the protestant Mrs. McCann whose Catholic husband left her and took her children after fearing he would be excommunicated. Read his that chapter in full here (via Archive.org):
"One of the things often urged, while I was in the North of Ireland, in opposition to Home Rule, and as an evidence of the arrogant power of the Church of Rome, was the now notorious Ne Temere decree. There is little need for me to discuss it here at any length, as its meaning and significance must be well known to my readers. Suffice to say that this decree, which was not enforced in the British Isles, was declared at Easter, 1908, to be operative in our midst. It has for many years been regarded as the law of the Church in many other countries, but we like Germany, Austria, and other lands, did not come under its sway. Suddenly it came in our midst like a bolt from the blue. It declared that no marriage was valid in the eyes of Rome, unless sacramentally performed. In other words, it declared that many people who regarded themselves as man and wife, and were man and wife in the eyes of the English law, were living in sin.
It declared that if a Protestant married a Roman Catholic, and the marriage ceremony was not performed by a priest of the Church of Rome, their marriage was only a mockery, and that in the eyes of God the man and the woman were violating the most sacred principles of morality. It declared, further, that, in spite of the sanction of the law of the land, all children of such an union were in the eyes of the Church illegitimate, the offspring of sin. Now in a country like Ireland there have been many mixed marriages. Roman Catholic girls married Protestant men, and men who were Roman Catholics married Protestant women. Sometimes these marriages took place in a Protestant church, sometimes in a Roman Catholic chapel. The priests were much chagrined when one of their flock married a Protestant either in a Protestant church or in a registry office, but they could do nothing.
As all the world knows, however, the present Pope, Pius X., is a deadly enemy to liberty of mind, and his encyclicals against Modernism shew his determination to crush out the slightest resemblance to independence of thought among those who regard him as their spiritual head. Perhaps this is natural. He is an Italian priest, reared in the narrowest school. He knows little of history; his most ardent admirers admit that he has not even a nodding acquaintance with literature. It is generally admitted that he was elected to the Papal chair, not because he has any particular gifts as a legislator or administrator, but because those who elected him regarded him as the man most likely to be the willing tool of those who wished to carry out an Ultramontane policy. Personally, a quiet, good, kind-hearted man, he is but a child in the hands of his advisers, who swear eternal enmity to Protestant liberties. Hence the publication of this decree in the British Isles. That it is monstrous and cruel, no liberty-loving man will deny; but it exists. It is now a Roman Catholic law in the British Islands just as it has been in other countries which have been in subjection to the decrees of the Council of Trent.
By the declaration of this decree, therefore, the priest can go to a man and woman, the one a Romanist, and the other a Protestant, who have been married according to the marriage rites of the law of the land, but whose union has not been blessed by a Roman priest, and he can say to them," You are living in sin."He can say to a Protestant woman who is married to a Roman Catholic," You are no better than the women in the streets who earn the bread of shame." He can tell her that her children are bastards, and he can tell the husband that he is in danger of everlasting damnation by living with the woman whom he has taken to be his wife.
Now this does not mean so much in England, where our atmosphere is Protestant, and where we breathe the breath of liberty. We should tell him that we did not care a snap of our fingers for all the decrees that the Pope might care to pronounce. For all practical purposes, from the English Protestant's standpoint, a pope's decree is not worth the paper on which it is written. It is a matter of words signifying nothing. In Ireland, however, it is different. In the last chapter, I have enlarged upon the power of the Church. The faithful Roman Catholic in the Emerald Isle dare not disobey the laws of that Church. They are binding, they are God-given.
In the province of Munster I asked a man in an influential position which law he must obey in relation to this matter, the law of the Church or the law of the land ?
"The law of the Church, most decidedly," was his reply. " The law of the land is human, the law of the Church is the law of God."
"Then this Ne Temere decree is the law of God?"
"But don't you see the position? The Ne Temere decree is not operative in Germany or Austria; therefore, the law of God according to you is different in one country from what it is in another ? "
"I have nothing to do with that. When the Church enunciates a law, it makes that law the law of God."
"This Ne Temere decree was announced to become law at Easter, 1908. According to you, a certain man and woman who were made husband and wife by our rites, were living in innocence and bliss before that date, they were living in the direst sin the day after?"
"And yet nothing had changed, except that the decree had gone forth."
"Excuse me, everything was changed. The announcement of the decree changed an innocent action into a great sin."
Of course, it was impossible to argue against such a position, but the conversation I have recorded indicates how matters stand in Ireland. The man to whom I was speaking was regarded as a fairly intelligent man, and to an extent a guide to public thought. How, then, would this matter be regarded by the ignorant people who believe the priest to have supernatural power? I almost hesitate to put it on paper, because it seems so absurd, but I was told by responsible people in Ireland that many peasants believe that the priests could change them into loathsome animals if they wished to do so. Be that as it may, the ignorant Irish Roman Catholic, and many who are supposed to be intelligent as well, regard it as awful sin to disobey the priest when he gives any commands. Moreover, everyone knows the priest's power in confession; almost every Roman Catholic believes that to die without absolution is something to be dreaded beyond words, and that to be refused the sacraments is tantamount to being refused salvation.
Consider, then, this Ne Temere decree in the light of this thought. Here is a man, a Roman Catholic, who marries a Protestant girl. At the time of his marriage, he is only a "nominal Catholic," and he consents to be married in a Protestant church. Presently the decree is enunciated, and the priest goes to the man and tells him that unless he is married again by a Roman Catholic priest according to the laws of the Roman Church, he is living in sin, and is in danger of everlasting fire. All the influences of the man's early training begin to work, all the chains which have been gathered around him from infancy tighten. The terrors of the Church get hold of him. He goes to confession, but can get no absolution. He is not allowed to participate in the sacraments, which to the believing Romanist is something terrible to contemplate. He is a pariah, he is condemned by the Church, and he believes that until the Church's curse is removed he is under the wrath of God, and in the direst danger of hell fire.
But this is not all. His companions taunt him, ostracise him. He is shut out from the haunts of his old friends. He is regarded as a leper. He is like a man standing on the brink of a yawning inferno.
What shall he do? If his wife will consent to be married again all will be well. He speaks to his wife about it; and she, being Protestant born and bred, refuses.
"No," she says, "I have been married once, I will not be married again."
"But," he urges, "we have never been truly married."
This angers the woman. "Do you mean to tell me," she cries, "that I who was married at such and such a church am not your wife? That I have been for years living in sin, that my children are the children of shame?"
The man says they are, and thus the seeds of dissension, anger, bitterness, and ruin, are sown.
The man goes to the priest again, who preaches the doctrines of the Church, and strikes if possible greater terrors into the man's soul.
What will the result be?
This is not a fancy picture as I shall now have to relate. As every reader of our newspapers knows, a little more than a year ago the details of a shocking event were recorded in our public press which aroused the slumbering passions of thousands. Not only was it dealt with at great length in the newspapers, but it was brought before the House of Commons and discussed there.
As this affair is supposed to bear directly on the question, "Is Home Rule Rome Rule?" it may be well to give it some prominence here.
During the time I was in Belfast, among the many ministers I saw was the Rev. William Corkey, M.A., of the Townsend Presbyterian Church in that city. He is a young man of perhaps a little more than thirty years of age, retiring, modest, quiet; as far removed from the righting Orangeman or the political parson as can well be imagined. Presently it came out that he was the minister who took a prominent part in bringing the case of Mrs. McCann to light. He told me that Mrs. McCann was a member of his congregation, and asked me if I would care to see her. I accepted his invitation, and on the following morning found my way to Mr. Corkey's house, where he had asked Mrs. McCann to meet me.
My first sight of her somewhat startled me. I had expected to see a somewhat aggressive woman of between thirty and forty years of age. Mr. J. Devlin, M.P., spoke in the House of Commons of the woman's difficulties with her husband as having nothing to do with religion, but with irreligion. He said it was a vulgar, sordid quarrel, and it was hinted by many that the woman was a bad lot, and was given to drink.
Judge of my surprise, therefore, when a young girl of twenty came into the room. There was no suggestion of the aggressive, blatant, quarrelling virago. The very opposite was the case. Quietly dressed, modest in demeanour, and somewhat reticent of speech, she struck me as far superior to the ordinary cottage woman. Not a weak girl by any means. Her square chin, firm lips, and rather abrupt manner of speech suggested decision and a strong, indomitable will. One who would not be bullied, one who having made up her mind as to what was right, would be true to her principles.
I saw a photograph of her, too, one taken before she was robbed of her children, a bright, happy girl holding a baby in her arms.
This, as nearly as I can give it, is a picture of Mrs. McCann around whose name so much controversy has waged.
As so many garbled stories about the McCann case have been given, I will give here the true narrative of the affair as she told it to me, and as was attested to by Mr. Corkey, her minister, who sat in the room with us.
She was born and reared in Ballymena, and was, if I remember aright, a farmer's daughter. At the age of seventeen she was married to the man McCann by the Rev. R. M. McGilmour, in whose church she was brought up. Mr. McGilmour also married her, and baptized the two babies that were born to her. Mr. McGilmour speaks highly of her life as a girl, and wrote concerning her, saying, "Neither before nor after her marriage up to the present time have I personally known or heard anything against her character." Remember, she was only seventeen when McCann married her little more than a child in years. McCann was a Roman Catholic, but from what I can gather by no means an ardent one. The very fact that he was willing to marry a Protestant girl in a Protestant church would go to prove this.
For a time the young couple lived happily together (I had this from her own lips), and two children were born to them. Some time after their marriage McCann attended a mission that was held in one of the Roman Catholic churches, and I am given to understand that this mission led him to take his religion more seriously.
It seems that the couple lived in a Roman Catholic quarter of the city, and the life was so rough that McCann was led to take another house in a more prosperous quarter, and I have first-hand evidence to show that he took a real delight in preparing the new home.
Just before their second child was born Mrs. McCann went to her parents' home to be confined. While she was there McCann wrote to her in the most affectionate terms. I have seen the originals of his letters, and can speak confidently as to the loving words in which they were couched.
A few weeks after her return to her home a priest called on her, and told her that she was never really married at all; that she had been living in sin with her husband, and that her children were the children of shame. He also besought her to be married again by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.
You can imagine the woman's horror and anger. Any respectable woman, too, can sympathise with her in her determination not to yield to the priest's dictates. Had she been a weak woman she would doubtless have yielded, but she came of a Scotch stock and would not be intimidated.
As she said to me in broken, abrupt sentences: "I had been married, truly married, and I wouldn't be married twice to the same man. I wouldn't admit that I had been living with him for years without being married."
"And then? What then?" I asked.
"The priest told me it would be very easy," was her reply. "He said that if I liked no one need know anything about it, while if I wanted a grand wedding I could go to church."
"And you refused?"
"Yes, I refused."
Now, according to newspaper reports, Mr. J. Devlin, M.P., stated in the House of Commons that the Church of Rome had nothing to do, directly or indirectly, with the breaking up of this home ; moreover, Mr. Devlin read in the House of Commons a letter purporting to be from an unknown priest, who said: "I visited the house for the first time in January, 1910. Neither then nor on any subsequent occasion did I inform Mrs. McCann that she was not properly married, nor did I tell her she was living in sin, nor that her children were illegitimate."
There are certain things one would like to say about this. The first is this Who is this unknown priest? What is his name? What are his bona fides, and why should he be believed? But more, what are we to say about those priests who have corroborated Mrs. McCann's statements? On January 30th, 1911, the Rev. Father Power wrote a letter to the Scotsman, in which he told first how kindly the priest dealt with Mrs. McCann, and then went on to say: "The priest's duty began and ended with a detailed statement that was intended to enlighten Mrs. McCann as to the real condition of a man who, through no fault of his, had sinfully broken a law which bound his conscience, but did not touch her absolute bona fides Again, the Rev. Father Power says, in a letter to the Scotsman, on February 3rd: "The representation made by the priest has been fairly well summarised by Mr. Corkey." Mr. Corkey told the story to the press much as I have told it here, only in greater detail.
In proof, too, that the Church of Rome, and that Church alone, was guilty of breaking up this home, I will quote the sayings of two men which bear upon the case.
The Rev. Father Findlay, the highest authority on Roman Catholic law in Ireland, and a man of exceptional ability, says, in an article in the New Ireland Review, referring to the action of McCann: "He was conscientiously bound to separate from the Presbyterian woman unless she consented to a re-validation of the marriage, and he is under the greatest obligation to see that his children are baptized and brought up Catholics."
The Rev. Father Hubert also, a well-known Belfast priest, preached a sermon bearing on the case, in which he defended the action of the Church. This sermon was reported in the Belfast Northern Whig. He said: "We consider ourselves messengers and ministers of God. Here we have a man whose soul was in charge of the priest. Could the priest stand by and not say to him, 'You are living in sin'?"
So much for Mr. Devlin's statement in the House of Commons that religion had nothing to do with the affair, and the alleged letter from the unknown and nameless priest which the newspapers recorded, and to which credence was given by so many.
But to return to my narrative. Of course the visit of the priest led to a disruption between the husband and wife. He insisted on being re-married. She refused. Then came the blow. The children were smuggled out of the house, and the man left his wife. For days the woman sought high and low for her children. She sought in vain. By whom they were taken, and under whoss control they were taken, it is not difficult to imagine. Certain it is she never found them, and she has never found them to this day.
Presently the man wrote her asking her to meet him at the "Black Man," a famous statue in Belfast. She went, accompanied by her sister. She pleaded with her husband to take her to see the children. He declared before God that he dared not. He could do nothing until they were re-married according to the rites of the Church of Rome. He said he had been living in sin for two years, and would do so no longer. He told her how the children cried for her, and repeated that he was willing to live with her if they were re-married, but not otherwise.
Thus they separated, and as far as I could gather, the wife has never seen the husband since. The woman, who had controlled her feelings up to this point, broke down here, and wept bitterly. And no wonder. It was one of the saddest narratives I ever heard. It is true the woman has been helped since. Kind friends have subscribed to a fund on her behalf, and she is now being trained as a nurse, but by this infamous decree, she has been robbed of her home, robbed of her husband, robbed of her children, and attempts have been made to rob her of her good name.
As Mr. Corkey says: "I do not blame McCann. He believed the Church had the keys of heaven, and he surrendered his wife rather than run the risk of the awful curse of excommunication. If you can make an ignorant man believe you could put him in hell and keep him there, you could make him do anything. I do not blame the priest. He was faithful to his calling, and discharged a most unpleasant duty loyally... It was the papal decree that wrought ruin!"
The picture of that poor girl has haunted me ever since I left the house. A young girl, little more than a child, married at seventeen, who has been robbed of her home, robbed of her husband, robbed of the children to whom she has given birth with pain and anguish, and whom she loved with a mother's love, and left alone in the world. And this was done by the Church that dominates the larger part of Ireland.
There is little more to tell. An appeal, so it appears, was made to the Lord Lieutenant, who said he could do nothing. As some one remarks, "All the power of the country's police could be used to find a lady's lap-dog, but nothing could be done to find this woman's children." Presently, however, after time had been given to smuggle the children out of the country, Mr. Corkey told me that the Chief Secretary gave instructions to the police to search for the children. Of course, it was in vain.
As one of the detectives who is a Roman Catholic told Mr. Corkey: "We are fighting against the Church and we can do nothing."
Where are the children? If they are in a nunnery or convent in the British Isles, they cannot be found. Our Protestant Government will do nothing to cause these places to be open to inspection. As we have repeatedly said, "Our convents are sealed houses." If the children are in one of these, there- fore, the mother will never see them again. If they are taken abroad, they are in all probability under the control of the Roman Church, and therefore Mrs. McCann has little room for hope. The Roman Church defies all the machinery of our British laws, as well as their authority.
"But,"says someone, "sad as the story may be, what has it to do with Home Rule? As a proof that Ireland is at present dominated by Rome, it is well-nigh conclusive; but these things are done not under Home Rule but under the Union. How would things be affected if Ireland were under Home Rule?"
This is the conclusion of the people of Ulster: If Home Rule were granted the Church would see to it that the law of the Church would be made the law of the State, then people would neither have redress nor safety. Under the existing state of things, the Church dare not do what they would be sure to do if a Parliament were established in Dublin. The Church would then rule unrestricted, and would see to it that Ireland was governed according to Canon Law. "But" and this I urged upon those who took this view "no Irish leader would claim that the Dublin Parliament should have the right to alter the marriage laws?"
In answer to this I was referred to Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill of 1893. During the discussion of that Bill the then member for East Down moved an amendment to "exclude from the proposed Irish Parliament the right of repealing or amending any law at present in existence, or hereinafter to be enacted by the Imperial Parliament, which gives legal effect to any rights or ceremonies performed by any Protestant church."
Mr. Gladstone opposed this amendment. Mr. Balfour supported it, and said:
"Gentlemen from Ireland must be perfectly aware that, according to the Council of Trent, according to the principles of the Church to which they belonged, a marriage performed in a Presbyterian church was from a religious point of view of no validity whatever."
Sir T. Lea (Londonderry) also said: "The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church... knew very well that, whenever the marriage laws came under discussion in an Irish Parliament, the Roman Catholic Church would have its way."
A division on this amendment took place, and among those who voted against it were Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Redmond, and all the Irish members. "Facts speak louder than words," said these Ulster men to me," and therefore in spite of all Mr. Redmond's talk about safeguards, we do not believe him. Whatever may be his own private views, he is under the domination of the Church of Rome, and he has to do what that Church tells him. Home Rule would be Rome Rule."
With regard to the Motu Proprio decree, about which there has been so much discussion, the attitude of those who oppose Home Rule is just the same. This decree, when couched in everyday speech, amounts to this, that no layman can bring a priest, or any ecclesiastic whatever, into the public law courts unless the case in which he is implicated be first brought before the Church courts.
That if any Roman Catholic shall, in spite of this decree, take such a step, he shall be excommunicated. The following is an extract from the decree:
"OF OUR OWN NOTION
"Concerning bringing Clergy before the Tribunals of lay judges.
'Though all diligence be employed in framing laws, it is often impossible to guard against any doubt which may subsequently arise owing to adroit interpretations of the same...
"Doubtless the meaning of this section has been repeatedly declared by the Congregation of the Holy Office. But now in these times of injustice, when so little regard is paid to the immunity of ecclesiastics, that not only clerics and priests, but also Bishops and even their Eminences the Cardinals, are brought into a court of laymen, the case altogether demands from Us that by the severity of the punishment, We keep to their duty those men who are not deterred from such an act of sacrilege by the gravity of their offence. We of Our own notion do ordain, and decree as follows:
'Whatever private individuals, whether of the laity or in Holy Orders, men or women, summon to a tribunal of laymen any ecclesiastical persons whatever, be the case criminal or civil, without any permission from an ecclesiastical authority, and constrain them to attend publicly in these courts, all such private individuals incur excommunication at the hands of the Roman Pontiff.
"Moreover, it is Our will and pleasure that what has been ordained by these letters be established and ratified, notwithstanding anything whatsoever to the contrary.
"Given at Rome at St. Peter's on the nth day of the month of October, in the nth year of Our Pontificate.
"POPE PIUS X."
Of course, the publication of this document caused a great stir among Roman Catholics, and although the Protestants of Ireland admit that at present it does not bear directly upon them, it is another argument to prove that Home Rule means Rome Rule.
Immediately after the appearance of the decree in the Dublin Daily Express, Archbishop Walsh dealt with it in an article of some seven columns in length. When he had read it, the editor of that paper was in doubt whether, according to the Archbishop's opinion, it applied to Ireland or not. The general feeling is that it does. Be that as it may, it is supposed to have become the law of the Roman Church, and therefore has the gravest application to those belonging to that community.
It needs but a moment's consideration to see how it would affect the course of public justice. If it became effective it would mean the practical immunity of Roman Catholic clerics from the civil law, and if Roman Catholics and Protestants were mixed up in a case in which some Roman Catholic priest were implicated, it might make it extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible, for the Protestant to get justice. On the surface it seems to press most hardly on Roman Catholics ; indeed, it prohibits them from any direct appeal to the civil law against any Romanist cleric whatsoever, but in a country in which Romanist and Protestant are constantly mixed up in commercial affairs, it may affect the latter as much as it affects the former.
Of course the Roman Church argues that no injustice would be possible, as the Church Courts would see to it that right would be done; but the history of Church Courts is such that no one having knowledge of them would care to depend on them for even-handed justice.
As the Dublin Daily Express says in commenting on the matter:
"The Roman Catholic clergyman is thus placed on a pinnacle of sacrosanctity, from which it is safe to assert he will seldom or ever be dragged to answer for his actions in either a civil or a criminal court of law. The action of His Holiness is easy to understand. It is detrimental to the interests of any Church to have its clerical representatives figuring in the law courts. The Roman Catholic Church in particular seeks to enshroud its clergy in a halo of virtue, and much of its influence over the masses is due to this very fact."
Here then is the Ulster case. If a Home Rule Parliament sits at St. Stephen's Green, it is bound to be under the dominion of Rome, and Rome would never rest until the laws of the Church were the law of the State, and it would see to it that what is now binding only on Roman Catholics, should apply to Protestants as well.
Be that as it may, I am, in stating the arguments of the main bulk of the Protestants of Ireland against Home Rule, obliged to mention a decree on which they lay so much stress. Moreover, they urge that this is only another sample of the arrogance of Rome, and another link in the chain of argument which goes to prove that Home Rule would be Rome Rule. Not only, they urge, would Protestants not be able to get justice, but Roman Catholics would be more than ever enslaved by clerical forces, and Ireland would be more effectually stultified in its endeavours to arise from the Slough of Despond, in which for so many years it has been submerged."Read Edward Carson here on the Ne Temere and Motu Proprio decrees. Also read about the Tilson child custody case here.