HC Deb 09 March 1824 vol 10 cc847-9
Sir H. Parnell

said, he had presented a petition in the last session, from the Catholic Archbishops of Ireland, complaining of restrictions imposed, by the existing laws, upon endowing and building school-houses, hospitals, chapels, and residence for clergymen, by Catholics. He had moved for leave to bring in a Bill to grant the relief required, and the House had acceded to his motion; but he had not proceeded with the bill, in consequence of the late period of the session. During the recess he had communicated with the petitioners upon the object of their petition, and learning from them, that they were still anxious to have a bill brought in this session, he had given the notice which had led to his now addressing the House upon the subject of Catholic Charities; but, since he had given notice of his motion, he had been informed by the Attorney-general for Ireland, that the petitioners had laboured under a misapprehension of the actual state of the law. It appeared, from the communication the Attorney-general had made to him, that a wealthy Catholic lady having left a will with several bequests in it for charitable purposes, the commissioners of charitable bequests had filed a bill in chancery, under the notion that those bequests were for superstitious uses, and ought to be set aside, and applied by them to legal uses. The case was argued last year before the lord chancellor, and in Hilary Term, upon his lordship intimating in court, that he was disposed to consider these bequests as valid and legal, an attempt was made to induce his lordship to order the case to be re-argued. But the Attorney-general, who had not been a party to the preceding argument, interfered, and having declared it to be his decided opinion, upon a full examination of all the papers, that the will was, in every respect according to law, the chancellor made a decree confirming all its bequests. The Attorney-general had assured him that this decree removed all doubts upon the subject; that Catholics in Ireland stood exactly in the same situation as Protestant Dissenters; that they could build and endow schools, chapels, hospitals and residences for their clergy. The motion he had prepared to submit to the House was, for leave to bring in a bill, to give to Catholics the power of granting property to charitable and religious institutions, in the same manner, and to the same extent, as Protestant Dissenters can grant it for these purposes, so that any thing that he had it in contemplation to require, had been effected already by the decree of the Court of Chancery. He had felt it his duty to make this statement, in order to explain to the petitioners how the law and the case stood; and also, to explain to the House, the reasons which induced him to desist from making any motion according to his notice.

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