HL Deb 11 May 1837 vol 38 cc799-802
The Marquess of Westmeath

said, he had to present a petition from a dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, who wished to appeal to their Lordships against certain severe treatment which he had experienced at the hands of his ecclesiastical superiors. It was the petition of Eugene Mulholland, a native of Ireland, who had been ordained a priest of the Romish Church. In 1818 he went to Rome to prosecute his studies, and received the degree of doctor of divinity there. In 1826 he returned to Ireland, and was appointed to a parish in the county of Louth. In 1833 one of those controversies, which unfortunately were too prevalent in that country, became particularly conspicuous in his neighbourhood, and he was charged by another Roman Catholic clergyman with having connected himself with insurrectionary proceedings. He referred the charge to the dignitaries of his own church, and it appeared to be their opinion that the charge ought to be withdrawn. However the charge was not withdrawn. He then brought an action against the other priest, who had, as he thought, maligned his character, and while that action was pending he was dismissed from his curacy by the dignitaries of his church, and was thereby deprived of the means of obtaining an honest and honourable livelihood. They made him the subject of ecclesiastical censures and privations for having appealed to the law of the land in vindication of his character. The Roman Catholic prelates did not deem that appeal to be an offence against the ecclesiastical canons, but still they dismissed him. He then appealed to Rome, and a document called a rescript was sent out to Dr. Croly, the Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland, requiring him to be reinstated; and ultimately he was ordered to be appointed to an office which was equal to a perpetual curacy in the English Church. Having applied to the vicar apostolic of London for assistance, he received an answer which was remarkable for the peculiar expressions it contained. That personage condemned the course pursued by Dr. Mulholland, in first going to law with a brother clergyman, and afterwards presenting petitions to Parliament on the subject, as a most disgraceful exhibition. Among the subsequent measures which he took for his own justification, he applied to a great champion of public liberty to take up his cause, Mr. Daniel O'Connell. That Gentleman told Dr. Mulholland that it became him to express his regret for the course he had pursued, having caused great scandal to the Catholic Church by the controversy he had created, and by endeavouring to enlist the services of men in Parliament in hostility against the dignitaries of his church. He told Dr. Mulholland, moreover, that the Legislature had no control over the Roman Catholic Church, and that if he had suffered any wrong from another, the criminal law was open to him. Although it was asserted that Parliament had no right to interfere with the Catholic Church, he would remind their Lordships that the College of Maynooth was endowed by a Parliamentary grant, and that the discipline and mode of education there adopted ought to be inquired into, seeing that there was every reason to believe that the institution seemed only intended to fit the students for a degree of submission and degradation that was totally incompatible with the genius of a free country. Could their Lordships doubt, then, that this was a case of oppression, and that many such cases occurred in consequence of Roman Catholic priests refusing to lend themselves to that course of conduct which was now agitating that country? But what was the behaviour of those immaculate right reverends who thus endeavoured to coerce the inferior clergy to further their political views? He held in his hand a letter which had been addressed to a noble Duke near him (the Duke of Wellington) through the public newspapers on the subject of the revenues of the established church, in which after expatiating in a bombastic style on civil and religious freedom, and asserting, that nothing could check its progress, the writer remarked—"Witness your impotent laws against the Catholic Bishops who are assuming their ancient and hereditary title. His Majesty's Bishops may become possessed of all the favours that his Majesty, the fountain of wealth and honour, can give them; but they cannot make that happen which is not to be, or deprive the Catholic Bishops of their rights." The writer concluded by expressing his determination not to pay tithes or any tax in support of the Church of England. So wrote John Tuam, as he signed himself. He would next direct the attention of their Lordships to the language used by some of the Roman Catholic Clergy of the second order who were educated at the College of Maynooth. A priest at an election which took place at Clonmel thus addressed the electors respecting the candidate:—"Haven't we brought him to ye? I hope you'll keep him along with ye. We have brought you a man who will give his best aid and exertions in exterminating, root and branch, that abominable and dreadful nuisance—the church." Hear the sentiments of another person of the same class. They were part of a sermon which he delivered in a Roman Catholic Chapel:—"Who are those that will be saved? Those who possess the franchise and use it for the public good—those who vote for the liberal candidate at the expected election—those who consider the public good, and not their own private interest—those who will support the man who will oppose that church which I may call a nuisance, for it is the cause of all the murders, and massacres, and slaughters, that disgrace the present history of our country. Wo, wo, to the man that betrays his trust!" Such were the sentiments of men who had been educated at the public expense; such were the men whom the Legislature had protected and provided for. The majority of the Roman Catholic Bishops were members of that association in Ireland which had been condemned both in that and the other House of Parliament. The second order of the Roman Catholic priesthood were for the most part, the nominees of those Bishops who compelled them to act with them in the political movements that they deemed advisable to promote. Unless, then, some inquiry were instituted into this state of things, how could they indulge any hope of seeing Ireland tranquillized? He did not intend to make any motion on the subject, but he hoped that an inquiry would be promoted, and if it took place first in another place, perhaps it would be better, because there were many persons in that place who were interested in the question, and who could state their views of it, and would have an opportunity of showing upon what principle the present plan of education at Maynooth should be continued. The prayer of the petition which he now presented to their Lordships was for an inquiry into the case of the petitioner, not merely with regard to his own particular statements, but in reference to the actual condition of the second order of the Roman Catholic Clergy. He hoped the noble Viscount opposite would turn his attention, to the subject, and examine into the state of things at Maynooth, with a view to ascertain whether it was not necessary to take some step to advance Christian piety, but not Popery.

Petition laid on the table.