HL Deb 25 June 1844 vol 75 cc1343-7
Lord Wharncliffe

moved the second reading of the Charitable Donations and Bequests (Ireland) Bill, and, in so doing, went into an explanation of the reasons which had induced the Government to introduce the measure, and also a description of its provisions. The whole object of the Bill was, in fact, to make a new and improved Commission of Charitable Bequests, named by Her Majesty, with duties and offices properly defined. He had said, on a former occasion, that the intention of the Government was to find some means of facilitating donations for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Clergy of Ireland, and this Bill provided that any one who wished to make such a donation or bequest might constitute the Commissioners trustees for that purpose, and they would be bound to administer the same for the benefit of the Roman Catholic community. There was also a provision for securing an audit of the accounts of the Commissioners. The noble Lord concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

The Earl of Wicklow

said, he would confine himself to the latter part of this Bill, which went to allow persons to leave land or money to the Roman Catholic priesthood. It appeared that this subject had been under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and so far he received the Bill with gratification, because it went to alter the position in which the body of the Roman Catholic Clergy now stood. He thought their present position, with the power which they exercised, the most dangerous that could be; and, therefore, he hailed with pleasure any measure which was likely to alter their position; but this was the very extent of the approbation which he could give to this measure. He thought the alteration was one which went in the wrong direction. What he wished to see and what he wished to impress upon their Lordships was, that it was expedient, that it was desirable, and that it was necessary for the safety of the United Empire, that a provision in connexion with the State should be made for the Roman Catholic Clergy in Ireland. If a large portion of the land in Ireland were to be left to a large body of the Roman Catholic Clergy, they would be left under this Bill independent of the State—possessed of large estates, but independent of and unconnected with the State. He hoped that, as Her Majesty's Government had brought forward this limited measure, they would bring forward more comprehensive measures for the purpose of carrying out this great object.

The Bishop of Exeter

was willing to join the noble Lord the President of the Council, in putting the bequests or endowments to the Roman Catholic clergy on the same footing as other dissenters. But he should resist to the utmost any attempt to adopt any such proposition or suggestion as that thrown out by the noble Earl. Much greater and graver considerations than those of expense would induce and compel him (the Bishop of Exeter) to resist such a proposition, from whatever quarter it might proceed; and he rejoiced to see that there was not the slightest intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government of making a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy by the State. It was inconsistent with the support of an Established Church, to support a religion which was opposed to that Church. He might be told, perhaps, of the Regium Donum; true, that those were exceptions, but those exceptions like many other exceptions, only showed the necessity of adhering to a general rule. Upon this ground he felt it was necessary to express the satisfaction with which he hailed this measure as propounded by the noble Baron; and he hoped that as he had shown his readiness to encourage the liberality of all classes of men in supporting the religion to which they belonged, by acts of self-denial—so he hoped there would not be that most morbid sensitiveness which prevailed against increasing the endowments of the Church.

Lord Monteagle

expressed his entire assent and sanction to the present measure. By creating a corporate body for receiving property in trust for the Roman Catholic clergy, and thus obviating any legal doubt that might exist, Parliament would confer a great boon upon them. He would throw out to the noble Lord a suggestion for one amendment in the Bill. The Bill contemplated the mere dotation of the Roman Catholic clergy in parishes; but there was another class of trusts, somewhat analogous, which might be brought within the provisions of the Bill—he meant gifts of land to build churches. By the introduction of one or two words, the provisions might be extended not only to the minister of the parish, but to the Building of places of worship. He should not approve of the Bill if he thought it stood in the way of that larger and more important measure referred to by the noble Earl. As far as this measure went, he believed it would have the effect of raising the character of the Irish Roman Catholic clergy, and of making them independent of that pressure of popular opinion which now acted upon them. The noble Lord con- eluded by strongly urging the expediency of improving the College of Maynooth, by a more liberal grant of public money, for the education of the Catholic priesthood of Ireland.

The Earl of Haddington

said, the noble Earl though he seemed to approve of this Bill, yet lamented it did not go farther, and thought it offered a bar to the consideration of the greater question. [The Earl of Wicklow—No: I said it was a step in the wrong direction]. He had thought that it was in opposition to the views of the noble Earl that the right Rev. Prelate had expressed his hope that no such measure would be brought forward; but he could not conceive on what the apprehensions of the one, or the hopes of the other were founded. The question was one of the greatest difficulty, and he could not conceive how the Bill touched the question of a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy. The question of endowment could remain as it stood before: this Bill was intended as an act of kindness and justice to the people of Ireland, and to the Roman Catholic clergy.

Lord Hatherton

entered at some length into an examination of the condition of the Roman Catholic clergy, and the means afforded by Government for the education of their priesthood. The means provided for the maintenance of that clergy, which might be denominated from the numbers of its professors the National Church of Ireland, were totally inadequate to support them in respectability. Their present condition was a reflection upon the Government of this country, and called aloud for the interference of the Legislature. The niggardly grant yearly made to the Maynooth Seminary was unworthy of the Government to propose and of the Catholic body to accept. It was the bounden duty of a good Government to make a competent provision for the education of the young men intended for the priesthood, which in Ireland exercised so great an influence upon the morals and the feelings of the general mass of the community. The disproportion existing between the comparative amount of the Catholic and Protestant portion of society in many of the different dioceses rendered the inadequacy of the remuneration of the Catholic clergy the more shocking and lamentable. In some of the dioceses the Protestant portion of the inhabitants was not above 5 per cent., in others not 3 per cent. upon the whole population, and in that of Kilfenora, the Protestant portion of the inhabitants was but the fifth of a unit compared with the total population of that diocese.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

also expressed his entire approval of the Bill. He strongly condemned the niggardly grant made for the education of the Catholic clergy in Ireland at Maynooth. He hoped that the Government would take the whole subject into consideration, with the view of putting that establishment on a footing becoming the nature and the important functions which were entrusted to it. He regretted to see in this Bill language which seemed to apply a doubt as to the Establishment of the Catholic Church in Ireland, as the words Roman Catholic Ministers were used instead of the Bishops and the clergy.

Motion agreed to. Bill read a second time.

House adjourned.