ARCHBISHOP MANNING ON THE STATE OF IRELAND.
ARCHBISHOP MANNING has addressed a letter, couched in that strain of lucid and placid eloquence of which he is such a master, to the Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland, on the occasion of the consecration of a new Cathedral, built in honour of St. Patrick, at Armagh. Dr. Manning was to have preached the consecration sermon ; and it is difficult to conceive a more picturesque personal effect, in its way, than would have been the appearance of his austere presence and grave, calm speech in that pulpit. St. Patrick, from whom he treats the invitation as having come direct, could hardly have regarded the scene without amazement,—perhaps, if Saints can be amused, without amusement. That an ex-Anglican Archdeacon, now Catholic Archbishop, probable next Cardinal, possible next Pope, should be preaching in Armagh in these days, in an edifice more stately than any that ever stood there before there were Orangemen, or even Anglicans, in Armagh —but about three times too large for the present Catholic population of the place—this would surely have been a spectacle, if irritating, not without its compensations to the Disestablished. But with a fine impulse of good feeling, the old Cathedral—now Protestant, of course—rang its joy-bells for the occasion. The town of Armagh, be it remembered, is the very centre of Orangedom. The majority of the population is Protestant, and Protestant with a degree of zeal and depth of conviction which would have sorely tried the proselytising energy of St. Patrick himself. Would the great Oxford convert and converter, in view of the vacant spaces before him, have coun- selled a crusade of prayer and preaching against the yet un- broken front of Irish Protestantism ? Ulster, in that case, would no doubt soon surpass even Japan and the Commune in its supply of martyrs to the Roman Calendar. The contrast between the militant enterprise and energy with which his Church carries on its mission in England, and its stagnant jog-trot course in Ireland, where it is subjected to the con- tinual assaults of missionary societies, but never retaliates, would perhaps have somewhat unpleasantly affected a mind naturally disposed to regard apostolic energy and absorbing power as the cardinal notes of a true religion. In England, the Catholic Church resembles a young Crusader, armed cap- a-pie and ready to encounter a world in arms ; in Ireland, a round old beadle, much tormented by small boys, but too good- hnmoured or too lazy to thrash them.
But whatever he might have felt tempted to think of Catholic Ireland, had he gone there, Dr. Manning writes of it with all the enchantment which distance lends to the view. He places the Catholic Church of Ireland next to that of Rome itself in point of orthodoxy. He is convinced that Ireland is more full of life, power, and resource at this day than she was ever before ; that her people were never so united, or so well or so universally educated, or so prosperous. or so politically powerful. He also holds that the public opinion of Ireland, expressed through an extensive and active Press, has matured and developed within the last forty years beyond all example in the past history of the country. There is much truth in this, no doubt, and we are heartily glad to read a pastoral on Irish affairs which is expressed in the tone of a paean rather than in that of a jeremiad. But how far the Catholics of Ireland are really entitled to such measure, full and overflowing, of congratulation may perhaps be without offence doubted. Take the extensive and active Press of the country, for example. If the journals which are owned and edited by Protestants were classified in distinction from those owned and edited by Catholics, the result would show that the opinion of Ireland is in a large degree guided by Protestants. Even in Dublin, there was not, we were informed, two years , ago a single daily paper in Catholic hands. In the same way,1 the representation of the Catholics of Ireland (the Archbishop notes the fact) is in a large degree entrusted to Protestants. No doubt the liberality of spirit which induces Irish Catholics to entrust the defence of their political interests to Protestant gentlemen of honour, rather than lower the character of their representation, is highly to be praised. But it does occasion- ally amaze us that in the Press and in Parliament more particularly, but in all intellectual careers as well, Irish Catholic talent does not find its way more frequently to the front. Here, we think, there is evidence, not of growth, but of decay. Compare the representation of the Irish Catholics immediately after Emancipation by such men as O'Connell, Shiel, Sir T. Wyse, to its state now,—compare the Irish popular Press at the time of the Repeal agitation with the same Press now. We fear the comparison would supply evidence of deterioration rather than of progress. Of course such evidence goes to prove, what we otherwise knew, that the higher education of the Irish Catholics is in a wretched con- dition. Fifty years ago, Irish Catholic gentlemen were educated on the Continent or in Trinity College ; but since, we have had the " godless Colleges " war, ending in the gravelling of Mr. Gladstone's Government last spring ; and while the peasantry are, as Dr. Manning says, admirably educated—far better than the English peasantry—Irish Catholics of the upper and middle classes do not, on the whole, hold their own.
But whose fault is this ? Dr. Manning was of opinion, he says, when Mr. Gladstone's University Bill was introduced, that it could have been " accepted with safety and worked for ultimate good." But it was a Bill to provide for the educa- tion of Irish, not of English Catholics, and therefore it was not within his province to decide upon the propriety of accept- ing or rejecting it. The Irish Bishops decided ; and accordingly for some little time to come the ploughman in Ireland must continue to be rather better educated than his master. It is evident enough, however, that if the Bill could have been safely accepted by the English Catholics, it was, to say the least of it, absurd to denounce it as " worse than Bismarckian persecution,"—which some of the Irish Bishops did, forgetful of the fact that within the last ten years they had negotiated with Lord Russell's Government for the admission of the Catholic University to the rank of a Queen's College. Arch- bishop Manning urges them now to devote all their energies and powers to the defence of Christian Education, and especially to the development and improvement of the institution called the Catholic University. We believe, in truth, this is the touchstone of the real earnestness of the Catholics of Ireland, and especially of their Bishops, in regard to higher education. If any one could ascertain the secret causes why that institu- tion has so failed and foundered, he would have arrived at some true appreciation of the real state of Catholic Ireland. Can any one imagine that if the English Wesleyans or the Scotch Free Church had determined to estal)lish a University College of their own, it would at the end of twenty years be in the condition in which that very inferior High School in Stephen's Green is ? Yet neither Wesleyan nor Presbyterian could have hoped to have had for the conduct of such an enterprise a man of such genius, learning, influence, experience, devotion as Dr. Newman, nor a people of such time-honoured devotion to learning, so generous in giving, and with such political power, to sustain it. What was there to prevent their making it as great a College as King's College, or, say, Ushaw, not to mention Louvain—or at least, a centre of refined cul- ture and seat of learning ? The men who founded the great mediawal Catholic Universities, and the famous early Irish Schools, did not wait for parchment and wax to do their work ; but then they were men with the spirit, the genius, and the determination of great founders, and the wisdom, and freedom, and width of mind of true scholars. The founders of the Catholic University have evidently lacked such qualities. If the Irish Catholics, and more especially the Irish Catholic Bishops, had seriously willed it, their College would long ere this have had all the recognition and some of the State aid it has hitherto been seeking in vain. That they have not hitherto, from whatever cause, so willed it, is very evident.