22 APRIL 1882, Page 6


WE confess to a certain discontent with the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. ThEi diffi- culties of her managers are most serious, but we cannot but think that they are impressed by them too much, and that the action of the aggregate Church is in consequence some- what feeble. There can be no doubt, we imagine, 'that as ,a Church, Rome, while not favourable to the separation of Ireland from England, with the consequent rise of an irreligious class to power, and the effacement of English Catholics, is heartily opposed to the Land League, to' the entire policy of outrage, by whomsoever ordered, and to the principle governing the " No Rent Manifesto." She has for ages maintained the sanctity of human life, the immorality of secret societies, and the obligation-of contracts, as dogmas binding the conscience, and there is not the slightest evidence that she is inclined to relax her spiritual views upon those subjects out of a deference to a local opinion. The present Pope and his counsellors, indeed, thoroughly informed by the Catholic clergy, and by the unofficial but trustworthy state- ments transmitted through Mr. Errington, have markedly expressed their sense that the popular movement has trans- gressed lawful limits ; and in the special honours poured on Archbishop McCabe have publicly proclaimed that the Roman Church, as a whole, sides with the party of Order, and con- demns crime, even when disguised under the forms of patrio- tism. There is no mistaking the meaning of the selection of Dr. McCabe for the Red Hat. The majority of the higher Catholic clergy in Ireland also have been faithful to Christian principles, and the Episcopate, as a body, has clearly condemned both the secret societies and the outrages, and the assumption that it can ever be right to evade or to refuse a just debt. Nevertheless, there has been weakness. One Bishop at least, Dr. Nulty, has issued pamphlets which, whatever their motive, have the effect of defending Socialism ; while one Archbishop, Dr. Croke, defends the Leaguers " from his heart out," and without even the reserves which the opinion of the Holy See usually imposes on the higher Catholic clergy- men. The effect, of course, on the popular mind is to create an impression that the course of the violent agitators is not in se immoral, that jurors may refuse justice without con- demnation, and that " the Church " upon the whole subject, including the guilt of outrage, stands neutral. It has its pro- fessional opinion, but it is not one held by all Bishops, or ardently enforced upon all Clergy. This impression is greatly increased by the language of many of the inferior clergy, who are violent to the revolutionary point, but yet are neither restrained nor in any way publicly admonished, and who naturally find for their speeches an audience far more extensive than the Bishops whQ are friends of order can ever hope for. The utterances of the latter are studied in England with keen interest, because we are all so earnestly desiring some way out of the wood other than civil war; but we suspect a Catholic population reads such productions very much as most Pro- testant churchwardens read ordinary Bishops' charges. " A thowt 'a said what 'a owt to have said, and 'a coom'd awaay."

The defence of a competent Catholic Bishop for this weak- ness, as we think it, would have much truth in it, and would, we imagine, run in this way :—He would argue that the Catholic Church in Ireland must think before all things of its own hold over the people, who are just now exposed to a multiplicity of influences which shake the authority of that Church quite as much as that of the State. In maintaining that authority, Rome—using that word to express the spiritual corpo- ration in its collective aspect—has always enjoyed in Ireland the peculiar advantage of the sympathy of the Irish People ; of a willingness to be taught and guided by the Church, arising from historic circumstances, such as has not been visible among any other Catholic population. A Frenchman, even when nominally Catholic, distrusts the Church ; a Spaniard dreads it ; an Italian smiles at it ; only the Irishman retains to it something of the childlike attachment, even when in rebel- lious mood, which a priesthood esteems above every other atti- tude of mind. Rome is to him not only a divinely appointed guide, but a sympathetic friend. The Church dreads to weaken this feeling, just now threatened not only by irreligion, but by the spread of knowledge and American ideas, and is aware that the quickest way to weaken it is to take up a strong attitude against the agrarian revolt. What the pretensions of the State are to a Frenchman, what " Italy " is to an Italian, what his personal dignity is to a Spaniard, that his right to his land is to an Irish peasant. Whoever attacks it, be it his brother or his priest, has thenceforward-to overcome in him a latent hostility, not fatal, perhaps, to obedience, but utterly fatal to friendliness and sympathy. A hundred years ago at a time when the Church was nearly absolute, when no peasant dreamt of assigning limits to the priests' rights, the Whiteboys, as Mr. Leek:, tells us, furiously resisted the Church's teaching on agrarian questions, and repeatedly nailed up the chapel doors, to prevent priests who denounced outrages from preaching to their flocks or ministering at the altar.. At present, the depth of passion is even greater, so great, that outspoken priests are deserted, and that there is danger, if not of sohism, at least of a long-continued abstin- ence from the rites of the Church, and of an affectation of in- difference to them such as Rome holds deadly, and in German parts of America has found deadly in actual experience. The Church, therefore, in the highest interests of its people, must walk warily ; and, of course, all her temporal and temporary interests are on the popular side, most especially the interest of not straining the discipline of the lower clergy beyond what it will bear. Hundreds of these are consecrated peasants, very ignorant, very prejudiced, and pitiful beyond measure for the genuine sufferings of their flocks,—which, we repeat again, surpass in parts of Ireland anything that English imagination fully realises to itself. They feel like the laity around them, ready to condemn all that exists ; and to restrain them from the expression of that feeling would be to create the moral bitterness out of which heresy springs, or at all events to turn them from willing and devoted agents into dispirited and half-hearted professionals. Rome, therefore, though clear in her ultimate judgment, stands back in the great agrarian contest, and speaks with a mildness too often, but wrongly, mistaken by her own children for an inner tolerance or com- placency. These arguments, which we believe all serious Catholics will allow to be fairly stated, and which rest, we know, in part on definite authority, are undoubtedly formidable ; and yet regarding them, as we do, from a stand-point which allows of fairness, we cannot deem them wise. That Rome might side with Nationalism in Ireland, nationalism ready and eager for the field, without spiritual loss, we concede at once. She has never declared for any form of government, she cannot be pledged to a government of Protestants, and she has never looked even kindly on the idea that war, for an adequate end, can be inherently un-Christian. But we cannot but think that any Church—above all, any Christian Church —loses heavily in the long-run when, even in obedience to its own desire not to be harsh to its own disciples, it hesitates publicly to brand offences, which it admits to be offences, which have suddenly risen into prominence, and which are opposed also to the instinctive conscience of mankind. Murder is such an offence, and on that one we think the priesthood in Ireland may, with the rarest exceptions, or per- haps with none, be trusted. But outrage, the infliction of torture for a criminal end, is another ; and so also is the per- jury now so customary among jurors. It is on that offence, above all others, that the Roman Catholic Church seems to us weak, and to pose as one daunted by external obstacles. No Bishop would deny that an unjust judgment, given from terror or through affection, was a crime,—a crime requiring repentance and amendment, a crime abhorrent to the teaching of the Church in all ages ; yet this is to-day the crime of Ireland, and on this we can find in the utterances of the Church no adequate deliverance, nothing like the language that would be employed if Catholics habitually took the Sacrament from schismatic hands. Catholics may say that to denounce it would " weaken sympathy," but we believe they are in error. Man is so constituted that he always in his heart believes more strongly in the teacher who, to his own hurt, maintains an unsparing standard of rectitude when it is most inconvenient to himself. The peasantry might be angry, might even express their anger, but at heart every man would know that the priesthood were in the right, and were refusing in an hour of great peril to whittle down moral truth because its promulgation was inconvenient ; and when the irritation had passed, would hold the divine claim of the Church better established than before. The moral "Non possumus" never fails with believers to inspire respect, while with outsiders it instantly restores confidence, and the sense of a common ground. What is the first root of our Protestant inability to be fair to Catholicism, of the sort of prejudice which sees infinite harm even in establishing Civil relations between England and the Papacy ? Is it not the con- viction that Catholicism is lawless, that it has no fixed principle except the desire of power, that it will never condemn or ap- prove publicly and unmistakably, when approval or con- demnation is inconvenient. There is not a Protestant in the world who, if Rome condemned the unjust juror as strongly and unmistakably as the unjust Judge, as a man who was past all question criminal in the eyes of the Church, would not feel at once that one, at least, of his most rooted pre- judices was unreasonable. And with believers, whom Rome must think of first, the effect would be pride in a Church which, against a People, as well as against Kings, could lift up her voice audibly, and accept in consequence any suffering sent. The Roman Church has kept very clear this time of any complicity with the darker forms of Irish agitation ; but she has not done her whole duty until she denounces the special crime—perjury among jurors —which that agitation has developed, and which, far more than outrage or insurrection, threatens to sap the very found- ations of society. There is no criminal whose conduct has such disastrous results on morality as the deliberately unjust

Judge, and in what, save perhaps in degree, does the unjust juror differ from him ?