I. Orange and Green
Yet start not, Irish-born man,
If you’re to Ireland true,
We heed not race, nor creed, nor clan,
We’ve hearts and hands for you.
– THOMAS DAVIS
DANIEL O’CONNELL, styled “the Liberator,” was no more responsible for Catholic Emancipation than he was for the “big wind” remembered by the old age pensioners. The Premier who saw Emancipation placed on the Statute Book declared that it was passed to prevent insurrection in other words, for fear of the people, not fear of O’Connell’s tongue. Yet, apart from Irish agitation, it is obvious that the Penal Code could no more persist than could stage-coaches. O’Connell, however, thrust himself into the course of events with that torrential invective that he had learnt from the tradition of the Anglicised Ascendancy Parliament. The sweet charity and liberality of the Gael were trampled under his feet, and when the struggle was over, and Irish Catholics had been granted a market for their souls in Dublin Castle, a new situation was seen to have arisen the situation which brought about the Ulster Problem.
It was found that Protestant patriotism had been alienated frightened by O’Connell’s pugnacious “Faith-and-Fatherland” bombast. He had identified nationality with a religious movement, and the proud Republican faith of Wolfe Tone, that had knit Catholic and Protestant and Presbyterian together and terrified England with the dread of a United Ireland, was now rejected by the “uncrowned King of Ireland.” It would be foolish to excuse Protestant Ireland for its recusancy. It changed its political allegiance in thirty years. It played the coward. But all observers of political life know that it is bad statesmanship to ignore prejudices and fears and the impressionability of the common man. Disastrous consequences like the creation of the Ulster Problem can be brought about in quite healthy communities when reckless and unprincipled men gain control.
O’Connell blunderingly undid that unifying of Ireland which made such great progress in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The heroics of the Protestant Parliament and the Volunteers had been taken quite seriously by the democracy, however Grattan and Flood may have “kept their tongues in their cheeks” as they posed and strutted. The infallible economic advantages of Irish independence were making themselves evident. The Ascendancy Parliament’s measures, feeble as they were, had been used by a vigorous population to the full, and both agriculture and industry were making remarkable progress. The United Irishmen, founded by Protestants of the mettle of Wolfe Tone, and seeking to combine with the Catholic agrarian bodies, began to fuse the various elements of the nation into a conscious and determined unity. Be it noted that it was not the Parliamentarians of the day with their hostility to Catholic Emancipation and democratic measures, but the Republicans, with their “Rights-of-Man” principles; who sought to abolish unnatural distinctions and coalesce the nation. Yet the comrades of Wolfe Tone nourished no mere colonial patriotism. The Irish tongue then lived with undiminished vigour, and there was a rich Irish life that made Ireland as obviously foreign to an English visitor as France. The atmosphere generated by Gaelicism was what made of the Republicans, patriots. In short, Ireland was still Gaelic, and her nationality was exerting all its old powers of assimilation.
O’Connell, as we have said, changed all this. He was one of that chain of Benthamite politicians who, in the early nineteenth century, throughout Europe, were striving by the methods of compromise to check the revolutionary spirit in the interest of the bourgeoisie. O’Connell attacked the democratic principles of the United Irishmen, fought against trades unionism, and, most disastrous of all, bade the Irish people abandon their language, i.e., their culture, nationality, and powers of absorption. Thus he struck down democracy and Gaelicism, the two forces which alone could make a united and free Ireland. Of the true Catholic (i.e., “universal”) spirit, which always characterised the unanglicised Gael, he had nothing. True Catholicity (with a big or little “c”) abhors sectionalism and clannishness, and wins by an easy tolerance that attracts where militancy would only provoke opposition. But O’Connell’s rough and unnecessary militancy gave a welcome excuse to England’s agencies of propaganda. He had represented Catholicity as a sort of tribal religion, and his enmity to democracy gave colour to the cartoon which showed Catholics as reactionaries and bigots. Thus his influence was all against that Republicanism the growth of which was Ireland’s hope.
Our prospect of re-awakening Protestant patriotism lies in advanced democracy and Gaelicism. By compromise Ireland has always lost. Whenever she has lowered the flag one inch, she has been called on to lower it a yard. When Ireland has been completely Irish, and has spoken out for the clear principles of Wolfe Tone, the instincts of liberty have been awakened in the good men of all creeds, and the beauty of the Gaelic ideal has won their hearts. But when Irish-men, like the Redmonds and Dillons, have made shifty promises and poses, their unmanly attitude has moved the contempt of those they sought to wheedle. Nothing is to be gained by winning over the time-servers, as the Dillons have learnt, for when won, they cannot be relied on. The uncompromising self-respect which wins the honour of the good, alone is of profit. Hence, Ireland to-day does not pause to truckle with the Protestant bourgeoisie, to argue with the uncivilisable Mahaffys and intolerant Bernards. She relies on her own brave stand for Liberty to stir up whatever there is of old-time independence in Protestant Ireland, and already there are stirrings in the heart of Belfast of that city’s Republican tradition, forever sanctified by the martyrdom of Henry Joy McCracken.
The Gaelic movement alone has made more converts to nationality in Protestant Ireland in a year than all the life-long beggings of John Redmond. Every year more and more children of the North are won by the charm of resurgent Irish culture, and so recovered for Ireland. Gaelicism runs in the instincts of the Protestant democracy, and love of Ireland wakens wherever ignorance and bigotry and greed are put aside. The sharp-clipped, classic, sinewy Ulster Irish (the Irish of Bedell’s Bible) slips easily on to the Ulster tongue; the Ulsterman recognises in Gaelic art and manners his own normal environment, and the work of absorption goes on. Mark that all cultured Ulster is being brought under the Gaelic banner. The Ulsterman of refinement looks round him, and sees that there is no living culture in Ireland save the Gaelic, or native, culture, redolent with the odours of his native soil. In consequence, all the spirited and educated of Ulster’s youth is growing strangely tolerant of its own country. Unionism sees its most hopeful recruits slipping from its ranks. It has no culture not an artist nor a poet of its own; nothing to hold the imagination or the ideals. Thus the party of Anglicisation in Ulster, like its Dillonite counterpart in the other provinces, has no leaders left save the ignorant, the fanatical, and the venal. It is losing the only classes that could give it a future. For a party cannot live when it has degenerated to a mob.
II. POLITICS AND RELIGION
“For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.”
– ST. PAUL
Just as no Protestant whose respect is worth having ever respected an Irish Nationalist who was afraid of his own nationalism; so, too, no honest Protestant was ever offended by an Irish Catholic for being stoutly loyal to his Church, and there is a middle-course between O’Connell’s aggressive sectarianism and that mistaken liberality which politely ignores the fact that Ireland is a Catholic country. It is partly the fault of seceding Protestants and partly a mere accident of history that “Catholic” and “Irish” are commonly used interchangeably that Irish speakers in Donegal, who never see a Protestant, save a landlord or a landlord’s petted man, or a clergyman who sets his land by conacre to the land-hungry at exorbitant rates, have but one word for the two terms. The essential fact is, that Irish-Ireland has never, in politics, business or social life, imposed a religious test, and has ever been content to see good Protestant folk win to the lead in all these matters. The Irish Catholic takes his Faith with an absolute disregard for controversy. It is a natural and unconscious part of him.
To ignore the part that the Catholic Faith plays in Irish life would be as absurd as to seek to write a story picturing Spanish or Italian life without mentioning the Church. It would be like trying to paint nature with a paint-box that lacked one of the primary colours. Irish Protestants have to accept the fact that they live in a country where the Catholic religion colours the lives of the people, just as French Protestants have to recognise the same fact; and that Ireland’s history is a history of Catholics’ doings, just as German Protestants have to recognise the same regarding German history. The intelligent Protestant can accept the fact that he lives in a mainly non-Protestant country, just as the Evolutionist can accept the fact that he lives where the people are mostly unconverted to his doctrine. But what of the place that the Church will take in the future Irish Republic?
Irish history offers important lessons on the relations of Church and State that could be studied with profit elsewhere, and will certainly not pass unheeded among our own people. The Irish people’s fidelity to the Church is without parallel in the world. Persecution, amounting to almost-successful extermination, failed to overcome the Gael’s loyalty to his ancient creed. Bribes failed to tempt him. It is true, of course, that his nationality was being aimed at through his religion, and that, save as an excuse to stab at a race she hated, England was ever indifferent to questions of Faith in international relations. Yet, had the Irish people after the Reformation abandoned their religion with that unmanly surrender to material interest which made the whole English population Protestant, they would have shortened the road to political freedom by three hundred years. For they would have struck away the foundation of English craft, destroyed England’s favourite means of dividing to conquer, and secured their land. Thus, Irish religious history is a story of martyr-like sacrifices, of national adhesion to ideals, that must win the admiration of all, and puzzle the materialist philosopher, who professes to see nothing in history but the play of economic forces, and “the map in motion.” But there is another aspect of the story to be remembered.
It is this: Catholic Ireland’s faithfulness was not merely remarkable in consideration of the persecutions which it resisted. Ireland’s triumph was more remarkable in view of the temptations which assailed the Catholic community from within. The Gael detests political religion, and his history demonstrates that his attitude in this respect is right for the whole world. For can it be doubted that had the Irish people identified Church and State, as was done in England, Ireland would have been as easily Protestantised? Had the Irish people confused, as others have done, the conduct of political churchmen and of church-meddling politicians with the realities of religion, they would have been far more strongly tempted by the attitude towards them of Catholics than by the menaces of Protestants. Terrible as was the Penal Code, the injury which it inflicted on Ireland was less than the injuries which she sustained from Catholic hands, and indeed, as we have seen, it was itself but the final stage in a consistent policy of extermination first planned by Bloody Mary, England’s great Catholic queen. From the days when the invader of Ireland secured a Papal Bull to camouflage his scoundrelly excursion, when again an English King secured the excommunication from Rome of the de jure and de facto King of Ireland, Bruce, down to our own days when “old English Catholic families” (that owe their eminence to wealth plundered from their own Church) continue to intrigue for the spiritual thunders of Rome to be lent to atheistical English parties in their persecutions of the Irish Nation, just so long the bitterest and most dangerous enemies of Ireland have always been English Catholics.
Newman, the one great and true Catholic reared by England (though he was of foreign blood) since the far days of St. Anselm, himself marvelled at Ireland’s indifference to the treatment she received from political Catholics.
“It is remarkable,” wrote that saintly scholar and gentle lover of Ireland, “that the Holy See, to whose initiative the union of the two countries is historically traceable, is in no respect made chargeable by the Irish people with the evils that have resulted to them from it . . . it does, we say, require some explanation how an oracle so high and irrefragable should have given its religious sanction to a union apparently so unblessed, and which at the end of seven centuries is as devoid of moral basis or of effective accomplishment, as it was at the commencement . . . Adrian IV, indeed, the first Pope who countenanced the invasion of Henry II, was an Englishman; but not on his Butt did Henry rely for the justification of his proceedings. He did not publish it in Ireland till he received a confirmatory brief from Alexander III. Nor was Alexander the only Pope who distinctly recognised it; John XXII., a hundred and sixty years afterwards, refers to it in his brief addressed to Edward II. Such have been the dealings of the Holy See in times past in Ireland; yet it has not thereby roused against itself any resentful feelings in the minds of its natives.“
Political religion is like that intellectual devil so often quoted by Edgar Allan Poe – the devil that toiled through piles of learned tomes to demolish one soul, “while any common devil could have ruined thousands.” It is one of the most significant facts of history that while Ireland, in its struggle for freedom to develop its old Christian civilisation, nay, in its struggle for very existence, has had to fight against Catholic politicians, England, on the contrary, has been constantly pampered by the same people.
England was never more than superficially Catholic. From the foundation of the Norman monarchy down to the actual Reformation, her history is one of enmity to Catholic ideals. It was her separatism, in Catholic days, that prevented the cementing of Europe into a Christian Commonwealth. Her monarchy was anti-Catholic from the start. King William appropriated two-thirds of the money collected from the people for the Pope. The second William kept vacant bishoprics open and pocketed their revenues. It was he, too, who refused to allow St. Anselm [Archbishop of Canterbury] to enter communion with Pope Urban. There was then a rival claimant for the Holy See, and the King held that no one could acknowledge any Pope till he himself should have decided who was the rightful claimant. That the King’s queer notion of spiritual authority was not peculiar to himself is seen by the fact that when a council of the English bishops was called on the matter, they declined to support St. Anselm, being unwilling to conflict with the King, and “they refused to give any advice at all.” Pre-Reformation English history is full of similar passages. Henry II, John, and Edward III, all fought against Papal authority and tried to gain state control of the Church such as was ultimately achieved when the sixteenth century Jezebel, Queen Elizabeth, was able to unfrock bishops who displeased her. Always, too, the English clergy are seen willing to sacrifice principle and compound with the State, and only the courage of a St. Anselm or a St. Thomas forfends the Reformation. Thus Henry II, who got the Bull to invade Ireland himself, came near to acting Henry VIII’s part, for his claims to rule the Church in England were only stayed short of a rupture with Rome by the indignation roused by his murder of his stout opponent, St. Thomas Beckett.
Ultimately the rupture came. Henry grasped at spiritual authority and tore the Church in England from Christendom, subjecting it to the State. The clergy of the country meekly acquiesced and transferred their allegiance from Peter to a royal bigamist. The people followed suit. There was, indeed, a rising in the North of England, called the Pilgrimage of Grace, but My Lord of Norfolk, at the head of the King’s forces, quickly quenched that. England surrendered the Faith with the same unanimous alacrity as that with which Ireland, in the days of Patrick, received it. Despite this discreditable religious record, England has been unceasingly flattered, wheedled and assisted by political Catholics. In her interests, Ireland was betrayed not once, but many times. Our most virtuous leaders were attacked with spiritual weapons. Irish clerical students on the Continent in Penal days were seduced from their nation and educated in English ideas, and it is not wholly without excuse (as the authority of Newman shows) that Connolly wrote of Catholic policy, that it ever treated Ireland in accordance with a “scheme which looks upon Catholic Ireland simply as a tool for the spiritual re-conquest of England to Catholicity.”
The policy which sacrificed Ireland in the hope of pacifying England was doomed to failure from the start. The irreligious governing class in England grew only the more arrogant when slave-Catholics worked its will. Meanwhile, one of the wickedest falsehoods ever imposed on Ireland by foreign propaganda gained currency in the home country. As the Irish race was rooted from the soil and scattered through the world, slave-Catholics in Ireland sought consolation in the theory that “the dispersal of the Irish people would spread the Catholic religion,” and with this excuse they weakened their resistance to the tyranny that was destroying the Christian State in its faithfullest stronghold. So far from the dispersion spreading Catholicity, an appalling percentage of the scattered race was lost forever to the Church. England is full of O’s and Mac’s who not only have forsaken Catholicity, but lack even a half-faith like Protestantism to bind them to morality. The fantastical creeds of America are headed by Sullivans and O’Donnells. Owing to the dispersion, probably one-third or more of the Irish-named population of the world is ranked among the neo-pagan hosts. That is what political religion has achieved.
It has been unscrupulously argued, too, by slave-Catholics, that the loss of the Irish tongue has recruited the English-speaking world with a Catholic population. The truth is that the adoption of English in Ireland (for which no section is more responsible than the Churchmen, who allowed Irish devotions to cease, and brought the English tongue into the hearts of the people by its use in the Churches) has not enriched the English-speaking world by one great Catholic of influence who might not have equally come from a Gaelic Ireland. But, instead, the use of English has thrust the vilest influences of the modern world into the sanctuaries of Irish home life. Not only is the English tongue materialistic in its very vocabulary, but the English-written Press is vicious in both its editorial and advertisement matter, and goes with its demoralising influence into every Irish house every day.
Compare the sweet lives and speech of the people of the Gaeltacht with the life of Anglicised counties, and you may see how disastrous has been the work of those who betrayed the sacred and God-inspired cause of Nationality because of a plausible formula. Let it be remembered that it was when Ireland was Gaelic-speaking from shore to shore that all she reared of genius, learning or virtue cast itself in impassioned energy into the work of Christianising Europe. How different were the legions of Gaelic scholars who poured over France, Germany and the Balkans, preaching and prevailing, from the dispirited, half-educated, broken-tongued exiles who were driven overseas in latter years to nurse a hatred and to sink in misery and often shame. When Ireland is a free state, the citizens of the Republic who fare into other lands will go with a culture and a self-respect to sustain them, and will command attention by their bearing and their country’s fame. Instead of shrinking from the Englishman’s scorn, and concealing their religion with their nationality, they will speak boldly of both. Then, too, the missionary spirit will glow again in our colleges ; and having studied the needed tongues, the children of the Gael will go forth into India and China and Arabia, winning hearers as sons of a race that has never made religion a pretext for plunder, a race that has no stain on its standard, where the whiskey-and-Bible-bearing Briton, using religion as a pretext to advance his capitalistic Empire, has made the name of Christianity one to be mocked at. A distinguished Italian visitor to Ireland comments on “the curious fact that the language revival is accompanied by an intensification of missionary zeal, a re-awakening of that ardour for winning converts to the Faith, for which Ireland is renowned in history.” Describing an Oireachtas pageant, the same writer says: “Foreigner though I was, I had a vague sense that something notable for civilisation and Catholicism was maturing in the soul of this Irish race.“
Ireland’s history, in contrast to England’s, demonstrates forever the ineffectiveness of the State as an influence to promote true religion. The Irish people have been preserved from the corruption and anarchy of doctrine into which England fell, through the vitally democratic nature of their Faith. The People are the Church. Their creed is not a decree from a caste that they sullenly obey, but a unanimous conviction. How different is the Irish religious attitude from the English may be realised by trying to imagine what sort of response the Irish clergy would have received in the sixteenth century if they, like the English clergy, had apostatised and asked their people to adhere to a newly-contrived code of doctrine. Had bishops and priests gone to their flocks, saying: “The things we have taught so long are now to be disbelieved. The Mass is idolatry. The Sacraments are superstitious. King Harry is head of the Church. Yees can all believe and act as yees like,” what answer would they have received from Gaelic clans-man and farmer, and craftsmen and bard? The same that rebelly Brian-of-the-Raniparts O’Rourke, as he went to the scaffold, made to the apostate Archbishop of Cashel, who talked to him of repentance: “I think thou art a Franciscan who hast broken thy vows.”
The loyalty of the Irish clergy in those tempestuous days doubtless owed not a little to the fact that they were children of a democracy that had so well-diffused and so appreciative a Faith. Do not our religious even to-day speak of the inspiration they derive from the devotions of the dwellers in cabins and slums? “I learn more from these people than I teach them,” said the great Father Sheehan of his simple country parishioners. The unexuberant atmosphere of the Penal Laws is still upon us, and Irish Catholicity has little of the pomp and architecture and incense-burning that, on the Continent, appear to the Briton to be Catholicity’s essence. We have no sensational conversions or controversies. Yet Catholic philosophy as well as Catholic Faith flourish on Irish soil, and without any profusion of advertisement, Irish scholars have brought Scholasticism to a new life. The shrewd instinct of a conscientious and unaffected people guides Irish democracy aright where others, who are ever debating formulas, would be in swithers.
When threatened with conscription by an alien authority, the Irish People, d’aitheasc aoin-bheoil, declared their intention to resist it. They were denounced by English theorists with mixed formulas about the duty of the subject to de facto governments. Then the Hierarchy confirmed the masses in their resolve, pronouncing the invalidity of an “oppressive and inhuman law.” Were the Irish people wrong the day before, and right the day after, the bishops’ declaration? No, their deep Catholic instinct guided them unerringly. But no spectacle in Ireland’s history was ever more inspiring than that of the bishops and people of Ireland sitting in common council, and seeking in supernatural sources fortitude for a conscientious struggle which, either by arms or passive resistance, seemed certain to involve more terrible suffering than would submission to the principle of foreign sovereignty. The Maynooth Conference recalled that other at which Columcille pleaded with the temporal leaders of the nation.
In the Conscription Conference we may see the norm of future relations between Church and State in Ireland. Only when the sense of national unity stirred the Irish race in the very depths of its emotions could so magnificent, a demonstration of spiritual unity be brought about. The world was shown a great people “pledging themselves to one another” in a common cause sanctified by a profound common ideal. As Gaelicism brings the nation into ever closer communion, the nation will ever more frequently recoil upon its primary sources. We look to see, in the future, the State taking counsel of the Church. We shall never see it subordinated to churchmen. We shall not tempt our clergy, as they have been tempted in other lands. There will be none of that confusion of the temporal and spiritual that works evil to both. Yet the Gaelic constitution, planned on the principle that independent and self-conducting bodies shall come into free consultation on all national issues, as was done in the Conscription Conference, will prevent that disastrous alienation of the Church’s brains from the State which in other countries has proved the alternative to political religion. In England and elsewhere, when political churches have been overthrown, the State has forthwith become a wholly non-moral institution, and has rejected the assistance of statesmanlike minds among the clergy for pretended fear of “clericalism.” The Gaelic State will seek the aid of the wise and shrewd without fear, because the free councils of the Republic will in their nature be as free of the party spirit as was the Conference at Maynooth that defeated Conscription.
It follows from that courteous recognition of each other’s independence that Church and State will allow complete freedom to their constituent members in matters of both faith and citizenship. On the one hand, the State will in its constitution be unable to intrude the smallest interference into the affairs of the self-governing Church – or Churches. It will have no concern with the religious consciences of its people. On the other hand, the Church will respect the privileges of the State – will deny the State the services as citizens of none of its members and will exert the more powerful influence in the councils of the nation, because that influence will be wielded (as ever in Ireland) through consultation and not coercive means.