From The Irish People, April 9, 1864.
Last week we published a document which, we trust, has been carefully read, not only by those who look upon the IRISH PEOPLE as the true organ of the National cause, but by those Irish Nationalists, also, who honestly differ with us – perhaps because they misunderstand us. We allude to the report of the conversation between Bishop DUGGAN and some members of the Chicago Circle of the Fenian Brotherhood. The publication of this document is opportune at the present moment. The assailants of the Fenian Brotherhood are just now quite frantic in their efforts to bespatter all who belong to that society or sympathize with its object with slander of every sort. Of course, the principal weapon in the armoury of those slanderers is that which has been brandished by hypocrites and traitors as long as we can remember. We find it difficult to believe that any considerable number of sane men can possibly be deceived by the dishonest cant which, during the last few weeks, has been so plentifully poured out upon the country, to the disgust of every honest and intelligent friend of Ireland. This cry about “infidels” and “enemies of religion” is palpably got up for a base purpose. It is done to conciliate a certain party, whose favour, no doubt, is of material consequence to trading politicians. To retain this material support, and at the same time to bamboozle the people by a pretended sympathy with the cause of Irish independence, is the task to which certain journalists appear to devote all their energies. Their spasmodic efforts to cling to the fag end of the National party, and at the same time to hold fast by Dr. CULLEN’s skirts, would be an exceedingly amusing, if it were not a thoroughly disgusting, exhibition. It reminds us very much of the matter in which parliamentary patriots, in the palmy days of agitation, used to perform a somewhat similar feat Those patriots were wont to make up for a seditious oration on an Irish platform, by doing the dirty work, for which they were paid, in the English parliament, with increased zeal and assiduity. So when we find a plausible article instituting a comparison between Ireland and Poland, or a dreadfully rebellious one intended to bring about a “ministerial crisis,” in one of the pseudo-national newspapers, we are sure to have the next number bristling with “Fenians,” “Secret Societies,” “Emissaries of the Devil,” with various other sensational devices, which, we fear, must operate prejudicially upon the nervous system of the amiable old ladies who patronize the pseudo-patriotic prints referred to. But to come to Bishop DUGGAN and the Fenian Brotherhood.
Will any honest man say that those Catholic gentlemen who waited upon the bishop on the part of their co-religionists, who belonged to the condemned society, were enemies of religion? The fact of their being delegated to wait upon him is of itself a proof that the Catholic members of the Fenian Brotherhood are sincerely attached to their Church. The bishop, however, told them distinctly that it was a violation of the laws of the Catholic Church to entertain the idea of freeing Ireland by force of arms? He reiterated this strange doctrine subsequently in his sermons. Yet he professed himself ready to be guided by the opinion of Mr. SMITH O’BRIEN. This appeal to Mr. SMITH O’BRIEN by a Catholic bishop, upon a question of Catholic discipline, appears to us somewhat extraordinary. Yet it throws a ray of light upon ecclesiastical authority as some dignitaries of the Catholic Church understand it. They appear to make no distinction between purely spiritual and mere temporal matters. What they disapprove of as men they think they have a right to anathematize as the successors of the apostles. Sincere and enlightened Catholics justly apprehend great danger to religion from this jumbling together of religion and politics. The Irish priest assumes authority over his flock which the clergy of other Catholic countries never dream of assuming. Yet this is not to be wondered at. The history of Ireland explains it. The fiendish tyranny of England ground our people down to the condition of ignorant slaves. In this state of compulsory ignorance and serfdom the people naturally looked for guidance to the only educated class that cared for or sympathised with them. But times are changed. The people are now comparatively educated, and demand the right possessed by the people of other Catholic countries if acting according to the dictates of their own judgment in all worldly concerns.
The Catholic Church is conservative – and wisely so. But Irish ecclesiastics seem to confound the normal legitimate conservatism of the Church with the abnormal and illegitimate authority which was the necessary consequence of the ignorance inflicted by an unscrupulous foe upon the Irish people. The state of things which gave birth to that under authority being removed, the authority ought to be surrendered. It would be an unwise father who would endeavour to subject his children, after they had reached the years of discretion, to the same discipline which was good for them during their boyhood.
A priest at Doctor CULLEN’s table told Bishop DUGGAN that the Irish people were as ready to fight for their independence now as ever they were; and no one contradicted him. But then several other gentlemen with whom Bishop DUGGAN dined, and who “treated him very kindly indeed,” laughed at this idea. Besides the bishop actually dined with a lord who was “quite satisfied with the present status.” We suspect that this dining with lords has a good deal to do with the opinions of bishops and priests concerning the state of Ireland.
Bishop DUGGAN assured the Fenians that in his travels “through France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, and other countries, he found that there was more liberty of the Church, bishops and clergy in Ireland than elsewhere.” This is quite true; and no doubt such a comfortable state of things enables Irish bishops and priests to look upon the sufferings of the Irish people with philosophical calmness, and to assure the said Irish people that it is their “glory” to be the “martyr nation.” English statesmen are wonderfully wise!
Before we conclude this article we would say a word upon the speech of the Bishop of Limerick to his clergy, which certain people suppose must prove the salvation of Ireland. The Right Rev. Dr. BUTLER seems to think that other Right Reverend, and Most Reverend Doctors, have gone to work in the wrong way to prevent an Irish revolution. He evidently thinks it rather a mistake to tell the people that a seven years’ Famine would be preferable to the landing of an invading army in the country – and that the defects of the British Constitution were like the spots on the sun. His lordship is also good enough to say that those young men “who see no way to justice but with swords in their hands” are by no means the reprobates they are usually represented to be. “Teach those youthful enthusiasts” continued his lordship, “that you are as dissatisfied as they are.” This is the new plan to turn the “enthusiasts” from their evil ways. Bishop BUTLER concluded his address by exhorting his clergy “to petition for tenant-right and the abolition of the Protestant establishment” – though the had previously informed them that “petitioning seemed to have been in vain, and that insult was offered when just claims were preferred.”
We wonder does the Right Rev. Doctor BUTLER claim relationship to the house of Ormond? He is evidently a diplomatist. But we trust his diplomacy will not have so fatal an effect as that of a namesake of his had upon the cause of Ireland at a memorable period of our history.
We hardly believe that the “enthusiasts” who see but one way “to justice” will be content with petitioning.
We rather think that the manhood of Ireland agrees with Mr. G. H. MOORE, that this unfortunate country has been long enough “standing upon the highway of Nations, exposing her sores to the world, with a beggar’s petition in her hand.”