March 07, 2016

Edwardian Ireland was a religiously apartheid island

Irish politicians and jurists effectively enshrined Roman Catholic canon law into Irish statute and jurisprudence

Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote in his famous book, 'States of Ireland' (p. 109):
"After my father's death, the pressure on my mother to withdraw me from this school must have been strong. Another widow, in a similar position, had withdrawn her boy not long from Sandford. She had been told that by keeping the boy at a Protestant school she was prolonging her late hushand's suffering in purgatory."

He wrote (p. 119) about "the oppressive pieties of the catholic state":
"In his constitution of 1937 [de Valera] made sectarianism the law of the land in a far more permanent state than his predecessors had done."
The preamble to the irish constitution states that all authority of the State comes from a specific god called the Most Holy Trinity. He also wrote in his memoir 'My Life and Themes' (p. 6):
"The whole enterprise of the Easter Rising... Was one of exalted Irish Catholic nationalism."
Eamonn McCann wrote:
"Wolfe Tone believed that one of the “great ends” of the fight against England lay in “the emancipation of mankind from the yoke of religion and political superstition”. 
He regretted that Bonaparte had missed a chance to “destroy forever the papal tyranny”. 
There was little acknowledgment in 1916 of that element in the legacy of the “Father of Irish Republicanism”. (Never rates a mention at Bodenstown today, either.) ... 
The rosary was regularly recited in the GPO. If only for the sake of completeness, this, too, should be depicted next year in tableaux and other representations of the seminal event in the creation of an independent Irish state."


On Easter Sunday 1908 the Ne Temere decree came into force. The Canon Law meant the Catholic Church would not recognise a marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic unless it took place in a Catholic church. It also decreed children from any marriage must be brought up Catholic.

Before Ne Temere was enacted, 30% of Presbyterian ministers in Ireland favoured Home Rule. Afterwards Ne Temere 4% did. (See here).

The marriage rate between Catholics and Protestants was under 1% in 1911.

Famous Irish protestant and polemicist Hubert Butler wrote in 1954 about the effects of the Ne Temere decree in 'Portrait of a Minority':
"Before the application of Ne Temere to Ireland hostages were exchanged pari passu and the two communities shared in each other’s lives on equal terms. Now there is no reciprocity and in those who have given all and received nothing, there is often a feeling of slow strangulation which they are forced to dissemble in case they do injury to those they love. A whole community can die without drama as though it had been struck by one of those instrument of “re-education”, which leaves no external bruises."
In 1912 Edward Carson wrote against the Ne Temere and Motu Proprio decrees:
"But the differences which still sever the two great parties in Ireland are not only economic but religious. The general slackening of theological dispute which followed the weary years of religious warfare after the Reformation, has never brought peace to Ireland. In England the very completeness of the defeat of Roman Catholicism has rendered the people oblivious to the dangers of its aggression. The Irish Unionists are not monsters of inhuman frame; they are men of like passions with Englishmen. Though they hold their religious views with vigour and determination, there is nothing that they would like more than to be able to forget their points of difference from those who are their fellow Christians. It is perhaps necessary to point out once again that the Roman Catholic Church is a political, as well as a religious, institution, and to remind Englishmen that it is by the first law of its being an intolerant and aggressive organisation. All Protestants in Ireland feel deep respect for much of the work which is carried on by the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. They gladly acknowledge the influence of its priesthood in maintaining and upholding the traditional morality and purity of the Irish race. They venerate the memories of those brave Irish priests who defied persecution in order to bring succour to their flocks in time of need. But they are bound to deal with the present political situation as they find it. They are determined that no Church, however admirable, and no creed, however lofty, should be forced upon them against their wills. There is a dark side to the picture, on which it is unnecessary to dwell. We have only to ask the Nonconformists of England what would be their feelings were a Roman Catholic majority returned to the British House of Commons. 
In most of the articles in this book which deal with the religious question; special stress is laid upon recent Papal legislation
The Ne Temere and the Motu Proprio decrees have constituted an invasion of the rights hitherto enjoyed by the minority in Ireland, and they are even more significant as an illustration of the policy of the Roman curia. Those who have watched the steady increase of Roman aggression in every Roman Catholic country, followed as it has been by passionate protest and determined action by the civil Governments, must realise the danger which Home Rule would bring to the faith and liberty of the people of Ireland. It is not inconsistent to urge, as many of us have urged, that Home Rule would mean alike a danger to the Protestant faith and a menace to Catholic power. The immediate result of successful Papal interference with civil liberties in every land has been a sweeping movement among the people which has been, not Protestant, but anti-Christian in its nature. If we fear the tyranny which the Roman Catholic Church has established under British rule in Malta and in Quebec, may we not fear also the reaction from such tyranny which has already taken place in France and Portugal.
 But we are told that there are to be in the new Home Rule Bill safeguards which will protect the minority from any interference with their civil and religious liberties. It is not necessary for me to go over again in detail the ground which is so admirably covered by Mr. George Cave and Mr. James Campbell. They show clearly that the existence of restrictions and limitations upon the activities of a Dublin Parliament, whether they are primarily intended to safeguard the British connection or to protect the liberties of minorities, cannot be worth the paper on which they are printed. Let us take, for instance, an attempt to prevent the marriages of Irish Protestants from being invalidated by an Irish Parliament. We may point out that an amendment to the 1893 Home Rule Bill, designed to safeguard such marriages, was rejected by the vote of the Irish Nationalist party. But even were legislation affecting the marriage laws of the minority to be placed outside the control of a Dublin Parliament, the effect would not be to reassure the Protestant community. Mr. James Campbell mentions a case which has profoundly stirred the Puritan feelings of Irish Protestantism. A man charged with bigamy has been released without punishment because the first marriage, although in conformity with the law of the land, was not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church. However justifiable that course may have been in the exceptional circumstances of that particular case, the precedent obviously prepares the way for a practical reversal of the law by executive or judicial action. We must remember that, since the Ne Temere decree has come into force, the marriages of Protestants and Roman Catholics are held by the Roman Catholic Church to be absolutely null and void unless they are celebrated in a Roman Catholic Church. We have also to bear in mind that these marriages will not be permitted by the priesthood except under conditions which many Irish Protestants consider humiliating and impossible. No more deadly attack upon the faith of the Protestant minority in the three provinces in Ireland can be imagined than to make a denial of their faith the essential condition to the enjoyment of the highest happiness for which they may look upon this earth.
The second decree prohibits, under pain of excommunication, any Roman Catholic from bringing an ecclesiastical officer before a Court of Justice. Even under the Union Government this decree is a danger to the liberty of the subject. Under an independent Irish Government, nothing except that vast anti-clerical revolution which some people foresee could possibly reassure the people as to the attitude of the Executive Government in dealing with a large and privileged class."
Jesse Buck wrote an academic paper on the role of the Ne Temere decree:
"The 20th century started with a custom in Ireland for raising children in mixed marriages; the sons would be raised in their fathers’ religion and the daughters in their mothers’. Certainly there were tensions. Mixed marriages were often suppressed by both the churches and the British state but they did exist. This was all about to change with the promulgation of Ne Temere and the political campaign launched by Protestants against it. Ne Temere represented a new and robust approach by the Catholic Church towards mixed marriages and the raising of children within them. On the 19 April 1908 Pope Pius X promulgated the Papal Decree of Ne Temere. It effectively undermined the possibilities of marriage between a Catholic and non- Catholic. Ne Temere was a hardening of the Catholic Church’s previously ambiguous stance on mixed marriages that cancelled the compromise position of the “Dutch precedent”, which had allowed for mixed marriages in some areas. The Ne Temere Decree stated that the only valid marriage was one before a Catholic priest and the couple could only be married on the understanding that the following conditions would be met. There would be no interference in the religion of the Catholic partner and the Catholic partner would do everything they could to convert the non-Catholic partner both before and after the ceremony. They would not present themselves to the minister of another religion and most onerously for the custom all children must be raised Catholic. 
The most contentious issue was the religion of the children. Ne Temere led to the ‘promise’, a requirement before marriage that the non-Catholic partner agree to the children being raised Catholic. This undermined the custom of raising sons in their fathers’ religion and daughters in the religion of their mothers. Ne Temere posed an existential threat to the Protestant community. There is a debate about whether this requirement was created with Ne Temere or pre-dates it. Lee suggests that it “dates from the 18th Century" although the promise to raise the children as Catholic was not sought in Ireland until Ne Temere. As the Catholic Bishop Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin at the Select Committee of 1825 illustrates, in the case of mixed marriages he only advises that the children be brought up Catholic. It was with the introduction of Ne Temere that the promise was always sought. Edwards himself a product of a mixed marriage saw Ne Temere as a formula to prevent mixed marriages “a proclamation of religious apartheid”. Prior to Ne Temere and the ensuing Protestant reaction mixed marriages could be performed with some difficulty in both partners’ churches and the couple could devise their own strategy for their children’s religious affiliation. With the advent of Ne Temere a couple had to choose only one church, which often resulted in the excommunication of one partner from their church and the loss of their community and family support network. In a place where the majority were Catholic and in a time before individual career structures that would have enabled a mixed marriage family to survive without the need for community support, the effect of Ne Temere was to force mixed marriages into the Catholic fold. The long term survival of the Protestant community relied on the perpetuation of its religion and traditions through the generations. 
Ne Temere did not end the custom on its own, it was part of a composite effect. The decree needs to be placed in the context of early 20th century Ireland and Britain. The start of the century was a tumultuous time, Britain was in the throes of a working class uprising and the movement for Irish Home Rule, which sought to repeal Act of Union 1800, had gained momentum. Ne Temere became a battle cry for Protestants fearful of Home Rule and their future in Catholic-dominated Ireland. It was this reaction that solidified opposition to Home Rule amongst Protestants and led to a scare campaign against mixed marriages leading to the end of the custom. 
The first two years following the promulgation of Ne Temere saw its criticism by the Church of Ireland Synod of Bishops, but apart from a few condemnations it generally went unnoticed. It was the McCann case that brought Ne Temere notoriety in Ireland. Over the course of 1910 and 1911 a domestic dispute in a mixed marriage family went from the home to public meetings and all the way to Parliament. There are two accounts of what transpired one Catholic and the other Protestant. Beyond dispute is that there was a Catholic husband Alexander McCann and his Presbyterian wife Agnes, who had married before Ne Temere. Whether they followed the custom of raising sons in their fathers’ religion and daughters in their mothers’ is not indicated. According to the Protestant side the couple had agreed that husband and wife would attend their respective churches. The major protagonist was the chief advisor and spokesman for Mrs McCann, the minister in her Townsend Street Presbyterian Church, William Corkey. It is at this point the two accounts diverge. According to William Corkey in October 1910 a priest visited the McCann home and informed them that they were not properly married and living in sin. He said that in order to rectify the situation a Catholic priest should marry them and she should make the promise to raise the children as Catholic. She refused and three days later Mr McCann took the children, the furniture and left. Lost and adrift she went to her church where her Pastor William Corkey took up her case. The Catholic account tells a different story of a troubled family life, where Agnes degraded her husband’s religion and told of their many short term separations. Tellingly the Catholic side asked Corkey to produce the name of the priest who declared the couple to be living in sin which he could not do. Corkey produces a number of letters purporting to be between the couple attesting to the happiness of their marriage. Although I have only dealt briefly with the Catholic side it is not my intent to engage in the debate over which account is closer to the truth. For the purpose of this article it is the effect of the Protestant reaction that is most relevant. It was the Protestant leaders who used Ne Temere to dissuade their youth from mixed marriages as it was they who felt the proselytising and existential threat of Ne Temere. 
Corkey spoke at meetings and protests in Belfast, Edinburgh and Dublin using the language of sectarianism, tapping into the critical junctures in British anti-Papery. He calls the priest who supposedly visited the McCann’s “the spokesman for Rome”, he quotes Rev Dr Irwin “The claim of that Church always has been to control the individual, the home, the school, the nation”, Rev Dr. Murphy of Cork said they have been “robbed of their peace and happiness by a foreign and self-constituted despotism”. Corkey says Mrs. McCann “inherited from her ancestors in Scotland ….. an incurably stiff back that absolutely refused to bend before the power of Rome”."


The famous jeremiad of Agnes McCann from 1910 had a profound effect in Ulster and proved a powerful placard for unionists desperate to resist Home Rule.

Anges, a Presbyterian, refused to comply with the Vatican decree. Following her refusal her husband Alexander took her children. Her name became known across Ireland and beyond. A priest who Alexander in west Belfast in 1910 and convinced him that he had been living in mortal sin, if left uncorrected the consequence would be eternal damnation. Feeling he had no choice, he eloped with the children. Agnes McCann never saw her children again.


Ian d’Alton is a senior Irish public servant. He wroteA Protestant Paper For A Protestant People: The Irish Times and the southern Irish minority’ and noted:
"The Irish Times was frequently castigated as the voice of a bigoted, unreconstructed Protestantism. That this attitude was simplistic is demonstrated in the issues it was prepared to take on, and those it wasn’t. Let me give you two examples from the same year, 1950. Early that year, the outcome of the Tilson child custody case – intimately connected as it was with the very survival of the caste – was seen as pivotal by Irish Protestants. 
Ernest Tilson was an Anglican who, under the Ne temere decree (1908), had signed the promise to raise his children as Roman Catholics. On the breakdown of his marriage, he made to renege on that promise. 
The Irish courts held that it was a legally enforceable contract, notwithstanding Protestant protests of duress. While not relying solely on the Irish constitution’s Article 44 which stated the special position of the Catholic Church, the judgment – as Irish Protestants saw it – effectively enshrined Roman Catholic canon law in Irish jurisprudence. It coloured Protestant attitudes towards mixed education, in particular, for a generation. The case engendered considerable reaction in the newspaper, both editorially and by letter. It spoke to the Times’s ethic of a state unbiased towards any one religious viewpoint, as evidenced by the vigorous debate, also early in 1950, on what became known as ‘The Liberal Ethic’."
He continued:
"A film, Evelyn, starring Pierce Brosnan, and loosely based on the Tilson case, had a limited release in the US (13 December 2002) and the UK (21 March 2003)."


An Official Statement made by Irish Bishops to the New Ireland Forum in 1983, said:
"A Catholic country and its government where there is a very considerable Catholic ethos and consensus shouldn’t feel it necessary to apologise that its legal system may sometimes be represented as offensive to minorities, but the rights of a minority are not more sacred that the rights of a majority."
Read my post on Catholic Bigotry as preached by clerics and practised by the laity here.


Patsy McGarry in The Irish Times reported:
"The authors of a new study of mixed-marriage patterns between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland 100 years ago have said they could have been used to anticipate future violence and civil conflict on the island. 
They also believe similar analyses, if applied to the Balkans or the Middle East, “would be illuminating and represent a worthy topic for future research." 
Their study found mixed marriages in Ireland were comparatively rare prior to the first World War, particularly in Ulster. Using the digitised returns of the 1911 population census, it established that mixed marriages on the island then amounted to less than 1 per cent of the total. 
“This low number reflects local marriage market conditions, as well as ethno- religious hostility,” said Dr Alan Fernihough of Queen’s University Belfast. 
He, with professors Cormac Ó Gráda and Brendan Walsh of UCD, prepared the study, Intermarriage in a Divided Society: Ireland a Century Ago, following the digitisation of the 1911 census. 
“These data allow us to look at every married couple in 1911 Ireland and pinpoint every declared mixed marriage. This is ‘big data’ meeting economic history,” Dr Fernihough said. 
The study established that in 1911 Protestants outside Ulster had fewer opportunities to meet a partner of their religion and thus were more likely to compensate by marrying out. “The opposite was true in Ulster, a result with far-reaching consequences, just at a time when competing Orange and green nationalisms began to heighten fears and tensions and resulted in violent spillovers,” Dr Fernihough said. 
The study found the intensity of sectarian feelings and actions varied across the island in 1911, as it would during the Troubles, and may have influenced the frequency of intermarriage."
John A Murphy wrote:
"According to Sinn Féin, partition institutionalised sectarianism and the ills that flowed from it. But sectarianism flourished long before partition."
And here’s more facts to rebut the “thumping lie” that hostilities have nothing to do with religion. In response to the Northern Ireland Loyalty Survey of 1968, Professor John Coaxley wrote in June 2014:
"For the past 25 year or so, Northern Ireland surveys have regularly asked a question inviting respondents to indicate the community with which they would identify (unionist, a nationalist?). Answers over time show relatively little variation… which reports responses at selected years since 1989. Protestants identify strongly as unionist (about 60-70%), with the remainder opting for “neither”; Catholics identify less strongly as nationalist (about 40-60%), with a large proportion identifying as “neither”. Strikingly, virtually no Protestants identify as nationalist. This is mirrored on the Catholic side, where virtually no-one identifies as unionist – even if, as will be seen below, many “non-unionist” Catholics support the union.This binary labelling system is clearly seen by respondents as referring to communal identification, not necessarily to constitutional perspective."
And here’s more from Coaxley on the intimate relationship between religion and politics in Northern Ireland:
"The extent to which Irish electoral behaviour in the nineteenth century was structured by religious affiliation is well known, and forms an important backdrop to the debate on the constitutional question: Irish identity became increasingly identified with Catholicism, leaving little space for a Protestant presence (Elliott, 2009: 20-50). Associated with this was a growing demand among Catholics for Irish self-government, triggering passionate Protestant defence of the union with Great Britain.While we lack survey data before the late 1960s, there is sufficient evidence from elections and enough commentary from observers to confirm the closeness of the relationship between religion and politics."
And my conclusion, 'when fellow citizens are foreign'.


‘Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine’ was published in 1932 and was taught in Irish schools until the 1950s and 60s. Here are some of excerpts from the publication on the subject of Protestantism:
"‘The Protestant Church is not the true church’ 
Protestantism, as a doctrinal system, is perhaps the weakest heresy ever proposed… 
Its tenet that private judgement is the final arbiter of faith is a principle of destruction, ever creating new sects, and ever making the entire protestant following more and more unlike the one, living body of Christ, the true Church… 
Its denial of free-will and human responsibility undermines all morality. There are, of course, many protestants who lead most upright lives, but their probity is due, not to the principles of Protestantism, but to good traditions inherited from Catholicism. 
'The Root Error of Protestantism is its False Rule of Faith’ 
The practical proof of the insufficiency of the bible as a rule of faith is the diversity of belief among protestants, every extravagance of doctrine being professedly based on some one’s interpretation of the sacred text. 
'The Catholic Rule of Faith is the teaching authority of the church’ 
The substitution of private judgement for a living fallible teaching authority is the root-error of Protestantism. It’s destructive force is seen, not only in the multiplication of sects, but I the denial of the Divinity of Christ, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and other doctrines, regarded by the early Reformers as fundamental."
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