(Cursai Coireolaiochta Na h-Eireann)
Created By Seamus Breathnach.
Studies In Irish Criminology: Book 3
2.b. A Criminological History Of Ireland
Sile, Sean and Seamus:
Sean: Well, you know my stance on this WebPage. I’m afraid I am one of those
doubting Thomases you speak of.
Sile: I could have guessed.
Sean: I am entitled to my opinion, just as you are.
Sile: What about the five documents, Appendices i to v. I mean, have your read
Sean: Yes, I have. They are most impressive. I never even heard of some of them --
but I don’t doubt the authenticity of their scholarship for one moment. I never heard
of the Donatio Constantini -- at least not in the Irish context. And I never heard of
that most impressive document the Remonstrance of the Gaelic Chieftains.
Sile: Perhaps that's because it wasn’t so available until more recent times. Or, was it, that it was all hidden in a most peculiarly Irish Catholic way.
Sean: What do you mean by that prejudicial remark?
Sile: I don’t mean it as prejudice, but as insight. You can leave documents in every
public library in Ireland, but if people are not disposed to read them, or if you have
tucked them away under lock and key and, in addition, you are careful not to have
any debate about them, then it makes no matter: they shall not be read.
Sean: Anyway, the Remonstrance is rather impressive. But the truth is, we were
brought up to think little about Laudabiliter, and in so far as we thought of it -- or
other such documents at all -- we were disposed to think that they were the genius of
British or Protestant propaganda.
Sile: But you still persist in this view, even though the Vatican itself has come to
Sean: I don't believe that.
Sile: Well, it may not be proof, but if you read the Catholic Encyclopaedia, you will
find that that is the case. Further, I have a little surprise for you.
The following documents, purporting to come from the Vatican's Secret Archives,
appeared on a website recently. I don’t rightly know their status but since the
contributor's name is Reggie Perrin, one suspects some 'rising damp' cannot be
And yet the documents are rather impressive in an ordinary way.
Here is a painting no less, which captures (H) Adrian IV in flagranto delicto, a 'smoking pistol' as it were, the very act of treachery itself, where Pagan Ireland and
all its centuries of torments, its hangings, maimings and butcheries, are calmly
created by one man in the cool of some self-important religious room far away in
Holy Rome, where you cannot hear a pin drop or a baby cry...
The painting can be found on the following website:
The other documents, dating from the sixteenth century, are no less interesting. They
seem to confirm the content of Laudabiliter, a document so often disputed by so
many persons who spoke in the past if not 'on behalf of’ the Church, then with their
implicit approval. Is the Church now trying to come clean about its murky Irish past?
These other documents concerning Laudabiliter can be seen on this Website:
Both of the above sources came casually if originally from
Sean: Yes, but you are aware that these further documents -- neither the painting nor
the other written documents -- verify the document Laudabiliter.
Sile: Of course they do.
Seamus: Personally, I find these documents remarkable. Given that there are still
people who, like Sean, prefer to think that the whole middle ages was a hoax, they
constitute an interesting item. I might point out that however interesting these items are, they have little or nothing to do with the documents or proofs provided in this WebPage.
Sean: Of course, if these documents are true, as you say, you know what they
Sean: They mean that we are the enemy: we, the Irish, the inheritors of Ireland, the
beneficiaries of Adrian IV's and Henry 11's Ireland, are no more than baron robbers
ourselves. Have you thought of that?
Sile: We are not arguing to make ourselves feel good, are we?
Sean: You are certainly not arguing to make yourselves popular. I’ll say that!
Seamus: I agree. We argue to find the truth, to understand it and to build upon it.
Sean: But you yourself wrote -- what was it you said, back in WebPage O1.a? Let
me quote the entire passage:
Seamus: Bfhuel duirt me go raibh dha rud gur mhian liom tagairt futhu. Rinne me an chead
cheann nuair a thug me cursios ar an neamhfhorbairt a deineadh o aimsear na
meanaoiseanna i leith agus sa drochfhorbairt nuaaimseartha ata le feiceail i gceartlar an
bhaile mar da mba rud e nach raibh aon sibhialtacht ag’s na daoine ata lonnaithe ann.
Anois taim a ra nach bfhuil aon fhorbairt ar bith deanta d’anamnacha na ndaoine o aimsear
na meanaoiseanna. An rud a fheictear duinn leasmugh, tagann se on rud cungaithe
leastaigh. Agus pe caint a chloistear maidir le cursai spioradalta, is cungacht spioradalta
ata i gceist, lofact intleachta, saol agus beocht neamhforbartha an phearsain ata i gceist,
agus lofacht chumhachta phearsain agus moraltachta ata i gceist. Is ionann an laige
leasmuigh agus an brisseadh leastaigh. In aimsear an chaisleain bhi cumhacht ann,
cumbacht na bpaganach agus cumhacht na gcriostaithe (na Cambro-Normans). Nuair a
togadh an caislean ba fireann amach is amach cumhacht na Roimhe, agus nuair a
briseadh ar na paganaigh briseadh ar rud fireann, and e sin d’aineoin go raibh bandia ag
conai taobh leis an gcaislean in aimsear na Druids. Cuireadh na criostaithe deire leis an
bfhireann san, faoi mar a chuireadar Sile-na-gCioc faoina chosa impiriulacha. Ach
caithfimid a thusicint gur o aimsear Phadraigh go dti na meanaoiseanna do bhailigh na
criostaithe i gcoinne na pagannaigh. Chuireadar na paganaigh agus a gcultur faoi chois
agus chun an gniomh a dheanamh i gceart mholadar go deo na Normanaigh agus na
h- Anglici agus bhiodar de shior ag fail locht leis na daoine ag a’ baile. Criostaithe
coigriocha iad na Normannaigh agus na h-Anglici fre cheile. Mhol an Papa an sliocht
armalta seo isteach chun an ghniomh fhada a chriochnu agus chun Ard-Riocht na nGael a
bhriseadh sara d’eirigh lei aibiocht a dhothain Banban a chosaint ona namhaid. As san
amach ceanglaiodh na Gael le ropai beaga bainisneacha an chleir Romhanach.
Both here and elsewhere you have claimed several things. One was that where the
Normans landed, they straight-a-way built a Castle. They took a stone and threw it a few times, as if to keep the God of Christianity at 'arms' length' from the Castle, and there they
built a Cathedral for the Pope. As in Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Clonmel, etc., etc., the
pattern is spread throughout Ireland. This, you say, was the practical side of the deal done
between the Papacy and the Normans.
You then say that this caricature of history is the only thing that architecturally marks the
landscape in Ireland. It is, as you say, as if nothing existed before or after the Norman
You even go further and claim that this antagonism, first sown by the Christians, splits
Gaelic society and redoubles its efforts century upon century in order to maintain its initial
assault. The Reformation, therefore, compounds the tension for violence. What was
Roman and Norman Christian against native Pagan before the Reformation, now becomes
English Protestant versus Irish Catholic, the Roman Church now making its peace with the
pagan natives in order to stir them to battle against the British.
In this vein you construct all Irish history as part and parcel of the Christian conquest. The religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are merely Christian with a progressive secular (Nation State) sense of community going against Christians with a more abstract, universal sense of conquest. The penal laws against Irish Catholics, in this context, were no more than the same laws as the Catholics applied to the Pagan natives. In this vien all those grand tussles about tithes in the 1830s, Fenians in the '60s and Land Reform in the '80s, were merely the several forms of Catholic Emancipation. As further proof of this theory, we have O'Connell, who was the Church's main man. And when he fought, he merely fought for Catholic Emancipation. So, when he then fought for the repeal of the Union, the Catholic Church let their displeasure be known. Only then did O'Connell realise that the Church had been part and parcel of the Act of Union. But it was too late for him to do anything but assign his heart -- where? To Rome! And then Parnell came on the scene: and here again we have the murky fingerprints of a Church, which brought him down because he loved a grown woman. The same Church, which, according to you, was indicted across the world for its unnatural obsession with young male children in its charge. What a prospect! Indeed, according to you, the struggle in Northern Ireland was merely a struggle for more Catholic Emancipation, the return of the Catholic Schools to the Pope being the raison d’etre for Cardinal Daly's new Red Cap.
Sile: Are you finished?
Sean: Not quite. On top of all these observations, you then say that our personalities are made up so as to incorporate and correspond to these historic lesions, the treacheries and deformities of our historical struggles -- those between Gael and Gall, Pagan and Christian Native and Planter, Catholic, Presbyterian and Protestant etc., are in us still, such that when we socialise, we try to do so across these awful historical lesions. You say we developed nothing. We are as -- what phrase did you use? -- we are as phosphorous in water, you said. What was narrowly within became the expression without. And that's why we have had nothing historically but Castles and Cathedrals. We meet each other with so many prejudices and hatreds that we know it is better not to meet at all. You go so far as to suggest that maybe we are not a society at all, but merely a horde or a herd of some description or other.
Sile: Are you finished?
Sile: So, what's your point?
Sean: My point is: who do you think you are? By all that we have said and analysed, you
are a barbarian of sorts. You are condemning us from your own lips. These documents
spell it out. You believe that we are barbarians, uncultivated yahoos, who are incapable of
history, philosophy and self-analysis. Isn't that the case?
Sile: I'm not sure.
Seamus: Yes, it is. That is precisely what we are saying.
Sean: You are saying that the Irish, as a race, were conceived in treachery. We did to the ancient Gaels what the Americans do today. We are the Christian avengers. Is that what you are saying?
Seamus: Out of Ireland...
Sean: Do you believe that our castle-and-cathedral culture, exhibits no more than that of the thief, the child destroyer, the cookoo-mentality? Are we, the Irish, a race of robbers and thugs? Do we use religion to do predatory expeditions on folk that are less developed than we are? We invaded this land on the whim of a Pope and we destroyed all before us... We grew nothing, tilled nothing, husbanded nothing... We are as the Normans left us! Do we repeat that hideous programme across the world in the name of Jesu? If so, we are the picture of Dorian Grey incarnate. On the above painting, all our sins are written... For centuries we have planted unquestioningly. We have subverted other nations because it was how we ourselves were born. We knew no better. We’re not going to revive any language. It was we who destroyed it in the first instance. Our Christianity is one- dimensional. Our greatest fear is that we might know who we are!
Seamus: Did you not notice with what especial regard Donal O’Neill speaks of the
native English? He distinguishes them quite sharply from the Irish ... Did you not
notice that? The real hatred of the Gaels is for the Irish, the middle nation, the mixed
race... the would-be Irish:
For the English inhabiting our land, who call themselves of the middle nation, are so different in character from the English of England and from other nations that with the greatest propriety they may be called a nation & of middle [medium], but of utmost, perfidy.
For, from of old they have had this wicked unnatural custom, which even yet has not ceased among them but every day becomes stronger and more established, viz. when they invite noblemen of our nation to a banquet, during the very feast or in the time of sleep they mercilessly shed the blood of their unsuspicious guests, and in this way bring their horrible banquet to an end. When this has been thus done they have cut off the heads of the slain and sold them for
money to their enemies, as did the baron Peter Brunechchame (Bermingham), a recognized and regular betrayer, in the case of his gossip Maurice de S.3 and his brother Caluache, men of high birth and great name among us. Inviting them to a banquet on Trinity Sunday, on that same day when the repast was finished, as soon as they had risen from the cruelly murdered them with twenty four of their following and sold their heads dear to their enemies. And when he was afterwards accused to the king of
England, the present king's father, of this crime, the king inflicted no punishment on so nefarious a traitor.
Sile: Would you not concede that there was a possibility for peace, even between Gael and Norman, if the Pope could have been got out of the picture. It was he who muddied all the waters. That is the Papacy’s speciality.
Sean: Unfortunately our woes are multiplied a million fold if you now apply what you allege of what happened to Ireland to foreign places like East Timor. Ask who in Fianna Fail and the other parties man the charities, who drove the belligerence against the natives? Ask about Vietnam and the use the Catholic Church made of Diem. How many Adam Dubh O’Tuathaills has the Papacy murdered around the world -- among the native peoples of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, America, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Vietnam. You get the picture, don't you?
Sile: I see what I see.
Seamus: So do I.
Sean: You see that all these bishops and priests, the Irish that the Church of Rome have organised to go out to the most foreign places for all these centuries -- that in effect, they have carried the disease thither, to every innocent village in the world and they have corrupted the waters for practically every living human on the planet. I mean, do you see what these five documents signify? They constitute a paradigm for global subversion.
Seamus: Is that why you can’t accept them?
Sean: They’re just too much! Remember a guy called Hans Kung? In his critique of the Vatican and Benedict XVI, he says the following:
And the whole question will be: will now the Catholic church be dominated again by
a clique of people who is in this authoritarian organization which is, as a matter of
fact, living in a mentality of, I would say, the counter-Reformation, of anti-Modernism, or will we have enough bishops who still remember the Second Vatican Council and who see especially the terrible situation in which our church is in, in the present moment? If you see for instance that the Church of Ireland - I know that a
lot of bishops and priests in Australia too, come from this beautiful and most
constructive Ireland - I mean constructive in a way that they constructed a great
deal of churches, especially in the Anglo Saxon world, and I admire very greatly
these people, I was often there. But it’s terrible to see what happens to a Catholic
country like Ireland, that this country, who was practically sending priests, hundreds
and thousands of priests all over the world, they are practically lost now. They had
in 1990, they still had 300 ordinations a year. Last year they had eight ordinations.
Eight! As a matter of fact, also in other European countries, and this will happen
also to other parts of the world, I’m sure also in Australia, practically the celibate
clergy is dying out. And we have already in our German speaking countries, more or
less half of the parishes who have not anymore a pastor. We are losing the Sunday
Eucharist, all because we do not want to have ordained married men, and why we
don’t want to have ordained women.
I know this is good news to you, but you see, I still want to feel good about where I come
from, for I, too, am Irish -- not of the native Os and Macs, but of those horrid Irish
mercenaries. Are you with me, Sile?
Sile: I can still cry when I think of what this Church did with the Americans in Vietnam. I could cry when I think of what they did to Russia and all those Eastern European countries -- John Paul 11, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. They drove the women on a whole continent into prostitution, doctors, scientists, philologists, musicians... I could cry when I realise what they did in South America, I could cry when I see what they are doing in Afghanistan. In my lifetime I cannot -- and will not -- forgive these monsters for what they did. I don't care how many splendid buildings that awful church raises in Vietnam, I will never forgive it. Never. The same in Afghanistan. Only now we have Benedict XVI, Blair, (another 'good Catholic'), and Mr George Bush. I can’t forgive them. I won't forgive them.
Sean: You have to learn forgiveness...
Sile: Is there no place on earth where an ordinary human of the world can say: the Muslim is my sister, the Jew is my sister, the Protestant is my sister, the Communist, the Anarchist, the Pagan and the Witch -- they are all my sisters. It is Rome and the Popes who are cruel, corrupt and full of hatred, power and Christianity! Down with Christianity! That's what I say! Down with it! I say, come: know your history, Irishman and Irish woman. Know how you have been used! Know of the cruelty that has been imparted in the world in our name -- and stop RTE and all those other organs of Christian imperialism from flourishing in our land.
Criminological History Of Ireland
How the Pope Stole Ireland
- Overview -
The story of how Gaelic society lost its land, its freedom and its birthright is a lesson
in primitive innocence1. How the Pope of Rome came to put Ireland in his back
pocket, however, is another story -- a story that was so sordid that it has never been
fully admitted, confronted or understood, least of all by those who inherited
beneficially from the theft2.
It is a story, moreover, that has never been told in Irish schools, which, like so many
Irish institutions, are owned and controlled by the Roman clergy3. Back in the
nineteenth century -- in Parnell’s time -- there was the notion that any freedom the
Irish would secure from the Protestant and English establishment would sooner or
later be translated into clerical control4. The phrase used then was ‘Home Rule is
Rome Rule.’ And so it was that, even in the nineteench century, the‘uncrowned King
of Ireland’ was dethroned -- just as he had been dethroned in the middle ages5.
In order to avoid any charges of bias or gloss in the furtherance of this claim, we have
chosen to tell Gaelic Ireland’s story in outline first -- that is, in five selected
documents (Appendices i ii iii iv and v), letting the documents, as it were, speak for
themselves6. These documents, plucked from various sources7, are perfectly legible. They are self-explanatory translations of what purportedly happened in broad outline.
They are the sole and exclusive expressions of the parties most directly involved in
When taken individually there is much to-ing and fro-ing about the details, not so
much regarding the contents as much as the history and impact of the documents
themselves9. Such concerns relate to the obvious long-term interests of the parties involved, for, normatively speaking, these documents, taken individually or jointly,
exhibit a sustained nucleus of values, which drove as well as justified all those appalling
actions and policies which down the centuries we identify with the Christian conquest -- and which we have come to call ‘Irish history’10.
As interesting as the facts contained in these documents are, we must not neglect
their normative structure11. Each of the documents speaks not just of itself, or the
organizational capacity of the parties, or of their fears and intentions: they also
speak to the origin and continuing nature of the composite reality they address. By
focusing on their Christian values it is hoped that we can get a clearer and unmistakable grasp of the enormity as well as the continuity of their collective impact12.
Collectively, the documents give a rather grim account of Ireland in the medieval
world. It is not a story that is filled with the milk of Christian kindness, as one might
be led to expect, but rather one that aptly describes a rather relentless Christianity in
the control of a more rapacious papacy13. Although the documents need to be filled
out with other evidence, especially evidence relating to the intervening periods between
documents, it is, nevertheless, apparent that they constitute in themselves, without
gloss or further explanation, a short skeletal version of how Ireland was devoured by
the appetite for expansion of medieval Christianity14.
What, then, is the message these documents intend to convey?
Document 116 (Appendix i). At first Sylvester 1 (c. 314- 335), Bishop of Rome
for twenty one years, claims outright ownership of the temporal as well as the
spiritual world. He does this by virtue of a gift allegedly given to him by the Emperor
Constantine 1. This gift is contained in the document called the Donation of
Constantine (or Donatio Constantini and hereafer called ‘the Donatio’). Although
Ireland is not mentioned in the Donatio, it is, nevertheless, implicitly included in the
Christian world view.)
Document 217 (Appendix ii). While successive Popes since Sylvester 1 have
organised the Church’s world-interests in line with the Donatio Constantini, when it
came to the reign of Adrian IV ( c. 1100 - 1159), he felt justified in 1155 in giving
Ireland to Henry 11 (1133-1189) of England. This gift from one Englishman to
another was either as a Papal strategy. a personal gift, or, in any event, because the
Gaelic people needed to be reformed and civilised to Roman and/or Christian ways, and Henry 11 was the man to do it. The granting Bull is called Laudabiliter, and it is
by virtue of this Bull that Henry 11 became ‘Lord of Ireland’. The Lordship of Ireland
then devolves on Henry 11’s son, and so on...
Document 318 (Appendix iii). As a result of the first two documents, Henry 11 and
his Norman knights invade Ireland. Although few people realised it at the time, Pope
Adrian IV had started the longest war in history. Faced with unexpected and superior
forces, the Gaelic Chieftains were forced into a defensive posture. In 1317 they came
together to beg the Pope (now Pope John XX11) for mercy by way of a
Remonstrance (Document 3). In explaining their predicament to Pope John XX11, the Chieftains, through
their spokesman, Donal O Neill, inform him that it is all the fault of his
predecessors and the Bull Laudabiliter (a Copy of which they offer the Pope,
in case he has mislaid or lost the original), and in consequence of which
they, the remaining Chieftains, now look to him and to Edward Bruce of
Scotland to save them from Romano-English oppression19.
With the Bruce invasion (and thereafter), the fight for the hearts and
Document 421 (Appendix iv). Even though the Bruce Invasion was ruthlessly put down, and famine and starvation maimed the countryside for years, by 1331 the
English colony within the Dublin pale felt sufficiently hard pressed by native
agitation to address the Pope. Reminding him (yet again) of his original authority
over Ireland they, in the same breadth, petition him to launch a crusade against the
Gaels either in order to subdue or to civilise them21.
Document 523 (Appendix v). Finally, some 35 years later The Statute(s) of
Kilkenny 1366/7 (hereafter called ‘The Statutes’) make their appearance. All thirty
five sections of the Act, pursued more or less with what vigour the colonists can from
time to time muster, spell out the beginning of the final solution to the Christian’s
problem with pagan- Ireland.
The normative structure of this document intimates the logic of the final
solution. In effect, the Statutes list the original constitutional values which
have informed Irish history for some seven hundred years -- values which still
prevail and which spell out the intolerance of the Christian conquest224.
Incidentally, this ‘solution’ has been re-cast across the Christianising world
from Ireland to East Timor, through the Portuguese and Spanish colonies, to
modern Russia and Vietnam. Sadly, the Christian conquistadores have for
centuries included amongst their most ardent and dedicated actors an
incomparable succession of unquestioning ‘Irish misionaries’25, who, were it
not for the messianic aspects of the Christian virtues, would be appalled at
colonising other cultures.
Of the five document the first two constitute, in effect, the Christian assault on
pagan Ireland26. The second two documents, that is the Remonstrance and the
Justiciar’s Letter27, are reactions to that assault. Significantly, they are both
addressed to the Pope then reigning28. The fifth document, the Statutes, is a legal
blueprint of a solution that incorporates the Christian evaluation of Gael and Gall
(English)29. This evaluation envisages the dominance of the English Christian
settlement, the subservience of the Gaelic septs, and the general supremacy of
the Christian conquest in perpetuity30. Couched in such valorised terms the
Christian solution to the pagan problem is, in effect, a final solution necessitated
by the logic of Christianity -- a logic which, as we shall see, brings Donal O’ Neill to speak if not of genocide then of racial ‘extermination’31, of measures designed ‘to wipe our nation out entirely and utterly to extirpate it32’. The pro-active role of the church in promulgating these
measures is also attested by the document itself.
As a monotheistic value-system centred on the Pope, Christianity in the middle
ages saw itself partially in terms of its missionary (colonising or crusading)
aspect33. In the case of Gaelic Ireland these missionary values were meant to
supercede all those customary cultural values supportive of the Druids, Paganism,
Brehon Law, the Gaelic language, the practice of Polygamy, the extended tribal
family, with its customs (like ‘Horling’ and ‘Coitings’) as well as its traditions (in the
areas of music, dancing, cattle-rearing, petty kingship and sexual and intermarital
arrangements)34. And if the detail of some of these replacing features did not
appear explicitly in the Statutes, they were shortly introduced by the church whose
insistence on the Christian proprieties prevailed over the centuries35. The
replacement of polygamy with monogamy, and the consequent regulation of
sexual activity, placed the control of fertility in the hands of the church, where it
has ever remained36. Foreign-inspired Church/State government, therefore, so
long as it was Christian was meant to replace all these cultural aspects of Gaelic
To facilitate the conquest, the Catholic Church would provide dioceses and parishes,
and the requisite hierarchical personnel to man these outposts -- including parish
priests, monks, bishops and abbots up to the Pope38. For its part, the State would
provide the counties, the baronies and townlands, and the personnel to man them
from the hoblers, the kern, the Knights, the Marshals, Constables, Sheriffs, the
Seneschals right up to the King39. The Knights Templar and the Hospitallers brooked
the secular religious divide by being in receipt of assistance from both the Pope and
the King, but more strictly speaking by coming under the control of the Pope40.
Faced with such an overwhelmingly developed division of labour, particularly in
matters monastic, whether mendicant or militant, Gaelic culture, after the initial
assault or series of continuing assaults, would necessarily become overborne,
obfuscated from the world of power -- neutralised in the customary world of
meaningful action, and thus condemned to a world of re-action. As a perpetual
victim, Gaelic pride eventually gave way to decay from the top down41. The ‘surety
system’, that is, the common consciousness which secured internal unity, cohesion
and reason among the natives, became debile under the weight of Christian
government42. Devoid of Gaelic roots, the secular colony gave way to the religious;
wherever the castle vacated, the Cathedral occupied43. Ireland in due course became
capable of no more than a theocratic state, a satelite of the Roman Papacy44.
While the Donatio asserts Papal lordship over the world in general45, Laudabiliter asserts Papal lordship over Ireland46. This outrageous arrogance was purportedly
done on the basis of the Donatio and was translated by the Roman See into its
hegemony over ‘... all islands on which Christ the sun of righteousness has shone,
and which have accepted the doctrines of the Christian faith’47. It would seem,
therefore, that the Gaels were Christian enough to ‘ belong to the jurisdiction of the
blessed Peter and the holy Roman Church’, but not Christian enough to manage their
own affairs. Or, was it the case that, despite their saints and scholars, and their
exagerated enthusiasm for Christianty, the Gaels remained true to their old religion
-- and the Papacy quite rightly saw that the only way of establishing the Christian
conquest in Ireland was vi pulsa48?
No sooner had Laudabiliter asserted ownership of Ireland than it purported to
alienate it. Why it needed to commission or assent to an invasion, therefore, to
achieve the required reformation is an additional mystery attaching more to
Papal /Norman relations than to constitutioanal propriety49. This assent, we are led
to believe, was by way of response to a petition from Henry 11, the petition being
initiated, as some believed, by the English Church at Canterbury50. The
Churchmen at Canterbury, apart from being the people who were most familiar
with the weaknesses of the Irish clerical-and secular-systems of government,
were also closest to the Papacy. They were also ambitious to regain its hegemony
over the Irish church, which ‘traditional’ hegemony it had lately lost51.
Of the many peculiarities surrounding Adrian’s Grant, all of which suggest the need
for further elaboration, two might be mentioned en passant52. One concerns the
status of the Irish or ‘Celtic’ Church and the other the role of the Papacy vis-a-vis the
Irish Church. In a short question-and-answer series, Dr Ian Paisley has refreshingly
formulated a very direct take on what was meant by Papal reform53:
220. Was the early Irish Church subject to Rome?
No. The independence of the early Irish Church is one of the most indisputable facts of history.
221. How did Popery first gain an entrance into Ireland?
Popery first gained an entrance into Ireland in the 11th century, 600 years after Patrick. When the Danes who had settled in Ireland became Christians, they refused to acknowledge the authority and jurisdiction of the old Irish Church, and sent their Bishops to be consecrated by the Archbishops of Canterbury. The Archbishops of Canterbury were, of course, subject to the Pope, so through these Bishops, consecrated by the Archbishops of Canterbury, Popery first got a foothold in Ireland.
222. How did Popery gain her hold on the whole of Ireland?
Popery gained her hold on the whole of Ireland because in 1155 Pope Adrian IV gave King Henry II of England permission to carry out the conquest of Ireland 'for the enlarging of the bounds of the Church'. The Pope made a condition that there would be in future an annual payment of one penny for every house in the land 'for St. Peter and the Holy Roman Church'. The Pope based his authority to give this permission on a document known as The Donation of Constantine, since proved to be a forgery. Henry II, however, was not able to act on the Papal Bull, so it was renewed 17 years later by Pope Alexander III. (A Papal Bull is a letter, edict or script of the Pope published or transmitted to the Churches over which he is Head containing some decree, order or decision.)
223. What do the words 'for the enlarging of the bounds of the Church' in the Papal Bull of Adrian IV teach us?
These words of Pope Adrian IV teach us that in the 12th century the Celtic Church in Ireland was not subject to the Papacy.
224. What happened after the conquest of Ireland by King Henry II of England?
After the conquest, at the Synod of Cashel in 1172, it was decided 'that all things relating to religion for the future in all parts of Ireland be regulated according to the Church of England'. Note: The Church of England was at that time under the jurisdiction of the Church of Rome.
225. What does this decision of the Synod of Cashel teach us?
This decision of the Synod of Cashel, which was held under the direction of King Henry II of England, teaches us that Celtic Ireland was never Papal and never inclined to submit itself to the Papacy. It needed Henry II and the English to rivet upon Ireland the yoke of Rome.
However incredible these five documents appear to us to be at this remove, nothing
beggars belief more than the fact that the person chosen to reform the Irish church was
none other than the notorious Henry 11, a monarch who some few years earlier had been
instrumental in the murder of Thomas Beckett, the Pope’s ‘Anglo-Saxon’ bishop of
Canterbury54. The Anglo-Saxons, it might be pointed out, had much the same status as the
Gaels. Conquest in battle automatically relegated them to the dustbin of history as far as
Norman interests were concerned55.
It is surely significant that three years before Laudabiliter was conceived the status of
the Irish Church had been altered radically. According to Plowden, 1152 was ‘the
epoch at which all our writers, from Archbishop Usher down to Dr. Leland, fix the
full and unequivocal submission of the Irish Church to the See of Rome’56. Prior to this submission,
however, a succession of episcopal appointments confirmed the acknowledged and
unquestioned sovereignty which Canterbury exercised over the Irish Church57.
The ‘submission’ of the Celtic Church to Rome, therefore, coupled with its prior
allegiance to Canterbury, suggests that the conquest of Ireland may have already been
accomplished by the bishops before it had in fact been begun by the knights58. The
coincidence of interests at this time affecting Gaelic life was highly suggestive of
such a hypothesis59. The Norse invasions from circa 795 to their defeat at Clontarf
(1014) had left their legacy. Not only had they made the infrastructural towns of
Dublin, Wexford, Waterford and Limerick, but in time they had left bishops in these
towns who had already served in Canterbury60. ‘Four, probably five, bishops-elect of
Dublin’, writes Watt, ‘one of Waterford and one of Limerick were canonically
examined and consecrated by archbishops of Canterbury and swore canonical
obedience to them.’ Four of them, says Watt, had formerly been monks in the
Bishop Patrick of Dublin was a monk of Worcester, trained in the school of the great St Wulfstan. Donngus, his successor in Dublin (1085-95) was a monk under Lanfranc at Canterbury. Bishop Samuel (1096-1121) was a monk of St Alban's. The first bishop of Waterford, Malchus (1096-1135), was a monk of Winchester.
It was not only that these prelates had close personal links with Canterbury. There was a formal, canonical bond. These Norse-Irish bishops swore canonical submission to Canterbury and that in a form which acknowledged Canterbury's primacy over Ireland. The canonical oath in its standardised form is typified by that sworn in 1096:2
I, Samuel, having been chosen for the rule of the Church of Dublin which is situated in Ireland and being about to be consecrated by you, reverend father Anselm, archbishop of the holy Church of Canterbury and primate of all Britain [totius Britanniae primas: to be read possibly as inclusive of Ireland], do promise that I shall keep canonical obedience in all things to you and to all your successors61.
Moreover, these ‘canonical bonds’ were nothing new. It seems that the Gaels were not
only indiscrete about their freedoms but wanton in their disregard for self-protection.
The claims of Canterbury to primacy over Ireland had a seeming pedigree. In 1072,
for example, to promote Canterbury’s primacy over York, Lanfranc informed Pope
Alexander 11 that
‘historical investigation demonstrated that 'from the time of the blessed Augustine, first archbishop of Canterbury to the time of Bede... my predecessors exercised primacy over the church of York, over the whole of the island called Britain, as well as over Ireland'. Two years later Lanfranc called himself for the first time ‘Primate of the Britains’ (Britanniarum primas)62
There had also been excursions to the Holy Land as well as to Rome. The so-called ‘Irish’ Church and its structured Canterbury connections, had made in-roads into the
chiefs of Desmond, who were most co-operative with Rome and Canterbury alike.
So, when the Papacy looked to make its twelfth-century reforms, it looked to the
weakest link -- or rather its most faithful or impressionable allies. Amongst the native
clans, these were the O’Briens of Thomond63. Even before the church-reforms began
-- even before the Archbishopric of Cashel was known to Cannon Law -- Murtagh
O’Brien in 1101 surrendered the Rock of Cashel, a prehistoric royal seat of
Gaeldom, to the RC Church ‘free of any lay incumbrance’64.
With the reforms came the age of assessment when Ireland had to make way for
workable religious territories, parcels of land that would subplant former Gaelic
boundaries65. Just as the Normans looked to the future government of Britain by way
of drawing up the Doomsday Book, the RC Church sought to carve up the island of
Ireland into administrative religious units, suitablly called Dioceses and Parishes66.
These twelfth-century religious reforms were no small administrative matters.
Together they constituted a revolutionary blueprint for the conquest of Ireland -- a
conquest that was even mapped out in advance by Gille (Gilbert) of Limerick, the
Pope’s legate at the Synod of Rathbreasail 111167. But Rathbreasail was only one
synod in a series of meetings and exchanges which spelled out the Church/State’s
urgency for reforms -- reforms which included the right of the Roman episcopate to
rule Ireland as it saw fit -- free, unencumbered and untaxed by either English King or
Gaelic chieftain. Invariably, this meant the overlaying or ignoring of all aspects of pre-existing Gaelic formulations and the exhaltation of all things English and
The reduction in the overwhelming number of bishops as well as the transfer of
power from the monasteries and their abbots to the newly planned dioceses and
parishes under the control of their bishops, reflected the spiritual coup of the Papacy.
The new line, drawn between diocese and monastery, was aimed at returning the
abbot to his cloister while advancing the bishop as governor69. Spiritually, the monk
was reminded that his purpose in life was to abandon the worldly pursuits of the
monastery and return to the life of prayer. In this way he would serve his God better
and coincidentally serve his church also70.
With the advancement of the bishops over the abbots came the realisation of Papal
jurisdiction over monastery and diocese alike. Backed up by Norman and Hospitaller
arms (and Templar arms up to 1307), the Papacy had its eye firmly on a new kind of
expansion as well as on a new kind of control over Christendom71.
The question for the Gaelic chieftains - as for the modern world -- was : How large,
how numerous and how influential were the monasteries at this time72? Did they in
effect compromise the secular efforts of the pagan chiefs to retain their customary
freedoms? To what extend had Catholicism already divided Gaelic Ireland and
weakened its resolve to resist the Christo-Norman invasion73? Had the Church by
sedulous growth since the time of Patrick forced a new religious division which,
when made explicit, mortally wounded Gaelic patriotism? Had Gaelic Ireland left it
too late to recover its sovereignty, not over the Norsemen, but over the Holy
Romans? Indeed, was the Norman invasion of Ireland already a fait accompli74?
The Second Two Documents
The third and fourth documents (Appendix iii and iv) articulate the respective
reactions to the conquest, the third document declaring a desire to avoid the war
altogether, and the fourth document seeking to prosecute it to completion75.
While the overall value of Laudabiliter purports to rest upon the Papal preference for
the expansion of the ‘boundaries of Christendom’, the cost in terms of lives and the
enduring enmity between the two landmasses is nowhere considered. Pope Adrian
IV’s interference in Irish affairs was to last acrimoniously for almost a thousand
years, at least until the Belfast Agreement ( otherwise known as The Good Friday Agreement of April 10 1998)76. Its less remote effects may be gleaned from the battle
of Athenry, where on August 10, 1315, in the course of a one-day battle lasting ‘from the rising to the setting sun’, the ‘two nations’ fought. During the battle 10,000
of the O’Connor clan, including 29 lesser Chieftains, perished. The O’Connor-clan
never rose to political prominence thereafter77. Such disasters as that at Athenry,
coupled with the ongoing occupation of Ulster by Edward Bruce, must have weighed
upon the mind of Donal O’Neill when, in 1317, he addressed the Remonstrance to
Pope John XXII78. The bigger picture was even worse and lest anyone doubt the
thrust of Donal O’Neill’s indictment of the Papacy, the following makes it perfectly
For we hold it as an established truth that more than 8o, ooo human beings of each nation, in
addition to those cut off by famine, distress and prison, have fallen by the sword in
consequence of that false representation and the grant resulting from it, since the time when
it was made'. Let these few general particulars of the origin of our ancestors and the
wretched position in which a Roman Pontiff placed us suffice on this occasion79.
Ironically, each of the two antagonists in the field felt that the high moral ground
belonged more or less to them, one of the antagonists by an unblemished native
birthright and the other by a foreign religious instruction. Such was the messianic
nature of the Christian conquest that parties (whether in Europe or the Holy Land, or
presently in Iraq or in Afghanistan ) were pitted logically and inexorably against each
other. In such circumstances force alone would determine the outcome80.
Hence the indignant if authentic claims of the Gaelic chieftains in the person of
Donal O’Neill. O’Neill claims that, short of out and out surrender, he and the other
Gaelic chieftains and their respective kinfolk were forced into a war they could not
win by the Papacy’s unilateral claims and highhanded actions81. He also mentions
that had it not been for the generousity of the Gaels, the Pope’s monasteries and
churches would never have been built82. So why is Christianity in the form of the
Papacy biting off the hand that has so generously fed it? Herein, alas, lay a real
politic outside the ken of the Gaelic chiefs, especially when they were constrained to
apprehend things through Christian glasses. But such a politic was very much within
the scope of the larger players such as the King of France or the King of England, or
there alternating ally, the Pope83.
With an unsullied royal -- almost ‘apostolic’ pedigree --, one that the Popes might
well envy, Donal O’ Neill’s Remonstrance remains the reaction of a not so
incredulous victim84. It is the plea of one who knows that his kind, despite their
struggle for existence, may have come to an end. His kinsmen and culture have
already been demonised in the eyes of the world by his own Church -- and without any shred of credible cause85. In consequence of this demonisation his kind has been
assaulted from within by his own subverted subjects and from without by his two-
hundred-year-old adversaries, foreigners who flaunt a new brand of Papal christianity
and who have incidentally become his masters, his nearest neighbours, and his mortal
enemy86. Proud of his pedigree, O’Neill, against the newly constituted and
normanised English monarchy as well as the Pope in Rome. affirms the purity of his
race, refers to the 3,500 years since the settlement of the first sons of Miliesius.
Before the advent of Christianity Ireland had been ruled by no less than ‘136 kings
without admixture of alien blood’.
‘And after the faith had been preached and received, 61 kings of the same blood, without intervention of alien blood, kings admirably in the faith of Christ and filled with works of charity, kings that in temporal things acknowledged no superior, ruled here uninterruptedly in humble obedience to the church of Rome until the year 1170.87
But it all changed in 1170 when ‘at the false and wicked representation of King
Henry of England’, the new Lord of Ireland took possesson of his gift88. Whether the
conquest of Ireland was driven by a Christian/Roman scheme or a secular Norman
one was never immaterial to the outcome, long or short-term. Perhaps, the most
excruciating immediate aspect was the practice of Church/State sanctioned
assassination with impunity89. Donal O’Neill, among others, calls attention to this
practice of murdering natives in accordance with the law then prevailing. The more
noble the Gael, he maintained, the easier it was for the colony to forgive it. These
included both secular and clerical English of all descripitons as well as the
For not only their laymen and secular clergy but some also of their regular
clergy dogmatically assert the heresy that it is no more sin to kill an Irishman than a dog or any other brute. And in maintaining this heretical position some monks of theirs affirm boldly that if it should happen to them, as it does often happen, to kill an Irishman, they would not on that account refrain from saying mass, not even for a day90.
In this respect Donal O’ Neill surprisingly singles out the Cistercian monks in Ardagh
and Inch for special mention, for these holy places housed monks who ‘shamelessly
fulfill in deed what they proclaim in word. For, bearing arms publicly, they attack the
Irish and slay them, and nevertheless they celebrate their masses’91. It is hard to know
who oppressed the natives more -- the holy Romans or the Anglo-Norman-French.
And in like manner, says O’Neill,
‘friar Simon of the Order of Friars Minors, brother of the bishop of Connor, is the chief formulator of this heresy; and in the year just past, unable from the fullness of his malignant heart to keep silent he shamelessly burst out in words into a declaration of this kind in the court of Lord Edward de Broyse (Bruce), Earl of Carrick and in the presence of the said
lord, as he himself testifies, viz. that it is no sin to kill a man of Irish birth and if he were to commit it himself he would none the less for that celebrate mass’92.
And falling out of this heresy into another error, all of them indifferently, secular and regular, assert with obstinacy that it is lawful for them to take away from us by force of arms whatever they can of our lands and possessions of every kind, making no conscientious scruple about it even when they are at the point of death. And all the land they hold in Ireland they hold by usurpation in this way93.
O’Neill also singles out Archbishop Walter Joce (or Jorz) of Armagh, an English
bishop of ‘small wit and no learning’, who was responsible for having a law enacted
in the Kilkenny Parliament in 1310, which aimed at excluding natives from the
ranks of the clergy94. This statute, although immediately revoked by order of the king,
was, according to O’Neill, strictly observed before as well as after it came into
being. It was operated by ‘ friars, preachers, minorities, monks, canons and other
English religious’. Indeed, the same monasteries where the Irish were refused
admission, had been founded by them95.
No wonder, then, that while referring to the’banquets of the English’ Donal
O’Neill, couches his language in the most searing condemnation of the Anglici-Christians within the colony -- those of ‘the middle nation’ who were destined to
become the ‘Irish’. In identifying this ‘wicked unnatural custom’ O’Neill can see no
possible reconciliation, but rather identifies the contempt of the middle-men for the
natives as unbrookable:
For the English inhabiting our land, who call themselves of the middle nation, are so different in character from the English of England and from other nations that with the greatest propriety they may be called a nation n& of middle[medium], but of utmost, perfidy. For, from of old they have had this wicked unnatural custom, which even yet has not ceased among them but every day becomes stronger and more established, viz. when they invite noblemen of our nation to a banquet, during the very feast or in the time of sleep they mercilessly shed the blood of their unsuspicious guests, and in this way bring their horrible banquet to an end. When this has been thus done they have cut off the heads of the slain and sold them for money to their enemies, as did the baron Peter Brunechchame (Bermingham), a recognized and regular betrayer, in the case of his gossip Maurice de S.3 and his brother Caluache, men of high birth and great name among us. Inviting them to a banquet on Trinity Sunday, on that same day when the repast was finished, as soon as they had risen from the table he cruelly murdered them with twenty four of their following and sold their heads dear to their enemies. And when he was afterwards accused to the king of England, the present king's father, of this crime, the king inflicted no punishment on so nefarious a traitor96.
The Fifth Document97
The 35 Articles comprising the Statutes (Appendix v) contain a set of strategies
legalised for the long-term settlement of the Catholic interest in Ireland98. These
articles address the ‘final solution’ in tentative terms. When Donal O’Neill -- back in
1317 -- referred to ‘the extermination of our race’ by religious-cum-legal stealth, one
suspects he knew what was in store for Gaeldom under the Papacy. Pagans had
always tolerated the intrusion of Christians; Christians, however, were never
prepared to tolerate Pagans, not even under the most repressive conditions. Now,
almost fifty years later, Donal O’Neill’s worst fears became codified into law99.
Why we call it a ‘final settlement’ is because the values framed and incorporated in
these strategies by the medieval Catholic mind have prevailed and endured into
modern times100. Since they were first formulated these values have been inculcated
anew in every succeeding generation. The greater realisation of Christian values
automatically meant the greater division beween the two most proximate islands,
Ireland and Britain, until the one suffocated the other101. It is a customary strategy of
the Papacy -- and a great part of its entire genius -- never, where possible to provide
anything resembling native manpower in the field, but rather always to enlist, where
possible, some other power with or without relations to the chosen target-culture,
which is at once protective of the Papacy as well as in need of Papal recognition or
Never losing anything of its hold over the subject-people, the Papacy provided
nothing more than negotiation, diplomacy and re-education103. What has come to be
called ‘spin’ in some quarters is the genious of the Vatican. And if the spin is done
precisely and professionally, as little trace of the strategy as possible is designed to remain after the
initial assault or engagement104.
In the Irish case the Norman English, like the Holy Roman Emperors before them, were the
shield as well as the sword of the ambitious Papacy. Whereas the Normans provided
the horses, the knights, the kite shields and the long lances, the Papacy provided the
colony, as well as the whys and the wherefores105.
Two hundred years after the drafting of Laudabiliter the colonial English were
inclined to mix and assimilate native culture106. To prevent the conquest from becoming a Pyrrhic
victory further corrective and punitive measures were needed107. The preamble to the first section of the Statutes,
gives us an idea of how at this juncture the settlers considered
themselves. This synoptical view not only informs their fears throughout, but it also
prompts the Statutes as a remedy:
‘Whereas at the conquest of the land of Ireland, and for a long time after, the English of the said land used the English language, mode of riding and apparel, and were governed and ruled, both they and their subjects called Betaghes, according to the English law, in which time God and holy Church, and their franchises according to their condition were maintained and themselves lived in due subjection;
but now many English of the said land, forsaking the English language, manners, mode of riding, laws and usages, live and govern themselves according to the manners, fashion, and language of the Irish enemies; and also have made divers marriages and alliances between themselves and the Irish enemies aforesaid; whereby the said land, and the liege people thereof, the English language, the allegiance due to our lord the king, and the English laws there, are put in subjection and decayed, and the Irish enemies exalted and raised up, contrary to reason;
our lord the king considering the mischiefs aforesaid,... called to his parliament held at
Kilkenny,... his lieutenant in his parts of Ireland,... and for the good government of the said land, and quiet of the people, and for the better observation of the laws, and
punishment of evil doers there, are ordained and established... the ordinances and articles under written, to be held and kept perpetually upon the pains contained therein.108
Many of the articles of the Statutes address this single problem. The multiple
measures envisaged to remedy it constitute, in effect, a code of behaviour on the part
of Church/State officials that is aimed at halting and deterring integration or any
notion of an open and free confederation of equals. The ban on the natives serves to
demoralise as well as to demonise them in the eyes of the colonists109. Given the fact
of conquest, the application of such measures were intended to stultify any
ascendancey of Gaelic culture and, in effect make both Gaelic development as well
as Irish unity impossible for centuries110.
Notwithstanding the tension between Popes and Princes in Europe, the thirty five
articles constituting the Statutes were the expression of both Church and State. It is
not surprising to find that the code as a whole should be policed by both Church-and-State officials alike111.
Under Article XXIV, for example, the State commissioned four men ‘two prudent
men, learned in the law’, together with ‘ two of the most substantional men of the
county’, to inquire twice yearly in every county as to who would break the articles
and to certify same to Chancery.
Similarly under Artticle XXV, and upon the request of Parliament, the Church
was urged through its ‘bishops, abbots, priors and other persons of religion’ to
excommunicate all those contravening the statutes and ‘to fulminate against them,
if any, (who) by rebellion of heart, act against the statutes and ordinances
The Archbishops of Dublin, Cashel, and Tuam, and the several bishops of
Lismore-and-Waterford, Killalo, Ossorie, Leighlin and Cloyne, being all of
present in the Parliament in Kilkenny, so fulminated the sentence of
excommunication as requested and solemnly willed the code into existence.
Appendix i :|: Appendix ii
:|: Appendix iii :|: Appendix iv :|: Appendix v