Saturday, 27 December 2014

St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh, by H. J. Lawlor. Part 2.

II.—The First Stage

Before proceeding further in our investigation of the origin and course of the Reformation, it may be well to recall how far we have already advanced. We started from the fact that a Reformation of the Irish Church was actually accomplished in the twelfth century, and we proceeded to look for the causes which may have brought it about. We have found that the first of these was the revival of learning consequent on the cessation of the ravages of the Norsemen. We have noted also the restoration at the same period of communication between Ireland and the rest of Europe—the coming of students to the Irish schools, and the wanderings of Irish scholars in other lands. We have seen that the establishment of the Danish dioceses gave to the Irish a model of diocesan episcopacy, and that among the Irish-born bishops of those dioceses there were men capable of leading a Reform movement. And we have learned that Lanfranc and Anselm, through their relation with the Danish dioceses, found means to induce the more conspicuous civil and religious leaders of the Celtic population to undertake the work of reconstituting the Church. Finally, we have been able to name some persons who might be expected to take a prominent place in the early stages of the Reformation. They are Gilbert of Limerick, Malchus of Waterford, O'Dunan of Meath, and the princes of the O'Brien family. The best proof that we have rightly conceived the origin of the movement will come before us when we study the share which these persons severally had in promoting it.

We must now trace, as far as it can be done, the first steps in the process by which, under the influences which I have indicated, the Church of Ireland passed from its older to its later hierarchical system.

The earliest attempt to give concrete form to the principles of the Reformers seems to have been made in the Kingdom of Meath, about the year 1100. But the primary evidence for the fact is of much later date. There are extant some constitutions of Simon Rochfort, bishop of Meath, put forth at a synod of his diocese held at the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul at Newtown, near Trim, in 1216. The first of them recites an ordinance of the papal legate, Cardinal John Paparo, at the Council of Kells in 1152, which is of great importance.

Paparo ordered that as the bishops of the weaker sees died off, arch-priests, or, as we call them, rural deans, should succeed to their place, and take charge of the clergy and people within their borders.30

The inference which this enactment suggests is that the weaker sees to which it refers were the centres of small dioceses, which Paparo desired to be converted into rural deaneries. In accordance with the ordinance of Paparo, Rochfort's synod enjoined that rural deans should be placed in the five sees of Trim, Kells, Slane, Skreen and Dunshaughlin, each of whom should supervise the churches in his own deanery. These, with Clonard, which had long been the see of Rochfort's diocese, are six of the twelve rural deaneries into which the present diocese of Meath is divided.31 I conclude that they, and probably the remaining six, coincided more or less closely with dioceses ruled by bishops in the first half of the twelfth century.32

Let us now call to our aid a much earlier witness. The annalists inform us that in the year 1111 there was an assembly at Usnagh in Meath. It decreed that "the parishes33 of Meath" should be equally divided between the bishops of Clonmacnoise and Clonard. We may infer that Clonmacnoise and Clonard, two of the present rural deaneries, were then dioceses. It is not likely that the dioceses of Meath would have been formed into two groups, each to constitute the diocese of a bishop who had already no diocese of his own. But however that may be, we have here proof that before 1111 Meath had been parted into a number of small dioceses ruled by bishops.

If the question be asked, By whose authority or influence this division of Meath into dioceses was made? I can suggest no one more likely than Máel Muire Ua Dunáin, the "bishop of Meath" to whom reference has already been made.34 He was a Meath man, and probably bishop of Clonard: he was an ecclesiastic of great repute, especially in the north; and he was a devoted adherent of the Reform movement. His action, if indeed it was his, was premature and ill-advised. As we shall see, his work had to be slowly undone. But it is remarkable, as the first attempt known to us to establish diocesan episcopacy among the Irish. I shall have more to say about it hereafter; but now I must follow the main stream of events.

Gilbert,35 the first bishop of Limerick, as has already been noted, was an Irishman. Indeed, we may venture to describe him as one of the most remarkable Irishmen of his time, in spite of the fact that the Annals pass him by in almost complete silence. He was at any rate a staunch supporter, or, as we should rather say, the leader of the Reformation movement in its earliest course. In a letter written in 1107 Anselm exhorted him, in virtue of their mutual friendship, to make good use of his episcopal office by correcting that which was amiss, and planting and sowing good customs, calling to aid him in the work his king (Murtough O'Brien), the other Irish bishops, and all whom he could persuade.36 That, assuredly, Gilbert was forward to do.

No sooner had he taken possession of his see than he began to organize a diocese. Its boundaries seem to have been fixed with care. It was exactly co-extensive with the modern diocese of Limerick, except on the north, where it stretched across the Shannon and included part of the present diocese of Killaloe.37 Moreover he made the Church of St. Mary his Cathedral Church; indeed it is not unlikely that he built it to serve that purpose.

A few years later he was appointed Legate of the Holy See. It is manifest that his new office gave him a unique opportunity of moulding the fortunes of the Irish Church. In Ireland Gilbert was now virtually the chief prelate and head of the Church. He was the representative and embodiment of the authority of the Holy See. The whole Romanizing party would naturally circle round him as their leader, and many waverers would be attracted to the new movement in the Irish Church, by the claim which he could make to speak in the name of the head of the Church Catholic.

It was after he became legate, and no doubt in virtue of his legatine commission, that he issued a treatise which may be regarded as the programme of the Reformation. It is entitled De Statu Ecclesiae. Of this a fragment, including its earlier chapters, is still in our hands.38

Before giving a slight summary of its contents I must mention that it is addressed "to the bishops and presbyters of the whole of Ireland," and that Gilbert declares that he wrote it at the urgent request of many of them. In this statement there may lurk an element of exaggeration. But behind it there lies at least so much truth as this. A considerable body of the clergy had approached the newly made legate, and requested his instruction regarding the proper constitution of the Church—for such is the subject of his tract; and that implies that the Romanizing movement was no longer in its infancy. There were many bishops and presbyters who had become dissatisfied with the old Irish method of Church government. They desired to bring it into conformity with that of the Roman Church. But they were in some uncertainty as to the nature of the changes that should be made, and so they asked Gilbert to give them authoritative counsel.

In reply to their petition, with the aid of an elaborate diagram, he sketched as follows the organization of a properly ordered Church.

The bishops, he tells us, and others of higher rank in the ministry belong to the general Church, as distinct from particular churches. The priest is the highest officer in a particular church. It is the primary duty of every priest to serve and obey his bishop with all humility. For by the bishops particular churches are ruled. To each bishop are subject all the churches within his jurisdiction. And this applies as well to monastic establishments as to parishes. The head of each parish is a priest, the head of each monastery is an abbot, who is himself a priest. The bishop has a pontifical church, in which is his see (sedes), and of which he is the head. From it he governs the inferior churches. A bishop can perform all the offices of a priest, but he has seven functions peculiar to himself: to confirm, to bless, to absolve, to hold synods, to dedicate churches and altars, to consecrate the ornaments of churches, to ordain abbots and abbesses and the secular clergy. Gilbert's diagram represented the bishop as ruling two churches; but he explains that this is to be interpreted figuratively. A bishop may have as many as a thousand churches within his jurisdiction: he must have at least ten.

A bishop is himself subject to authority. His immediate superior is the archbishop. An archbishop has a sphere of immediate jurisdiction, like any other bishop, but he also rules a number of subject bishops. Of these there must be at least three; but an archbishop is not permitted to have more than twenty subject bishops—an important point, as we shall see. Above the archbishop is the primate. It is the special privilege of the primate to ordain and crown the king. He too has his sphere of immediate jurisdiction, and he must have at least one subject archbishop, but not more than six.

Primates and archbishops must be consecrated at Rome by the Pope, or at least must receive the pall39 from him. Without the pall they are not raised above their fellow-bishops.

Finally, the primates are subject to the Pope, and the Pope to Christ.

The higher members of the hierarchy have their analogues in the civil order. The Pope corresponds to the emperor, the primate to the king, an archbishop to a duke, a bishop to an earl, a priest to a knight. But all these are merely grades of the order of priests. There are but seven orders of the ministry—priests, deacons, sub-deacons, acolytes, exorcists, readers and door-keepers. Of the laity Gilbert says little. They are of two classes; husbandmen and soldiers. Their duties are to attend church, to pay first-fruits, tithes and oblations, to avoid evil and do good, and to obey their pastors.

There is nothing original in all this; and some parts of it must have been very puzzling to stay-at-home Irishmen. For example, what were they to make of Gilbert's comparison of primates, archbishops, bishops and priests to kings, dukes, earls and knights? They knew as little of dukes and earls in the civil order as they did of primates and archbishops in the ecclesiastical; and they had far more kings than suited Gilbert's scheme. But the tract is important, both as a summary of the teaching which Gilbert had no doubt been inculcating far and wide for years, and as a permanent record, for future use, of the aims of the Reformers.

However unintelligible the treatise may have been in parts, it brought out with startling clearness one or two essential points. First the Church must be ruled by bishops. Even the monasteries are subject to them. How amazing such a statement must have sounded to men who had inherited the tradition, many centuries old, that the abbots of monasteries were the true ecclesiastical rulers, bishops their subordinate officials.

Moreover, bishoprics and dioceses could not be set up at random. The number of bishops and by consequence the size of dioceses must be carefully considered. The puny bishoprics of Meath, for example, could form no part of a scheme such as Gilbert adumbrated.

It was manifest that if his guidance were to be followed, no mere modification of existing arrangements would suffice. The old hierarchy must be torn up by the roots, and a new hierarchy planted in its place.

We shall meet Gilbert again in the course of our story. But we may now turn aside from him to make the acquaintance of a new actor in the drama of the Reformation. Like O'Dunan he was a Northern.

Cellach was born in 1080. He was an Armagh man, sprung from the family which for centuries past had provided abbots for the monastery of that city, the grandson of a former abbot. He first appears on the scene in 1105, when on the death of Abbot Donnell he became coarb of Patrick and abbot of Armagh. He was elected, we may assume, in the customary way. He was then under twenty-six years of age, and was apparently still a layman. But his subsequent action shows that he was already a convinced disciple of the new movement. Doubtless he had fallen under the spell of Gilbert of Limerick. Six weeks after his election he abandoned the tradition of a century and a half, and received holy orders. But in other respects he trod in the footsteps of his predecessors. In the following year he went on a circuit of the Cenél Eoghain, and "took away his full demand: namely, a cow for every six, or an in-calf heifer for every three, or a half ounce of silver for every four, besides many donations also." Next he proceeded to Munster, with similar results. But his circuit of Munster is important for other reasons. There he had opportunities of intercourse with his Munster friends, Gilbert of Limerick and Malchus of Waterford. And with that circuit we may connect two incidents of the highest significance. In 1106, apparently in the latter part of the year, Caincomrac Ua Baigill, bishop of Armagh, died. The news of his death probably reached Cellach while he was in the south. Certainly in Munster Cellach was consecrated bishop. It is impossible not to connect the latter event with the former. He was consecrated to fill the vacancy created by the death of O'Boyle. Thus he was now bishop of Armagh as well as coarb of Patrick. In his own person he united the two lines of coarbial and episcopal succession, which had parted asunder in 957, when the first of a series of lay coarbs had been elected, and the first of the six contemporary bishops had been consecrated.40 This was a great gain for the Reformers. The old anomaly of a ruler of the Church who was not a bishop had, so far as Armagh was concerned, disappeared for the time. And Armagh was the principal ecclesiastical centre in Ireland. Cellach might now call himself archbishop of Armagh, though he had not fulfilled the condition laid down by Gilbert, that an archbishop must receive the pall at the hands of the Pope. The title was actually accorded to him by so rigid a papalist as St. Bernard.41

But there was more to come. In the year 1101 there had been held at Cashel a great assembly of the clergy and people of Ireland. Bishop O'Dunan, whom we already know, was at their head. To it came also Murtough O'Brien, who earlier in the year, after an expedition in force through Connaught and Ulster, had entered Tara as ardrí of Ireland.42 In the presence of the assembly he surrendered Cashel, the royal city of the kings of Munster, to the Church, as an offering to God and St. Patrick.43 When we consider the persons who were concerned in this transaction we find good ground for the suspicion that the gift was intended in some way to benefit the movement for reform. Now St. Bernard informs us that Cellach created a second archiepiscopal see in Ireland in subordination to Armagh.44 After his manner he does not tell us where it was situated. It is certain, however, that it was at Cashel, which was the seat of an archbishop in 1110.45 It was probably surrendered for this very purpose by O'Brien. And if it be asked when Cellach erected it into an archbishopric the answer is scarcely doubtful. Only once, so far as we know, did Cellach enter Munster before 1110. It was on the occasion of his circuit. In the year of the circuit, therefore, 1106, the archbishopric of Cashel was founded. In that same year, or shortly afterwards, Malchus of Waterford was translated to the new see, and became its first archbishop. There is no evidence that a new bishop was consecrated for Waterford in succession to Malchus: this indeed is unlikely. But it should be noted that by his acceptance of an archbishopric subject to Armagh, Malchus was released from the profession of obedience which he had made to Anselm ten years earlier. He was now a bishop of the Church of Ireland, with undivided allegiance.

The reason for the creation of a second archbishopric is not difficult to guess. By this time the plans of the Reformers must have been in some degree matured: before long, as we shall see, they were set forth in minute detail. Already Cellach was archbishop of Armagh. His suffragan sees, indeed, apart from those formed by O'Dunan, if their bishops acknowledged themselves as his suffragans, were in nubibus. But suffragan sees he must have, according to the theory of Gilbert, each with a diocese attached to it. They must be at least three in number, but not more than twenty. Now it was a foregone conclusion that if the Reformers had their way there would be more than twenty dioceses in Ireland. Hence, by Gilbert's rule, there must be a second archbishop. Moreover, by making the archbishopric of Cashel subject to Armagh, Cellach secured for himself and his successors a title yet more imposing than that of archbishop. He was now Primate of Ireland; for it sufficed, if Gilbert spoke truly, that a primate should have one subject archbishop. As coarb of Patrick Cellach's authority ranged over the whole country; as primate his sway would be no less extensive. He actually claimed the title, if not then, at least a few years later.46

We may now for a while leave Gilbert and Cellach and Malchus and O'Dunan. With Gilbert as legate, and Cellach and Malchus as archbishops; with dioceses already formed at Limerick and Waterford and in Meath, probably also at Armagh and Cashel and Wexford; with the great extension of the movement, and its spread from Munster to Meath and Ulster, all was ready for the meeting of the Synod whose ordinances should give definite shape to the policy to be pursued in the future.

[30] Wilkins, Concilia, i. 547. In the form in which Rochfort quotes it the ordinance applies to the whole of Ireland. But we have no evidence of the transformation of dioceses into deaneries outside Meath; and it is quite probable that a synod held in Meath would have in view, in such a decree, only the conditions which prevailed in that district.

[31] The deanery of Dunshaughlin is now named Ratoath. The deanery of Kells has been divided into Upper and Lower Kells.

[32] The cogency of this argument is enhanced when we observe that there is strong independent evidence for the existence in the twelfth century of one of the six dioceses—the diocese of Kells. (a) Up to the latter part of the sixteenth century (1583) there was an archdeacon of Kells, as well as an archdeacon of Meath; the jurisdiction of an archdeacon (at any rate in Ireland) seems to have been always originally co-extensive with a diocese. The first known archdeacon of Kells was Adam Petit who was in office in 1230 (R.T.A. 279; C.M.A. i. 101); but it is unlikely that he had no predecessors. (b) Among the prelates who greeted Henry II. at Dublin in 1171 was Thaddaeus, bishop of Kells (Benedict of Peterborough (R. S.), i. 26). (c) In the time of Innocent III. (1198-1216) the question was raised in the papal curia whether the bishop of Kells was subject to the archbishop of Armagh or the archbishop of Tuam (Theiner, p. 2). (d) The bishop of Kells is mentioned in a document of the year 1202 (Cal. of Docts. Ireland, i. 168). (e) A contemporary note records the suppression of the bishopric: "When a Cistercian monk ... had been elected and consecrated bishop of Kells by the common consent of the clergy and people, and had been confirmed by the Pope, the impudent bishop of Meath cast him out with violence and dared to [add] his bishopric to his own" (C.M.A. ii. 22). This statement implies that the dispossessed bishop ruled over a diocese. Moreover, when we remember that the see was certainly suppressed before Rochfort's Synod of 1216, that Rochfort was the first person who assumed the title "bishop of Meath" in the modern sense, and that a bishop of Kells died in 1211 (A.L.C.), we need not hesitate to conclude that the "impudent bishop" was Rochfort himself, and that the suppression was accomplished about 1213.

[33] I.e. dioceses. This synod is mentioned in A.T., A.I. and the Annals of Boyle. Particulars of its Acts and of the persons present at it are given in C.S. and D.A.I. C.S. has "parish" in the singular. But this does not seem to yield good sense; for the whole extent of the kingdom of Meath could scarcely have been called a "parish" in the twelfth century. I therefore read "parishes." The singular may have been substituted for the plural at a later time, when the kingdom (or the greater part of it) included only the dioceses of Meath and Clonmacnoise, and their earlier history was forgotten. Cp. the unhistorical statement of St. Bernard about Down and Connor in Life, § 31. D.A.I. have an anomalous form (faircheadh), which may have come from either the singular (fairche) or the plural (faircheadha) in the exemplar, but more probably from the latter.

[34] p. xxiv. f.

[35] See p. 47, note 3.

[36] Ussher, 513.

[37] A small portion of the present diocese of Limerick lies north of the Shannon.

[38] Ussher, 501 ff.; P.L. clix. 995.

[39] See p. 65, note 1.

[40] See Additional Note B, pp. 164, 166. The events of Cellach's life are gathered from A. U.

[41] Life, § 19.

[42] See MacCarthy's Note in A. U. 1101.

[43] A.F.M., Keating, iii. 297. Keating seems to confuse the events of 1101 with those of 1106.

[44] Life, § 33.

[45] See p. 18, note 6.

[46] See next page.