1850-1870; a model of what might have been and a promise of what still could be. .
The Model School in Athy (destroyed by fire in 2010) where all children were taught together
Below find the article by Bro Eoin from Bolton Abbey, but first a little modern summary which arose from reading this extremely important article.
*He makes no gesture towards reconciliation of the two ‘religions’ as they had been called since the Diet of Augsburg (1555).
It is noteworthy that to this day most people still use the term Religion when referring to either Catholicism, or the Church of Ireland, etc. Catholicism has viewed itself as the Religion founded by Christ and having the fullness of the revelation of Christianity.The Religion of Christianity is made up of many Confessions, Communions and Denominations. Many in Ireland confuse the part with the whole.
All other Christians are regarded as inferior to this perfection and only have elements of Catholicism due to the grace which emanates from the fullness of grace made available by Catholicism. Protestants hate the term Religion or religious which are used by politicians, the media etc. “He is very religious,” is a common expression. In reference to schools we have a National School system which is neither secular or religious. It is totally compatible with Atheism, Islam or Humanism or for that matter any religion as the religious dimension is kept out of the literary and general curriculum. Separate religious, moral or philosophical education is guaranteed. Currently, most people are not aware that this is the shape of our education system. That includes, the Government, the judiciary and the various groupings who have an interest in education.
Schools in Co. Kildare by Eoin de Bháldraithe
Monk of Bolton Abbey, Moone
The issue of schools and Catholic schools in particular, remains very much alive in Ireland today. Here I would like to recount some of the episodes in ‘the story so far’ with special attention to the many Kildare places that occur. In particular with reference to the Model School in Athy, local people tell me that memories are still alive of children being educated together therein the last century. There is also a clear memory of the Christian Brothers and Mercy Sisters being brought in to counteract the Model School. This is oral history or folk memory with all the limitations that involves.(1) Here I would like look at the many excellent studies that have been done on the matter and see if research would support the folk memories.
BISHOP HUSSEY AND EDMUND RICE
One of the best of the secondary sources is Faith and Fatherland by Barry Coldrey. It tells the history of ‘the Christian Brothers and the development of Irish Nationalism 1838-1921’.(2) They were founded by (Blessed) Edmund Ignatius Rice. It carries special authority as Coldrey is himself a Christian Brother. In his introduction quotes some writers including some of his own brethren as saying that they were mainly responsible for the rise of Irish nationalism and maybe even for the ‘imbrioglio’ in the North . His conclusions are remarkably concrete: a significant number of leaders in 1916 were past students of the Brothers; so also were many of the leaders of the War of Independence. This is his careful statement as a historian. For me it seems that its significance is that without the Brothers there would have been no 1916!
He begins with an account of the origin of the Brothers. Thomas Hussey, a former president of Maynooth College, was appointed bishop in Rice’s native city of Waterford in 1796.(4) He wrote a pastoral letter to his clergy soon after his appointment. He warns his clergy not to send children to ‘places of education’ where their faith may be endangered. To be sure that people would comply, priests should refuse to give Holy Communion to the parents. Likewise any Catholic soldiers are to obey their spiritual masters and the military officers have no authority over their religion. The Catholic military should not go to Protestant places of worship. Some claim that all religions are equal: that is latitudinarian! The Catholic religion is for all places and climes. Other churches are more limited in their surroundings. The light of St Patrick spread to nine-tenths of Ireland and to 99 per cent of this diocese.
A reply to this message is preserved in the National library. There is no indication as to who the author might be.(5) This Christian prelate, it says, seeks to open the old wounds and disturb the unity and peace. He stirs up the bitter poison of religious discord. The diocese was exempt from this kind of discord. Dr Moylan, Bishop of Cork, embraced his Protestant brother. The pastoral addresses of Archbishop Troy of Dublin are also praised. They support the good and happiness of society.
The sentiments of Dr Hussey are very different and seek to divide Christians. It is a perilous attempt to widen the great breach in society. He conveys an ungenerous and impolite charge to his clergy. Surely he cannot be serious in urging this separation of the rich and poor. He should follow the harmonizing efforts of his better judging brethren. He is among the angry zealots, guilty of intolerant language, tyrannical and detestable doctrine. Must literature no longer be shared with other youths? Must they mingle no more in Protestant society? No more juvenile intimacies of friendship? Avoid all political discussions? Is no soldier loyal but the Catholic one? T.J. Walsh claims that Catholic soldiers were flogged for attending mass.(6) The writer is offended when Hussey says that the Protestant religion is confined to a small country and Catholicism is universal. Again he concludes that the new Bishop kindles the flame of religious discord.
Coldrey says that there were three schools in Waterford at the time, all regarded as proselytising. There was a Charter School just outside the city with 60 boys and girls. There was also a school with75 boys and another with 34 girls. Those were the targets of Hussey’s attack, claiming that they were under siege by the Protestant proselytising societies. I had to read his letter several times to realise that it was an encouragement (or a command) to Catholics to take their children away from those schools. It is clear that Hussey really wanted separate education for Catholic children. Coldrey tells us that the furore over his pastoral letter was so intense that he was obliged to go into exile from his diocese for four years until the controversy abated. (7) He does not say exactly why the bishop had to leave the diocese but it must have been because the people didn’t want separate schooling.
It follows too that this is what Edmund Rice wanted. He aimed at the Christian education of poor boys and so frustrated the effort of the proselytising societies.(8) Coldrey introduces us to these documents but he is not clear on the real intent of Rice. Were his schools not for Catholics only? There may have been a policy of allowing Protestants to attend if they wished and this would justify the claim that they were for all poor people.
When we have grasped this, it becomes clear that when Rice helped to bring the Presentation nuns into Waterford for ‘the Moral and Religious education of the poor’,(9) it was again for Catholics only.
We are fortunate to have a biography of Nano Nagle and her Presentation Sisters.(10) One has the impression that it is written to promote the cause of her canonisation. For example, in describing the religious situation in France in the 17th century, no mention is made of the Edict of Nantes or of its revocation. There is also a section on her charity , Caritas Christi, appropriate preparation for canonisation (50). She started schools for the poor in Cork. It was against the penal laws to have such a school. Her brothers were against it at first for fear of trouble with the law. A good example of how the law was implemented was as follows. In 1762 the government feared a popish plot.(11) The mayor of Cork ordered the commander of the city garrison to patrol the area around the schools. The commander said that the mayor had no authority to make such an order and so, ‘In the quarrel the fears of the popish plot disappeared’.(11) Thus the nuns’ schools were Catholic or separatist by necessity. When, however, they were introduced into Waterford they were separatist by ideology. Ominous is the stipulation that students were not to play with students of other schools.
Dáire Keogh in his life of Rice begins by saying how exaggerated were the RC views of the force of the penal laws. Half the land of Ireland was under RC controls if one considers trustees etc. In 1766 Rome did not recognise the Stuart successors. This eased the situation in Ireland as it reduced the threat to the ruling dynasty in England.
Perhaps I could add some ‘strictures’ of my own on Hussey’s letter. He claims that Ireland was 10% Protestant, but surely it was more like 25% or so in 1800.
He makes no gesture towards reconciliation of the two ‘religions’ as they had been called since the Diet of Augsburg (1555).*
Surely his dedication to Christ would have inspired some effort towards repentance and reconciliation. Nor would this have been out of character with the times. Some thirty years later the bishop of a nearby diocese, James Doyle, proposed that a reunion of the Catholic and Anglican churches could be easily achieved if the King were to call together a few sympathetic bishops from both sides. If agreement were achieved, he said, an Act of Parliament would solve the problem.
The main facts of the story of the Irish National Schools are rather well known.(12) In 1814, with general Catholic agreement, the Kildare Place Society received grants from the government to assist schools. As an effort to be neutral between the denominations, the scriptures were to be read ‘without note or comment’. Some money, however, was given to proselytising groups and this led Daniel O’Connell to denounce the Society. Eventually two thirds of the money was going to Protestant Ulster, as was stated in Parliament.
In 1831 the government took the matter in hand.(13) Edward Stanley, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, wrote to the Duke of Leinster outlining the government plans. He was regarded as the Premier Peer in Ireland, with a strong nationalist, or at least neutral, reputation. He would be President of the Board which was to be formally constituted by the Lord Lieutenant. Some money was allotted to the new Board which would supervise how it was spent. This was some thirty years before similar legislation was passed in England. The Board would include men of exalted station from both religious persuasions. Stanley explained that the practice of reading the scriptures without note or comment was obnoxious to Catholics. The aim will be ‘to unite in one system children of different creeds’. Four or five days a week would be devoted to combined moral and literary education, while one or two days will be set aside for separate religious education of the children. There may be some portions of Scripture used for combined education. Teachers should be trained in the Model School in Dublin which was eventually established in Marlborough Street.
The two Archbishops of Dublin agreed to sit on the Board and they were to be the pillars of the system. On the day the schools opened, a ‘lesson’ was displayed which was to be taught in every school. Composed by Richard Whately, Church of Ireland Archbishop, it ran as follows:
Christians should endeavour to live peacefully with all, even those of different religious persuasion. Our Saviour, Christ, commanded his disciples to love one another and even their enemies.
Many hold erroneous doctrines, but we ought not to hate or persecute them. Jesus Christ did not that intend his religion to be forced on men by violent means. Quarreling with our neighbours and abusing them is not the way to convince them that we are in the right and they in the wrong. We ought to show ourselves followers of Christ by behaving gently and kindly to everyone.
Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin (already mentioned) was pleased with Whatley’s ‘Lesson’ and commended it to his clergy in a circular as the schools began in 1831. Later Doyle spoke before a Parliamentary Committee as follows:
“I do not see how any man wishing well to the public peace, and who looks to Ireland as his country, can think that peace can be permanently established, or the prosperity of the country ever well secured, if children are separated at the commencement of life on account of their religious opinions.”
This is how he sees it from a political point of view. Separate schools would endanger the public peace, which is not yet permanent. The prosperity of the country also depends on keeping children together. Then he deals with the effect of separation on the children themselves.
“I do not know of any measures that would prepare the way for better feeling in Ireland than uniting children at an early age, and bringing them up in the same school, leading them to commune with one another and to form those little intimacies and friendships which subsist through life. Children thus united know and love each other as children brought up together always will and to separate them is I think, to destroy some of the finest feelings in the hearts of men.”
Doyle believes that the separation of children is against the very order of nature. When we read those words it is surprising how far we have departed from his ideals. These are words ‘that will not go away’; they remain as a judgement upon us today.
This ‘Bishop of Kildare’ deserves much greater study. He made famous statements on other issues: the theological status of ‘non-Catholic’ Christians; freedom to convert to Protestantism, mixed marriages and, as already mentioned, on the union of Catholics and Anglicans. We know now that on this last issue he was asked to resign by Rome and was eventually allowed to continue after agreeing not to speak on the issue again. This ‘silencing’, if that is what it was, also needs study.(14)
BOYCOTTING THE NATIONAL SYSTEM
Archbishop Murray of Dublin put great pressure on Br Rice to join the national system. ‘In view of the archbishop’s eminent standing’, Rice decided to apply for the admission of some of his schools into the National Board’. Six schools joined but, six years later, Rice held a General Chapter of the Congregation to decide whether to remain inside the National system. There were complaints about the textbooks which did not teach in conformity to Catholic doctrine. Yet their books were regarded as of high quality and were the most popular in the Empire and in 1861 were the most widely used school books in England. Further the Commissioners were beginning to ask that Brothers attend the Model School in Marlborough Street. To this they objected as there was a Presbyterian was in charge. Without consulting Murray, the chapter decided unanimously that ‘no connection shall be formed henceforth with the Board of National Education.(14a) The Patrician, Presentation, Marist and Christian (de la Salle) Brothers all went in under the National Board. The case of the Presentation Brothers is interesting as they were a breakaway group from the main body of Rice Brothers.
The inevitable result was that the Christian Brothers developed a separate system with their own books. They were out of line with all the other teaching Brothers. They were strongly nationalist and taught their own version of Irish history and their own approach to loyalty to the state. When Cardinal Cullen decided to challenge the National system, they were at hand as leaders in the struggle against the Government. Their schools were deliberately used to draw pupils away from the Model Schools. Those had the duty of training teachers in the national system. The Catholic policy was now against Archbishop Murray as well as that of his predecessor, John Troy. Even though Stanley had granted free education for the Catholic poor and assurance against proselytism, this policy was now reversed.
Murray had been instrumental in getting ‘Pontifical’ status for the Order which meant that they were largely free of Episcopal control. Coldrey does not ask if Rice was disobedient to the bishop. Certainly not from a canon law point of view; he was head of an independent religious Order and so could form his own policy. Yet Keogh shows clearly that Murray was displeased with Rice’s action. From a more spiritual point of view, was he obedient to Christ, the fundamental Christian duty? We can say, ‘Most certainly not!’; all the characters who opted for separation rather than reconciliation and peace were guilty before the Lord.
Paul Cullen was born in Prospect in Co. Kildare. His father was friendly with the Quakers in nearby Ballitore, so Paul was sent to school there at the age of nine and remained till he was thirteen. I estimate that he had to walk just over two miles to get to school. There, one must presume, he learnt the elements of Latin and Greek. Four years later he was sent as a boarder to St Patrick’s College, Carlow and from there proceeded to a brilliant scholarly career. In Rome the Pope himself (Leo XII) came to hear him defend his doctorate and so it was only a natural progression for him to become the Pope’s main link with Ireland. In 1850 he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh but two years later came to the much more important See of Dublin.
He reacted strongly against common education and when he became archbishop of Dublin, was able to establish a new policy. At the same time he opposed the government’s plans for universities in Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Galway, famously calling them ‘godless colleges’. Whatley had worked along with Archbishop Murray for twenty years and his scheme of religious instruction for Protestants and Catholics together was carried out for that time. Whatley wrote Lessons on the truth of Christianity. Murray at first objected to the first two chapters. Revd James Carlisle (Presbyterian) took it in hand and produced a new edition which won the approbation of Murray. There were eighteen chapters. He argued for an undefined general Christianity and so could not be accused of being sectarian. It was then published by the Commission and could be used in all schools. Next they published Scripture lessons. It comprised four volumes and could be used for common religious education. ‘In many respects the work was simply an edition of the Bible with the confusion removed.’(15) This meant that there was now a third type of instruction: combined religious instruction at which no child was required to be present if parents objected. Cullen put further pressure on Whatley who felt himself constrained to withdraw from the Education Board.(16) He openly stated his objection to the Scripture Lessons and to Evidence of Christianity in a pastoral of 1853. After this they could not be used for combined instruction; only for separate education. It was a sad end to the courses that were provided by agreement of the three main denominations.
To help us to grasp the extent of the change involved, we may remember that Murray told a government inquiry that there could be no possible objection to a Protestant teaching secular literature to Catholic and Protestant children together.(17) Later Cullen was to say that ‘keeping company continually with Protestant children and teachers [weakened] the faith of the Catholic child’. This is a common phenomenon in the monarchical structure; popes, bishops and abbots can all institute a policy in direct opposition to that of their predecessor.
In a recent study,(18) Joseph Doyle has detailed, blow for blow, how Cullen broke down the National system and obtained almost a full denominational system. Here I will comment on just two points. It is terribly sad to read that Cornelius Denvir, bishop in Belfast, had established a Model school there and had the Catholic clergy and laity enthusiastic about it. Cullen had him removed from the Board and some papers reported at the time that it was done by getting the Pope himself to lecture Denvir on his moderation and order him off the board. Many readers will remember how ten or fifteen years ago the British Government tried to get the Catholics in Belfast to agree to have the two teacher training colleges on the same campus. It seemed to be an obvious economy for any government and yet the Catholics were able to thwart the plan. Apparently Cullen’s fear of contamination by contact with Protestants was still alive and well. At a public inquiry, Cullen was asked why he was so different from Murray. He said that the latter, now safely dead, only accepted the system as an experiment; it was only now that its dangers were exposed. He disagreed strongly with any Catholics who favoured the system.
An all-out attack on the Model schools was begun in 1862. They were the teacher training places for the National system. The new policy is perhaps best seen in his attack on the Model School in Athy. The Brothers were dispatched to counteract the Model School operating there. Soon not a single Catholic child was left in the Model School in Athy. Cardinal Cullen had imposed a ban of excommunication on any Catholic who sent children to the Model School.(19)
ARCHBISHOP JOHN MACHALE
To continue the story it is necessary to turn back some decades. In Co. Mayo a young man was successfully educated in the hedge schools and went on to the new College in Maynooth. This must have been a relief for the diocese rather than having to ship him to the Continent. John McHale made great progress and quickly became a professor of dogma. He and other staff were occasionally entertained in Carton House, the residence of the Duke of Leinster. MacHale and some colleagues wrote a public letter denouncing Doyle’s scheme for unity. As happened more than once in subsequent history the some of the writers were soon made bishops themselves. MacHale was appointed to succeed the ageing bishop of his native Killala. He eventually went on to be Archbishop of Tuam and at first accepted the new National Schools quietly but the stance of the Rice Brothers seems to have affected him deeply. In 1838, following the example of Rice, he withdrew the few schools in his diocese that were under the Board and it would be another forty years before money was again available in Tuam for primary education.
By this time the proselytising campaign in the West of Ireland had made many converts and it seems that this was the main factor in turning Cullen against any kind of contact with Protestant teachers. For exciting details on this campaign, read Soupers and Jumpers.(20)
The campaign to separate the children according to creed was very successful. Recently I had a dream. On a Sunday morning, I was able to walk up the Shankhill Road in Belfast and down the Falls Road. In my dream I thought that I was accompanied by James Doyle, the bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. I reminded him of his words on separate education. He said that he foresaw the difficulties but he never thought that separation could be so complete and thorough. His advice of course was to get back to joint education as was practised in the early days. Of this the Model School in Athy remains a model for the whole country.
(1) This information is mainly from Liam and Fíona Rainsford of Dataprint, Athy.
(2) Barry Coldrey, Faith and Fatherland: The Christian Brothers and the development of Irish Nationalism 1838-1921 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan 1988) . There is a copy in the National Library. A copy is easily available on loan from the British Library.
(3) For convenience in this essay I will refer to them as the ‘Rice Brothers’ as is done in the USA, in order to distinguish them from the French Christian Brothers founded by J.B. de la Salle.
(4) Coldrey, 28-30.
(5) Pamphlet in the National Library bound along with the letter of Bishop Hussey and entitled, Strictures and Remarks on Dr Hussey’s Pastoral Address to the Clergy of Lismore and Waterford (Dublin 1797). It is remarkable that Coldrey does not refer to this pamphlet, even though it must have been bound with the Hussey letter at the time he was researching the matter. Dáire Keogh, Edmund Rice 1762-1844, discovered at least five pamphlets criticising the bishop’s letter (p.39).
(6) T.J. Walsh, Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters 153.
(7) Coldrey, 14
(8) Coldrey, 16.
(10)TJ Walsh , Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters (1959, reprint: Monasterevin 1980).
(11) ibid. 52.
(12) For a rather brief summary, see our essay, ‘Separate Churches: Separate Schools’ in E. McDonagh (ed.) Survival or Salvation? A Second Mayo Book of Theology (Dublin: Columba 1994) 113-28.
(13) Later Prime Minister as 14th Earl of Derby.
(14) In my book on The Apparition at Knock: The Ecumenical Dimension, I have a chapter on ‘Ireland’s ‘Second Reformation’ which is rather well known and another on ‘An Irish Counter Reformation’ which is hardly known at all. Available from Bolton Abbey or Knock Shrine.
(14 a) Coldrey 28-30.
(15) Akenson, ‘The Politics of the Curriculum’, Experiment 245.
(16) Akenson, on the resignation of Whately see ibid. 258-73.
(17) quoted from D.H. Akenson, The Irish Education Experiment: The National System of Education in the Nineteenth Century, (London 1970) 95.
(18) Joseph Doyle, ‘Cardinal Cullen and the system of national education in Ireland’, in D. Keogh, A. McDonnell (ed.) Cardinal Cullen and his world (Dublin: Four Courts 2011).
(19) Coldrey. 34, 39.
(20) by Miriam Moffitt (Dublin: Nonsuch 2008)
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