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13th August, 1836. Dear Sir, I have got the books you wanted, at the auction of the Rev. Patrick Walsh’s library, except No. 687, “Statuta Diocesana Dubliniensis,” Dublin, printed A.D. 1831; and this was sold to a Mr. Costigan, I was informed a Roman Catholic priest, for the enormous sum of £7. 10s. exclusive of auction-duty. My last bid for the book was £7. 5s. The bidding commenced at sixpence, and concluded at £7. 10s. I inquired of the auctioneer and his clerk, if Mr. Costigan had authorized so large a sum to be paid for the book, and was informed by Mr. M‘Laughlin, the clerk, that his instructions were to buy the book, and that he would have gone to £50. or upwards, that is, he would not have lost the book at any price: the next day, in the sale room, some time before the auction commenced, I again conversed with the auctioneer and his clerk, and received from them a confirmation of the information already stated. Several booksellers were present, some of them Roman Catholic. In the remarks made by them, it was stated that the price of the book was 2s. 3d. ; that it was sold to none but priests ; that the whole impression, as soon as printed, went to Dr. Murray, the Roman Catholic Archbishop, and that he alone, or those acting for him, sold them-one copy to each priest.
I am, Rev. Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Rev. Roht, J. M'Ghee,
The circumstance of this book being bought in by a priest at such an extraordinary price, excited much attention, and the name of the bookseller who had bid
for it having reached the ears of a Roman Catholic who happened to have got a copy in his possession, induced him to come and offer this copy for sale to the bookseller; accordingly it was purchased for the Editor, and it is now reprinted.
The question naturally arises-Why should this book be so carefully concealed by the Roman Catholic bishops? That it is concealed, and that by their express order, is most certain, for as it appears in the Statutes themselves, chapter vi. “If a priest happen to be taken ill, it is the duty of the rural dean to visit him, and if there is any apprehension of his death, he is ordered to get this book, even before the man is dead, and bring it home with him. It must therefore be a subject of inquiry why is it so concealed? Is the book of such a character that Dr. Murray and his provincial bishops should be alarmed at the idea of its falling into the hands of any but priests ?
There does not appear in the book itself any cause which, to an ordinary observer, could account for thison the contrary, the Statutes, generally speaking, are such as seem to do credit to Dr. Murray; the commands for the priests are of a most strict and salutary character, and if the priests only exhibited in their lives a model, or anything approaching to it, of the rules laid down for them in these Statutes, they would be a very exemplary order of men, so far as their outward conduct is involved :—the question then arises, Why should this book be so carefully concealed ? For this the Editor can only suppose the following reasons :
First, that the conduct of the priests, so openly pursued and encouraged, not only by the permission, but by the example of the very bishops who enacted these Statutes in their Synod, presents such a contrast to the rules laid down for them, as to produce an effect more than ridiculous in the mind of any man who compares them. The holy, devoted, spiritual abstraction from all secular pursuits, which is enforced in these Statutes, compared with the conduct of a set of men who are the most factious, secular, inflammatory, and turbulent demagogues in the nation, is too monstrous not to excite the contempt and ridicule of the public, and to shock the common sense of the Roman Catholics themselves; this alone seems a sufficient reason for the concealment of this book.
Secondly, the gross imposition practised on the public respecting the voluntaryism of popery, is here thoroughly detected, for here are laid down the sums which the people are obliged to pay to the priests for all the ordinances of their church, and though there are many rules for the disinterestedness and absence of covetousness, &c. suggested for these ecclesiastics, still the sums to be charged by them are distinctly laid down, and the poor Roman Catholics are carefully instructed in their catechisms, which, as we shall see, will define the penalty under which the dues of a priest are to be exacted.
Thirdly: These statutes so completely and conclusively demonstrate the overwhelming authority of the book appointed for the conferences of the priests, that this of itself might have been cause enough for its concealment. It is true that Dens is not mentioned by name in the statutes, nor is it to be supposed it would be, for statutes that are to last perhaps for a century,
and under which fifty such books may be appointed for conference, could not be supposed to specify one in particular, but the immense authority given to the conference book, whatever it be, over the priests and the people, as their guide and instructor, evinces the necessity of keeping carefully concealed what that book is to be, especially when we see, as the fact demonstrates, that the one selected is a book of the most abominable character that can be found—so vile indeed, that they have evaded the pursuit of its investigation, through every species of sophistry, duplicity, and falsehood, till they are at last seized in the midst of their own statutes. Had the statutes been forthcoming in the year 1835, Dr. Murray could not have ventured to write such letters on the subject, as were then published with his signature.
Lastly: There is another reason, perhaps, more weighty than all the rest, for the concealment of this book, namely, that it exposes most clearly not only the abomination of the confessional, but the perfect consciousness of that abomination which exists in the minds of these bishops themselves. They know it to be such a system of villainy-they know that it exposes the unhappy female penitents, and not only them, but the unfortunate priests themselves, to such temptations in the exercise of its tyrannical and infernal despotism, that, on the very face of the provisions which they make against the abuses of it, is exhibited more clearly than in all that could be written to expose it, the real nature of its dark and diabolical malignity. If the penalties to be inflicted on the priests, as in the 16th chapter, on reserved cases, for their probable delinquencies in the confessional, were compared with the treatise which Dr. Murray has set up, to open to them such a field for these delinquencies, and if Roman Catholic husbands and fathers, not to say Roman Catholic matrons, could see the comparison, I believe the so-called sacraments and infallibility of the church of Rome, would soon give place to the truth of God's eternal word ; and the dark abominations of papal superstition flee like the shadows of night before the rising sun.
How far the real character of these statutes is developed in the translations and notes, the reader must determine. The whole original is perfectly given in the Latin copy, without the least alteration, even of a letter. PREFACE
It is a very
cient ordinance, approved as well by the usage of holy men as by the authority of the church, that those things which chiefly appertain to the sacerdotal and clerical discipline, its offices, and parts, should be proposed by the bishop in synods to his clergy, comprehended in certain monitions.
By reason and example of which ordinance, we being led, have examined many laws and statutes, enacted not only in this province of Dublin, but in other countries, at different times. We have diligently investigated the usages and customs of the churches of the whole kingdom. From these we have selected whatever seemed to us the best, and have superadded certain of our own; so that treading in the footsteps of our fathers, we might but seldom transgress the limits marked out by them ; but rather, led by their spirit, and instructed by the wisdom and experience in which they excelled, we might feed the flock of the Lord committed to us; “might strengthen the feeble, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again that which was driven away, and seek that which was lost.” Ezek. xxxiv. 4. For in no other way is it granted