Echo of Penal Days

Posted By: June 05, 2018

On This Day [ in history]                                                                                                                                         
The Irish News, June 5, 1918
Echo of Penal Days
Eamon Phoenix. Tuesday, June 5, 2018
In the Chancery Division, London yesterday, Mr. Justice Eve decided that certain requests made by Edward Egan for Masses were invalid. The testator was a builder who left £600 and amongst his requests were £300 to Bishop Hoare of Ardagh which has already been declared a good gift. He also left £200 for Masses to Cardinal Bourne and £200 to Fr Donnelly, SJ, London for Masses.
In a previous hearing it had been decided that the gift to the Bishop of Ardagh was good and the questions to be decided were whether the gifts for Masses to the Cardinal and Jesuit and Dominican Fathers were valid according to the law. Sir Alfred Callaghan, for the next of kin, argued that the gifts were void as they were for superstitious uses and the religious Orders were prevented by the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 from taking these gifts.
 Mr. Jeremiah MacVeagh, BL, MP [Nationalist, South Down], for the legatees, argued that the Act of 1829 was never intended to be enforced. Mr. MacVeagh said a gift for Masses was a charity for the promotion of divine worship. England, more than any other country, perhaps, gave freedom to all religious denominations and no English Court, he submitted, could decide whether a religion was wrong, superstitious or otherwise. He contended that the gifts were valid.

 Justice Eve, giving judgment, said the decided cases were really too strong, and the law upon the matter was settled a century ago. In these circumstances, if the law was to be altered, it must be effected by the House of Lords. ‘I have no power to do that. I have only to do what I am bound to do which must hold that these objects are invalid and that the amounts left to them fall and should be passed to the next of kin.’


Eamon Phoenix adds: “Though the anti-Catholic Penal Laws had been gradually eased in Ireland and England from the 1770s, Catholic Emancipation was not granted until 1829. Not only were Irish and English Catholics barred from sitting in Parliament and key posts but, as late as 1828, of 2,062 judicial offices in Ireland, only 39 were held by Catholics. This was transformed by the enactment of the Roman Catholic Relief Act (1829) by Peel and Wellington who feared a revolution in Ireland following O’Connell’s success in mobilizing Irish Catholics. The Act enabled Catholics to sit at Westminster. Anti-Catholic restrictions continued, however, as this fascinating 1918 case reveals.”