Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

CURATES OF IRELAND.

To the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine. Sir,-- You have devoted much of your attention to law and lawyers, pray give a little of it to divinity and divines. After you have so amply discussed the merits of the practitioners of the Irish bar, we should be well pleased to see you take up the cause of the curates of the Established Church in Ireland. There is no subject that more loudly calls for public attention ; and your periodical, distinguished for its impartial insertions, and known not to be the advocate of any particular sect, is always read with that attention which is due to fair and candid representation, while its extensive circulation ensures that whatever information it contains will be generally spread abroad. It is by such means that the community are informed of the real state of things, public opinion is directed, and old abuses and established absurdities yield at length to the expression of its will, which becomes irresistible, because founded on common sense, and the unalterable reason of things.

It has been stated, that the total expense of the Established Church in Ireland was about 2,239,000l. per annum, and this is not overrated. It might have been further added, that this enormous sum is paid for the spiritual instruction of about 500,000 persons who frequent that particular service: and so, comparing the income of the pastors with the number of the flock, it is the richest Church that not only now is, but that ever was in the world.

Was this large sum allocated in any fair or reasonable proportions for the maintenance of the clergy, so that every one who ministered to others in spirituals should have a competent share of temporal things, it might serve to abate the public clamour against this immense and, as it appears to them, unnecessary expenditure; but when they see it accumulated in heaps, and monopolized by the indolent few, while the active, laborious, and efficient members are abandoned to absolute want; when they see the dignitaries like large wens on the human body, with the limbs that support it feeble and emaciated, while the whole nutriment is absorbed by a few unsightly and morbid excrescences,--they consider it not only a useless waste, but a scandalous abuse; and it is one of the principal causes which increases the sectarian congregations by the secession of Protestants from the establishment who first disapprove of, and then desert, what they call a worldly, mercenary, and unchristian system of worship.

In order that this opinion of the public may be fairly appreciated, let us see what grounds there are for it. There are in Ireland about three thousand clergymen of the Church of England. Of these two-thirds have no henefice of their own, but officiate for others as their curates or deputies. They are men who have all, or with very few exceptions, graduated in Trinity College, Dublin. Their education in a university more strict than those of England procures them a literary reputation to which they are well entitled; the certificates of grave and reverend men, who have known their deportment for some years before ordination, is a pledge of their moral worth; and the severe examination they must undergo by the archdeacon of the diocese renders it next to impossible that they can be other than men of religious knowledge. They are, moreover, gentlemen in rank and deportment, and their general conduct is such, that there is no class of persons more esteemed, and justly esteemed, in the community. When appointed to a duty, they are never absent from the spot, but always to be found in active service on their cure, officiating in church, baptizing infants, catechising children, visiting the sick, burying the dead, in fact performing all the necessary functions, and so supporting all the real interests of the Established Church. Yet what is their reward out of the expenditure of more than two millions of the public money? Their stipend, till of late

Sept.-VOL. XXXIX. NO. CLII.

F

years, was 601. and under. A trifling amelioration of their condition then took place, and it was fixed at 751., as an important favour, at the very time when the salary of the lowest clerk in the Custom-house of Dublin, down to the seventeenth grade, was raised to 801. with an arrangement for a gradual increase. Even this paltry addition of 15l. was not mandatory, and at this day some laborious curates are obliged to work for 501, and 601. Supposing, however, the whole to have been 75l., their case will stand thus :Expenditure of the Established Church for one year

2,239,000., Stipend of 2000 curates at 751. each

150,0001. Thus it appears that, out of this enormous sum paid by the country for the support of the Church, the active, serviceable clergy, who do all the real duties, receive no more than one-fifteenth part!

It further appears that the following income is divided among the beneficed clergy, the majority of whom are pluralists, and hold two and three benefices at a time, so that the actual number of individuals who share this income does not amount to one thousand :Tithes of 2436 parishes

880,0001. Glebes

120,0001, Value of houses

48,0001. Churchyards

102,0001. Marriage and other fees

12,0001. Ministers' money, Dublin

10,0001. Income of 1000 beneficed clergy

1,262,0001. Ditto of 2000 curates

150,0001. The curate, who is bound to the soil, and cannot hold, because he cannot do the duty of, more than one cure, thus receives no more than one-sixteenth part of his rector's income, who, being usually'a pluralist, is necessarily a non-resident on one or more of his livings, and so does no part at all of the duty. Finally, there are twenty-two * bishops whose income is as follows: Income of 22 bishoprics in rent and fines

222,0001. Income of 2000 curates

150,0001. Thus it appears that twenty-two persons, who are known to do comparatively nothing, receive more than one-and-a-half as much as the whole two thousand effective and operative members of the Church. In order that the operation of this system may be justly appreciated, I will take an individual case out of the multitude, because it has been recently made a subject of public notice. The living of Finglas, in the vicinity of Dublin, consists of a union of four parishes, on all of which there were formerly places of worship, as is evident by the existing ruins ; but at present there is but one church which has three clergymen nominally attached to it,-a rector, a vicar, and a curate. The rector is a pluralist: he holds, with Finglas, the benefice of Chapel Izod, in the county of Dublin, and the living of St. Werburgh's, in the city; he has, moreover, a stall in the Cathedral as Chancellor of the Chapter; enjoys the pay of Chaplain to the Dublin Regiment of Foot; and, finally, is one of the Chaplains to his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The vicar is the son of the late Archbishop, and is also a pluralist. He holds a living in the diocese of Raphoe, and was appointed by his father to a stall in his Cathedral. The curate has not, nor cannot, have any other cure. The rector never goes near the parish, except to collect his tithes; he performs no duty, never officiated in

* Our Correspondent wrote before the Irish Church Reform Bill had passed.-ED.

† This young gentleman has been lately promoted to a much more lucrative benefice.-ED.

the church in his life, and, such is the state of things, that it is not even expected that he would. The vicar has other engagements, so numerous that he, of course, is seldom présent. The curate is never absent, resides near the church, and attends alone to the duties of four extensive parishes, and this is the division of the income: Rector, who never attends,

14001. per an. Vicar, who has other duties,

8001. per an. Curate, who is never absent,

751. per an. It would be a waste of time to multiply instances of this kind, when fourfifths of the parishes in Ireland are similarly situated.

Now, this shameless inequality and gross injustice in the expenditure of public money would be in some slight degree compensated, if the injured curate himself had hopes of reaping, in his turn, a similar harvest. Was the succession to a benefice like the succession in any other department this would be the case. An officer in the army, and a clerk in the revenue, usually succeeds his senior; and, indeed, there is no pursuit in life where industry, integrity, perseverance, and length of service, will not advance a man in his profession, except in the Church of Ireland; there, and there alone, is an extinguisher put on his hopes; and it is notorious, that the last man who expects to succeed to a vacant benefice is the existing curate. Bishops and patrons are so exceedingly jealous of the right of presentation, that the very fact of being the curate is a sufficient bar to his hopes, lest the succession should grow into a precedent.* This is so well understood, that of the many and exemplary persons who have been recommended to bishops by the unanimous address of their parishioners, not one, that I know of, has been successful. Indeed, the recommendation has been taken so ill, that some good but timid men have rather declined this flattering testimonial of their merits, and requested it might not be forwarded, lest it should offend the bishop, and so prove a bar to any other expectation. I shall mention one or two men who were in this predicament, whose memory is dear to many in Dublin.

The Rev. Henry Savage was curate of St. Michael's, a Prebend of the Cathedral of Christchurch. The Chapter of Christchurch is one of the richest endowments of the rich Church of Ireland. It consists of few members, and they share between them large emoluments. Besides the several offices of the Chapter, they have the presentation to four livings in the city of Dublin, to which they present one of themselves. St. Mary's is estimated at 15001. per annum. The members, besides, are all pluralists. The Dean of the Chapter is also Bishop of Kildare ex-officio. The precentor was Dean of Raphoe; he was, moreover, an Englishman and an absentee, and had not been in Ireland for fifteen years. The late rector of St. Mary's was also dean of Ardagh, incumbent of Rathenny, and profes. sor of divinity in Trinity College, Dublin; and the present rector is a young man, son to the Bishop of Kildare, archdeacon of his diocese, and incumbent of the rich parish of Monkstown: so of the rest. To this rich and abounding body the Rev. Henry Savage was curate. It was impossible to know the man and not to love him; his kindly heart, his honest mind, his independent spirit, his cordial manners, and his gentlemanly demeanour, had endeared him to all that knew him as friends; while his exemplary life, his unaffected piety, and his active charity, had engaged the good will of all his parishioners. He was, indeed, a man equally beloved and respected. Having for more than thirty years served the cure of the parish, and seen several incumbents removed; and being, moreover, a man ad

* The valuable living of St. Anne's, in the metropolis, was lately vacant, and the parishioners applied in favour of the Rev. Mr. Cotton, who has been their curate nearly forty years. To the great regret of the people of Dublin, the present Archbishop gave it to another, and neglected to establish a precedent which would have rendered him deservedly popular--Ed.

vanced in life, with a wife and children to support, he was persuaded by his friends to offer himself as a candidate for the living on the next vacancy, and he was backed by his parishioners. And how was his application received ? I shall never forget his account of it. . " I was laughed at," says ne, “ for my folly, and threatened - for my presumption." In effect he did meet with such discouragement and discountenance, that he immediately withdre his application; but his parishioners still hoped that some other remuneration would be made to him for his long services. It did come at length, and what was it? There are certain state sermons periodically preached in Christchurch, which the members of the Chapter were not disposed to preach themselves, and had appointed the curate of St. Michael's to preach for them at a trifling salary, and this situation he had enjoyed with his curacy for a series of years. It was now, however, deemed expedient to add another member to the chaunting service of the Cathedral, and the question was, how was the salary of this new singing member to be made up. It is an absolute fact, that they would not touch their own “exceeding many flocks," but they took the ewe-lamb of the poor man, and “ dressed it for the man that was come to them." They withdrew from Mr. Savage the small stipend allowed for preaching the sermons, in order to make up the stipend of the stranger. This sum, paltry as it was, was a serious dediction from the little income of a curate with a family ; it involved him in embarrassments, I am informed, which embittered his latter days, and shortened his life. He left a widow and children, and I have never heard that they received the smallest countenance or support from the Chapter since his death.

The case of the Rev. Richard Drury is another of the every-day occurrences of the Church of Ireland, and which still occupies the conversation of the good people of Dublin. This venerable man had been curate of St. Bride's, in the city, for half a century, and had outlived several rectors. When the last died, it was expected by the parishioners that this aged and now feeble clergyman would, at length, become the incumbent of the parish, of which he had for so long a time assiduously performed the duties. But no,-the living was conferred on another gentleman, who was already possessed of the parish of Dunshaghlin, a pluralist holding another benefice. Poor Richard Drury died soon after in poverty, and his children are now objects of charity among his surviving friends. Is it not a stain on the Church of Ireland thus to belie the scripture of God, to suffer “the righteous man to be forsaken," and to “ see his seed begging their bread ?"

It may be said, however, that there are means to which unbeneficed clergymen may resort, and add to their limited income by useful and appropriate employment. This has been done heretofore; and many excellent schools and seminaries were kept by Dublin curates highly beneficial to the parishes in which they resided. It appears, however, that his Grace the late Archbishop had thought that this employment of leisure hours might interfere with parochial duties, and so it was notified to every teacher in the diocese that he must give up either his curacy or his school: Of the effects of this very extraordinary and cruel act I shall mention one, of many instances, which the people of Dublin talk of. The Rev. John Fea is curate of St. Thomas's, and has been so for thirty-five years. Having a large family, he added to his scanty income by a school, which he kept with considerable reputation, on Summer-hill, close by his parish church; and his school, whatever benefit it might be to the parishioners, was never known to interfere with any clerical duty he had to perform for them. He, however, was informed by his Grace that he could no longer keep his school and hold his curacy: He humbly represented that he had done both for a number of years, and it was never objected to before: he was given to understand that “ former times were bad precedents; and, if he continued to keep his school, he would see that one else would be appointed to his cure." He had no alternative ;-50, unwilling to abandon a flock

endeared to him by such long connexion, he dismissed his more profitable scholars. Having reared a large family respectably, he, of course, could not make any provision for them or himself; and being suddenly obliged to give up two-thirds of his income, he must also forego all the comforts and many of the decencies of life, at an age approaching to seventy. He is to be seen every day taking a solitary walk on the Circular-road, at the hours when he was more usefully and profitably employed in attending his school; and it is highly probable that privation and anxiety will soon add him to the catalogue of Dublin curates, whose grey hairs were brought in sorrow and poverty to the grave.

The Rev. John Robinson was curate of St. Luke's for forty years, at a salary of about as many pounds, though his rectors were generally pluralists; one of them held in addition the living of Donoughmore, and others different other benefices. He could hold nothing else, so he eked out his scanty subsistence by a day-school in Cuff-street. He was well and long known in Dublin, not less by the simplicity of his manners, than by the heterodox shape of his wig, which, on one occasion, brought him into serious trouble. During the illness and incapacity of a late archbishop, Dr. Duigenan, the vicar-general of the diocese, as his grace's locum tenens, held his annual visitations of the clergy in St. Patrick's Cathedral. The ferocity of this man's temper, and his uncompromising enmity to curates and Catholics, on whom he used to vent it, will never be forgotten. During the long illness of the archbishop this scourge was allowed to lacerate the feelings of the inferior clergy with impunity, if indeed he was not encouraged to do so. Humility is a virtue which cannot be too often inculcated; and the lessons of endurance taught by this man to the curate, might be intended as a salutary instruction to their superiors, whom he would not venture personally to rebuke. He generally bottled up his wrath for a year, and then poured out the full phials on the heads of these devoted men, at his annual visitations. As churchwarden of our parish I generally attended those visitations, and I shall never forget the anxiety and agitation of some sensitive elderly men at the ordeal they were about to undergo, or the indignant feelings of the younger, who, being more recently from college, had not yet ceased to remember that they were men and gentlemen. On one occasion he was particularly disposed to insult and abuse; but after vainly searching for cause of complaint, and finding none, his natural temper was soured by disappointment. He determined to make a cause where he could not find one; and, to the astonishment of a large congregation, he suddenly fastened on Mr. Robinson's wig, which he tattered and tore with all manner of abuse. There is a market in the vicinity of the church, in which a butcher kept a very savage bull dog, to the terror and annoyance of the passengers. On my way to church in the morning, I had seen him seize a poor sheep by the throat, and throttle him in the street. When I looked at the countenance of poor Mr. Robinson, writhing in the gripe of this no less savage animal, it strongly reminded me of the innocent and woolly head of the sheep under similar circumstances. He never rightly recovered the attack, or held up his head afterwards. He thought the indignity of this personal abuse lessened him in the estimation of his parishioners, and took from him the respect of his scholars. It certainly attached to the worthy man something lessening in the eyes of the unthinking, and it has added a proverb to the phraseology of Dublin, where, tiom that time, • Wigging a man is a common expression for abusing him.

I shall trouble you with one more anecdote of a Dublin curate, and then leave them in your hands. The Rev. Andrew Staunton was many years curate of St. Nicholas Within, at a salary still lower than the former; but having had some difference with his rector, who was, as usual, a pluralist, about a few pounds, which were of great importance to the one, but of very little to the other, he was advised to sue him at law to recover it; and his sole dependence in the mean time was a little school in Clarendon

« PoprzedniaDalej »