- I. The Roman Catholic Church.
- II. The Church of Ireland.
- III. Other Protestant Bodies.
- IV. History.
Ireland, a large island west of Great Britain, and since 1801 an integral part of the United Kingdom, has an area of 31,790 square miles, and a population (1901) of 4,458,775. It is divided into four provinces: Ulster in the north, Leinster in the east, Munster in the south, and Connaught in the west. The census report of 1901 includes statistics of 309 religious professions, the most important of which are Roman Catholics, 3,308,661; Church of Ireland, 581,089; Presbyterians, 443,276; Methodists, 62,006; Congregationalists or Independents, 10,142; Unitarians, 8,094; Baptists, 7,062; Reformed Presbyterians, 6,532; Jews, 3,898; "Brethren," 3,742; United Free Church of Scotland, 3,147; Friends, 2,731; and "Christians," 2,631.
I. The Roman Catholic Church: The organization of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is as follows: archbishopric of Armagh (corresponding to Ulster; founded 455), with the suffragan bishoprics of Ardagh (before 458; united to Clonmacnoise 1729, which was founded before 549), Clogher (506), Derry (1158), Down (499; united to Connor 1442, which was founded 1174), Dromore (c. 510), Kilmore (1136), Meath (520), and Raphoe (885); arch-bishopric of Dublin (corresponding to Leinster; before 618; raised to archbishopric 1152; united to Glendalough 1215), with the suffragan bishoprics of Ferns (before 632), Kildare (before 519; later united to Leighlin, which was founded 626), and Ossory (538); archbishopric of Cashel (corresponding to Munster, before 458; raised to archbishopric 1152; united to Emly 1562, which was founded before 527), with the suffragan bishoprics of Cloyne (before 604; united to Ross 1430, but separated from it 1849), Cork (606), Kerry and Aghadoe (before 1075), Killaloe (c. 640), Limerick (1106); Ross (before 1172), Waterford (1096; united to Lismore 1363, which was founded 633); and archbishopric of Tuam (corresponding to Connaught, 540; raised to archbishopric 1152; united to Enachdune 1484, which was founded in the seventh century; united to Majo 1578, which was founded 665), with the suffragan bishoprics of Achonry (before 1152), Clonfert (558), Elphin (c. 450), Galway (1831; later united to Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, which were founded before 620), and Killala (sixth century). The above dates are taken from P. B. Gams, Series Episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae (Regensburg, 1872), and in many cases are too early. Authorities differ considerably.
The Roman Catholics maintain 2,420 churches with 3,543 priests, 97 monasteries and 270 nunneries. The elementary schools are for the most part entrusted to the Christian Brethren; each diocese has a seminary for boys; there are besides colleges at Thurles, Waterford, Kilkenny, and Carlow. At Maynooth is situated the College of St. Patrick, and in Dublin, University College. The Catholic University of Ireland consists at present of colleges at Dublin, Maynooth, Blackrock, Carlow, and Clonliffe.
II. The Church of Ireland: This body, before 1871 the established church in Ireland, has two archbishoprics, Armagh, corresponding in a rough way to Ulster and Connaught, and Dublin, corresponding to Leinster and Munster. There are thirteen bishoprics, including the archbishoprics. At the census of 1901 there were 1,617 clergy. The head university for the Church of Ireland is Trinity College, Dublin (founded 1591); there is also Queens University (founded 1850), with three colleges at Belfast, Cork, and Galway, which are each under the government of a dean. These colleges also have foundations for the Presbyterians and the Wesleyan Methodists. The property of the church is administered by the representative body, consisting of the archbishops and bishops, thirteen clerical and twenty-six lay representatives, also thirteen co-optated members, who can be either clergy or laymen. In their care are all the churches, together with the churchyards, and also the schoolhouses. They also take charge of the payment of all the officials and servants of the church. The government of the church is entrusted to the general synod, which is composed of three classes, the bishops, the clergy, and the laity, which form two houses, the house of bishops, thirteen in number, and the house of representatives, with 208 clerical and 416 lay members. The representatives are chosen every three years. The synod meets yearly in Dublin, but extraordinary meetings may be summoned. Each diocese has also its own synod, which meets at least once a year. These synods are also chosen every three years. The church is divided into parishes, every church with a clergyman and registered vestrymen counting as a parish. Every diocesan synod chooses two clergymen and one layman, who, with the bishop, form a committee of patronage. Each parish on its side names every three years three parochial nominators. When a vacancy occurs in a pastorate the two aforesaid bodies meet together and form a board of nominators, who elect the new incumbent. When a bishopric becomes vacant the archbishop of the province calls together the synod of the diocese, who vote by ballot for a successor. The bishop of the diocese appoints the dean, the canons, the deacons, and the other officers of the cathedral. The collegiate and cathedral church of St. Patrick in Dublin was made the national cathedral (May, 1872), and stands in the same relation to all the dioceses. There are two kinds of spiritual courts of justice, the diocesan courts, and the court of the general synod. A diocesan court consists of the bishop, the chancellor, who is appointed for life, and two members of the synod, one from the clergy and one from the laity. These men choose for five years three clerical and three lay co-members. The court of the general synod consists of one of the archbishops, who alternate with each other, one bishop, and three lay judges. Three additional members are chosen from the general synod. The constitutions and canons of the church are like those of the Church of England.
III. Other Protestant Bodies: The Presbyterians are found chiefly in Ulster, about ninety-six per cent of them being in that province. The largest body, the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, numbers 36 presbyteries, 647 ministers, and 569 congregations with 106,342 communicants. In the Sunday Schools there are 8,354 teachers and 97,647 scholars. The church administers two theological colleges, with fourteen professors. The Baptist Union of Ireland numbered, in 1908, 2,980 members, and had 39 churches and 40 chapels. The Wesleyan Methodist Church gave as the number of their members in 1907, 28,826; they had 133 stations in ten districts. See articles on the separate denominations.
IV. History: For the early history of the church in Ireland see CELTIC CHURCH IN BRITAIN AND IRELAND. At the time of the Reformation, during the reign of Henry VIII., an attempt was made to correct some of the abuses of the church in Ireland, but the Reformation did not meet with much popular favor, owing in a large measure to fear that only the English language could be used in church. Through the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth various attempts were made to introduce the English liturgy, and the government proceeded with great severity against the Roman Catholics. Under Mary there was a reaction in favor of the Roman Catholics. At the accession of James I. the Roman Catholics, thinking that he favored them, tried to expel the Protestants from the island. The king, however, suppressed the attempts, confiscating the estates of many Roman Catholics, especially in Ulster, and settling Scotch Presbyterians in their place. During the Civil War and the Commonwealth, as also during the reign of Charles I., there were many rebellions and consequent suppressions of the Roman Catholics in Ireland. At the Revolution the Roman Catholics were filled with hope, and many Protestants had to flee the country. William III., however, finally completed the conquest of Ireland, and from that epoch until recent times the Roman Catholics were discriminated against in many ways. Gradually, however, the restrictions against them have been removed. Just as the Roman Catholics were discriminated against, so the Protestant Church, as the state church, was granted many favors. These have been done away with from time to time, and at last, July 26, 1869, the Irish Church Act was passed, taking effect Jan. 1, 1871. This act disestablished the church and dissolved its union with the Church of England. Compensation was made for all vested interests, including even the annual grants for the Roman Catholic college at Maynooth and the Regium Donum granted to the Presbyterians by James I.