Dr. Adam Loftus

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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Dr. Adam Loftus, the Protestant Archbishop of Armagh, was one of the most violent persecutors of the Catholics. In his first report to the Queen, dated May 17th, 1565, he describes the nobility of the Pale as all devoted to the ancient creed; and he recommends that they should be fined "in a good round sum," which should be paid to her Majesty's use, and "sharply dealt withal."[8] An original method of conversion, certainly! But it did not succeed. On the 22nd of September, 1500, after twenty-five years had been spent in the fruitless attempt to convert the Irish, he writes to Lord Burleigh, detailing the causes of the general decay of the Protestant religion in Ireland, and suggesting "how the same may be remedied." He advises that the ecclesiastical commission should be put in force, "for the people are poor, and fear to be fined." He requests that he and such commissioners as are "well affected in religion, may be permitted to imprison and fine all such as are obstinate and disobedient;" and he has no doubt, that "within a short time they will be reduced to good conformity." He concludes: "And this course of reformation, the sooner it is begun the better it will prosper; and the longer it is deferred, the more dangerous it will be." When Catholics remember that such words were written, and such deeds were enacted, by the head of the Protestant Church in Ireland, and sanctioned by the head of the Protestant Church in England, they may surely be content to allow modern controversialists the benefit of their pleasant dream that Catholic bishops conformed. If they had conformed to such doctrines and such practice, it can scarcely be seen what advantage the Anglican Establishment could gain from their parentage.

Seven years later, when the same prelate found that the more the Church was persecuted the more she increased, he wrote to advise pacification: "The rebels are increased, and grown insolent. I see no other cure for this cursed country but pacification, [he could not help continuing] until, hereafter, when the fury is passed, her Majesty may, with more convenience, correct the heads of those traitors."[9] The prelate was ably seconded by the Lord Deputy. Even Sir John Perrot, who has the name of being one of the most humane of these Governors, could not refrain from acts of cruelty where Catholics were concerned. On one occasion he killed fifty persons, and brought their heads home in triumph to Kilmallock, where he arranged them as a trophy round the cross in the public square. In 1582 he advised her Majesty "that friars, monks, Jesuits, priests, nuns, and such like vermin, who openly uphold the Papacy, should be executed by martial law."[1] The English officers seem to have rivalled each other in acts of cruelty. One is said to have tied his victim to a maypole, and then punched out his eyes with his thumbs.[2] Others amused themselves with flinging up infants into the air, and catching them on the points of their swords.[3] Francis Crosby, the deputy of Leix, used to hang men, women, and children on an immense tree which grew before his door, without any crime being imputed to them except their faith, and then to watch with delight how the unhappy infants hung by the long hair of their martyred mothers.[4]

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[8] Withal.—Shirley, Original Letters, p. 104.

[9] Traitors.—Letter of October 18, 1597.—State Paper Office.

[1] Law.—Letter to the Queen, in Government of Ireland under Sir John Perrot, p. 4.

[2] Thumbs.—Despatch of Castlerosse, in State Paper Office, London.

[3] Swords.—O'Sullivan Beare, Hist. Cath. p. 238.

[4] Mothers.—Ibid. p. 99.


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