Execution of a Bishop

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVIII

In 1611 the Bishop of Down and Connor was executed in Dublin. He had been seized, in 1587, by Perrot, and thrown into prison. He was released in 1593, and, according to Dr. Loftus, he took the oath of supremacy. This statement, however, is utterly incredible, for he devoted himself to his flock immediately after his release, and continued to administer the sacraments to them at the risk of his life, until June, 1611, when he was again arrested in the act of administering the sacrament of confirmation to a Catholic family. Father O'Luorchain was imprisoned with him, and they were both sentenced and executed together. At the trial the Bishop declared that the oath of spiritual supremacy was impious, and said that his enemies could not thirst more eagerly for his blood than he himself was desirous to shed it for Christ his Redeemer. This venerable prelate had attained his eightieth year, but he was full of the vigour of saintly heroism. When on the scaffold he asked the executioner to allow him to be the last victim, as he wished to spare Father O'Luorchain the terrible spectacle of his sufferings. But the good priest was not behind the Franciscan bishop in his zeal, and he exclaimed, with a touching grace of courtesy, which the occasion made sublime, that "it was not fitting for a bishop to be without a priest to attend him, and he would follow him without fear." And he did follow him, for the Bishop went first to his crown.

There was great difficulty in procuring any one who would carry out the sentence. The executioner fled, and could not be found, when he learned on whom he was to do his office. At last an English culprit, under sentence of death, undertook the bloody work, on a promise that his own life should be granted as his reward.