MACARTAN 1500 - The Diocese of Clogher celebrates


The first 1000 years  |  Post-reformation Clogher  |  Disestablishment and the 20th century

Post-reformation Clogher

In 1535 Bishop Hugh O'Carolan (Aogh O Cearbhalain), known as Odo, was appointed to the See of Clogher by Pope Paul III, but accepted the teaching of the Reformation under Henry VIII. From his time there are two lines of bishops in Clogher, the Roman Catholic and the Church of Ireland. One interesting character from this period is the notorious Miler Magrath who was appointed Church of Ireland bishop of Clogher by Queen Elizabeth in 1570, while at the same time retaining his former title of RC Bishop of Down and Connor!

These were less than happy times for cross-community relationships and the Reformation movement did what it could to remove what it viewed as superstition and idolatry. In 1632 the pilgrimages to Lough Derg were (non-violently) suppressed by order of the Privy Council for Ireland, with the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, James Spottiswoode, personally supervising the destruction of everything on the site. In 1651, the lake and its surrounding lands were passed to the family of Bishop John Leslie where they remained until modern times.

Tower on Devenish IslandThe Cromwellian campaigns saw two bishops of Clogher fighting on opposite sides of the conflict. The Roman Catholic bishop, Heber MacMahon, was general of the rebel forces after the death of Con O'Neill. After three months however, he was defeated at Scariffhollis near Letterkenny and taken prisoner. The bishop was hanged on the Broadmeadow, Enniskillen, then beheaded and his head impaled on a spike at the Castle in 1650. His Church of Ireland counterpart, Bishop Henry Jones, was scoutmaster of Cromwell's army, and later presented the book of Kells to Trinity College.

Another literary-minded Bishop of Clogher was John Stearne, who bequeathed his books to Marsh's library in 1745. Among them was the oldest and one of the most beautiful books in the Library, Cicero's 'Letters to his Friends' printed in Milan in 1472. A lofty spire was erected on the steeple of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin in 1750, also from Stearne's legacy. The small printing house at Trinity College, Dublin, constructed in 1734 with freestanding columns and Doric Temple front was dedicated to his memory.

Stearne's immediate successor, however, did not leave such a positive legacy to the church. Dr. Robert Clayton and his fun loving wife were leaders of the social life in Dublin, and lived mostly in their splendid house at 70 St. Stephen's Green. It is said that in the mid-eighteenth century some Irish bishops were extremely wealthy and had "no more to do than to eat, drink, and grow fat and rich". Bishop Clayton did all of those in the best of good taste. However, he had early in his life embraced the tenets of the Arian heresy (the belief that Christ is not divine). This fact was not known until after he was made Bishop of Clogher in 1745.

In 1750 he anonymously published An Essay on Spirit giving an account of his Arian outlook. His last book Vindication of the Old and New Testaments (3 vols., 1752-57), with its unorthodox third part wandered so far from the doctrines of the Church of Ireland as to make action in the matter necessary. He also made a speech in 1757 in the Irish House of Lords calling for deletion of the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds from the Book of Common Prayer, resulting in widespread calls for his resignation and threats of prosecution for heresy. Proceedings were accordingly taken against the Bishop in the Ecclesiastical Court, followed by a general summons to meet at the Primate's mansion in Henrietta Street, Dublin. Dr. Clayton was much alarmed at this step, fearing he should lose his bishopric. This fear so preyed upon his mind as to induce a nervous fever, from the effects of which he died in 1758.

Another Bishop of Clogher who found himself facing the Ecclesiastical Court was the Hon. Percy Jocelyn, third son of the 1st Earl of Roden. He was caught in a compromising position with John Moverley of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards (Grenadiers) at the White Lion public house, St Alban's Place, off the Haymarket, Westminster on Friday 19th July 1822.

The bishop broke bail and fled to Paris, having auctioned off most of the contents of the Episcopal Palace. An Irish ecclesiastical court, consisting of the Bishops of Derry, Dromore, Kilmore and Raphoe, deprived him of the bishopric in his absence. Two years later he was officially declared an outlaw. He died in 1843, having requested that he be buried in an unmarked grave. Reports differ as to whether he lies in the Jocelyn family vault in Kilcoo Parish Church, Bryansford or in Scotland, in a coffin inscribed 'Here lie the remains of a great sinner, saved by grace, whose hopes rest in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ'.

The affair caused a tremendous scandal, resulting in more than a dozen illustrated satirical cartoons and numerous pamphlets and bawdy limericks. However it strengthened the hand of the then Archbishop of Armagh John George Beresford (Jocelyn's immediate predecessor in Clogher) in enforcing higher standards and instituting reforms of abuses brought about by lax and worldly clerics.

Correspondence between Robert Peel's private secretary and the then Primate has caused scholars to conclude that there was a high level cover-up regarding the whole matter. Indeed, Charles Frederick D'Arcy, a later Bishop of Clogher who became Archbishop of Armagh in 1920, ordered that the Armagh diocesan papers relating to the affair be burnt, but his instructions were ignored. They were only released to researchers in 1998.

between the Reformation and Disestablishment

Miler Magrath (1570-1605)
George Montgomery (1605-1621)
James Spottiswood (1621-1645)
Henry Jones (1645-1661)
John Leslie (1661-1671)
Robert Leslie (1671-1672)
Roger Boyle (1671-1687)
Richard Tennison (1690-1697)
George Ashe (1697-1717)
John Stearne (1717-1745)
Robert Clayton (1745-1758)
John Garnett (1758-1782)
John Hotham (1782-1795)
William Foster (1796-1797)
John Porter (1797-1819)
John George Beresford (1819-1820)
Percy Jocelyn (1820-1822)
Robert Ponsonby Loftus (1822-1850)
United with the Diocese of Armagh 1850-1886

© 2006 The Church of Ireland Diocese of Clogher