Fermanagh Gold Introduction


The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is governed by four Archbishops, whose sees are in Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Tuam, and twenty four Bishops; they are all nominated by the Pope, generally out of a list of three names submitted to him by the Parish priests and Chapter of the vacant diocese, and reported on by the Archbishop and Bishops of the Province. The diocesan dignitaries are the Vicars-General of whom there are one, two or three, according to the extent of the diocese, who have special disciplinary and other powers; Vicars Forane, whose functions are more restricted; the Archdeacon, and the Parish priests and Administrators. All of these as well as the Curates are appointed by the Bishop. The whole of the clergy are supported solely by the voluntary contributions of their flocks. The Episcopal emoluments arise from the mensal parish or two, the incumbency of which is retained y the Bishop, from marriage licences and from the cathedraticum, an annual sum, varying from £1 to £10 paid by each Parish Priest, Administrator and Curate in the Diocese. The 2,428 civil parishes in Ireland are amalgamated into 1,116 ecclesiastical parishes or unions.

The incomes of the Parish Priests arise from fees on marriages, baptisms and deaths, on Easter and Christmas dues and from incidental voluntary contributions, either in money or labour. The number of Priests in Ireland in 1853 was 2,291 (of whom 1,222 were educated at Maynooth College) and the number in 1873 was 3,157. The Curates of the Parish priests form more than half of the whole clerical strength; and scattered through cities and towns are 70-80 communities of Priests of various religious orders or rules, hence called Regulars who minister to their own churches, and though without Parochial jurisdiction greatly aid the secular clergy. All the places of public worship are built and maintained by subscriptions, legacies and collections. There are numerous monasteries and convents; the latter are supported partly by sums, usually from £300 to £500, paid by those who take the vows in them, and partly by fees for the education of the daughters of respectable Roman Catholics. Various communities of Monks and Nuns also devote themselves to the gratuitous education of the children of the poor.

Candidates for clerical ordination, formerly under the necessity of obtaining their education in continental colleges are now chiefly educated at home.

According to the 1836 Catholic Registry and Directory there were 27 Dioceses in Ireland and approximately 3000 Priests: 960-970 Parish Priests, 1500 Curates and 500 Regular Clergy.

Published here with full permission of Jane Lyons