The Irish Catholics, only too ready to rejoice in the faintest gleam of hope, took possession of their own churches, and hoped they might practise their religion openly. The Cathedral of Limerick was re-dedicated by Richard Arthur, the Cathedral of Cork and Cloyne by Robert Urigh, the Metropolitan Church of Cashel by Thomas Rachtar, the churches of Wexford by John Coppinger. Dr. White restored himself the churches of Clonmel, Kilkenny, and Ross, and other clergymen acted in like manner in other places. But the most open and remarkable manifestation of devotion to the old faith was in Cork, always famous for its Catholicity, for the generosity of its people, and their special devotion to literature and religion. All the Protestant Bibles and Prayer-books were publicly and solemnly burned, the churches were hallowed, and Smith says: “They had a person named a Legate from the Pope [Dr. Moran, who quotes this passage, supposes him to have been a Vicar-Apostolic], who went about in procession with a cross, and forced people to reverence it. They buried the dead with the Catholic ceremonies; and numbers took the sacrament to defend that religion with their lives and fortunes."
But the Catholics were soon undeceived. King James drank “to the eternal damnation of the Papists" solemnly at a public dinner, no doubt to convince the sceptical of his Protestantism; and he divided his time very equally between persecuting the Puritans and the Catholics, when not occupied with his pleasures or quarrelling with his Parliament. The Puritans, however, had the advantage; popular opinion in England was on their side; they were sufficiently wealthy to emigrate if they pleased: while the Catholics were not only unpopular, but hated, and utterly impoverished by repeated fines and exactions.
James’ conduct on his accession was sufficiently plain. He was proclaimed in Dublin on the 28th September, 1605. A part of his proclamation ran thus: “We hereby make known to our subjects in Ireland, that no toleration shall ever be granted by us. This we do for the purpose of cutting off all hope that any other religion shall be allowed, save that which is consonant to the laws and statutes of this realm.” The penal statutes were renewed, and enforced with increased severity. Several members of the Corporation and some of the principal citizens of Dublin were sent to prison; similar outrages on religious liberty were perpetrated at Waterford, Ross, and Limerick. In some cases these gentlemen were only asked to attend the Protestant church once, but they nobly refused to act against their conscience even once, though it should procure them freedom from imprisonment, or even from death. The Vicar-Apostolic of Waterford and Lismore wrote a detailed account of the sufferings of the Irish nation for the faith at this period to Cardinal Baronius. His letter is dated “Waterford, 1st of May, 1606.” He says: “There is scarcely a spot where