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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part III. History of the County of Clare
Chapter 29. Ecclesiastical

Dr. John O’Molony, Bishop of Killaloe

In spite of the efforts of the English Puritans to extirpate the Catholic faith from Ireland, there is sufficient evidence to prove that, in the interval between the Cromwellian settlement and the accession of James II., a number,—small indeed—of Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans remained in the country, hidden amongst the country people and administering to their spiritual wants. Many secular priests also braved danger and banishment in performance of the duties of their calling. But the bishops were pursued with unrelenting hostility. In their case, the chase was so close that many dioceses remained for years without prelates, and of those which had such alive, most of the number were practically bereft of episcopal guidance, their bishops being obliged to fly to foreign countries for safety. In a long letter written from Paris to the Propaganda in 1681, by Dr. John O’Molony, Bishop of Killaloe, he gives the reasons why he absented himself from his diocese. After his consecration in 1671, he devoted himself to the performance of his duties, and did his utmost to reform the abuses found to exist after a long interval of English persecution. Subsequently, he was accused of being a prominent promoter of a conspiracy, supposed to exist, for the overthrow of the Protestant power in Ireland by means of the French King and of the Pope; and the belief of his enemies that he was the prime instigator of this movement was so strong that, whereas they offered only five pounds for the capture of an ordinary bishop, they proposed to pay one hundred and fifty pounds for the apprehension of Dr. O’Molony. His pursuers, therefore, would have a double motive in seizing him—religious rancour and the hope of a reward. After hunting him for three years without success, they turned their attention towards his clergy, and, by casting them into prison, hoped to extort from them a confession of the hiding-place of their bishop. He accuses Daniel Viscount Clare of an attempt to procure his arrest, although they were relations by blood, and though Lord Clare was under various obligations to him. Such a charge as this, made against a man of the political character of Lord Clare, must be received with great caution. The bishop goes on to describe his place of refuge in the house of a widow lady who, being forced to change her residence, could no longer afford him an asylum. Thus, being beset on every side, and taking into consideration that almost every bishop in Ireland was an outlaw, living in foreign countries, he resolved to fly to France till more peaceful times might supervene. At the same time he states his readiness to return home at all risks, if it should be the will of the Propaganda that he should live amongst his people. In the course of his letter he mentions that Creagh, bishop of Cork, had been a refugee in the diocese of Killaloe, dwelling in his brother’s house, within two miles of that town. One of the servants of the house inadvertently mentioned that a bishop was living there. The news reached the ears of the Protestant bishop, and he immediately beset the place, believing that Dr. O’Molony was hidden there. He found Dr. Creagh instead, and had him conveyed to Limerick, there to be kept in captivity. As regards the Catholic priests and laity, Bishop O’Molony describes their condition as better than it had been, being now permitted to celebrate mass and administer and reserve the Sacraments without molestation. [7]