Maynutianum / Maynooth
Plenary Council 1927 (2nd - 15th August)
The Synod, which meet from 2nd to 15th August 1927 was quite explicitly called to ensure that Ireland’s ecclesiastical legislation conformed with the Code of Canon Law of 1917 (Participants: Patrick O’ Donnell, Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh, Papal Legate; Edward Byrne, Archbishop of Dublin; John Harty, Archbishop of Cashel; Thomas Gilmartin, Archbishop of Tuam; Michael Fogarty, Bishop of Killaloe; Laurence Gaughran, Bishop of Meath; Patrick McKenna, Bishop of Clogher; Patrick Finnegan, Bishop of Kilmore; Patrick Morrisroe, Bishop of Achonry; James Naughton, Bishop of Killala; Daniel Cohalan, Bishop of Cork; Joseph MacRory, Bishop of Down and Connor; Bernard Hackett, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore; Edward Mulhern, Bishop of Dromore; William Codd, Bishop of Ferns; Thomas O’Doherty, Bishop of Galway; Edward Doorley, Bishop of Elphin; William McNeely, Bishop of Raphoe; David Keane, Bishop of Limerick; John Dignan, Bishop of Clonfert; James Roche, Bishop of Ross; Bernard O’ Kane, Bishop of Derry; Matthew Cullen, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin; Michael O’Brien, Bishop of Kerry; James McNamee, Bishop of Ardagh; Dom Maurice O’Phelan, O.C.S.O., Abbott of Mount Mellary; Dom Justin McCarthy, O.C.S.O., Abbott of Mount St. Joseph; Fr. James Doyle, Procurator of the Bishop of Ossory; Fr. Michael Higgins, Procurator of the Bishop of Cloyne) (Secretaries: Michael Fogarty, Bishop of Killaloe; Joseph MacRory, Bishop of Down and Connor; Patrick McKenna, Bishop of Clogher; Patrick Morrisroe, Bishop of Achonry).The legislation of the Plenary Synods of 1850, 1875 and 1900 were thus amended accordingly. In addition, it was made clear that the 1927 Synod gave careful consideration to the spiritual health of the Irish Church at that period of its history.
The gathering was presided over by Cardinal Patrick O’Donnell, Archbishop of Armagh who was appointed as Papal Legate. In all some 462 decrees were issued and the order of the decrees followed the structure of the 1917 Code. Priests were told that they must instruct their parishioners about Papal Infallibility, and the pope’s powers of full jurisdiction over the Church. It was emphasized that priests were obliged to live a life of higher interior and exterior sanctity than the laity.
The laity were reminded of their religious obligations and urged to abstain from attending horse racing and other such contests, they were to show signs of respect to bishops, and were warned not to join secret societies, such groups posed serious challenges to the Church and the State. Married couples were to abhor the modern practice of birth control as an ‘unutterable crime.’ People were also urged to avoid going to the theater or the cinema, not to read novels, except under the guidance of people of integrity, and women were instructed to dress modestly.
Catholic children were forbidden to attend non-Catholic schools and all priests and clerics were, under pain of mortal sin, forbidden to recommend students to attend Trinity College, Dublin, which was regarded as a bastion of Protestantism. Furthermore mixed marriages were disapproved of as unlawful and pernicious because of the association with false religion, and the danger of apostasy. In the unlikely event of a mixed marriage being necessary the appropriate Papal dispensation was required and a written undertaking that the children would be raised as Catholics.
The Synod also determined that one important feature of Irish social life was to be discouraged: unseemly wakes. Such events in the presence of the corpse were to be replaced with prayers in the home of the deceased. No lay person was to give a panegyric at any point of the funeral except with the explicit permission of the bishop. It was also forbidden in solemn liturgical ceremonies to have anything in the vernacular.
This was the first formal Plenary Synod since the end of World War I and the Irish revolutionary decade 1913-23 which included an attempted rebellion against Britain in 1916, the War of Independence 1919-21; and the Irish Civil War 1922-23. The Synod was therefore an important occasion when the hierarchy ought to have addressed Irish Catholics on Ireland’s changed political circumstances and how those changes had been brought about. In a letter of 17th November 1929 promulgating the Synod Acts and Decrees Archbishop Joseph MacRory of Armagh, Cardinal O’Donnell have died in October 1927, it was made clear that the Church was quite distinct from and independent of all civil government. This was in grave contrast to a Pastoral Letter of October 1922 when the hierarchy in effect supported the government of the day and its tactics in the Civil War then raging.
In the Acta the Synod included a pastoral address to the Irish people written in both English and Irish. The pastoral briefly touched on Ireland’s troubled past which had come to an end only four years earlier. The Synod declared that the circumstances of tyranny (presumably a reference to British rule in Ireland) had destroyed the law abiding spirit in the Irish people. The Civil War had produced terrible deeds and reprisals on both sides, but now was a time for the observance of the commandments, brotherly love and reconciliation. Most of the pastoral was taken with denouncing the evils of modern society frivolity, self-indulgence, pleasure seeking, and evil literature.
A second volume of legislation, Concilii Plenarii Maynutiani MCMXXVII Appendix, lists relevant Irish ecclesiastical regulation and various documents from the Roman Cura touching on Church life in Ireland. This included the undesirability of the Sisters of Mercy acting as night nurses in hospitals, and regulations concerning religious orders were promulgated. Principles concerning education at its various levels were rehearsed, the administration of the sacraments was touched on, as was Sunday catechism and fees for marriages.
QQ: Acta et Decreta Concilii Plenarii apud Maynutiam 1927; Appendix.
Lit.: Browne, Synod of Maynooth 1927; Rogan, Irish Catechesis.
Rafferty, Oliver P.
Rafferty, Oliver P., “Maynutianum / Maynooth: Plenary Council 1927 (2nd - 15th August)" in: Lexikon der Konzilien [Online-Version], Februar 2019; URL: http://www.konziliengeschichte.org/site/de/publikationen/lexikon/database/3874.html