Thursday 22 June 2023

The Irish Martyrs on Radio Maria Ireland, Friday, June 23

Tomorrow night, Friday, June 23, 2003 I will be speaking on the Irish martyrs on Radio Maria Ireland at 7pm. This is the second of the scheduled 'All the Saints of Ireland' programmes for the month of June, but will be dedicated to the martyrs rather than to the earlier medieval Irish saints. I am hoping to provide an overview of the martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and of the long drawn-out ongoing process to have their sanctity officially recognized. I also plan to speak on the specific part played by women in resisting the Reformation and preserving Catholicism. My opening post when this blog was launched provides some background and can be read here. The Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918) can be found here and the tabs on the blog home page break that list down into different categories for easier access. Hyperlinks to posts on the various individuals, alas still too few, whom I have written about on this site thus far can also be found there.

So join host Thomas Murphy and myself at 7 pm on Friday, June 23, 2023 as we look at the history of our Irish martyrs and ask why they continue to remain neglected and forgotten.  For details of how to listen to the programme see:


Content Copyright © De Processu Martyriali 2023. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Some of Ireland's Martyrs

June 20 is the Feast of the Irish Martyrs and to mark the day below is a 1915 article by the editor of The Catholic World, a monthly journal published in the United States by the Paulist Fathers. Although the article is titled 'Some of Ireland's Martyrs', writer Father John J. Burke, C.S.P. provides a comprehensive listing of those whose names were recommended for official consideration of their causes, two hundred and fifty-seven in all, six of whom were women. The Official List of Irish Martyrs published three years later in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record recorded two hundred and fifty-eight names to which a further two, omitted accidentally, were later added, bringing the total to two hundred and sixty. Father Burke refers in his piece to the beatification of these martyrs, but they were not formally beatified at this stage. Seventeen were formally beatified in 1995 by Pope Saint John Paul II, at present the cases of forty-two others are being resubmitted for further consideration. Saint Oliver Plunkett, beatified in 1920 and canonized in 1975, remains the sole Irish martyr to have been officially declared a saint. Father Burke's article contains some very useful potted biographies which are worth reading and reflecting upon, for too many of our Irish martyrs remain forgotten, neglected and unknown.  

STILL more of the glorious pages of Irish history, which tell how well she deserves the title of the greatest of Catholic nations, have been illumined with letters of heavenly gold by our Holy Father, Benedict XV. The necessary brevity of this article makes it impossible, and indeed it is not necessary, to dwell upon the heroic fidelity of our forefathers who kept the Faith at home, preserved the saving principles of that Faith to European civilization, and, in their zeal and devotion, carried it to every part of the globe. The beatification of two hundred and fifty-one Irishmen and six Irishwomen presents again to the world the heroism of those who, in the most ruthless of religious persecutions, laid down their lives that God might be glorified before men, and that Ireland might live a Catholic nation.

We give first the text in English of the opening and the closing of the Papal Decree on the Beatification or Declaration of Martyrdom of these servants of God. We then add the full list of those Beatified, summarizing in a very brief way the career and martyrdom of some of them.

In Ireland, the nursery of heroes, of the innumerable champions of Christ who fell in the unbridled and furious persecution waged against Catholics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and whose names are written in the Book of Life, the greater number are unknown, but many are known by name and fame and still live in the memory of men. Among these are numbered fourteen Bishops of the Church, many priests of the secular clergy, and others belonging to the religious families, or Orders, namely, the Premonstratensians, Cistercians, Friar Preachers, Franciscans, Augustinians, Carmelites, the Order of the Blessed Trinity, and the Society of Jesus, as well as laymen and men of noble rank, to whom are to be added six devout women. Since the proofs of their martyrdom forth- coming seemed to be of sufficient weight, an investigatory process on the reputation for martyrdom and the signs and miracles of the aforesaid servants of God was undertaken and brought to a successful issue in the ecclesiastical court of Dublin. This investigatory process was forwarded to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome and was followed by many petitions from Archbishops and Bishops, especially of Ireland, and from others eminent in Church and State. When all was in readiness, on the presentation of Monsignor O'Riordan, Protonotary Apostolic, Rector of the Irish College, and Postulator of the Cause, who put forward the wishes of the whole Catholic nation of Ireland, the Most Eminent Lord Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli, Bishop of Palestrina, and Ponente or Relator of the Cause, at an ordinary meeting of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, held at the Vatican on the date given below, proposed a discussion of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on the following doubt: "Is a Commission for the introduction of the Cause to be instituted in the case and for the purpose of which there is question?" And the Most Eminent and Reverend Fathers of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, on the motion of his Eminence the Cardinal Ponente, and after obtaining the opinion of Monsignor Verde, Promoter of the Faith, having maturely examined, discussed, and weighed all circumstances, decided to reply: The commission is to be instituted in the Cause of two hundred and fifty-seven Servants of God, if it is pleasing to His Holiness.

* * * *

On a report of this being referred to our Most Holy Lord Pope Benedict XV. through the under-mentioned Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, his Holiness confirmed the Rescript of the Sacred Congregation, and deigned to approve with his own hand the Commission for the Introduction of the Cause of the two hundred and fifty-seven aforesaid Servants of God on the twelfth day of the same month and year. 

Antony Cardinal Vico,

Pro-Prefect of the S. Congregation of Rites.

Peter la Fontaine,

Bishop of Caristo, Secretary.

February 12, 1915.


Dermot O'Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, was born in the diocese of Limerick; educated at Louvain, and appointed Archbishop of Cashel by Gregory XIII. in 1580 or 1581. On his arrival at Drogheda he was suspected by the same Walter Baal who was afterwards Mayor of Dublin, and who imprisoned his own mother. At Slane, the learning of the Archbishop, manifested in his conversation, led him to be suspected by Robert Dillon, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. The Archbishop escaped, but was pursued later by the Baron of Slane and overtaken. He went to Dublin to prove his innocence. There he was burned in oil, and two days later hanged in a public field not far from Dublin Castle, June 20, 1584.

Richard Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, was a native of Limerick; educated and ordained priest at Louvain; appointed and consecrated Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland by Pope Pius V., April, 1564. On his return to Ireland, he was seized and imprisoned in Dublin Castle, and later in the Tower of London, whence he escaped, after the manner of St. Peter, and fled to the Continent. On returning to Ireland, he was a second time arrested and imprisoned. Again he escaped to the Continent, and a third time returned to Ireland. He was treacherously seized, sent from Dublin to London, where he was again imprisoned in the Tower, and, after much suffering, died October 14, 1585.

Edmund Magauran, Archbishop of Armagh, was transferred from the see of Ardagh in 1857 to the primatial see of Armagh, in which he succeeded Archbishop Creagh. He was pursued by the Lord Deputy, Sir William Russell. The Archbishop was defended by Hugh McGuire, Hugh O'Donnell, and their followers. It was during an attack upon his defenders, and while he was administering the Sacrament of Penance to one of the soldiers, that the Archbishop was murdered, June 28, 1593.

The four Primates of Armagh — Creagh, Magauran, Redmond, and O'Devany — reigning within a period of thirty years, were all martyrs for the Faith.

Malachy O'Queely, Archbishop of Tuam, was born in Thomond; appointed Archbishop by Pope Urban VIII.; captured and killed by the Puritans, October 25, 1645. 

Maurice O'Brien: Appointed Bishop of Emly, 1567; imprisoned in Dublin Castle, 1584; died there March 17, 1586.

Redmond O'Gallagher, Bishop of Derry. Born in Ulster. One of the three Irish bishops present at the Council of Trent. Attacked in his own house, and there with three other priests cruelly put to death, March 15, 1601.

Eugene MacEgan, Bishop-elect of the diocese of Ross. Attacked by soldiers who left him mortally wounded. Rescued by Catholics, but died that same evening, 1607.

William Walsh, Cistercian Monk of the Abbey of Holy Cross, and Bishop of Meath. Born probably at Dunboyne. Appointed Bishop of Meath in 1554. Refused to take the oath of supremacy under Elizabeth. Imprisoned in Dublin Castle, where he endured a prolonged martyrdom for thirteen years. He escaped in 1572; went to Spain and died at Alcala in 1577.

Patrick O'Healy, Bishop of Elphin, was born at Connaught; entered the Order of St. Francis, and was educated at the University of Alcala. Appointed in 1576 by Gregory XIII. to the see of Mayo. Traveled to Ireland with Cornelius O'Rourke, the Franciscan, who also has just been beatified. Both were arrested immediately on their arrival in Ireland, imprisoned, and put to the torture. Drury, President of Munster, who had condemned them, used every enticement, the offer of rich benefices and positions of honor, if they would conform. They refused, and both were hanged on August 22, 1578.

Cornelius O'Devany, Bishop of Down and Connor, was born in 1533 in Ulster. Before his twentieth year he entered the Order of St. Francis. While in Rome he was appointed by Gregory XIII. Bishop of the united sees of Down and Connor, and immediately returned to his native country. He was one of the prelates who in 1587 met in the diocese of Clogher and promulgated the decrees of Trent. In 1592, he was imprisoned in the Castle of Dublin, where for three years he suffered incredible hardships. He was arrested again in 1611, tried by jury, and condemned to death; but was offered his life if he would abandon the Catholic Faith. When he saw the hurdle which was to bear him to the place of execution, he said: "My Lord Jesus, for my sake, went on foot, bearing His Cross, to the mountain where He suffered; and must I be borne in a cart, as though unwilling to die for Him, when I would hasten with willing feet to that glory? Would that I might bear my cross and hasten on my feet to meet my Lord!"

In his report to the Propaganda, February 4, 1623, the Archbishop of Dublin says: "Cornelius O'Devany, the Bishop of Down and Connor, being almost eighty years of age, was crowned with martyrdom about ten years ago in Dublin, thus giving a noble example to the whole nation."

Boetius Egan, Bishop of Ross, was born in Duhallow, Cork ; entered the Order of St. Francis; was appointed by Innocent X.  Bishop of Ross. He was seized by the tyrant Lord Broghill, the son of the Earl of Cork, who was assisting Cromwell in the siege of Clonmel. Lord Broghill offered to release Bishop Egan if he would induce the garrison at Clonmel to surrender. On approaching the walls, Bishop Egan exhorted the garrison to stand resolutely against the enemy of their religion and country. By Broghill's orders the Bishop was then abandoned to the fury of the soldiers. He was horribly tortured, and finally hanged with the reins of his own horse, November, 1650.

Terence Albert O'Brien, Bishop of Emly, was educated in Spain; twice Prior in his native city of Limerick; and appointed Bishop of Emly by Urban VIII. When Limerick was besieged by Cromwell's son-in-law, the sum of fifty thousand dollars was offered to Bishop O'Brien if he would leave the city and urge its citizens to yield. When the city was taken, the Bishop was seized and put to death. Turning to his flock at the last moment, he said: "Hold fast to the Faith and keep its commandments. Murmur not against what the providence of God allows, and by so doing you will save your souls. Do not shed tears on my account, but rather pray that in this last trial, I may, by firmness and constancy, obtain heaven as my reward." October 31, 1651.

Other Bishops included in this Decree of Beatification are: Edmund Dungan, Tertiary of the Order of St. Francis, Bishop of Down and Connor; and Heber McMahon, Bishop of Clogher.


Maurice Kinrechtin, chaplain and confessor to Gerald, Earl of Desmond, was born at Kilmallock, Limerick. Imprisoned at Clonmel, and bound there in chains. A Catholic citizen bribed the jailer to release Maurice in order that he might celebrate Mass and administer Easter Communion to the faithful. The jailer gave information concerning the Mass to the government, and the soldiers rushed in and seized the people. Although Father Kinrechtin, himself, escaped, he later gave himself up in order to save the life of the master of the house in which he was about to celebrate Mass. He was sentenced to death and hanged, April 30, 1585.

Laurence O'Moore: Remarkable for holiness of life. Captured in Western Kerry, together with two Irishmen, Oliver Plunkett and William Walsh. After an almost incredible torture of twenty-four hours, he expired August 5, 1580.

Richard Frinch: Died in prison, May 5, 1581.

John Stephens: Hanged and quartered by order of Marshal Burroughs, September 4, 1597.

Walter Ternan: A priest of Leinster. Flogged and tortured, and eventually died on the rack, March 12, 1597.

Nicholas Young: A venerable priest of the village of Newtown, near Trim. Imprisoned in Dublin Castle where, worn out by suffering, he died.

Donagh O'Cronin: Hanged in Cork, 1601.

John O'Kelly: Priest of Connaught. Died in prison at Dublin, May 15, 1601.

Bernard O'Kearolan : Accused of administering the Sacraments; sentenced to death and hanged, January 20, 1606.

Patrick O'Dyry: A native of Ulster; hanged January 16, 1618.

John Lune: Native of Wexford; hanged in Dublin, November 12, 1610.

Henry White: Native of Leinster. In the eightieth year of his age, he was imprisoned and hanged at Rathconnell.

Roger Ormilius: When over sixty years of age was taken prisoner by the Cromwellians. Immediately on confessing that he was a priest, he was hanged October 12, 1652.

At the same time and place and in the same manner, Hugh Carrighi, in the seventy- fourth year of his age, earned the crown of martyrdom.

Daniel Delany: Parish priest, Arklow. He saw his servant, a man named Walsh, murdered before his eyes. Seeking to defend himself, his assailants promised him his life, if he would surrender. As soon as the priest had done this, they proved faithless to their word. The priest was tied to a horse's tail, who in turn was goaded to his full speed along many miles of the country road. During the night the priest was tortured by his guards, and even when hanged the next day his last agony was prolonged in a diabolical manner.

Daniel O'Brien: Dean of Ferns. As a priest he was remarkable for his great charity and zeal for souls. Many times arrested and imprisoned; hanged April 14, 1655, with his two companions, Luke Bergin and James Murchu, who were tried with him. The jury acquitted Bergin on the ground that he was not guilty of crime. The judge, however, urged that there was no more grievous crime than that of being a priest. Bergin was at once found guilty and hanged.
Other priests included in the Decree of Beatification are:
Aeneas Power, John O'Grady, Andrew Stritch, Bernard Moriarty, George Power, Vicar-General ; John Walsh, V. G., Daniel O'Moloney, Brien Murchertagh, Donogh O'Falvey, Donatus MacCried, Patrick O'Loughran, Louis O'Laverty, Philip Cleary, Theobald Stapelton, Edward Stapelton, Thomas Morrisey, Bernard Fitzpatrick, James O'Haggerty, and Eugene Cronin. 
Order of Cistercians

Gelasius O'Cullenan: Abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Boyle. He was arrested in 1580, and the Protestant Bishopric of Connaught was offered to him if he would renounce his Catholic Faith. With him was tried Hugh Mulkeeran, Abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. Both were condemned to death. Abbot O'Cullenan unselfishly asked that his companion be allowed to suffer death first.

James Eustace, Nicholas Fitzgerald: Two priests of the Cistercian Order, who suffered martyrdom on the 8th of September, 1620.
Also, the Prior of Holy Saviour, and his companions; Patrick O'Connor, Malachy O'Connor the Abbot and monks of the monastery of Magia. Eugene O'Gallagher, Bernard OTreivir, Malachy Shiel, and Edmund Mulligan.

Order of Preachers 

Peter O'Higgin: Imprisoned in Dublin, and condemned to death. On the scaffold he said : " The sole reason why I am condemned to death to-day is that I profess the Catholic religion. Here is an authentic proof of my innocence: the autograph letter of the Viceroy offering me very rich rewards and my life if I abandon the Catholic religion. I call God and man to witness that I firmly and unhesitatingly reject these offers and willingly and gladly I enter into this conflict, professing that Faith." He died March 4, 1642.

Richard Barry: A native of Cork and Prior of the Cashel Community. He was tortured by fire and finally put to death by the sword, September 15, 1647.

Others of the Order of Preachers who have been beatified are: P. MacFerge, with his companions, thirty-two religious of the monastery of Londonderry; John O'Luin, William MacGollen, Cormac MacEgan, Raymond Keogh, John O'Flaverty, Gerald Fitzgerald, David Fox, Donald O'Neaghten, James O'Reilly, Dominick Dillon, Richard Oveton, Stephen Petit, Peter Costello, William Lynch, Myler McGrath, Laurence OTerral, Bernard O'Ferral, Ambrose Aeneas O'Cahill, Edmund O'Beirne, James Woulf, Vincent G. Dillon, James Moran, Donatus Niger, William O'Connor, Thomas O'Higgins, John O'Cullen, David Roche, Bernard O'Kelly, Thaddeus Moriarty, Hugh MacGoill, Raymond O'Moore, Felix O'Connor, John Keating, Clemens O'Callaghan, Daniel MacDonnel, Felix MacDonnel, and Dominick MacEgan.

Order of St. Francis.

Fergall Ward: Was a Franciscan and also a skilled physician. While working among the plague-stricken, was seized and cruelly tortured. He was hanged by his own girdle, and while dying exhorted his executioners to return to a better life. April 28, 1575.

John O'Lochran, Edward Fitzsimon, and Donagh O'Rourke: All priests of the Franciscan Order; were tortured and hanged in the convent of Down, January 21, 1575.

John O'Dowd : Franciscan priest. A certain layman who had been arrested as a Catholic, begged permission to make his confession to a priest before he was hanged. This Catholic was supposed to have had information concerning certain plots against the Queen of England. The permission was granted, his enemies believing that the priest to whom the man would make his confession, could be forced afterwards to reveal the plots, under torture. 
The priest was Father O'Dowd. Of course, he would reveal nothing of what had been told to him. They killed him by knotting the cord around his head, and twisting it with a piece of wood until his neck was broken.

Daniel O'Neilan: Born in Thomond of a noble family; joined the. Order of St. Francis, and lived in Spain many years. On his return was seized, scourged, hanged head downward like St. Peter, and his body pierced through with shot, March 28, 1580.

Daniel Hinrechan, Philip O'Shea, and Maurice O'Scanlon : All Franciscans, were so old and infirm that when the heretics came to burn their convent they were unable to flee. The youngest of them was over seventy years of age. They were seized at once and killed by the sword in front of the high altar, April 6, 1580,

Dermot O'Mulrony, Brother Thomas and Another — all Franciscans — were seized at Clonmel and were decapitated by the soldiers.

Phelim O'Hara and Henry Delahoyde: Franciscans. Hanged and quartered, May 1, 1582.

Also, Conor Macuarta, Roger Congaill, Thaddeus O'Daly, Charles MacGoran, Roger O'Donnellan, Peter O'Quillan, Patrick O'Kenna, James Pillanus, Roger O'Hanlan, Thaddeus O'Meran, John O'Daly, Donatus O'Hurley, John Cornelius, John O'Molloy, Cornelius O'Dougherty, Galfridius O'Farrel, Thaddeus O'Boyle, Patrick O'Brady, Matthew O'Leyn, Terence Magennis, Lochlonin Mac O'Cadha, Magnus O'Fodhry, Thomas Fitzgerald, John Honan, John Cathan, Francis O'Mahoney, Hilary  Conroy, Christopher Dunleavy, Richard Butler, James Saul, Bernard O'Horumley, Richard Synott, John Esmond, Paulinus Synott, Raymund Stafford, Peter Stafford, Didacus Cheevers, Joseph Rochford, Eugene O'Leman, Francis Fitzgerald, Anthony Musaeus, Walter de Wallis, Nicholas Wogan, Denis O'Neilan, Philip Flasberry, Francis O'Sullivan, Jeremiah de Nerihiny, Thaddeus O'Caraghy, William Hickey, Roger de Mara, Hugh MacKeon, Daniel Clanchy, Neilan Loughran, Anthony O'Farrel, Antony Broder, Eugene O'Cahan, John Ferall, Bonaventure de Burgo, John Kearney, and Bernard Connaeus. 
Order of Premonstratensians.
John Kiernan or Mulcheran.
Order of St. Augustine. 
Donatus O'Kennedy: Filled many important offices in his Order. Was hanged.

William Tirrey: Entered the Order of St. Augustine and studied in France and Spain. On his return to Ireland he was imprisoned and beheaded, 1654.

Donough Screnan: Suffered a very cruel death. Fulgentius Jordan was dragged from his pulpit and put to death. Father Redmond O'Malley was scourged, and died under the torture. Father James Tully died in like manner; and Brother Thomas Deir was shot.

Also, Thaddeus O'Connel, Austin Higgins, and Peter Taffe.

Carmelite Order.

Father Thomas Aquinas: A distinguished preacher and zealous missionary. He was taken captive in the house of a noble family, whom he had recently converted, and was condemned to death, 1642.

Brother Angelus of St. Joseph, whose family name was Halley, was born in England, and joined the Carmelite Order in Ireland in 1640. He was arrested and condemned to death, and begged that his execution should take place that very day, since it was the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. He was killed by the sword, 1642.

Peter of the Mother of God: A Carmelite, known for his singular piety. While on his sick bed in prison, he was informed that he had been condemned to be hanged. Expressing great joy, he arose from his bed, saying: "From the cross, not from the bed, I must go to heaven." He was hanged in the thirty-third year of his age, 1643.

Order of the Blessed Trinity.

Brothers Cornelius O'Connor and Eugene Daly: Both of the Order of the Blessed Trinity. They were returning to Ireland, when the vessel on which they were journeying was captured by an English heretical pirate, named John Plunkett. One of the passengers, thinking to save his own life, gave the information that Brothers Cornelius and Eugene were Catholic priests going to Ireland to preach the Faith. Plunkett immediately hanged both and threw their bodies into the sea, January 11, 1644.

Society of Jesus.

Dominic Collins, S.J. : Like his illustrious founder, St. Ignatius, he first took up the profession of arms. He was a soldier for over fifteen years. Entered the Society of Jesus in 1598. In 1602 he was sent to Ireland, and shortly after his arrival was arrested and imprisoned at Cork. He was hanged in that city, October 31, 1602.

William Boyton, S.J. : Was slain in St. Patrick's Church, Cashel, while administering the Sacraments.

John Bathe, S.J., and Thomas Bathe, his brother, a secular priest, were seized in Drogheda; tortured and shot, August 16, 1649.

Also, Edmund MacDaniell and Robert Netterville.

Laymen and Noblemen.

Sir John Burke: Born in the county of Limerick. Prominent for many years because of his public devotion and zeal. He gave up all his worldly interests in order to devote himself to works of charity, and to accompany the persecuted priests. Arrested as the leader of the Catholics, he was imprisoned in Dublin, but during the plague was released. Later he was assailed in his castle because he had erected an altar therein for the celebration of Mass. He escaped, but was eventually betrayed into the hands of the enemy. Life and restitution of his lands were offered, if he would renounce the Faith. He was hanged in the year 1610 — about December 20th.

Maurice Eustace: Was denounced by his own brother, as a Catholic and a Jesuit. He was imprisoned, and Adam Loftus, then Protestant Archbishop of London, offered to set him free and give him his daughter in marriage, if he would renounce his Faith. He refused and was hanged November, 1581.

Christopher Roche: Had almost completed his studies at Louvain for the priesthood when he was obliged through ill-health to return home. He was at once arrested and imprisoned; then sent to London. There he endured the hardships of Newgate prison for four months, and under the torture known as the "scavenger's daughter," died 1520.

Daniel O'Hanan: A native of Ulster. Died in prison.

Thaddeus Clancy: Born in Limerick. Beheaded, September 15, 1584.

Patrick Hayes: Was a merchant of Wexford. He died after a long imprisonment in Dublin in 1581.

Francis Tailler: Had filled many public offices with great credit. Was in turn Mayor, Treasurer, and Senator in the city of Dublin. He was much honored by all good men. After an imprisonment of seven years, he died in Dublin Castle, January 30, 1621.

Thomas Stritch, Mayor of Limerick. Hanged in 1651.
Sir Patrick Purcell: In his eightieth year was hanged at Fethard, 1612.

Eleonora Birmingham: Resident of Dublin, and widow of Bartholomew Baal, was a faithful mother, a generous patron of the poor, and a devoted protector of priests. She was arrested because she allowed the Sacrifice of the Mass to be offered in her home, and imprisoned. By bribing the jailer, her escape was secured. Her elder son, Walter Baal, became a pervert. He was elected Mayor of Dublin, and, as the old chronicle says, "was so hardhearted and truly venomous towards his own mother that, old and weak as she was, he had her put into prison." He even endeavored to have her deny the Faith. In prison she died, 1584.

Honoria Burke: Born in Connaught. When fourteen years of age she took the habit of the Third Order of St, Dominic. Erected a house in Burishoole, where, during the reigns of Elizabeth, James the First, and Charles the First, she devoted herself unceasingly to works of charity. In the last persecution, under Cromwell, this holy virgin was compelled to flee with two companions to Saint's Island. There they were cruelly tortured, stripped naked, and left in a boat to die. Honoria, however, was rescued by a servant, brought to the convent at Burishoole, and in a short while expired. Honoria Magaen was a companion of Honoria Burke. She escaped from the hands of her mad persecutors and fled to a wood where she concealed herself in the hollow trunk of a tree. She was found next day frozen to death.

Also, Daniel Sutton, John Sutton, Robert Sherlock, Matthew Lamport, Robert Myler, Edward Cheevers, John O'Lahy, Patrick Canavan, Robert Fitzgerald, Walter Eustace, Thomas Eustace, Christopher Eustace, William Wogan, Walter Aylmer, Peter Meyler, Michael Fitzsimon, Patrick Browne, Thomas MacCreith, Elizabeth Kearney, Marguerite de Cashel, Brigid Darcey, Brian O'Neil, Arthur O'Neil, Roderick O'Kane, Alexander MacSorley, Hugh MacMahon, Cornelius Maguire, Donatus O'Brien, James O'Brien, Bernard O'Brien, Daniel O'Brien, Dominick Fanning, Daniel O'Higgin, Louis O'Ferral, Galfridius Galway, Theobald de Burgo, Galfridius Baronius, Thaddeus O'Connor, John O'Connor, Bernard MacBriody, Felix O'Neil, and Edward Butler.

John J. Burke, C.S.P., ‘Some of Ireland’s Martyrs’, The Catholic World, Vol. CI. May, 1915, 215-226.

Content Copyright © De Processu Martyriali 2023. All rights reserved.

Sunday 4 June 2023

Edmund Tanner, Bishop of Cork


On June 4 1579, the sufferings of Edmund Tanner, Bishop of Cork and Cloyne, came to an end. He had entered the Society of Jesus in 1565 but left in 1571 due to health problems. Concerned by the dire state of Catholicism in Ireland as persecution began to bite, he then offered to return from his long exile on the Continent, even though this meant risking arrest, imprisonment, torture or even death. Bishop Tanner, who enjoyed the friendship of Saint Charles Borromeo, appears to have been an extremely able man who realized the importance of mounting a challenge to the Reformation. One particularly interesting detail of Bishop Tanner's imprisonment was his re-conversion to Catholicism of the Protestant Bishop of Waterford, I would be interested also to know more of his escape from custody.  Irish martyrologist, Anthony Bruodin O.F.M. (1625-1680), featured Bishop Tanner in his 1669 work Propugnaculum Catholic√¶ Veritatis. Friar Bruodin's short account below describes Bishop Tanner as a native of Cork, but other sources describe him as as a native of Dublin, where he was born around the year 1526:

Anno 1578.

" He was a native of Cork, and for many years a member of the Society of Jesus, and noted for his virtues; at length he was obliged, by illness, to leave the society, with the good will of the fathers. He was soon after appointed Bishop of Cork, but had hardly taken on him the burden of the episcopate, when he was arrested for having opposed the queen's supremacy, and carried to Dublin. In prison he was tortured in divers ways, and was more than once hung up for two hours by his hands, tied together behind his back. Broken with these and other sufferings, after an imprisonment of eighteen months, he went to receive his reward, the 4th of June, 1578." — Bruodin, lib. iii. cap. xx. 

M. O'Reilly, Memorials of those who Suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, (New York 1869), 54.

Father Myles Ronan provided a more detailed account of Bishop Tanner in his pioneering 1930 work The Reformation in Ireland Under Elizabeth, making it clear that the Bishop's motivation in returning to Ireland was the desire to be actively involved in the work of counter-Reformation:


Edmund Tanner, a native of the diocese of Dublin, and afterwards Bishop of Cork wrote in his Book of Novices: "Edmund Tanner, Irishman, 39 years of age, entered the Society [of Jesus], 14 June, 1565. For many years, said Bruodin, he made singular progress in virtue in the Society, yet constrained by ill health and with with the goodwill of the Fathers, he left the Society. Having left the Jesuit house in Rome,  he wrote from that city a letter, 26 October, 1571, to John, Cardinal Moroni, Protector of Ireland, in which he tells him of his story and his desire.

An exile for religion's sake, he says, for more than twelve years from his native country Ireland, he has lived, the sport of fortune, among Spaniards, Italians, and Germans, during which time Ireland has been sorely afflicted by the tyranny of the heretics, and other calamities. Now, if he might be of any service to his country, he would fain return thither, but submits himself to the direction of the Protector. He is assured by grave men that during all this time not a hundred Irishmen in all Ireland have been infected with heresy, though not a few, for fear of penalties and confiscation of goods, attended the profane rites of the heretics, and the demoralisation of the people is such that a pious Catholic is hardly to be found: and no wonder since the clergy are the most depraved of all. Moreover, there is so little instruction to be had in the Christian faith that few can so much as repeat the Lord's Prayer, the articles of the faith, or the commandments, and still fewer understand them. Sermons are so uncommon that there are many that have never so much as heard one; the sacraments are so rarely administered, so much more rarely understood, that the ignorant people know not whether they were appointed by God or by men. In fine, so gross is the ignorance of the people that there are many who, passing all their lives in the grossest sin, have grown so accustomed thereto that they dare to say that it is just as lawful for them to live by theft or rapine as for him that worthily serves the altar to live by the altar. And nevertheless, so well inclined are they, or rather prompted by the Holy Spirit, to a good life, that it needs but the admonition or reproof of a good man and forthwith they are dissolved in tears, lamenting that they knew not that such things were sins, or contrary to the commandments of God. 

Touched by a sense of their woeful plight, Tanner says, he has come from Louvain to Rome to offer his services, such as they are, in that deserted field.......Tanner's letter did not produce the result he expected, to return to his own country, for, 5 January, 1573, that is, more than a year after his previous letter, he again wrote to Cardinal Moroni from Milan stating that though provided by Cardinal (St. Charles) Borromeo with a Canonry at Milan, he yearned to return to Ireland to minister to the souls that there "sit in darkness and the shadow of death" and encouraged by Moroni's previous kindness, he craved his good offices to that end. Doubtless, he was a sincere lover of Ireland and most anxious to minister to the people, whether as priest or perhaps bishop, undeterred by poverty of persecution.


The next reference to Tanner is in a Brief on 5 November,  1574, nearly two years after his letter to Cardinal Moroni, during most of which time he, presumably, remained as Canon at Milan enjoying the friendship of the saintly Charles Borromeo. The Brief describes him as "Master in Theology", priest,  in the fiftieth year of his age, and as having 'made profession of the Catholic faith in accordance with articles recently drawn up by the Apostolic See." It then describes him as having the usual virtues required in a bishop. The Brief continues with an address to the clergy and faithful to accept him as their pastor and father and to obey his monitions and commands.

It continues with an important clause: "We desire all occasion and reason of wandering outside the cities and dioceses of Cork and Cloyne be taken from you and you do not exercise the pontifical office [outside these dioceses] even with the permission of the Ordinaries of the dioceses, as in those cases we decree such functions to be null and void." This latter clause was subsequently modified.

Tanner, although appointed Bishop of Cork and Cloyne, 5 November, 1574, was not consecrated until 6 February, 1575... On 10 April 1575, special faculties were granted to him, and, notwithstanding the clause in the above Brief of his appointment, he was empowered to exercise them not only in his own united dioceses of Cork and Cloyne but also "throughout the whole province of Dublin, of which he was a native (universae provinciae Dublinensis ex qua exoriundus), as well as throughout the whole province of Munster, so long as the various Archbishops and Bishops were obliged by the fury if the persecution to be absent from their respective Sees."

On 12 May Gregory XIII gave him a letter, as he was on his way to Ireland, recommending him heartily to all Bishops and other Prelates who might be able to render him assistance.

Tanner made his way to Madrid, where evidently he made some delay or was delayed on his voyage from Rome to Spain. At all events he was in Portugal a sick man, 23 November, on which date the Nuncio wrote to the Cardinal Secretary of State:

The Irish Bishop of Cork was earnestly commended to me by the Nuncio of Madrid. I have done him every service in my power that a sick man requires: inter alia, I have procured him safe passage for England on one of the Venetian ships, whence he will readily make his way to Ireland; he has departed with a good wind and a good purpose to do his duty in his church to the honour of God and the weal of those souls, who are in the utmost need thereof. I cannot but bear good testimony to his virtue and zeal for the service of God. All this, I believe, will be gratifying to the Pope. 

..Between November, 1575, and June, 1576, we have no information about Tanner. What precise difficulties he encountered on his landing in England we do not know, but he succeeded in taking another ship to Galway where he landed, 21 June, and evidently remained a few months...

He probably took another ship to some of the Munster ports, but was taken prisoner with his chaplain at Clonmel. In a letter of 11 October, 1577, written at Ross, he tells the General of the Jesuits that in the midst of persecutions from heretics he was taken prisoner, but by the grace of God and the help of a nobleman, he escaped, eluding twelve warders. Every day they diligently seeks his death. "In those straits," he adds, "aided by the grace of God, we have reconciled many of the nobles of the kingdom, many of the citizens of various cities and nobles we have received back from the cesspool of Schism into the bosom of the Church, and receive them from day to day, and many more we should receive if the present persecution, and privation of goods, life and liberty did not prevent us. By that means a very great number, otherwise well disposed, are kept back from us; but I hope in Christ that ultimately the cord shall be cut and that we shall be freed..."

Other particulars of his activities are mentioned in a letter, of 24 November, from the Commissary in Portugal, to the Cardinal Secretary of State:

I have received another letter, to wit, of the the 25th of September, from the Bishop of Cork in Ireland, who likewise writes the enclosed to Cardinal Alciati; and apprises me that he has not been able to avoid the nets of the heretics; they were not, however, treating him harshly, but had committed him to the custody of the heretic Bishop of Waterford pending the Queen of England's answer to their request to know what was to be done with him; and the bishop says that, propagating the Gospel even in prison, he had converted the said bishop, his keeper, and induced him to abjure all heresies with many a tear and token of penitence.

The tears and tokens did not last long. 

Tanner, as Papal Commissary, travelled almost the whole of Ireland, administering the Sacraments,, "but secretly on account of persecution. In spite of ill-health he persevered until at last, worn out, he died 4 June, 1579, in the diocese of Ossory."

Rev. Myles V. Ronan, The Reformation in Ireland Under Elizabeth, (Longman, Green and Co, 1930), 540-547.

The case of Bishop Edmund Tanner was also featured by the original promoter of the cause of the Irish martyrs, Father Denis Murphy S.J., in his 1896 work Our Martyrs, but his name was not included on the 1918 Official List of Irish Martyrs which was submitted to Rome for formal consideration. Bishop Tanner is representative of all those clergy who were prepared to risk their lives and return from the safety of exile in Europe to further the cause of promoting and preserving the faith at home.

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