A Letter from
the Justiciar and Council of Ireland
to the Pope, 1331
The Justiciar and Council of the land of Ireland belonging to Lord Edward illustrious king of the English by the grace of God, beg you, holiest father in Christ, Lord
John XXII, by divine providence pope, that the church in Ireland may shine, that
the religion of the Christian faith be planted and grow, for in the times of the ancestors and predecessor of the Lord King of England, faith, peace and charity flourished in that land.
(You have a special obligation to our land) because the holy apostolic see in
the time of Pope Adrian of blessed memory conceded the land to the illustrious
king of the English for the expansion of the boundaries of Christendom, for the
restriction and decline of vices, for the correction of morals and the strengthening of virtues and for the augmentation of the Christian religion as much
through our own king as through any others whom the pope considers appropriate in faith,word and life.
In recent times, however, under the current king and his illustrious father, in this
same land of Ireland, heresy and dissension have pullulated and pullulate among
the Irish who are an ungovernable and sacrilegious race inimical to God and man,
(a race which has) burned three hundred and forty churches in the province of
Dublin and as many (quam plurimum) in other provinces of the aforesaid land, even
though the holiest boy of our Lord Jesus Christ was certainly known to be present
there, and with the priests in their sacerdotal vestments holding the Eucharist in
their hands in front of the said malefactors, for the sake of protection and refuge (against the malefactors who were) pressing (them) violently back into the fires,
against the daily plunderer of those same burnt churches, villages, houses and other
property, against (those) thieves ,burglar, incessant murderers of Christians, those
who spurned god’s mandates, contradicted them, blasphemed against the Holy
spirit and the blessed Virgin Mary mother of Christ and specifically denied the resurrection of the dead.
(These evildoers) held too as a widespread conviction that the Lord King of
England by false intimation and bulls had gained lordship over the land of Ireland. Not content with all this they say it is not a sin to kill any Englishman, or
plunder him, however good and loyal a Christian he may be. And though they
were apprehended (fuerit depredati) by ordinary authority or by the delegated
path of law, they say expressly that they want to have excommunicated men
holding the keys of the church.
Matching notoriously their words to deeds, they refuse especially to permit the
prelates of the churches to take up or live again in those of their churches
which remain unburned, to preach the word of god and to educate (informandum) the very same persons who seize the prelates, place them in fetters and
chains, leave them half dead and desolate in their hunger. Many they kill and
some they spoil, destroying or making off with their possessions (facultates) to
the scandal of the clergy and to the burdening an impoverishment of the aforesaid land of Ireland; ignoring – in fact spurning – ecclesiastical censures over a
period of seven years and more, they pertinaciously refuse to obey the law,
manifesting the savour of heretical depravity and, accommodating their own
blood relation with their actual wives under the same roof – putting forward
custom and local habit as their frivolous excuse – they commit the detestable
crime of incest and adultery,allowing no proper correction for their actions in
this or other matters, from those who have the rank and judgement to prove it.
In this regard, before the capture of a certain Irishman named Aduk Duff Octohyl,
properly convicted of heretical depravity, relapse and blaspheming against his
spiritual judge, and for this reason abandoned to the secular court for punishment,
his perverse preaching and doctrine and the erroneous information he held contrary
to the holy catholic faith resulted in many souls among the Irish being lost (to the
faith) and damned.
And unless you impose your helping hand many more will perish, and for the control of such evil believers, authors and promoters, receivers and defenders (of heresy), the prelates who should impose justice do not dare to do so for fear of death,
nor can the others who exercise delegated royal power restrain the aforesaid villainous persons and their wicked actions, without the assistance of your sanctity.
Indeed, for those struggling incessantly in these days against deep-set (absomata)
rebellion and the burdensome mass of Irish, with certain people in Ireland of English origin – the very sons of iniquity – agreeing with and supporting (the rebels) in
the above mentioned matters, correction can only be effected with great difficulty
unless you extend the helping right hand of our holiness and magnificent piety.
Wherefore, for the encouragement of the Christian people in the aforesaid land of
Ireland, for arousing, repressing and fighting against the aforesaid sons of iniquity – against them and their promoters and agents (autores et factores) of whatever
nation, condition, language, rank or status, against their host (receptatores) and
defenders as often as or whenever they neglect to join, or they contradict the flock
of the church, or presume, after two months special time of grace shall be counted
from the date of publication, to violate the perpetual reformation of the peace of
the Lord King of England and of his land of Ireland,the peace, that is, which the
same persons have promised to observe – your glorious clemency should deem it
worthy to grant a crusade (crucesignationem) for the salvation of your soul and
an infinitude of other souls (who can be hereby permitted ) to initiate a just war
(bellum licitum) against the said malefactors ,(these other) souls (being ) zealous
in their own resources and making common cause (against the heretics) at their
own expense, yet impotent (without your help) in the aforesaid (troubles), though
labouring (as we have said) with their own resources to effect the oppression of the
said malefactors .
(You should finally) permit the malefactors, if they please – by your special power
in the form of the law of absolution – to return to the bosom of the church and to
the reformation of the peace, confessed, contrite and absolved from blame in
accordance with careful measurement of their strength and the performance of
(penitential) corporal labours.
For the above translation , see L., S., DAVIDSON AND J.O. WARD (eds.) : THE SORCERY TRIAL OF ALICE KYTELER, BINGHAMTON, NEW YORK, 1993, Appendix viii.
Appendices: Appendix i :|: Appendix ii :|: Appendix iii :|: Appendix iv :|: Appendix v