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Penal Laws

January 26, 2019

Three aspects of the penal laws proved especially damaging. The first was the outlawing of the priests. The thinking behind it was ‘take away the shepherds and the sheep will be scattered’, and it largely succeeded: for a sacramental Church the loss of its priests was crippling. The second was the confiscation of the property and inheritance rights of Catholics. It targeted the landed gentry and the wealthy in particular, and its effect was to drive the majority to succumb and renounce their faith, and the few who held out to lose all standing and influence. The third was the legislation that barred the young from receiving a Catholic education, either at home or abroad. The lawmakers rightly saw schools as a powerful means of persuasion and control. Offered the invidious choice of Protestant education or no education, many Catholic families inevitably chose the first, to the danger of their children’s faith.

 

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