Excommunication of Dominican Friars

The Dominican Friars of Athenry claimed exemption from the visitorial powers of the Archbishop of Tuam. The Dominicans had been summoned to attend a Visitation, which the Archdeacon acting for the Archbishop held at Athenry. The Friars attended under protest, and abused the Archdeacon so much that he excommunicated them. In those days an excommunication carried serious consequences. Those excommunicated were not admitted into the body of the church but were limited to a small room of the church called the Galilee; and forty days after the writ of excommunication was filed in the Court of Chancery, the Lord Chancellor was empowered to issue a write de excommunicator capiendo for the caption of the excommunicated. Under this writ they might have been arrested and committed for an indefinite time in prison. Not satisfied with the excommunication which had been made by the Archdeacon, the Archbishop issued a proclamation, whereby he forbade all Christians from entering their church, and from supplying them with food or alms.

The Friars, on the 11th February 1298 applied to the Lord Chancellor for a mandamus, which was granted, directing the Archbishop "that, instanter and without any manner of delay whatsoever, he recall his proclamation and inhibition, and further that he abstain from doing such grievances in times hereafter to come." The Archbishop replied:

"The he never at any time gave offence to the Friars, but on the contrary it was always his interest and purpose to defend and favour them in charity and love, if their own demerits did not stand in their way; and if he had done any injury to the said reverend community by his said proclamation and inhibition, he would, with all speed, cause the same to be revoked, and as to the Archdeacon, he would cause him to undo whatever he had unduly done, and would inhibit him for the future from repeating the grievances complained of."

To this return the plaintiffs, by their lecturer, Adam de Large and the King's attorney-general John de Ponte, replied that the said Archbishop had made and published said proclamation and inhibition, that the plaintiffs had applied to him for a remedy, and he refused them, and upon this replication they offered to join issue. Upon this the Archbishop gave security that he would compel the Archdeacon to recall all that had been done; and if he did not do so , he granted that the Sheriff of Connaught might distrain him (the Archbishop) until the same were done, and so ended this phase of this once memorable case. But the Friars next proceeded in the King's Bench against the Archdeacon and damages were laid at 1000. His plea was one of justification upon which issue was joined and the case set down for trial. When it was called, however, the defendant did not appear.

A precept then issued to the Sheriff of Connaught commanding him to distrain the Archdeacon, by his lands and goods, and to have his body before the Chief Justice on the Quindecem of Easter next following. Nothing is known of the sequel if any.

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