COI Gazette – 7th December 2012

Co. Cavan rector’s 1840 Penny Black letter a ‘unique item of Irish postal history’

The Penny Black - the world’s first postage stamp.

The Penny Black – the world’s first postage stamp.

In a recent publication, Stephen Ferguson, Assistant Secretary of An Post, tells how a letter dated 8th May 1840 and written by the then rector of Shercock, Diocese of Kilmore, the Revd Frederick Fitzpatrick, is “a unique item of Irish postal history”. Mr Ferguson describes it as “the earliest known and reliable example of the use of the Penny Black in Ireland”.

Written at the former Londonderry Hotel at 5 Bolton Street in Dublin to a Henry Thomas at 35 Lincoln Inn Fields in London, the Fitzpatrick- Thomas letter bears two Penny Black stamps because it contained an affadavit and thus weighed more than a letter on its own.




JAN HUS (c.1369-1415)

Among ‘Reformers before the Reformation’, two figures stand out, the English John Wycliffe (c.1325- 1384) and the Czech John, or Jan, Hus. There is a close connection between them. Anne, sister of King Wenceslaus of Bohemia, married Richard II of England and this facilitated communication between the two kingdoms.

Hus, a brilliant young man, became Rector of the University of Prague at an early age and also Preacher in the newly erected Bethlehem Chapel. He used his position to defend Czech interests against German influence in the Kingdom, to support the philosophical position of ‘realism’ against the opposite view of ‘nominalism’, and to advocate the teachings of Wycliffe, whose writing, Trialogus, he translated into the Czech language.

Initially, Hus had the support of his Archbishop, but this was withdrawn following papal intervention against Wycliffe’s ideas and the increasingly partisan tenor of Hus’s writing and preaching, with their vigorous attacks on clerical abuses of all kinds. He was excommunicated because of his support for Wycliffe’s teaching and sought to explain his views at the Council of Constance. He was promised a safe conduct by Sigismund, the King of Hungary, but this was disregarded and he was tried, condemned and burnt at the stake. This caused him to be regarded as a martyr by the Czech people, and his followers, called ‘Hussites’, became embroiled in a series of conflicts with adherents of Catholic orthodoxy.

In certain respects, Hus anticipated the 16th century Reformation by upholding the supreme authority of Holy Scripture and advocating belief in an invisible Church of true believers. Like Wycliffe, he believed in predestination. He upheld royal authority as against that of the papacy and was in turn supported to a large extent not only by the general populace but also by the Czech nobility. His writings are regarded as classics of Czech literature.

Hus denounced the doctrine of transubstantiation, but was influenced by some Czech writers who had advocated frequent communion, specifically in both kinds (bread and wine) instead of receiving in bread only, as was the current practice, except among the clergy. What is less wellknown is that his followers also revived the ancient custom (still universal in the Eastern Church) of the communion of all the baptized, including children, and this may have implications for the Church of the present day. The Moravian Church has historical links with the tradition of Hussite reform.

This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.

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Letters to the Editor


The Masonic Order

I read with interest Canon Coulson’s letter and the editor’s response (Gazette, 30th November), as well as the report in the Belfast News Letter regarding outside influences which the Gazette editor feels may have affected Church matters in past years (22nd November).

I would like to refer in particular to the secrecy of the Masonic Order – as we don’t march down the road once a year! We have no need to demonstrate, but that doesn’t mean we wish to be secretive about membership.

The Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Ireland is trying to be open and welcoming about the organisation. However, it doesn’t matter how loud we speak, we cannot make people listen if they choose not to.

That doesn’t mean anyone would have to agree with what we are saying, but because most refuse to listen, we can hardly be held responsible for the continued ignorance and conspiracy theories that arise there from.

The Church of Ireland is part of the Anglican Communion, yet it retains its own identity and traditions within that community. Likewise with Freemasonry. Irish Masons hold common bond with Freemanons around the world, yet our customs and traditions here give us our own identity.

I find that most distrust of Freemasonry here in Ireland is usually derived from second-hand nonsense reproduced on the Internet. Most of this emanates from American websites and discusses Americans’ Masonic culture, not ours here in Ireland.

I realise that the editor has been rebuffed by subsequent correspondence from Freemasons that has appeared in the News Letter and in the Gazette. Whilst I cannot disagree with their sentiment, I would like to add that I feel the editor was fair in voicing his concern. This has at least allowed a debate to begin around the subject and has given an opportunity for the Grand Lodge of Ireland to address these concerns in an intelligent and informed manner.

To that end, I extend an invitation to all concerned to discover more about our Order.

Michael Holden PR Officer Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland 17 Molesworth Street Dublin 1

The voting method on women bishops legislation in the C. of E.

The origin of the tragedy – if I may call it such – of the Church of England General Synod’s recent vote on draft legislation on women bishops lies not so much in the decision taken, more in the methodology used.

As happens in many spheres, everything was reduced to a binary vote, for or against, win or lose. There were lots of options in the debate, but only two on the ballot paper. Granted, measures had been taken to try and ensure that everyone was ‘on board’ – the three Houses, the requirement for a weighted majority, etc.

The fact nevertheless remains that the Church used a methodology by which consensus cannot be achieved, because you cannot measure consent in a majority vote, simple or weighted; in fact, it measures the very opposite, the degree of dissent: so many ‘for’, and so many ‘against’.

The science of social choice has many of its origins in the Church. In the 12th century, Ramon Lull, a “devout Christian”, was one of the first to criticise majority voting. In its stead, he advocated a voting procedure he called the “general art”; this might have been a points system, but the science is not clear.

Three hundred years later, however, Cardinal Cusanus definitely suggested such a system, that which today is called the (Modified) Borda Count [MBC]. “With much study,” he said, “I have not been able to find a safer system and, believe me, no more safer system can be found.”

Perhaps, therefore, the subject of decision-making should be looked at more closely. No majority has the right to dominate, no minority the right to veto; rather, we all have a responsibility to come to an accommodation, to live with each other, to come to collective decisions with each other.

Democracy should be a process by which all can influence that which thus becomes the confluence. This cannot be done by (simple or weighted) majority voting, where only some vote with, while others vote against.

It can be done, however, by following the advice of Nicholas of Cusa. In an MBC, people vote, in order of preference, only ‘for’ (one, some or better still) all of the options listed. But no one votes against any thing or any one; (either partially or fully), voters vote with each other.

Peter Emerson The Director The de Borda Institute 36 Ballysillan Road Belfast BT14 7QQ

The C. of I. College of Education and TCD

It was a pleasure to meet and work with the Registrar of Trinity College over five meetings between April and June of this year.

Professor Shane Allwright and I shared the chairing of these meetings held between representatives of the Provost of the University and of the Archbishop of Dublin, Chair of the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE).

Together, we were tasked with “addressing how the two institutions could best work together for the benefit of initial teacher education and continuing professional development for educators specializing in inclusive education provision in Ireland”. We had been given clear criteria for these talks.

I must, however, refute some of the claims made by the Professor. The views expressed in her letter, as published in the Gazette (30th November), do not seem to me a fair representation of what was conveyed to those of us involved in the discussions.

With respect, I suggest that Professor Allwright meets with the representatives of the University’s School of Education. They were particularly forthright in demanding that any future working together would be on terms acceptable to their School and consequently full incorporation of CIC E into an enlarged School of Education would be required.

When the Archbishop’s representatives tried to focus on some of the other alternatives as listed in Professor Allwright’s letter, there was no willingness at all from the School of Education’s representative to do so. Thus, it was not at all clear to those of us involved that all five models were acceptable to Trinity, as the Professor states in her letter. The overwhelming assertion of the School of Education was that full incorporation was the only acceptable model and there was no dissension from the other Trinity representatives.

There was some attempt to appease by a suggestion that the Church of Ireland might be named in an award or lecture, but it was very obvious that neither the name nor the ethos could be accommodated in any other way in a “nondenominational” University.

Guarantees requested for recognition of staff, for reserved places and for the continuation of all courses presently offered at CIC E were not forthcoming. Professor Allwright states that the Archbishop’s representatives simply walked away from the talks – but this does not reflect the facts.

In June, meetings were held at which it was made clear to the Trinity representatives that no substantial progress had been made. The four core principles, which had been clearly set out, needed to be addressed in full by the University and various suggestions were made as part of this.

Thus, we gave TCD every opportunity to be absolutely clear about what was needed. Our final meeting was on Wednesday 20th June, three weeks after the deadline given by the Provost and the Archbishop – the end of May. Every effort, I believe, had been made to find a way forward.

Patrick Rooke (The Rt Revd) Bishop’s House 2 Summerfield Claregalway


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