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that before this theory is adopted it requires very careful scrutiny.
The first difficulty to its acceptance are the dates. St. Martin died in 397, St. Patrick was not born until 387. Modern writers of his life, much as they differ on other points, agree that until he was sixteen he resided in South Scotland. Either he was never taught by St. Martin, or if he was, his teaching by that Saint is one of the numerous miracles in St. Patrick's life. The visit of Germanus to Wales rests on evidence about as trustworthy as the story of his connection with the University of Oxford. Dubricius, the reputed founder of the see of Llandaff, an alleged pupil of Germanus, died in 612. Germanus died in 448. The age of Dubricius, when he was acquainted with Germanus, must, therefore, have been very tender.
The more the dates are studied, the more it will be found they have been ignored to reconcile matters. Unless recourse is had to miracles, the dates present too great difficulties for the acceptance of the Latin theory.
Nor will the second theory, ascribing an Eastern origin to the Celtic Church, bear any critical examination. This theory, which is most fully expounded by Professor George Stokes in his Ireland and the Celtic Church, is open to still graver objections. Based on the disputes as to the observance of Easter, on various peculiarities noticeable in the Irish monasteries, such as the anchorite cells, the round towers, and on the traces of Greek and Oriental learning in the Irish monastic literature, it is endeavoured to be shown that the leading peculiarities we find existing in the art, architecture, and learning, of the Irish Church have an Eastern origin.
Admitting to the full that Eastern ideas may be found in the Celtic Church, no more reliable evidence exists to ascribe the origin of the Celtic Church to the Eastern than there does to ascribe it to the Latin Church, while much evidence does exist to prove its origin arose from neither of these sources.
Both the Latin and the Eastern theory fail to account for or to explain many of the undoubted usages of the Celtic Church. Strange as it may seem, all attempts to explain Celtic usages, drawn from merely ecclesiastical sources, are failures. It may be because the ecclesiastical records have been corrupted-deliberately corrupted-so as to destroy all trace of Celtic Christianity. The object of the Norman bishops and clergy was to show that as from Rome all ecclesiastical power proceeded, so to Rome all ecclesiastical disputes ought to come. Most, if not all, of the Celtic ecclesiastical records have been "edited" on this basis. Witness the Life of St. Patrick, and his commission from the Pope, "a fond thing of vain imagining"; witness the Life of St. David and his relations with Rome, an invention of later writers for an express purpose. But it is our misfortune that to these "edited" Lives of saints, we are (to quote a modern writer') "obliged, in a great measure, to resort for the early history of the Celtic Church but for historic purposes these Lives must be used with great discrimination. There is nothing more difficult than to extract historical evidence from documents that confessedly contained a mixture of the historical and the fabulous. But the fiction, in the form in which it appears, presupposes a stem of truth, upon which it has become encrusted, and it is only by a critical use of authorities of this kind that we can hope to disentangle the historical core from the fabulous addition."
These difficulties are increased in the case of South Wales by the work of a Welshman (or rather an assertor of Welsh rights) who used the evidence that existed in his time for a definite purpose. Giraldus Cambrensis wrote with the avowed object of asserting the metropolitan claim of St. David's. Without charging him with a suppressio veri or suggestio falsi, it may fairly be said he did not use all the evidence at his command, he gives us the Brief for the claim of St.
1 Skene's Celtic Scotland, ii, p. 427.
David's. Had we all the evidence that Giraldus possessed, our views of the Welsh Celtic Church would probably have to be modified.
It is, therefore, all important to ascertain if there is any other extant source of information as to the Celtic Church that may, to some extent, have remained unedited both by writers who asserted the claims of the Latin over the Celtic Church, and writers who enforced the local claims of that Church. Such a source of information exists in the Irish and Welsh laws. Both Norman and English despised the Celts and their laws too much. to take the trouble to edit them. The opinion of Sir John Davis1 that the Irish laws were "bad in the commencement, bad in the continuance, and the cause of much bloodshed and other evils", correctly expresses the views that had prevailed up to his time, and which prevailed long after his time, as to Celtic law. These laws may, therefore, be taken as the best existing source of information on the early Celtic Church. In the form in which they have come down to us they are not of the highest antiquity, but in all probability they record ancient customs and observances long anterior to the actual date of the existing MSS. They are of the greatest interest in enabling us to obtain, through the mists of fiction and the cross-lights of legend, a gleam of truth on the organisation of the Celtic Church, and to see that Church from another standpoint; for in the light of these laws we are regarding the Celtic Church from a fresh point of view,-a point of view of laymen, not of ecclesiastics; of Celts, not of Latins.
The Irish law is contained in the compilation known as the "Senchus Mor". It is, to use the term in the English sense, a digest of cases and opinions of eminent lawyers on various points, given as the matters arose; all the more interesting to us as furnishing the Celtic views on a number of subjects that would never have found their way into any book. Of the tracts that go to make up the "Senchus Mor", the one dealing most with
1 Reports, p. 34.
monastic matters is known as the "Corus Bescna", a collection of cases and opinions on customs. The last part of it relates to monasteries, and gives the rules as to the succession to the abbacy.
The Welsh laws, as we have them, are of a different kind. They profess to be a code drawn up from all the then existing laws by the Welsh Prince, Hywel Dda, about the year 928, at an assembly, at Whitland, of clergy and laity representing all Wales, thus purporting to be made by competent authority, and to be binding on the people, while the Irish law purports to do nothing of the kind. The one is a digest of opinions, the other a code of law.
Both the Irish and Welsh laws have strong points of resemblance and of difference. Both do not deal with nations, but with tribes. In both the family, the joint owner of the property, has developed into a collection of joint owners, a tribe; but in neither case has the period been reached when the tribes have coalesced into a nation. There are three versions of Hywel Dda's Laws, the Venedotian, the Dimetian, and the Gwentian, exemplifying that they were in truth the laws, not of the Welsh nation, but of the different Welsh tribes.
The Irish Church certainly, the Welsh Church almost certainly, was monastic, not episcopal. The abbot, the spiritual ruler, was not the nominee of pope, or bishop, or tribal chief, but was chosen according to fixed rules. He might be a layman. It was not necessary, except in certain cases, that he should be in orders; but whether he was or not, he ruled over bishop, priest, and deacon; so pointing to the conclusion, that the Irish and Welsh laws amply bear out, that the persons, whoever they might be, and from wherever they came, who converted the Celts to Christianity, did not, as was done in most other countries, introduce with Christianity Latin customs and Latin civilisation. In Ireland and
1 See the "Seith Escobty" of the Welsh laws, where it is said certain abbots were to be in orders.
South Wales Christianity had to adapt itself to existing Celtic customs, not, as was the case elsewhere, to engraft Roman law and Roman civilisation on existing customs; hence in Ireland and Wales the development of Church government proceeded on totally different lines to those followed in countries where the Latin Church was able to enforce the supremacy of Roman laws and Roman ideas. Here, side by side with the existing laws and customs, the Christian system sprang up. This is clearly stated in the Corus Bescna.1 Every law", it says, "which is here (in the Senchus Mor) was binding until the two laws were established. The law of nature (i.e., of the just man) was with the men of Erin until the coming of the faith in the time of Laeghaire, son of Nial. It was in his time Patrick came to Erin. It was after the men of Erin had believed Patrick that the other two laws were established, the law of nature, i.e., which the men of Erin had, and the law of the letter, i.e., which Patrick brought with him."
The Corus Bescna goes on," The poets who had the gifts of prophets foretold that the bright language of benediction would come, that is, the law of the letter, the rule of the Gospel. There are many things that come into the law of nature that do not come into the written law. Dubhthach showed them to Patrick. What did not disagree with the Word of God in the written. law, and with the consciences of believers, was retained in the Brehon Code by the Church and the poets. All the law of nature was just, except the faith and its obligations, and the harmony of the Church and the people, and the right of either party from the other and in the other, for the people have a right in the Church, and the Church in the people.'
This passage shows two things,-(1), that the introduction of Christianity into Ireland did not abrogate Celtic customs, but that side by side with the customary law a new law, the law of the letter, sprang up;
1 Ancient Laws of Ireland, Rolls Ed., iii, 27.
2 Ib., p. 31.