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Peter Walsh

Irish Franciscan, b. at Mooretown, County Kildare, about 1608; d. in London, March 15, 1688

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Walsh, PETER, Irish Franciscan, b. at Mooretown, County Kildare, about 1608; d. in London, March 15, 1688. Educated and ordained in the celebrated Irish College of St. Anthony at Louvain, he was later appointed to the convent of his order at Kilkenny, where he warmly supported the Ormondist party in the confederation then assembled in that city. He was made guardian by the triumphant Ormondists in 1648; took a leading part in the agitation against the validity of the censures fulminated by the nuncio, Rinuccini; acted as chaplain to the Munster army till its final defeat by the Parliamentary forces; led a precarious existence in England and on the Continent till 1660 when the Restoration saw him back in London and high in the favor of the evil genius of the Confederates, the all-powerful Ormonde. He was appointed their accredited London agent by the few surviving Irish bishops in 1661. He introduced and tried to have accepted by the Irish clergy and people the famous “Remonstrance” which distracted the country for the next half-dozen years; took a prominent part in a meeting of the bishops and clergy which, with Ormonde’s consent, he had assembled in Dublin in June, 1666, to discuss the Remonstrance; but despite all his efforts he was unable to induce or force the meeting to sign a document which the great majority regarded as disrespectful to the Holy See, if not actually in conflict with Catholic teaching on the supremacy of the pope. Breaking definitively with the ecclesiastical authorities, he put himself at the head of a party consisting of a few of the clergy and several laymen, who were known as the Valesians and Valesian heretics, and who were a source of considerable anxiety to the bishops for some time; but the fall of Ormonde in 1669 deprived them of their mainstay, and they declined so rapidly that Oliver Plunket, writing to Propaganda in 1671, was able to report that hardly a Valesian remained. Walsh, however, for whom Ormonde’s influence had secured the seneschalship of Winchester (worth about £100 a year) from the bishop of that see, held out almost to the end. Though the General Chapter of his order held at Valladolid in 1670 pronounced sentence of major excommunication against him, he disregarded the penalty, and it was only a few days before his death that he was induced to make his peace with the Church.

He left many writings behind him. Of these, with the exception of a worthless history of Ireland down to the English invasion, entitled “A Prospect of the State of Ireland“, nearly all are concerned with the question of the Remonstrance, and comprise his “More Ample Account” (1662); “Irish Colors Folded” (1662); “Controversial Letters” (1673); “Letter to Catholics” (1674); “History of the Irish Remonstrance” (1674); and a long defense of his attitude addressed to the general of his order in a Latin publication entitled “Causa Valesiana” (1684), all of which were published in London. His “History of the Remonstrance” is valuable for the light it throws on the events of that distracted time.



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