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Insular ChristianityAlternative models of the Church in Britain and Ireland, c.1570–c.1700$
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Robert Armstrong and Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719086984

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719086984.001.0001

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The laity and the structure of the Catholic Church in early modern Scotland

The laity and the structure of the Catholic Church in early modern Scotland

(p.231) Chapter 12 The laity and the structure of the Catholic Church in early modern Scotland
Insular Christianity

R. Scott Spurlock

Manchester University Press

A factor of even greater importance to the resurgence of Catholicism in Scotland than a continentally motivated Counter-Reformation were the Stuart policies of expanding central control over the constituent regions of the country. In the face of threats to local autonomy and hereditary land rights Catholicism became an ideological force and badge of identity commandeered by the Gordons in the North East and ClanDonald in the West to serve as a source of social cohesion. In conjunction with underfunding from Rome and loose oversight by continental superiors, a distinctive Catholic ‘hierarchy’ formed in Scotland in which the laity rose into the dominant role both in the Western Isles and the North East, until the appointment of a Vicar Apostolic (Missionary Bishop) in 1694 gradually initiated a shift towards traditional clerical dominance and strict oversight. This period of lay dominance was one enabled and fostered by internal squabbles between clerical orders and a near complete dependence on lay Scottish Catholics for the financial support and protection of priests. While this has been nominally accepted, a reassessment of the role of the landed classes in the survival of Catholicism beyond the understandably vague reports of the clergy is imperative.

Keywords:   Catholicism, Gordons, ClanDonald, Propaganda Fide, Counter-Reformation

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