Item 85 - Letter from Fr Peter Kenney SJ to Fr Patrick Bracken SJ, 10 December 1835

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IE IJA MSSN/IOM/85

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Letter from Fr Peter Kenney SJ to Fr Patrick Bracken SJ, 10 December 1835

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  • 10 December 1835 (Creation)

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1 item

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(07 July 1779-19 November 1841)

Biographical history

Born: 07 July 1779, Dublin
Entered: 20 September 1804, Hodder, Stonyhurst, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
Ordained: 04 December 1808, Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Professed: 16 June 1819
Died: 19 November 1841, Professed House, Rome, Italy

Superior of the Jesuit Mission in Ireland : 30 September 1812-28 September 1817; 29 September 1821- May 1830
Visitor to Maryland Mission : 1819-1822; 14 November 1830-1833
Vice-Provincial: April 1834-May 1836
Vice-President Maynooth College : 1813-1814

Peter Kenney was an Irish Jesuit credited with restoring the Society of Jesus in Ireland after their suppression, as well as with establishing several colleges and devoting much of his life to the education of youth.
There were seventeen Jesuits at the time of the suppression in Ireland. No longer members of the Society, they were forced to act as diocesan priests. One of these last remaining Jesuits, Fr Thomas Betagh, taught children of poor families in Dublin. One of his students was Peter Kenney, the son of a coachmaker. Sponsored by Betagh, Kenney entered Maynooth College. From here he travelled to Palermo in Sicily to continue his religious training, as Sicily was allowed to maintain its branch of the Society of Jesus. Here in 1808 he was ordained as a priest.
Kenney travelled back to Ireland in 1811, the same year that Fr Betagh, the last remaining Jesuit in Ireland, died. Kenney arrived intent on re-establishing the Jesuits in his home country. Using money that had been put aside by the previous Jesuits, he bought Castle Brown in 1813. This would become the site of a new Jesuit school, Clongowes Wood College, which opened the following year. In 1818 a further school was opened in Tullabeg, Offaly. Tullabeg College was originally planned as a noviciate for the Society but became in time a proper college.
In 1822 Kenney travelled to America to visit the missions. In Missouri he met Jesuit farmers and was appalled that they owned slaves, ordering them to set their slaves free. Back in Ireland, Kenney and three others founded the Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier in Dublin after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 was passed. For his remaining years, he continued his work across Ireland, both as a preacher and as an educator, until he passed away in 1841, worn down by constant toil and travel.

◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” : :
Early education in Humanities at Carlow and Stonyhurst. Father Betagh was the first to discover his abilities. Priests used to go listen to him teaching Catechism while he was an appretice coach-builder. Betagh and O’Callaghan, ex-Jesuits, sent him to Carlow College, and he was loudly applauded by fellow students, and even the venerable President. In the Novitiate - as per fellow Novice Father Postlethwaite - he was asked to leave the Refectory pulpit by Father Charles Plowden, as the Novices interrupted their meal as they were spellbound and astounded by his exordium. At Stonyhurst, he distinguished himself in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.
He completed his Higher Studies and Theology at Palermo, where he defended his theses of Divinity with applause, and was Ordained there. In a letter from the Procurator General to Father General, he calls him “l’incomparabile Kenny”. Father Angolini writes to Father Plowden from Palermo in 1809 “in the public disputations vel maxime excelluit P Kenny”. In 1810 he says “P Kenny excellit supra omnes; dona habet ingenii, virium, zeli animarum, activitas et efficaciae in agendo simulet prudentiae vere insignia. Deus illum ad sui gloriam Hibernorumsque Missionis incrementum conservit”. Father Provincial writes in 1810 “P Kenny ingenio pollet prompto et acri”, and again in 1811 “P Kenny acerrimi et ingenii, studiique amans, ut optimam de se spem faciat. Tum religiosum colit disciplinam, ingenio ipse nimis vivido, quandoque judicii, sui tenacior apparet”.
1811 Sent to Ireland in November, and served at the Chapel of St Michan, Dublin, the ancient Residence of the Society. He was vice-President of Maynooth for a short while at the request of Archbishop Murray, and his portrait is preserved there.
1815-1817 Destined by Providence as an instrument to revive the ancient Irish Mission SJ, he was joined by four Fathers and several Scholastics from Stonyhurst, and was Superior until 1817. He bought Castle Brown, or Clongowes Wood Co Kildare, and took possession 04/03/1814 and opened it as a school on 15 May 1816, himself being the Rector.
1819 He was sent as Visitor to the American Mission SJ, and returning again to Ireland, was declared Superior of the Mission, 27/08/1822, and its first Vice-Provincial, in its being erected into a Vice-Province in 1829. He remained Vice-Provincial until 1836.
1830-1833 He was again sent as Visitor to the American Mission SJ, where he rendered signal services, and in July 1833, published the General’s Decree for constituting the American Mission into a Province, installing Fr William McSherry as its first Provincial. During his years in America, he was constantly Preaching and Confessing, kept diaries of his travels, and had a very extensive correspondence with people of all ranks and conditions. His Retreats and Sermons were spoke of by Priests fifty and sixty years later, and long eloquent passages quoted with enthusiasm.
Tullabeg, and St Francis Xavier’s Residence Dublin are principally indebted to him for their foundation and erection.
Recommended by medical men to winter in warmer climates, he made his way to Rome with great difficulty, and died at the Gesù of an attack of apoplexy aged 62. He is buried at the Gesù. (Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS). Archbishop Murray of Dublin was overwhelmed with grief at his passing, and considered him a national loss. He and the other Bishops celebrated High Mass and said the Office for the repose of his soul.
He tried several times to write the history of the Irish Mission. Of his own life, short sketches have been written in Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS and Foley’s Collectanea, as well as Mgr Meagher in his “Life of Dr Murray” and by Father Hogan in some numbers of the Limerick Reporter.

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
His mother was said to have been a woman of remarkable piety and high intellect. She trained him in piety. he soon proved himself an apt scholar of virtue. Even as a young boy, he joined one of the sodalities for young men, which, in spite of Penal times, were flourishing in Dublin at the time. Their custom was to gather after nightfall, say prayers together and listen to a pious reading. It was Peter’s custom to regularly give ferverinos to his young companions which moved them so much, and even the priests - encouraged by Father Betagh - would stop to listen to him. This was a forerunner perhaps of his reputation later on as one of the foremost English speaking pulpit orators of his day.
1802 he was at Carlow College studying Logic and Metaphysics, and here too, his oratory was highly thought of, as it was usual for the students to preach in turn to each other. A famous talk he gave was on “The Dignity of the Priesthood” which was met with applause, even from the Superior.
1804 He went to Stonyhurst and completed his Noviceship. After First Vows he remained and studied Mathematics and Physics. His health troubled him, especially his eyes, and his Superiors decided to send him to a milder climate in Sicily for Theology. He duly completed his Theology to much acclaim and graduating DD (document of record of achievement from the University of Palermo preserved at Clongowes).
After Ordination he offered some support to Irish and English soldiers stationed at Sicily. At the same time, the King of Sicily was anxious to give refuge to Pope Pius VII, and Cajetan Angiolini SJ was commissioned to negotiate the matter with the Pope. He chose Peter Kenney as his assistant. The Pope refused to leave Rome.
1811 he left Sicily for Ireland. On the way he spent some time at Malta, ministering to English soldiers there. His name remained for a long time in fond memory.
1812 He arrived in Ireland to begin his long and fruitful career. The timing saw a Catholic Church beginning to emerge from the strictures of Penal Laws, though they were still in force.
He is described as the “foundation stone” of the Restored Society in Ireland. Father Betagh had just died the previous year, and since he was so beloved, Kenney was received with open arms by the Archbishop and priesthood in Dublin. He quickly earned a reputation as a great Preacher, and on all the great occasions, was called upon, including the funeral of the Archbishop and the Jubilee of 1825. He was then asked by Maynooth College, supported by the Archbishop to become the President. He accepted, only on condition that the Archbishop should be declared President, and he the Vice-President, but only for one year. His real desire was to found a Jesuit College.
1814 He purchased Clongowes. The money used to purchase it had been carefully handed down from the time of the Suppression. The College opened that year, and students flocked from all parts of the country. Due to overcrowding, a fever broke out at the College, and it had to be disbanded for a while.
1817 He left Clongowes to Bartholomew Esmonde, and took his place in Hardwicke St, Dublin, and he remained working there until 1819.
1819 Fr General Thaddeus Brzodowski entrusted the task of Visitor to the new Maryland Mission to Peter Kenney. It was a difficult task, but his work was approved of by all.
1821 He returned to Ireland, and initially back at Hardwicke St, but was then appointed Rector of Clongowes again, and later Mission Superior. This was a difficult period for the Church in the country, and some focus was on the Jesuits, with the old accusations of intrigue etc, being spoken of to the point where a petition was sent to Parliament by a group of zealous Irish Protestants asking that measures be taken to check the dangerous machinations of the Jesuits. Kenney’s diplomatic skills, particularly among influential Protestants in the Kildare area resulted in Lord Leinster moving a counter petition, suggesting the opposite, and this position was supported in the Irish press. Nonetheless, the Government set up an inquiry on the influence of the Jesuits, and Peter Kenney was summoned before the Chief Secretary and Privy Council. Again his skills won the day and the admiration of the Council which had summoned him.
1829 He went to a General Congregation, and there it was announced that Ireland would become a Vice-Province, and he the first Vice-Provincial. He was again sent as Visitor to American Provinces, and achieved much in that position, to the point where there were efforts to keep him in the US.
1833 On his return, his health was beginning to suffer, to the point that he found it difficult to be about, but he nonetheless stuck to his task to the end. He ran a Provincial Congregation in 1841 and he was even elected himself as Procurator of the Vice-Province to go to Rome. In spite of appalling weather conditions which made travel very difficult, especially for one in such health, he made the journey, but once in Rome succumbed to a fever. He is buried in the Gesù in Rome.
News of his death was issued at Gardiner St, and vast crowds assembled there in sorrow. The Archbishop wrote of the great loss to the Society and Church, in a letter of condolence. Many clergy and bishops attended his funeral, and a similar memorial event at Maynooth.
He was a man of exceptional powers as an administrator and Superior. In addition, he was known as a remarkable Preacher.
Note on excerpts from Mgr MacCaffrey, President Maynooth, “The Holy Eucharist in Modern Ireland” at the International Eucharistic Congress, Dublin 1932 - Book of Congress p 160 :
“There is not wanting evidence to indicate that even in the lifetime of St Margaret Mary (Alacocque) devotion to the Sacred Heart found many warm adherents in Ireland, and amongst them ...Blessed Oliver Plunkett. But whatever about individuals, the first Sodality of the Sacred Heart in Ireland of which we have an authentic record was founded at Maynooth College in the year 1813 by the eminent Jesuit Father Peter Kenney, Vice-President of Maynooth and founder of Clongowes. This new Society was regarded as important and so dangerous that it was denounced in English newspapers and reviews, was warmly debated in the House of Commons, and was even deemed worthy of investigation by a Royal Commission. But that Father Kenney’s work bore fruit in spite of much hostile criticism is proved by the fact that when years later Pope Gregory XVI granted an extension of the Mass of the Sacred Heart to Ireland, he did so, as he says, in consequence of the great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that prevails in that Kingdom.”

◆ Fr Joseph McDonnell SJ Past and Present Notes :
16 February 1811 At the advance ages of 73, Father Betagh, PP of the St Michael Rosemary Lane Parish Dublin, Vicar General of the Dublin Archdiocese died. His death was looked upon as almost a national calamity. Shops and businesses were closed on the day of his funeral. His name and qualities were on the lips of everyone. He was an ex-Jesuit, the link between the Old and New Society in Ireland.
Among his many works was the foundation of two schools for boys : one a Classical school in Sall’s Court, the other a Night School in Sklinner’s Row. One pupil received particular care - Peter Kenney - as he believed there might be great things to come from him in the future. “I have not long to be with you, but never fear, I’m rearing up a cock that will crow louder and sweeter for you than I ever did” he told his parishioners. Peter Kenney was to be “founder” of the restored Society in Ireland.
There were seventeen Jesuits in Ireland at the Suppression : John Ward, Clement Kelly, Edward Keating, John St Leger, Nicholas Barron, John Austin, Peter Berrill, James Moroney, Micahel Cawood, Michael Fitzgerald, John Fullam, Paul Power, John Barron, Joseph O’Halloran, James Mulcaile, Richard O’Callaghan and Thomas Betagh. These men believed in the future restoration, and they husbanded their resources and succeeded in handing down to their successors a considerable sum of money, which had been saved by them.
A letter from the Acting General Father Thaddeus Brezozowski, dated St Petersburg 14 June 1806 was addressed to the only two survivors, Betagh and O’Callaghan. He thanked them for their work and their union with those in Russia, and suggested that the restoration was close at hand.
A letter from Nicholas Sewell, dated Stonyhurst 07 July 1809 to Betagh gives details of Irishmen being sent to Sicily for studies : Bartholomew Esmonde, Paul Ferley, Charles Aylmer, Robert St Leger, Edmund Cogan and James Butler. Peter Kenney and Matthew Gahan had preceded them. These were the foundation stones of the Redtored Society.
Returning to Ireland, Kenney, Gahan and John Ryan took residence at No3 George’s Hill. Two years later, with the monies saved for them, Kenney bought Clongowes as a College for boys and a House of Studies for Jesuits. From a diary fragment of Aylmer, we learn that Kenney was Superior of the Irish Mission and Prefect of Studies, Aylmer was Minister, Claude Jautard, a survivor of the old Society in France was Spiritual Father, Butler was Professor of Moral and Dogmatic Theology, Ferley was professor of Logic and Metaphysics, Esmonde was Superior of Scholastics and they were joined by St Leger and William Dinan. Gahan was described as a Missioner at Francis St Dublin and Confessor to the Poor Clares and Irish Sisters of Charity at Harold’s Cross and Summerhill. Ryan was a Missioner in St Paul’s, Arran Quay, Dublin. Among the Scholastics, Brothers and Masters were : Brothers Fraser, Levins, Connor, Bracken, Sherlock, Moran, Mullen and McGlade.
Trouble was not long coming. Protestants were upset that the Jesuits were in Ireland and sent a petition was sent to Parliament, suggesting that the Vow of Obedience to the Pope meant they could not have an Oath of Allegiance to the King. In addition, the expulsion of Jesuits from all of Europe had been a good thing. Kenney’s influence and diplomatic skills resulted in gaining support from Protestants in the locality of Clongowes, and a counter petition was presented by the Duke of Leinster on behalf of the Jesuits. This moment passed, but anti Jesuit feelings were mounting, such as in the Orange faction, and they managed to get an enquiry into the Jesuits and Peter Kenney and they appeared before the Irish Chief Secretary and Privy Council. Peter Kenney’s persuasive and oratorical skills won the day and the enquiry group said they were satisfied and impressed.
Over the years the Mission grew into a Province with Joseph Lentaigne as first Provincial in 1860. In 1885 the first outward undertaking was the setting up of an Irish Mission to Australia by Lentaigne and William Kelly, and this Mission grew exponentially from very humble beginnings.
Later the performance of the Jesuits in managing UCD with little or no money, and then outperforming what were known as the “Queen’s Colleges” forced the issue of injustice against Catholics in Ireland in the matter of University education. It is William Delaney who headed up the effort and create the National University of Ireland under endowment from the Government.

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Kenney, Peter
by Patrick Maume

Kenney, Peter (1779–1841), Jesuit priest and educationist, was born in Dublin, probably at 28 Drogheda Street, on 7 July 1779, the son of Peter Kenney, a businessman, and his wife, Ellen (née Molloy). He had one sister (who became a nun) and a much older brother (possibly a half-brother by a previous marriage of his father). Kenney attended schools conducted by the former Jesuit Thomas Betagh (qv), who became his principal mentor, at Saul's Court and Skinner's Row; after being briefly apprenticed to a coach-maker, he became Betagh's assistant in his schools. In 1799 Kenney took a leading role in the foundation of the first Young Men's Confraternity in Dublin.

On 6 June 1801 Kenney entered St Patrick's College, Carlow, to study for the priesthood. He was one of a group of young men who had their fees paid from the residual funds of the Irish Jesuit mission (administered by Irish former Jesuits) in return for a commitment to enter a revived Society of Jesus. The Jesuit order had been suppressed by the papacy in 1773, but survived unofficially in Russia. In 1801 the holy see granted official recognition to the Russian province of the order and allowed Jesuits elsewhere to attach themselves to it. Former Jesuits in England took advantage of this dispensation to reestablish the English province of the society under the jurisdiction of the vicar general in Russia, but the legality of this remained uncertain until the formal restoration of the society in 1814.

In September 1804 Kenney went to Stonyhurst College, Lancashire (founded 1794), to undertake his novitiate. He was recognised as an outstanding student, particularly in theology and philosophy. After developing asthma and eye problems he was sent to Palermo in April 1808 to complete his studies. This also allowed him to take his vows with the surety of being recognised as a Jesuit by church law, since the society had been formally reestablished in the kingdom of Naples in 1804. Shortly after his arrival Kenney served as interpreter on a secret and unsuccessful mission to persuade Pope Pius VII to leave French-occupied Rome and place himself under the protection of British forces in Sicily. Kenney received his tonsure and minor orders in June 1808, was ordained deacon and subdeacon in November, and received priestly orders on 4 December 1808. He carried on his studies at the Jesuit college in Palermo (completing them in April 1811, though he did not receive a degree for technical reasons), while ministering to catholics in the British garrison, despite obstruction from their superior officers.

Kenney returned to Ireland in August 1811 as acting superior of the Jesuits’ Irish mission (whose independence from the English province he successfully asserted). He ministered in Dublin with three other newly admitted Jesuits, and rapidly acquired a reputation as a calmly eloquent preacher. For the rest of his life he was much in demand as a preacher of charity sermons and as principal speaker on major ecclesiastical occasions; the Maynooth professor Patrick Murray (qv) compared his style and eminence as a pulpit orator to those of Daniel O'Connell (qv) as a public speaker. Between August 1812 and 1813 Kenney acted as vice-president of Maynooth at the insistence of Daniel Murray (qv), co-adjutor archbishop of Dublin, who had been asked to serve as temporary president. Kenney appears to have undertaken most of the administrative duties because of Murray's other commitments, but his principal impact was as a spiritual guide and retreat leader to the seminarians.

In 1813 Kenney used much of the money inherited from the former Irish Jesuit funds to purchase Castle Browne House, Clane, Co. Kildare; in summer 1814 this opened as Clongowes Wood College, which became the most celebrated school run by Irish Jesuits. In managing the new school and overseeing the implementation of the traditional Jesuit curriculum, Kenney showed himself a capable organiser. At the same time he lobbied against calls by ultra-protestant politicians for the passage of new anti-Jesuit legislation, acquired a chapel in Hardwicke Street, Dublin (from which Gardiner Street church and Belvedere College later developed), and negotiated the purchase of the site of the future Jesuit novitiate at Tullabeg, near Tullamore, King's County (Offaly).

In September 1817 Kenney (whose career was punctuated by lamentations over the burdens of leadership and expressions of desire to devote himself to pastoral work) resigned as rector of Clongowes and superior of the mission. The acceptance of his resignation was encouraged by tensions among the Irish Jesuits, which were aggravated by his frequent absences owing to other commitments. He spent the next year and a half at the Jesuit chapel in Hardwicke Street, adding to his lifelong reputation as a skilled (though perhaps somewhat strict) confessor to all classes of penitents and a leader of retreats.

In April 1819 Kenney was appointed visitor to the North American Jesuits. As a preliminary, he took his four solemn vows as a fully professed Jesuit on 16 June 1819 and sailed on 31 July, thereby avoiding an attempt by the secular clergy of Kerry to secure him for their vacant bishopric. During his first mission to America (September 1819 to August 1820) Kenney reorganised the struggling Jesuit college at Georgetown, and reported on the financial and pastoral problems created by the American Jesuits’ badly managed slave plantations in Maryland. His Irish and continental experience enabled him to mediate effectively between older European-born Jesuits and their native American confreres (who combined ignorance of Europe with pride in republican institutions). Evading efforts to nominate him for the sees of Philadelphia and New York, Kenney returned to Europe in August 1820 to participate in the election of a new Jesuit general and report to the general congregation on the state of the order in America.

Kenney returned to Ireland in 1821 and in 1822 was reappointed to the rectorship of Clongowes and the leadership of the Irish Jesuits (whose status had been raised to that of a vice-province in 1819). In this period he experienced tensions with Bishop James Warren Doyle (qv) on such issues as Jesuit social aspirations and the perceived desertion of parish clergy by penitents seeking lenient Jesuit confessors. He testified before a royal commission on Irish education and advised Edmund Ignatius Rice (qv), Mother Mary Teresa (Frances) Ball (qv), and Mary Aikenhead (qv) on drawing up the constitutions of their nascent religious orders. He later experienced tensions with Aikenhead and Rice over disputes within the Irish Sisters of Charity and the Christian Brothers.

In 1830 Kenney was relieved of his offices at his own request and thereafter the positions of Clongowes rector and vice-provincial were separated. But this respite was brief as he was promptly sent on a second mission to America as temporary Jesuit superior as well as visitor. On this visit, which concluded with his receipt and formal promulgation of the Vatican decree constituting the Maryland Jesuits a full province, covering much of the eastern United States, he implemented further reforms in Georgetown, reclaimed a church formerly run by the Jesuits in Philadelphia, and visited the Jesuit mission in Missouri, which had been founded by Belgian Jesuits in 1823 with the intention of evangelising the indigenous population. In Missouri he greatly raised the standing of the Jesuit college at St Louis, which became the first university west of the Mississippi, and attempted to diminish the harsh discipline exercised by the local superiors. His support for the continuing independence of the Missouri mission from the Maryland province was one of the achievements that mark his two visitations as a watershed in the development of the American Jesuits and, by extension, of the whole catholic church in America. His memory was revered among his American brethren for decades.

After his return to Ireland in September 1833 (having refused the bishopric of Cincinnati on health grounds) Kenney was reappointed vice-provincial in 1834, but stepped down in 1836 as he was no longer able to combine this role with his pastoral duties as superior of the Gardiner Street community, where the Dublin Jesuits had moved when their new church was constructed in the early 1830s; the Hardwicke Street chapel became the site of a school, which later moved to Belvedere House. Kenney remained superior at Gardiner Street until 1840, though he was now suffering from heart problems complicated by asthma, overwork, and obesity. In this period he strongly supported Archbishop Murray's acceptance of the national schools, writing to Rome in rebuttal of the position of Archbishop MacHale (qv).

In 1840 Kenney was relieved of his superiorship, having asked permission to spend some time in southern Italy for the good of his health and to undertake historical research on the history of the Irish Jesuits. He reached Rome in October 1841 but died on 19 November 1841 of a stroke, his condition exacerbated by poor medical treatment; he was buried at the Jesuit church of the Gesù in Rome. Kenney was a significant force in the nineteenth-century revival of institutional Irish catholicism, the key figure in the revival of the Irish Jesuits, and an important presence in the American church; but perhaps his greatest influence was wielded through his labours in pulpit and confessional, which led Archbishop Murray's eulogist to call Kenney ‘the apostle of modern Dublin’.

Louis McRedmond, To the greater glory: a history of the Irish Jesuits (1991); Patrick J. Corish, Maynooth College, 1795–1995 (1995); Thomas Morrissey, As one sent: Peter Kenney SJ 1779–1841, his mission in Ireland and North America (1996); ODNB

◆ Jesuits in Ireland : https://www.jesuit.ie/news/jesuitica-going-multi-denominational/

JESUITICA: Going multi-denominational
In founding Clongowes, Fr Peter Kenney told Sir Robert Peel that he intended to establish a lay school for education of Protestants as well as Catholics. Jesuits had made such moves before. In 1687, with royal sponsorship, they opened a school in the Chancellor’s House in the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh. It lasted only a year, but its prospectus is an object lesson in the virtues of religious tolerance and educational opportunity. Its book of rules begins with the welcome news that the scholars shall be taught gratis; nor shall they be at any farther charges or expenses than the buying of their own pens, ink, paper and books. The prospectus was copied in founding other Jesuit schools, and remains instructive today. Read more “Although youths of different professions, whether Catholics or Protestants, come to these schools, yet in teaching all, there shall be no distinction made, but all shall be taught with equal diligence and care, and every one shall be promoted according to his deserts. There shall not be, either by masters or scholars, any tampering or meddling to persuade any one from the profession of his own religion; but there shall be all freedom for every one to practise what religion he shall please, and none shall be less esteemed or favoured for being of a different religion from others. None shall upbraid or reproach any one on the account of religion; and when the exercise of religion shall be practised, as hearing Mass, catechising, or preaching, or any other, it shall be lawful for any Protestant, without any molestation or trouble to absent himself from such public exercise, if he please.”
Behind this were agreed moral norms: “All shall be taught to keep God’s Commandments, and therefore none shall be permitted to lie, swear or curse, or talk uncivil discourse. None shall fight or quarrel with one another.”

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 7th Year No 3 1932

Father Peter Kenney Saves the Scholastic Method

On the occasion of the Congregation of 1829 the Fathers had to deal with the question of the direction of studies, and with the means of bringing the old Ratio Studiorum into line with the requirements of modern times. The principal matter under discussion was the use of the scientific method in dealing with sacred studies. The majority, having completed their studies in seminaries or in lay universities, according to the system then in vogue, showed themselves hostile to the “metodo scolastico” and favored the “metodo dissertivo”.
But Father Kenny, a gifted orator, at that time Superior of the Irish mission, addressing the Fathers, made a spirited and vigorous defence of the Scholastic method. He recalled
how deeply the Church and the Society were indebted to it, how the most distinguished men had been trained on that system, and how the enemies of religion had belittled and assailed it precisely because of its force and perfection. He concluded by affirming that by rejecting the Scholastic method they should not have carried out a work of construction but one of destruction.
All were carried away by the eloquent words of Father Kenny so much so that the Congregation declared unanimously that as in the past, the Scholastic method should remain as a sacred patrimony of the Society, and that the questions of “scientist media” and others commonly held by the theologians of the Society, should be considered as anything but useless and obsolete.
It were difficult to describe with what warmth Father Roothan applauded the eloquent words of the orator, He entertained for Father Kenny such affection and gratitude that he declared him to be a signal benefactor of the Society, and attributed to him the merit of having replaced the Society's true method and, true doctrine in its honored position. He concluded by saying that were it not contrary to the practices of the Society a monument should be erected to him as a mark of that Society's everlasting gratitude.
The above is taken from a “Life of Very Rev. J. Roothan General of the Society”, written in Italian by Father P. Pirri.

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From Fr Peter Kenney SJ to Fr Patrick Bracken SJ. Announces that he will not be able to go to Tullabeg that year. Reports on the situation in Clongowes, and on the various Jesuits residents there. Reports also on the Jesuit mission in the Isle of Man, where Fr Aylmer stopped for a time to assess the situation. Refers to the debate on the question of whether the mission there should be retained by the Irish Jesuits, and also to the opening of a new chapel in Douglas.

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The Irish Jesuit Archives are open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment. Further details: archivessj@gmail.com

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2006

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