Born: 08 August 1727, County Waterford
Entered: 07 September 1745, Watten, Belgium - Angliae Province (ANG)
Ordained: 16 June 1753, Liège, Belgium
Final Vows: 1763
Died: 23 June 1786, Hereford, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
Younger Brother of Thomas RIP 1778 (ANG)
Taught at St Omer for 2 years
◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” :
1778 Three Archbishops and twelve Bishops, the first President of the Parlement de Paris, and the French Foreign Minister, urged his promotion to the See of Limerick. The Propaganda objected to an ex-Jesuit, but the Pope named him. He wrote to his kinsman, the Archbishop of Cashel “I am determined to oppose such a design by every respectable means in my power” To the bishop of his “native diocese” he writes : “Cruel dilemma! All left me to do is to submit to the will of others. But please take particular notice that my submission and resignation are on this condition, that whenever the Society of Jesus be restored, I shall be at full and perfect liberty to enter the same, and retire again to my College, the seat of virtue and real happiness”.
When the Bull came he was at Cahir Castle, and was so distressed that he wrote to Archbishop Butler (of Cashel) : “I decline the preferred honour, because I really think myself incapable of fulfilling the duties of such a station in the Church”. (cf Foley’s Collectanea)
◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ :
Son of Thomas, 8th Lord Cahir and Frances, daughter of Sir Theobald Butler
After First Vows he followed the usual formation and was Ordained at Liège 16 June 1753
1775 Went on Missionary work as a member of the ANG Province in England at Hereford
1778 Nominated to the vacant chair as Bishop of Limerick but declined, and he died at Hereford 20 June 1786
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father John Butler 1727-1786
John Butler, ninth Lord Cahir was born in 1727. Having completed his studies at St Omers, he renounced his title and possessions, and entered the English Province of the Society in 1745. He took charge of the little chapel at Hereford.
In 1778, his relative, Dr James Butler, Archbishop of Cashel, informed him that as the Society had been suppressed, three Archbishops and twelve Bishops of Ireland had sent a postulation to Rome, asking that he be promoted to the vacant See of Limerick. In total confusion, he refused the offer as being unworthy. However, the appointment was made, and at the instance of Dr Egan, Bishop of Waterford, Fr John consented, on the condition that if the Society was restored, he should be free to become a Jesuit once more. He travelled to Ireland and got as far as Cahir, and there, overcome once more by reluctance to take office, he resigned the bishopric, and retired to Hereford, where he died in 1786.
◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
BUTLER, JOHN, son of Thomas,8th Lord Cahir,* by Frances, daughter of Sir Theobald Butler, was born on the 8th of August, 1727 : embraced the pious Institute of St. Ignatius in 1745 ; and was ordained Priest at Liege in 1753. This Rev Father lived to inherit the title of Lord Cahir, and died at Hereford on 20th of June, 1786. It is little known that this humble Jesuit was postulated for Episcopacy. The facts are as follow :
His kinsman, Dr. James Butler, Archbishop of Cashel, by letter dated Thurles, 7th of March, 1778, signified to him, that all the Prelates of Minister, except one, and many other Prelates of the kingdom had cast their eyes upon him, as the most worthy person to fill the See of Limerick, vacant by the death of Dr. (Daniel) Kearney - that he hoped his humility would not be alarmed : and that reading in their joint postulation the will of Almighty God, he would submit to the order of Providence, and resign himself to a burthen which the divine grace would render light to him and advantageous to the Diocese he was invited to govern. To this communication F. Butler returned the annexed answer :
Hereford, March 23, 1778.
I received by the last Post your very friendly letter of the 7th inst. You will not easily conceive my confusion and uneasiness on reading its contents. How flattering soever the prospect of such an honourable Elevation may be, I should act a very bad part indeed, if I did not decline the proffer of such an important station, thoroughly conscious of my incapability, and want of every requisite quality to execute the duties of such an office. I therefore most earnestly beg, and by every sacred motive entreat you, and the other respectable Prelates, will entirely drop all application to his Holiness in behalf of my succeeding to the See of Limerick, as I am determined, by most cogent reasons, to oppose such a design by every respectful means in my power. I request the favor of you to convey in the most grateful and respectful manner, my sincerest thanks to all who have been pleased to entertain so favourable an opinion of me, and hope you will believe me to be, Hond. Sir,
Your most ---
The good Archbishop, in his reply, bearing the Cashell Post mark of April 4th, 1778, informs him that the Postulation had been sent to Rome that it was “backed by the signatures of three Archbishops and twelve Bishops of Ireland, by the Roman Catholic Peerage of Ireland, by the united letters of the Nuncios of Paris and Brussels, of the Archbishop of Paris, of the First President of the Parliament of Paris, and of Monsieur de Vergennes, Ministre des affaires etrangères, to Mousieur de Bernis; and to crown all, by the letters of your most worthy Prelate, Dr. Walraesley, in your favor”. His Grace conjures him “not to hesitate to make a sacrifice of his own private ease and tranquillity to promote more advantageously in a more exalted state, the glory of God, and the welfare of this poor and afflicted Church, and expresses a belief that, when the necessity of acquiesence is so manifest, the Rev. Father would never forgive himself for the fatal consequences that would ensue to Religion from his refusal. The whole of his Grace’s letter, is most earnest and moving; and to conquer the Father’s repugnance, he engaged Dr. Wm Egan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, to expostulate with him. He did so in the following beautiful letter :
I have shared with my much esteemed friend, and respected Metropolitan, his Grace of Cashel, in the uneasiness which your letter gave him; and I must beg leave, both from my own inclination, and at his earnest request, to expostulate with you upon the subject of it. By letters which I have just received from Rome, there is no doubt left me of your being appointed to succeed in the See of Limerick, and that in a manner very honourable to you, and to us, notwithstanding a violent opposition as well in behalf of other Candidates, as on account of your particular circumstances. The Propaganda rejected you as an Ex-Jesuit, but his Holiness in attention to the earnest application, which the Prelates of this Province in particular, as well as others, thought it for the interest of Religion, to make in your favor, over-ruled the determination of the Propaganda, and named you. - All this seems to bespeak, that what we so anxiously engaged in, was conformable to the Will of God; He has been graciously pleased to bless with success our endeavours; we were influenced to employ them, from no other motive, than our persuasion, that your being of our Prelacy, would promote his holy service amongst us; the measure had the ardent wishes of all the respectable Catholicks of this kingdom for its success; I know from my Lord Cahir, that this was particularly wished for by him, and that it was equally wished for by the rest of your family. I hope therefore, that you will not attempt to give the least opposition, to what appears, from all these concurrent circumstances, to have been the disposition of heaven; no timidity from your supposed personal disability, no private attachment to a less publick station, no friendly connexions formed elsewhere, but should give way to the call of the Almighty, so manifestly made known to you on this occasion. To judge otherwise would be only the illusion of self-love, and I am so convinced of this, that I pronounce without hesitation to you, that you cannot with a safe conscience decline, however reluctant you may feel yourself, to submit to the charge which you are called upon to undertake. Had the Society to which you once belonged still subsisted, though you could not have sought for an Ecclesiastical Dignity, yet you must have considered yourself conscientiously oblidged to accept of one even at the extremities of the earth, if you had been duly commanded; you would in that case have justly considered the command, as the voice of God, which you ought not to resist : - The voice of God seems to be equally forcible upon you now; you have not sought after the dignity which you are invited to, and if you had sought after it, it might be reasonably suspected that your vocation to it was not from God, but can you, Sir, doubt a moment, but that your vocation to the Episcopacy, which you never thought of aspiring to, is from God, when you are appointed to it by the Vicar of Christ; when you have been postulated for it, by the united unbiassed voices of so many Prelates? I think you cannot reasonably, and I think you would judge with regard to another, as I do with regard to you, were you consulted in similar circumstances. I will own to you, that whilst I rejoice, and you I think ought to acquiesce in our success, from the advantage, which at this most critical moment for religion amongst us, your nomination will be of to it, from your family, and your connexions, to say nothing of your personal qualifications, which I with pleasure hear well spoken of, by those who know you; at the same time 1 say, that I rejoice in our success, from these motives, there is another motive, which ought to make it particularly acceptable to you : it is, that in you, the difficulty which it might be feared, would have continued to prevail against those who had been members of the Society, hath been happily, and for the first time, I believe, in an occasion of this sort, gotten over. Do not then, my dear Sir, disappoint my hopes : lend yourself resignedly and cheerfully to the designs of the Almighty upon you! With the same earnestness with which we have struggled for your promotion, we will give you all the assistance in our power, all the assistance that you can expect from our knowledge and experience of things here, to render your new dignity easy and comfortable to you. You may depend upon every friendship from our good Archbishop, from Dr. Butler, of Cork, from me, from us all. In a word ! The Diocese to which you are appointed, is one of the most respectable in the kingdom, particularly from the consequence, opulence, and number of edifying Catholicks in the City of Limerick, which may be reckoned among the foremost in the British Dominions, for its elegance, riches, trade, and situation; it is but a short, and most charming ride of five and twenty miles from Cahir : but these last are but secondary and human motives; I lay my main stress with you on the glory of God, on the salvation of souls, on the ends of your Ministry, on the good of Religion; and to these motives, surely, every advantage of birth, influence, and talents, with which it hath pleased God to bless you, should be made subservient! You will excuse my writing thus freely to you; besides that my station entitles me to interfere in a matter, wherein the cause of religion appears to me to be so essentially concerned in a matter wherein I took so active a part, I claim a sort of a right with regard to you, to do it, as Bishop of your native Diocese, and from the sincere respect I have for my Lord Cahir, and all his noble family. His Lordship is shortly expected here, at farthest, some time in the next month, and as he will make England, where I suppose him to be actually on his way home, I hope that you will accompany him hither. I flatter myself, that I shall have the pleasure of welcoming you amongst us, at the same time that I will pay my respects to his lordship, I pray in the mean time to be remembered to him, and to the Honorable Mr. Butler with the most respectful attention, I shall say no more to you, I need say no more to you : the Grace and inspiratien of that good God, who gave you to our wishes will, I trust, do the rest with you.
I am with all affection and respect,
Your most obedt. and most hmble. Servt.
My address, if you will honor me with a letter, is
To Dr. Egan, Clonmel, Ireland.
To these appeals the Rev. Father begged leave to express his surprise that such a transaction had been carried on without the least previous intimation to him, adding, “As matters stand, I must sacrifice my tranquillity and happiness in a private station, or subject myself by an opposition to perhaps the severest reflections. Cruel dilemma! Let those then take the blame, who have any ways concurred in such a choice. All left me to do, is to submit to the will of others. I resign myself therefore into your friendly hands, on whom I depend for every assistance. But please to take particular notice, that my submission and resignation are on this condition, that whenever the Society of Jesus be restored, I shall be at full and perfect liberty to re- enter the same, and retire again to my College, the seat of virtue and real happiness”.
On the 25th of April, the Archbishop informed him, that the Sac. Cong, had confirmed on the 29th ult. the choice of the Prelates “and all that is wanting to complete our happiness, is to see you safely arrived in this kingdom to take possession of the See you are named to. I hope you will not delay on the receipt of this. Let nothing alarm you ‘A Domino factum est istud’. Your submission to the Orders of Providence will assure to you every assistance from heaven”.
In May the Rev. Father left England for Ireland in company with his brother Lord Cahir. The Archbishop on the 31st of May, addressed him a note at Cahir Castle of congratulation, promised to wait upon him as soon as possible, and announced the receipt of a letter from Mr. Conwey, Vicar Capitular of Limerick, assuring him that he would meet with the most pleasing reception there both from the Clergy and Laity and that all ranks of People were most impatient for his arrival amongst them. On the 10th July, 1778, the Archbishop, announced that the Bulls so long expected were arrived, and had been forwarded to him from Paris the preceding week; but that an indispensible journey on his part, had prevented him from attending to them before. “I need not tell you the pleasure it gave me to receive them, and how earnestly I wish and hope, that the use which is to be made of them may tend to advance the glory of God and the good of the Diocess of Limerick”. But the arrival of the Bulls served only to distress the humble Priest, and to decide him on declining the proffered dignity, in a mild, most courteous and respectful letter, he cordially thanked the Archbishop for the distinguished zeal and interest he had taken for his promotion; but that he could not make up his mind to accept the heavy responsibility. “I decline the proffered honor, because I really think myself incapable of fulfilling the duties of such a station in the Church”. In the following month, F. Butler returned to Hereford, to the great exultation of his numerous and very attached acquaintance.
- On the 22nd of January, 1816, Richard Baron Cahir was promoted to the dignity and title of Viscount Cahir and Earl Glengal in the County of Tipperary.