THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Murder gangs to be excommunicated warns Catholic bishop

From the News Letter, December 14, 1920

By Darryl Armitage
Monday, 14th December 2020, 6:00 am
Pictured centre is Dr Daniel Cohalan, Bishop of Cork and Ross, with Sisters of Charity from Kinsale, Co Cork, and the Reverend Patrick MacSwiney CC, MA. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Pictured centre is Dr Daniel Cohalan, Bishop of Cork and Ross, with Sisters of Charity from Kinsale, Co Cork, and the Reverend Patrick MacSwiney CC, MA. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The News Letter on this day in 1920 reported that the Dr Daniel Cohalan, the Catholic Bishop of Cork, had issued a decree to the effect that anyone who, within his diocese, organised or took part in ambushes or kidnapping, or otherwise “be guilty of murder or attempted murder”, would incur by that very fact the censure of excommunication.

In the course a sermon delivered subsequent to the ambush at Dillon Cross he said: “Murder was murder arson was arson, whether committed agents of the government or members the volunteer organisation.”

He said it was the duty of bishop denounce murder and arson from whatever source they came.

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“By this time,” he went on, “men or boys taking part in ambushes must know that their criminal act they are exposing members of whole countryside, perhaps a town or city, to the danger of terrible reprisals.

“With time to disperse to safety, they leave the lives and property of numbers of innocent people unprotected and in danger of the fury reprisals at the hands servants of the government.”

He added: “That is not very valiant!”

Bishop Cohalan continued: “And then, above all, there is the moral aspect of these ambushes. Let there be doubt about it, these ambushes are murders, every life taken in an ambush is murder.

“There is a danger of even becoming familiar with murders, simply considering a successful ambush a nice exploit and the shooting of policeman as the shooting game wild animal.”

The bishop concluded: “It is all very well to talk grandiloquently with the city nearly ruins and the ruins the result of outrage and murderous ambush.

“If any section or member of organisation refuses to hear the church’s teaching about murder there was remedy except the extreme remedy, excommunication from the church.”