On “Ireland and the Celtic Church” by George T. Stokes, D.D., M.R.I.A, University of Dublin

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“Ireland and the Celtic Church” by Dr Stokes is an eye opening account of the Culdees’ history, religion, and tradition. It is not comprehensive, such as others which covered the Calendar, but it brings out many interesting aspects of the Celtic tradition.

A point with which we disagree on the author is the dating of the end of the church after the military conquest as a result of the Papal bull issued at the Council Cashel in 1172.

One of the strongest proofs the Culdees were never conquered there, or in Britain or the Continent, was the continuity of marriage of the Clergy at the protected quarters of the Knights of the Scarlet Thread (Red Branch Knights, ie the institutes under the ONeills’ Royal Clan’s protections). Such marriages in contradiction to the law of the Roman tradition were recorded into recent centuries in the institutes of the Black Friars at Armagh Ireland. This proves the most independent of Culdee practices (such as married priests, monks & clergy) remained there through the 15th Century when the Annals of the Four Masters were written. As this was also around the time of the full blown Reformation, the Neo Culdees took on other forms surrounding the church, while using the same authorized Orthodox liturgy (while not in communion with the Bishop of Rome).

St Andrew’s and St Joseph’s Orthodox Church of the Culdees demonstrates 2,000 years of protected local practice that never was conquered. Some of this only recently is being recognized, restored and expanded. While many Clerics being non-combative (unlike those under the protection of the O’Neills of Armagh, Knights of the Scarlet Thread etc), these did enjoy the rank and position of our hundreds of Celtic churches across the continent Europe established and recognized as Celtic churches to this day, had no problem co-operating under for example the Benedictine order. This vibrant order, as others do welcome a plethora of traditions and were orthodox with the East in good standing from before and after the Great Schism.  For the married clergy topic, the historian Venerable Bede made several such complaints. St Bernard had complained “they would allow no person to be promoted to the bishopric, excepting such as were of their own tribe and family.”

Learn more about the Orthodox Church of the Culdees.

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