Fleming, Thomas (1593-1666) (DNB00)

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FLEMING, THOMAS (1593–1666), Roman catholic archbishop of Dublin, third son of William Fleming, sixteenth baron of Slane in the peerage of Ireland, by his cousin Ellinor, younger daughter of Thomas, fifteenth baron, was born in 1593. He became a Franciscan friar, and was for six or seven years a professor of theology at Louvain. While there, on 23 Oct. 1623, he was promoted to the archbishopric of Dublin, which was vacant by the death of Eugene Matthews, by Pope Urban VIII, from whom he thereupon obtained letters apostolic, assuring protection and patronage to the colleges founded on the continent for the Irish priesthood, and also sanctioning the mission in Ireland (De Burgo, Hibernia Dominicana, p. 874). Paul Harris, a secular priest of the diocese, inveighed bitterly against this and other selections of prelates from the order of the regulars, and attacked the archbishop in his ‘Olfactorium’ and similar publications. In July 1640 Fleming presided over a provincial synod in the county of Kildare. When the parliamentary declaration of March 1641 excluded the smallest tendency of royal clemency to the members of his community, the archbishop selected Joseph Everard to attend as his proxy at the synod of the clergy which met at Kilkenny in May 1642. In October of the same year he felt constrained to appear in person at the general convention of the Roman catholic confederates at Kilkenny, and he rather strangely selected Dr. Edmund Reilly, whose acts at this period of his life were of a violent political tendency, to act as vicar-general during his absence from the diocese. On 20 June 1643 Fleming and the Archbishop of Tuam were the only prelates who signed the commission authorising Lord Gormanston, Sir Lucas Dillon, Sir Robert Talbot, and others, to treat with the Marquis of Ormonde for the cessation of hostilities. In the following month Scarampa arrived in Ireland as minister of the pope, with supplies of money and ammunition; but Fleming rejected both, and with two other bishops signed a letter to the lords justices ratifying the articles of cessation. He was present in July 1644 at the general assembly held at Kilkenny when an oath was agreed upon by which each confederate swore to bear true faith and allegiance to the king and his heirs. Scarampa remained in the discharge of his office until November 1645, when Rinuccini, archbishop of Fermo, arrived as apostolic nuncio extraordinary. During the greater part of 1649 Fleming resided quietly in his diocese; but he was not long allowed to enjoy repose from political labours. His better judgment and prudence were no longer overruled by the nuncio's presence, and therefore, when the meeting of Irish prelates was held at Clonmacnoise on 4 Dec. 1649, Fleming was one who signed the declaration of oblivion of all past differences. But Charles, on his restoration, declared the peace with the confederates to be null and void. This step Ormonde had advised, and the archbishop consequently pronounced his excommunication. As a leading member of the Roman catholic party in Ireland, Fleming was involved in most of the political and religious controversies of his time, and in common with many of his co-religionists suffered considerable annoyance and persecution. In the midst of his troubles he died in 1666, and was succeeded in 1669 by Peter Talbot, the administration of the diocese being entrusted in the meantime to James Dempsey, vicar apostolic and capitulary of Kildare.

[Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerages, 1883, p. 217; D'Alton's Memoirs of the Archbishops of Dublin, pp. 390–429; Moran's History of the Catholic Archbishops of Dublin since the Reformation, i. (all published) 294–411.]

B. H. B.