Rothe, David (DNB00)

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ROTHE or ROTH, DAVID (1573–1650), Roman catholic bishop of Ossory, son of John Rothe, was of an Anglo-Irish family long settled in Kilkenny, where he was born in 1573. Roth, who appears in Latin writings as Rothæus, was educated chiefly at Douay, where he graduated in divinity, and he returned to Ireland about 1609 (Spicilegium Ossoriense, i. 235). He entered the Roman catholic priesthood, and in a list of ex-students of Douay furnished to the archdukes in 1613 Roth is mentioned as ‘sacerdos B.D.’ (Cal. of Carew MSS. vi. 286). In 1616 he published the first part of his ‘Analecta Sacra’ (the second part appeared in 1617; they were probably written 1610–11). Two dedications are prefixed to the first part—one to the emperor and other orthodox princes, the other to the Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles I, as the possible halcyon during whose tender years (nidulatio) King James might be induced to give peace to the church. The second part was dedicated to Cornelius O'Devany [q. v.] In 1619 Roth published a third part, under the title ‘De Processu Martyriali,’ and the entire work remains as an impeachment of English ecclesiastical policy in Ireland under Elizabeth and James I. An answer was published in 1624 by Thomas (afterwards Sir Thomas) Ryves [q. v.] This was the period of Roth's greatest literary activity.

Roth was appointed bishop of Ossory by Pope Paul IV in September or October 1618. The consistorial act describes him as ‘a priest of Ossory, forty-five years old, master in theology, protonotary apostolic, vicar-general of Armagh, in which post he has conducted himself well for several years, and worthy of promotion to the episcopate’ (Hibernia Dominicana, p. 869; Brady). He doubtless virtually ruled the diocese of Ossory for some years previously, as well as acting as deputy of Peter Lombard, the primate of Ireland, who never visited his see of Armagh. On 4 Sept. 1624 commendatory letters, signed by Roth as vice-primate, were sent from Ireland to all whom they might concern in favour of the Irish College at Paris, and of the Capuchin order (Spicilegium Ossoriense, i. 133–6). In a letter to Peter Lombard, dated 17 Sept. 1625 (ib. p. 137), he says that all in Ireland lived in dread of the plague, and that ‘few or no catholics die among so many that are on every side carried to their graves.’ The puritans, however, gave out that the plague was a judgment for the non-execution of laws against recusants.

In February 1629–30 Roth was one of seven Irish bishops who petitioned the Roman court for an increase of the hierarchy in England (ib. p. 164). Roth was no longer vice-primate, but he was senior bishop of Ireland, and was allowed a kind of leadership (ib. pp. 190–1). On 15 Nov. 1634 the bishop of Ferns wrote that Roth, though somewhat infirm, acted as a sentinel, keeping bishops, priests, and friars in order. ‘Some censure him as being over zealous, but in truth we stand in need of such a monitor in these regions of license and liberty’ (ib. p. 199). In May 1635 Roth was allowed to appoint Dr. Edmund O'Dwyer, afterwards bishop of Limerick, to represent his diocese at Rome (ib. p. 200). In July 1641 he felt the weight of years, and asked for a coadjutor (ib. p. 211); but he found time to attend to the diocese of Ferns, then vacant by the death of his friend and relative, Dr. Roche. Between September 1637 and 1639 Roth had been seeking to make peace in the diocese of Killaloe, where the clergy were on bad terms with their bishop. ‘Knowing,’ he wrote, ‘that the jars and strifes of my countrymen among themselves have from ancient times, at home and abroad, everywhere and always injured the whole nation, I have, during some thirty years' wrestlings in this arena, notoriously made it my chief work to make an end of useless altercations’ (ib. p. 235).

Until 1641 Roth lived quietly at Kilkenny. The Irish rebellion broke out on 23 Oct. of that year; the protestant clergy were expelled, and Roth took possession of the deanery, which he retained till just before his death. In 1642 the portreeve of Irishtown was sworn to him according to ancient custom. Kilkenny became the capital of the confederate catholics, and Roth was one of the bishops who signed the decrees of the great ecclesiastical congregation held there in May 1642 (ib. i. 262, in Latin; Confederation and War, ii. 34, in English). In June he signed a letter calling upon Clanricarde to make common cause with his coreligionists (Confederation and War, vol. i. p. li). In July he was one of those who petitioned the king, through Ormonde, for an audience, and begged him to construe their acts as those of loyal men against ‘the puritan party in England, who seek in all things to limit you, our king, and govern us, your people’ (ib. ii. 48). When the confederates formed their general assembly, Roth sat as a peer; but his age prevented him from being one of the supreme council, which was elected in October, and which directed everything until Rinuccini came. According to John Lynch [q. v.], he was the person chiefly instrumental in giving form and order to the confederacy (Graves and Prim, p. 295). After the cessation of arms with Ormonde in 1643, there was a meeting of bishops at Waterford for the purpose of announcing their full adhesion to the decrees of the council of Trent. Roth did not attend, but in January 1643–4 he signed the act of adhesion for himself and for the clergy of his diocese (Spicilegium Ossoriense, ii. 17). In this year Roth presented a silver-gilt monstrance, which still exists, to his cathedral of St. Canice ({sc|Graves}} and Prim, p. 40), and also erected a handsome tomb for himself in the lady-chapel, with an inscription recording that he had restored the church to its proper use and whipped heresy out of it. The reference to heresy was chiselled out by Bishop John Parry (d. 1677) [q. v.], but the rest of the memorial remains (ib. p. 293).

The nuncio Rinuccini reached Kilkenny on 12 Nov. 1645, and was met by the aged Roth at the door of St. Canice's. ‘He offered me the aspersorium and incense,’ says Rinuccini, ‘and, conducting me to the high altar, delivered an address suitable to the ceremony’ (Embassy, p. 91). There was nevertheless a certain antagonism between the nuncio and the bishop of the diocese, whose catholicism was rather Anglo-Irish than ultramontane (cf. Spicilegium Ossoriense, i. 294). In the internecine struggle between nuncio and council, Roth was generally for the native notables and against the Italian emissary. He seldom left his house, but was much consulted, and was against extreme courses. In January 1648 Rinuccini reported to Pope Innocent X that Roth was ‘extremely old and inefficient, and no longer able to fulfil any of his duties’ (Embassy, p. 365), but he found a few months later that Roth had vigour enough to take the lead in nullifying the interdict fulminated by the nuncio on 27 May against all who were willing to treat with Inchiquin (ib. p. 399). As soon as Rinuccini was clear of Ireland, he urged the suspension of Roth, as ‘the first to refuse obedience to the interdict, as though he were the supreme judge and owned no superior’ (ib. p. 467). Too late to be of any real use, peace was made between Ormonde and the confederates. On 17 Jan. 1648–9, with other Anglo-Irish prelates, Roth signed a letter protesting their loyalty, and their satisfaction at being friends with the king's lieutenant. ‘The substance of the peace,’ they say, ‘as to the concessions for religion, is better than the sound’ (Confederation and War, vii. 213). In March Roth was one of four bishops who addressed the pope in favour of the Capuchins (Spicilegium Ossoriense, i. 322). In August following he describes himself as ‘old and bedrid’ (Murphy, p. 312), but was carried about in a litter to minister to sufferers from the plague (ib.). At the beginning of March 1650, when Cromwell was approaching Kilkenny, he was ‘carried out in a vehicle prepared for flight, stripped of his raiment, wrapped in a common cloak hopping with vermin, and put away in some wretched place where he died in the following month’ (Spicilegium Ossoriense, i. 341). This was written on 6 June by Archbishop Fleming, Roth's metropolitan, who was in Ireland at the time. ‘Locus abjectus’ does not mean ‘loathsome dungeon,’ as Father Murphy assumes. Bishop Lynch, who wrote from Clonfert between three and four months after Roth's death, says he ‘attempted to escape, but was brought back by the enemy, stripped of his raiment and mocked [illusus], but allowed to enter the nearest house, where he died.’ Probably the aged bishop was harboured by poor but faithful friends in some squalid tenement (Graves and Prim, p. 296). Axtell's regiment was quartered in the cathedral, where Roth had prepared his tomb. His remains were consequently laid in St. Mary's church with the usual ceremonies, and without interference by the conquerors. A portrait of Roth, perhaps by an Italian in Rinuccini's suite, is preserved at Jenkinstown, co. Kilkenny, and reproduced by Graves and Prim, who mention other relics.

Of Roth's great learning there can be no doubt, though he was not free from the credulity which besets hagiologists. Thomas Messingham, moderator of the Irish seminary at Paris, describes him as ‘doctissimus et accuratissimus.’ It is still more to the point that he corresponded with the protestant champion Ussher, who acknowledges considerable obligations, and calls him learned, illustrious, and ‘a most diligent investigator of his country's antiquities.’ He was all his life more or less occupied with an ecclesiastical history of Ireland; but no such work was published, and the only part known to exist is a fragment on the diocese of Ossory, of which there are manuscript copies in the British Museum and in Trinity College, Dublin. It has been accurately described by Graves, and partly printed in the ‘Irish Archæological (Kilkenny) Society's Journal’ for 1859, and adversely criticised by John Hogan in the same journal for 1871. Roth's ‘Hierographia Hiberniæ,’ an account of the Irish saints, was never printed, but was used and quoted by Ussher.

Besides the ‘Analecta,’ of which Cardinal Moran published a complete edition in 1884, Roth published: 1. ‘Brigida Thaumaturga, sive dissertatio partim encomiastica in laudem ipsius sanctæ,’ &c., Paris, 1620. 2. ‘Hibernia resurgens, sive refrigerium antidotale adversus morsum serpentis antiqui,’ &c., Rouen, 1621; and another edition at Cologne in the same year. His ‘De Nominibus Hiberniæ tractatus’ and ‘Elucidationes in Vitam S. Patricii a Joscelino scriptam’ are printed in Messingham's ‘Florilegium Insulæ Sanctorum,’ Paris, 1624.

[Journal of the Hist. and Archæolog. Assoc. of Ireland, 4th ser. vii. 501, 620; Moran's Spicilegium Ossoriense, vols. i. and ii.; Graves and Prim's Hist. of St. Canice's Cathedral; Rinuccini's Embassy in Ireland, English transl.; Ware's Bishops (art. ‘Griffith Williams’) and Writers of Ireland, ed. Harris; Contemporary Hist. of Affairs in Ireland, and Hist. of Confederation and War in Ireland, ed. Gilbert; Brady's Episcopal Succession; Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland; Walsh's Hist. of the Remonstrance, 1674, to which the Kilkenny queries and Roth's answers are appended; Catalogue of the Lough Fea Library, p. 294, where Ussher's references to Roth are collected; Brennan's Ecclesiastical Hist. of Ireland; Hogan's Kilkenny (Kilkenny, 1884); Healy's Hist. of Kilkenny (Kilkenny, 1893); cf. arts. Rinuccini, Giovanni Battista, and Walsh, Peter.]

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