Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal Libri Poenitentiales and Selections from Related Documents

By John T. McNeill; Helena M. Gamer | Go to book overview

APPENDIX II
Selections from the Customs of Tallaght (ca. 831-40)

[TALLAGHT, anciently Tamlachta, near Dublin, had a monastic community founded by Maelruain, who, according to the Annals of Ulster, died in 792. He is regarded as the principal founder of the reform movement whose followers were called Culdees. The "Customs of Tallaght" are described in an anonymous document of about 831-40 by an admiring disciple of the founder's successor Maeldithruib. The document has been edited by E. J. Gwynn and W. J. Purton: "The Monastery of Tallaght," in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, XXIX, C ( 1911), 115-79; text, pp. 127 ff. The following extracts from the translation supplied by the editors are of interest to students of the penitentials. Dr. Gwynn and his publishers have kindly given their consent to the republication of these paragraphs. I have supplied a few notes. The document is closely related to the probably later "Rule of the Culdees," edited by W. Reeves, The Culdees of the British Isles, pp. 84-97, and to "The Rule of Tallaght," edited by E. J. Gwynn from a late manuscript, Hermathena, XLIV ( 1927), Second Supplemental Volume. On the Culdees see J. A. Duke, The Columban Church ( 1932), pp. 165-70, and Kenney, pp. 468 ff.]

18. There is nothing that a man does on behalf of one that dies that does not help him, whether it be vigil or abstinence, or reciting intercessory prayers or almsgiving, or frequent benediction. Moedoc and all his monks were a full year on bread and water to obtain the release of the soul of Brandub mac Echach. Sons ought to do penance for the souls of their departed parents et coetera.

20. He1 considers that priests who go astray, however fervent their penitence may be, should not be allowed to enter episcopal orders. For they consider that to enter episcopal orders is a purification for one who transgresses the priestly orders.

23. Concerning the matter of spiritual direction, some think it sufficient if they have merely made their confession, though they do no penance afterwards. He does not approve of this. He thinks it well, however, that one should show them what is profitable to them, even though he does not ask for confessions. This is what Helair did in the matter: at first he had received many, but he ended by sending them all

____________________
1
That is, apparently, Maeldithruib, abbot of Tallaght, whose death is supposed to have occurred in 840. Gwynn and Purton, op. cit., pp. 120 ff. Cf. Kenney, p. 471.

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