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Poor Law (Scotland)—Catholic Inmates Of Workhouses

Volume 220: debated on Thursday 25 June 1874

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Question

asked the Lord Advocate, If it is true that the Parochial Board of Dumfries have refused to allow the Catholic inmates of the workhouse to attend divine service; and, if so, what justification is alleged for such interference with the rights of conscience?

In consequence of the hon. Member's Question, I have made inquiry, and have ascertained that the Parochial Board of Dumfries have refused to allow the Catholic inmates to leave the house for the purpose of attending Divine Worship. The same rule is applied to the Protestants. The Catholic priest visits regularly the house, and administers the rites of his Church to all belonging to the Catholic faith, without any interference on the part of the local authorities. I may mention that there are only six Catholic inmates, three of whom are bed-ridden. The Parochial Board justify their action on the ground of a Regulation or Minute of the Board of Supervision, on 14th August, 1872, in which it is stated—

"That to give every inmate a right to be absent from the poorhouse every Sunday would in many cases he subversive of discipline and proper management."
I would recommend, as the proper course for obtaining redress against any alleged grievance, that a complaint should be made to the Board of Supervision, who will immediately order an investigation into it, and if the result is not satisfactory, the matter can be brought before this House.