The Shamefvll ende of Bishop John Atherton. or in modern day English, the shameful end of Bishop John Atherton is probably a good example of”Be careful what you wish for because you may just get it”
John Atherton was the Anglican Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland. But prior to that he was canon of St John’s, Dublin in 1630; chancellor of Killaloe in 1634; chancellor of Christ Church and rector of Killaban and Ballintubride in 1635. In 1636, under the patronage of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Atherton was appointed as Lord Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.
Although a Buggery Act had already been in place in England since 1533, it was found in 1631, that this law did not apply to Ireland. The buggery act was basically a Sodomy Law.
A sodomy law defines certain sexual acts as crimes. It is fairly vague in its definition of what sexual acts meant by the term sodomy and are rarely spelled out in the law, but were generally understood by courts to include any sexual act deemed to be unnatural or immoral. Sodomy typically includes anal sex, oral sex, and bestiality. The Sodomy laws were really targeted against Homosexuals and not so much against Heterosexuals.
Atherton was outraged that thsi act did not apply in Ireland and pushed for the enactment of “An Act for the Punishment for the Vice Of Buggery” in 1634.
On November 11 1634 thr Irish House of Commons passed the act.
In 1640 Atherton accused of buggery with his steward , John Childe. The Bishop’s fellow clerics desperately tried everything to prevent the judgement being carried out , in order to avoid disgrace to the reformed religion of Ireland. But the verdict of guilty was greeted by cheers in court, and Atherton was nearly lynched on his way fromcourt to the jail in Cork.
Atherton was executed by hanging in Stephen’s Green, Dublin, after reading the morning service for his fellow cellmates. Allegedly, he confessed about the ‘crime’ to the priest ministering him immediately before his execution, even though he had proclaimed he was innocence before that and maintained that claim during the execution.
The irony of it was that he was the first to be executed for buggery in Ireland under the law he pushed so hard to enact.
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