February 23

Published in On this Day listing

1943 Thirty-six orphan girls in the care of the nuns of the Poor Clare Order died in a fire at St Joseph’s Orphanage in Cavan town. None of the nuns lost their lives. A subsequent tribunal blamed inadequate fire drill, too many locked doors and the ill-equipped and disorganised fire-fighting services in the town.

1861 Fr Jeremiah O’Callaghan, parish priest of Burlington, Vermont, over the previous 25 years, died. In 1819 he had been suspended by the bishop of Cloyne and Ross—a suspension that was never rescinded—for refusing to administer the last rites to a dying flax-seed merchant until he reimbursed his customers for the interest he had charged them. O’Callaghan insisted that charging interest on loans was totally forbidden by the Christian faith, a view he expounded in his book Usury: proof that it is repugnant to divine and ecclesiastical law and destructive to civil society, which ran to several editions.


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