It is hard even at a remove of 300 hundred years to conceive of the evil of the Penal Laws. The administrative and judicial class of England who have given the world the rule of law, nascent democracy a free press among other gifts have the penal laws as an eternal blot to their memory. It was clearly designed to extirpate the Irish people as a separate cultural, religious and administrative entity. Thankfully the objective has not suceeded

http://library.law.umn.edu/irishlaw/

There is however a different view that it must be interpreted in the context of the 17th and early 18th century for example the French imposed even more sever restrictions on their fellow countrymen who were Protestant.  It has been suggested that the Penal Laws were characterises as a series of multiple petty tyrannies.

It had a modern echo in the behaviour of the West Pakistani regime in East Pakistan to suppress the Benhali rebellion in the early 1970s. There was a deliberate policy of annihilating the cultural and intellectual elite to cut the head off the Bengalai Nation. Needless to say it did not succeed. Bangladesh although very poor today rates very highly on a whole range of indicators.

A manifestation of the Penal Laws is the reported renunciation of Popery in Bantry church before Pastor Davies in the 1730s I think Maziere Brady refers to it.

In fact it was an elaborate charade entered into by all concerned to safeguard their mutual commercial interests.

The Galwey and Meade families were prominent in Cork pre Reformation as merchants and landowners. They were extensively involved in the Bantry fishing business in the 18th century. Pastor Davies had a wide range of interests, fishing, land, smelting and religion was probably a type of hobby. He was a partner with the Galweys, Meads, Jagoes, and Youngs among others in shipping cargos of fish from Bantry they each had shares calculated as one sixteenth. Some time after the remounciation the Meads and Galweys of Bantry were subscribing to funds to oppose the Penal Laws.

Their position would be analogous to the Moranos, the Crypto-Jews who ostensibly converted to Christianity but secretly continued their prohibited worship:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crypto-Judaism

Another manifestation of the unintended consequences of the Penal Laws was the development in Dublin of a cluster of firms of Attorneys specialising in conveyancing, using elements of the Penal Laws to subvert them and continue the de facto ownership of land in Catholic hands. Recent studied have estimated that through various legal stratagems and trusts devices Catholics controlled up to 25% of land as opposed to the earlier accepted figure of 10%