Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Religious Renewal and Reform in the Pastoral Ministry of Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, 1786-1834/politics, Interdenominational Relations and Education in the Public Ministry of Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, 1786-1834

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Religious Renewal and Reform in the Pastoral Ministry of Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, 1786-1834/politics, Interdenominational Relations and Education in the Public Ministry of Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, 1786-1834

Article excerpt

THOMAS MCGRATH. Religious Renewal and Reform in the Pastoral Ministry of Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, 1786-1834. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999. Pp. xiv + 331, bibliography, index. $55.00.

THOMAS MCGRATH. Politics, Interdenominational Relations and Education in the Public Ministry of Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, 1786-1834. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999. Pp. xi + 355, bibliography, index. $55.00.

These two volumes of biography will become important works for a whole series of reasons, but primarily for the fact that James Doyle's life story is wholly integrated into the details of Catholic emancipation, church reform, education in early nineteenth-century Ireland, and the "second Reformation." This is particularly true in the volume on Doyle's pastoral ministry where McGrath sketches (appropriately, given the scarcity of sources) the future bishop's background as the youngest son of one of the hidden County Wexford Catholic gentry who fell on hard times. Doyle was sent to school with the Augustinians in New Ross, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in 1798, and then followed a family clerical tradition, entering the town's priory and going abroad for his religious training, in 1807, to Portugal. After escaping the Peninsular War, he returned to Ireland, was ordained in 1809, and became a professor in a seminary college in Carlow in 1813. Within six years his teaching skills and growing reputation made him an obvious choice as bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, based on the four western Leinster counties of Carlow, Kildare, Kings and Queens County.

McGrath goes on to show, through the mass of Doyle's papers left in the diocesan archive, what impact the bishop was to have. He remained in the same diocese for fifteen years, until his death at 48, and was to have an immense influence on three areas, two pastoral and the other political. The first of these was his disciplining of the clergy, both regular and secular. Doyle seems to have been almost obsessed with the details of the relations between the parish clergy and the orders, as well as how both these groups were educated and behaved in public. This provides a case study to test the theories of Scan Connolly and Emmett Larkin and pushes back the dates of the devotional revolution in Irish Catholicism by a number of decades. Doyle certainly saw the disciplined clergy as the key to a church emerging from the penal era, but he was also concerned to ensure that laity were also improved. This forms the second area of McGrath's work and provides perhaps the best two chapters of the first volume. The author takes the uninformed through the building blocks of what he calls Tridentine Catholicism, from new church building on a huge scale to the organizing of confraternities and public catechizing. All of the hallmarks of nineteenth and much of twentieth-century Catholicism are here, including the importance of confession, the role of the stations of the cross and other penitential rites, and the necessity of the sacraments. Then McGrath looks at the multitude of pastoral letters from Doyle to his laity on the evils of secret societies or drink, or the reform of holy days and wakes. Much of this may already be known to specialists, but rarely has it been dealt with in such detail and through a local eye.

The third area of McGrath's work is what he calls Doyle's "public ministry" or his involvement in politics. This is the second volume of the biography and, in a sense, might have worked as a discrete book. Yet the author clearly does not believe that readers should treat it as such because the first volume contains all of the personal details of Doyle's life and diocese, without which the second book would be baffling. …

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