The Bishops of Kildare and Leighlin in the Early Modern Period
The following is from Fr. Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy, published in New York in 1854, chapter xvii, at p. 149 and following:
Roche Mac Geoghegan was bishop in 1640.
Roche Mac Geoghegan it seems presided over Kildare and Leighlin in 1640.
Edmond O'Dempsey bishop of Leighlin in 1646 signed the manifesto issued at Waterford against those who had assisted in restoring peace to the country. Edmond was a Dominican friar. He was forced to go into exile and died in Finisterra in the kingdom of Gallicia. His brother James O'Dempsey was vicar general of Leighlin in 1646.
Edward Wesley was bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in 1685.
Mark Forestal was bishop in 1701.
Edward Murphy, bishop in 1724.
James Gallagher, bishop in 1747.
John O Keeffe, bishop in 1770. James Keeffe, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, died 1786.
Richard O'Reilly, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, or rather coadjutor, was translated to Armagh in 1782.
Daniel Delany, died AD 1814.
Michael Corcoran, bishop in 1819.
James Doyle, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, was born in New Ross, county Wexford, in 1786. He was sent by his parents to the best schools and having as he grew up manifested a desire to embrace the priesthood he repaired to Portugal where he was trained for the ecclesiastical state. While yet a student in Coimbra, Portugal was invaded by Napoleon and Doctor Doyle and his fellow students enlisted under the banner of the country which they temporarily adopted and were of considerable assistance to the Duke of Wellington in his wars of the Peninsula.
Surrounded by the influences of his college life, the disciples or admirers of Rousseau, D'Alembert and Voltaire, he was well nigh making a wreck of that faith in which he was born and of that morality which is its concomitant but, as he himself admits, when everything conspired to induce him to shake off the sweet yoke of the gospel, the dignity of religion her majesty and grandeur arrested him in his career towards unbelief and filled him with awe and veneration towards her precepts. Everywhere she presided her ardent votaries while a terror to the enemies of revelation glorified and adorned religion when she alone swayed their hearts he read with attention the history of the ancient philosophers as well as lawgivers and discovered that all of them paid homage to religion as the purest emanation of the one supreme and invisible and omnipotent God. He examined the systems of religion prevailing in the east, the koran with attention, the Jewish history and that of Christ his disciples and of his Church with interest, nor did he hesitate to continue attached to the religion of the Redeemer as alone worthy of God and, being a Christian, he could not fail to be a Catholic.
Shortly after the retreat of the French from Portugal and Spain in 1812, Doctor Doyle returned to Ireland and became professor in the Ecclesiastical College in Carlow. In this capacity his acquirements won him the admiration of his fellow professors and his mild manner gained him the esteem of the students. As a preacher he was learned fluent argumentative and persuasive, every one who listened to his discourses should admire religion, its ceremonies and its mysteries. Having spent five years in the college he was at the unanimous request of the clergy of the diocese promoted at the age of thirty two years, by his holiness the Pope, to the bishopric of Kildare and Leighlin. During his episcopacy, his life is delineated by his own pen in the following words: "I am a churchman but I am unacquainted with avarice and I feel no worldly ambition. I am attached to my profession but I love Christianity more than its earthly appendages. I am a Catholic from the fullest conviction but few will accuse me of bigotry. I am an Irishman hating injustice and abhorring with my whole soul the oppression of my country but I desire to heal her sores not to aggravate her evils."
Doctor Doyle appeared on the stage of Irish politics when the people were yet slaves and aliens in their own land unrecognised by the laws of the empire to which they paid all the obligations of subjects. Everything that emanated from his pen carried with it due weight and tended in a great degree to soften the prejudices that were fostered for centuries in Ireland. Towards the dissenters from Catholicity he showed a most tolerant spirit and at one time suggested a junction of Catholics and Protestants, a suggestion which was unwarrantable as it was made on his private authority and which the holy see could not sanction. A canon of St. Peter's church of Rome, having arrived at Carlow with instructions to Doctor Doyle, the prelate at once perceiving his mistake as another Fenelon, archbishop of Cambray, made a noble sacrifice of his own sentiments by the calmest submission to the voice of St. Peter's successor.
Doctor Doyle, in a letter to the Marquis Wellesley, has vindicated the faith of Catholics, which was so long placed under the ban of proscription by England and her rulers: "It was, my lord, the creed of a Charlemagne and of a St. Louis, of an Alfred and an Edward, of the monarchs of the feudal times as well as the emperors of Greece and Rome, it was believed at Venice and at Genoa in Lucca and the Helvetic nations in the days of their freedom and happiness. All the barons of the middle ages, all the free cities of later times, professed the religion we now profess. You well know, my lord, that the charter of British freedom and the common law of England have their origin and source in Catholic times. Who framed the free constitutions of the Spanish Goths? Who preserved science and literature during the long night of the middle ages? Who imported literature from Constantinople and opened for her an asylum at Rome, Florence, Padua, Paris and Oxford? Who polished Europe by art and refined her by legislation? Who discovered a new world and opened a passage to another? Who were the masters of architecture of painting and of music? Were they not almost exclusively the professors of our creed? Were they who created and possessed freedom under every shape and form unfit for her enjoyment? Were men deemed even now the lights of the world and the benefactors of the human race the deluded victims of slavish superstition? But what is there in our creed which renders us unfit for freedom? Is it the doctrine of passive obedience? No, for the obedience we yield to authority is not blind but reasonable. Our religion does not create despotism, it supports every established constitution which is not opposed to the laws of nature. In Poland, it supported an elective monarch, in France an hereditary sovereign, in Spain an absolute or constitutional king, in England, when the houses of York and Lancaster contended, it declared that he who was king de facto was entitled to the obedience of the people. During the reign of the Tudors there was a faithful adherence of the Catholics to their prince under trials the most severe and galling because the constitution required it. The same was exhibited by them to the ungrateful race of Stuart. But, since the expulsion foolishly called an abdication, have they not adopted with the nation at large the doctrine of the revolution that the crown is held in trust for the benefit of the people and that should the monarch violate his compact the subject is freed from the bond of his allegiance? Has there been any form of government ever devised by man to which the religion of Catholics has not been accommodated? Is there any obligation either to a prince or to a constitution which it does not enforce?"
The health of Doctor Doyle visibly declining he was recommended to resign the diocese and travel on the continent with a view of restoring it but he did not choose to adopt the advice. His end approaching and solicitous for the welfare of his flock, he entreated the holy father to provide a coadjutor bishop and the Rev Edward Nolan was elected. Doctor Doyle died the 15th of June, 1834, of consumption. He resigned his spirit with fortitude and calmness and with that hope and confidence which faith alone inspires.
Edward Nolan completed his ecclesiastical studies at Maynooth, was ordained priest by Doctor Doyle in December, 1819, and was consecrated his successor by Daniel Murray, archbishop of Dublin, on the 28th of October, 1834, in the cathedral of Carlow. The intervening years of Doctor Nolan's life were spent in the college of Carlow, where he successively taught moral and natural philosophy, theology, and sacred scriptures. Doctor Nolan died about the close of the year 1837.
Francis Healy who succeeded, was parish priest of Kilcock at the time of his election, was consecrated on the 25th of March, 1838. Still happily presides.
Born: 8 May 1861, Received into the Catholic Church: 21 December 1896, Received into the Sodality of Our Lady: 22 December 1896, Entered Society of Jesus: 7 September 1900, Ordained Priest: 28 July 1900, Died 19 February 1933.