Rafferty, Oliver P.

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Rafferty, Oliver P.

(Oliver Plunkett Rafferty)


Education: Oxford University, D.Phil., 1996.


Writer, historian, and educator; Jesuit priest. St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland, professor of ecclesiastical history. College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, visiting faculty lecturer; John Carroll University, Cleveland, OH, Hopkins Professor of British Literature.


(Editor) Reconciliation: Essays in Honor of Michael Hurley, Columba Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1993.

Catholicism in Ulster, 1603-1983: An Interpretive History, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1994.

The Church, the State, and the Fenian Threat, 1861-75, University of Oxford (Oxford, England), 1996, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.


Writer and Jesuit priest Oliver P. Rafferty is a professor of ecclesiastical history and author of a number of works of religious history. In Catholicism in Ulster, 1603-1983: An Interpretive History, Rafferty offers a sweeping history of the Catholic church throughout almost four hundred years of history in the Irish province of Ulster. Rafferty's "work is a courageous, and to a great extent successful, attempt at panoramic history," commented Patrick J. Corasri in the Catholic Historical Review. Rafferty traces the unique experience of Catholicism in Ulster from the 1603 surrender of the Gaelic chieftains O'Neill and O'Donnell to the more recent political events in the later twentieth century. He looks at the elements that separated Ulster Catholics from their fellow Catholics elsewhere in Ireland and explains why Ulster, though part of the geographical and political whole of northern Ireland, should be considered a separate entity worthy of individual historical attention. J.J. McCracken, writing in the English Historical Review, observed that "there is something about Ulster that at least justifies investigation." Corasri called Rafferty's book "a very useful compendium of information on what has a genuine claim to being a distinctive culture."

In The Church, the State, and the Fenian Threat, 1861-75, Rafferty examines the Fenians, an Irish nationalist organization that organized an uprising in Ireland and tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to foment violence in Canada, Britain, the United States, and elsewhere. Rafferty explores the ways in which the Fenians caused difficulties for both the church and the Irish state during the years of their activities. The Fenians insisted on a definitive separation between church and state, which the Catholic Church in Ireland saw as a threat to its power. Eventually, Rafferty notes, the Fenians "came to believe only violence, or at least its threat, would bring about any change in the Irish situation," remarked R. Barry Levis in Church History. To this end, they sparked an uprising in Ireland, tried to invade Canada from the United States, and incited violence in British cities. Reaction to the Fenians varied based on the political agendas of the governments that had to deal with them. In the end, "Rafferty argues that Fenianism must be taken seriously on its own terms, and that it presented a threat to the established religious and political order," commented Michael De Nie, writing in the Catholic Historical Review.



Catholic Historical Review, April, 1996, Patrick J. Corasri, review of Catholicism in Ulster, 1603-1983: An Interpretive History, p. 249; April, 2000, Michael De Nie, review of The Church, the State, and the Fenian Threat, 1861-75, p. 349.

Church History, December, 2001, R. Barry Levis, review of The Church, the State, and the Fenian Threat, 1861-75, p. 800.

English Historical Review, February, 1997, J.L. McCracken, review of Catholicism in Ulster, 1603-1983, p. 215.


College of the Holy Cross Web site,http://www.holycross.edu/ (November 12, 2006), biography of Oliver P. Rafferty.