Doyle, James Warren

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Doyle, James Warren

James Doyle (1786–1834), Catholic bishop of Kildare and Leighlin from 1819 to 1834, was born in New Ross, Co. Wexford. An Augustinian educated at Coimbra in Portugal, he taught at Carlow College before becoming bishop at the age of 33. Pastorally, politically, and educationally, Doyle was the outstanding church figure in Irish public life in his time.

As bishop, Doyle undertook the renewal and reform of religious life in his extensive diocese. He promoted Sunday-school catechesis, confraternities, and chapel libraries. His firm pastorate was a model of Tridentine church administration.

Politically, Doyle was a powerful supporter of the Catholic Association, though his important relationship with Daniel O'Connell was often strained. He was the author of numerous works under the monogram J. K. L.—James of Kildare and Leighlin. His most outstanding book, Letters on the State of Ireland (1825), is a searing attack on state policy in Ireland. A key Catholic architect of the national system of education, which was established in 1831, he favored the education of Catholic and Protestant children together, and there is an ecumenical dimension in his thought even though the spirit of the times was very inimical to ecumenism.

Doyle published extensively on religious controversy during the "Second Reformation" campaign in the 1820s. He defended his church from Protestant evangelical attacks and criticized the wealth of the Established Church. In the tithe war of the early 1830s he coined the slogan, "may your hatred of tithes be as lasting as your love of justice."

Doyle's name dominated parliamentary discussion of Ireland during his episcopacy. He gave lengthy evidence before parliamentary committees in 1825, 1830, and 1832. An active theorist for an Irish poor law based on parochial assessment, he received little support from Irish politicians. He thought that Daniel O'Connell should pursue an alliance with the Whigs in 1830 rather than repeal of the union. He did not see how repeal could be achieved at that time, and he sought legislative reform instead. Doyle's brilliant career was cut short by his early death. He was one of the most talented of the modern Irish Catholic bishops.

SEE ALSO Roman Catholic Church: 1690 to 1829; Roman Catholic Church: 1829 to 1891


McGrath, Thomas. Politics, Interdenominational Relations, and Education in the Public Ministry of Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, 1786–1834. 1999.

McGrath, Thomas. Religious Renewal and Reform in the Pastoral Ministry of Bishop James Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, 1786–1834. 1999.

Thomas McGrath

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