McQuaid, John Charles
MCQUAID, JOHN CHARLES
Educator, Archbishop of Dublin; b. Cootehill, County Cavan, Ireland, July 28, 1895; d. Dublin, Ireland, April 7, 1973; eldest son of Eugene McQuaid and Jennie Corry McQuaid. J. C. McQuaid came from a medical family: his father, paternal uncle, sister and half-brother were all doctors. Educated at St. Patrick's College, Cavan, the Holy Ghost school, Blackrock College, in Dublin, and the jesuit school at Clongowes Wood, he entered the Holy Ghost novitiate at Kimmage Manor in 1913 and was professed in 1914. From the University College Dublin (UCD) he graduated in 1917 with first-class honors in classics. He continued his postgraduate studies at UCD with a master's degree and a teaching diploma, and subsequently he earned a doctorate in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. Ordained in 1924, the theology in which McQuaid was trained was conservative—strongly neoscholastic and hostile to modernism and liberalism. His hatred of the French Revolution was expressed in several pastorals and speeches throughout his career. He also regarded Protestantism as a fundamental error from which Irish Catholics should be quarantined as much as possible.
Appointed dean of studies at Blackrock, he became a prominent figure in Catholic education and chaired the Catholic Headmasters' Association for several years. In 1931 he was appointed president of Blackrock, in which capacity he became acquainted with Eamon de Valera, the future Irish prime minister whose sons attended the school. In 1936 while drafting a new Irish constitution, de Valera consulted McQuaid, although he rejected McQuaid's draft "One, True Church" clause which stated, among other things, that the Catholic Church was the one true Church in Ireland. When McQuaid was appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1940, the appointment of a priest from the regular clergy caused considerable surprise. Irish government archives reveal that de Valera, as was suspected at the time, pressed McQuaid's claims at the Vatican. However, it is doubtful whether the Vatican needed much persuasion; there was a dearth of potential episocopal talent and McQuaid had an outstanding reputation as a Catholic educationalist.
Once appointed, McQuaid proved to be one of the ablest administrators in the history of the Irish Church. In the first two years of his episcopate, McQuaid set up the Catholic Social Service Conference to alleviate the poverty and distress in Dublin which was aggravated by the war, and the Catholic Social Welfare Bureau to help the thousands of Irish emigrants going to Britain for war work. These two organizations filled a much-needed gap and continued to exist after the war. The expansion of Dublin city and its suburbs during McQuaid's episcopate required the building of new churches, schools, and hospitals. Meeting these demands also necessitated a considerable increase in the number of clergy, secular and regular, whose numbers more than doubled in the period from 1941 to 1972.
Given his previous career, the importance McQuaid assigned to education was not surprising. He was critical of the low priority accorded to education by successive governments and was particularly critical of the poor and pay conditions of teachers. His intervention in the primary teachers' strike in 1946 was poorly received by the government and marked the souring of his relationship with de Valera. During his episcopate the number of primary schools increased by a third while the number of secondary schools more than doubled but, as with social welfare, the government increasingly assumed a dominant role in education from the 1960s onwards. Almost immediately after his appointment in 1940, McQuaid took a hardline stand against the attendance of Catholic students at Trinity College Dublin. The ban lasted until 1970, when the increase in student numbers rendered it untenable; McQuaid acceded reluctantly.
McQuaid had a formidable list of achievements in health care, especially maternity and pediatric services, physical and mental handicap services, and the treatment of alcoholism. It was ironic, therefore, that the most controversial episode of his career occurred in this area—the Irish hierarchy's rejection in 1951 of a free mother-and-child health service. This led to the resignation of the health minister, Dr. Noel Browne, and was a watershed in Church-State relations in Ireland. With Irish tuberculosis and infant mortality statistics ranking among the highest in the world, the hierarchy, and particularly McQuaid, lost considerable support by lining up with the conservative medical establishment to resist efforts at socialized medicine.
From various pastorals that he issued at the time, it was clear that McQuaid did not see the need for the second vatican council. As its deliberations proceeded, his unease grew, and he became increasingly preoccupied with the issue of episcopal power and independence that he believed were being threatened by the council. In the areas of liturgical reform, greater lay participation, and ecumenism, McQuaid was slow in implementing the Vatican II reforms. His views on ecumenism had always been lukewarm and had led to allegations that he was anti-Protestant. His personality and policies were criticized by a more assertive Dublin laity, but McQuaid, a shy, reserved man who increasingly felt the isolation of office, never responded to such comments. In 1968 the reaction to Humanae Vitae caused open rebellion in the Dublin diocese, the force of which caught McQuaid unaware. His last pastoral as archbishop in 1971 betrayed his anger and bemusement at the response to Humanae Vitae in Dublin.
At the age of 75, he submitted his resignation to the Vatican and it was accepted. His resignation was announced in January of 1972, when he was replaced by Dermot Ryan. McQuaid died the following year. His substantial archives were released by the Dublin Diocesan Archives in the late 1990s. In 1999 journalist John Cooney published a hostile biography of McQuaid, which made controversial allegations of sexual abuse against McQuaid. The allegations were based on tenuous evidence gathered by McQuaid's nemesis from the 1951 Mother and Child controversy, Dr. Noel Browne, who had died in 1997. No corroborating evidence was produced or has since emerged.
Bibliography: j. c. mcquaid, Wellsprings of the Faith (Dublin 1956). r. barrington, Health, Medicine and Politics in Ireland 1900–1970 (Dublin 1987). roland burke-savage, "The Church in Dublin: 1940–1965," Studies 54 (1965) 297–346. j. cooney, John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Catholic Ireland (Dublin 1999). j. feeney, John Charles McQuaid: The Man and the Mask (Dublin 1974). d. keogh, "The Irish Constitutional Revolution: An Analysis of the Making of the Irish Constitution," Administration 35 (1987–88) 4–84. d. mcmahon, "John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, 1940–1972," in History of the Catholic Diocese of Dublin, eds. j. kelly and d. keogh (Dublin 2000) 349–380.