The Society of Jesus in Ireland Post 1814: A Historiographical Survey

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Brian Jackson
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Brian Jackson Last modified: May 2020


“Why is it so hard to write a decent history of the Jesuits?”  When John Bossy (1933–2015) posed this provocative question, he offered a number of compelling answers to the problem.1 A long tradition of self-advertisement by members of the Society, matched by an equally rich tradition of denigration and hostility on the part of a (very) broad church of critics are significant factors. Yet the Society has an admirable track record in the field of historical scholarship. As an institution, the Society has worked to establish a long and distinguished tradition of facilitating research. Successive generals, notably Anton Anderledy (1919–92) and Luis Martín (1846–1906), drove the opening up of access to archives and commissioned a series of authoritative, nationally focused, Jesuit histories. These were conceived and produced along Rankean principles with the purpose of setting out an empirically based account of events (on the basis of a systematic examination of original records) with the specific intention of defeating, or disarming, malicious and counter factual myths.

In 1829, the Twenty-first General Congregation determined that all significant documents relating to the Society’s past should be collected and compiled to help with this project.2 However, the restored Society continued to suffer suspicion, confiscation, and exile in many European states. It was clear that a more proactive approach was required and by the end of the century, a group of Spanish Jesuits, supported and encouraged by the Jesuit curia, embarked on a program to publish authoritative editions of the correspondence of Ignatius of Loyola (c.1491–1556) and the founding circle. This project, the Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu, was rooted in a deep respect for primary sources and an adherence to the specialist scientific disciplines and methodologies necessary for dealing with them. In 1892, the Twenty-fourth General Congregation propelled this initiative forward by calling for the writing of provincial or assistancy histories of the Society.3 This produced a number of magisterial surveys that have stood the test of time and the works of Antonio Astrain (1857–1928),4 Bernhard Duhr (1852–1930),5 and Henri Fouqueray (1860–1927)6 endure as important contributions to the historiography of Spanish, German, and French provinces of the Society.

Unlike many of their European colleagues, Jesuits from the Irish or English provinces made little endeavor to produce official “national” histories. Although both provinces could boast teams of technically gifted and internationally recognized historians well capable of undertaking the task, there was no engagement with this project. Denis Murphy (1833–96), Edmund Hogan (1831–1917), John MacErlean (1870–1940), John Conmee (1847–1910), John Hungerford Pollen (1858–1925), John Morris (1926–93), and Henry Foley (1811–91) were all contemporaries. But the energies of this group had been diverted by their immediate superiors (at the behest of the local metropolitans, Archbishop William Joseph Walsh [1885–1921] in Dublin and Cardinal Henry Edward Manning [1808–92] in Westminster) to the task of researching and documenting causes for the beatification of English and Irish martyrs. This in itself was a significant and demanding historiographical enterprise.7 This essay will seek to give a brief outline account of the history and an overview of the historiography of the restored Society of Jesus in Ireland. This encompasses a (roughly) two-hundred-year period from 1814 to date of writing. 

The history of the Jesuit presence in Ireland in both the pre-suppression and post-restoration periods is closely interwoven with the history and activities of the Society in England. In the interests of clarity, it has been necessary to set down some boundaries in order to delimit and to provide focus to this endeavor.

This essay will focus on historical writing about, and more often than not, by, Irish born members of the Society of Jesus and their activities in Ireland in the post-1814 period. This means that significant and controversial figures such as George Tyrrell (1861–1909), a Dublin Protestant who converted to Catholicism, joined the English Province and became a significant player in the Modernist controversy, will not attract more than a passing mention.  It will also mean that English born Jesuits such as Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89) (arguably the most significant English language poet of the Victorian Era and also an Anglican convert) who for a time lived, worked and ultimately died in Dublin, will not attract much attention either. Both of these men are significant, and a great deal has been written about each of them, but in this particular account they are outliers.

In terms of historical writing, there is, as yet, no major study that offers a synthesis or overview of the post-restoration history of the Irish Jesuit province. There have been a number of serviceable “popular” accounts produced, in the main, by enthusiastic and influential products of Jesuit schools.  These do not set out to be historically analytical studies and the combination of personal experience and intellectual formation has had an inhibiting effect on a neutral or critical evaluation of the Society.8  They might be regarded, with a degree of justification, as parti pris.

The absence of any professional historical overview of substance or significance means that drawing together a historiography of the Irish Jesuits post-1814 is akin to embarking on a large and complex jigsaw puzzle in the full and certain knowledge that a key element needed to complete the task is missing. On the other hand, there is no shortage of pieces. Irish Jesuits have been prolific writers and members of the Society have produced a range of material, much of it in Jesuit produced or supported journals. With that minor caveat in mind, a cautious, critical evaluation of this material makes it possible to capture something of the rich essence of the picture. 


Without a definitive account of the history of the post-restoration Society in Ireland it is probably useful to begin with a brief overview of the sequence of events. This will help to establish some general bearings and offer a sense of the general historical terrain. A good starting point is the address delivered by Bruce Bradley, S.J. to the Irish Provincial Assembly in 2011.9 The address was intended to mark the two-hundredth anniversary of the return of the restored Society of Jesus to Ireland. Bradley’s narrative reinforces a strong sense of continuity with the Old Society, a continuity momentarily fractured by the short hiatus between the death (on February 16, 1811) of Thomas Betagh (1737–1811), the last surviving Irish member of the Old Society in Ireland and the return of Peter Kenney, S.J. (1779–1841; a pupil of Betagh) later in the summer of the same year. Kenney brought with him a commission from the then general, Tadeusz Brzozowski (1749–1820), to establish a college. Betagh had managed to retain control of Irish based assets held in trust for the Old Society. These assets were substantial and when they subsequently passed to Kenney the fund enabled him to acquire a suitable property to house the college.

In 1814, Kenney bought the Castle Browne estate (now Clongowes Wood College) in County Kildare. With the help of two colleagues, a group of postulant brothers, and six scholastics recalled from juniorate at Stonyhurst College in England, he opened a school in June 1814. Enrolment was brisk. Jesuit schools were in demand and another school, Tullabeg, was opened at Rahan, County Offaly, in 1818. Tullabeg was originally intended to serve as a novitiate (as a properly constituted province would require). But the road to provincial status was to be a slow process of evolution and so, initially, Tullabeg served as a preparatory school for Clongowes.

After Catholic Emancipation passed, the construction of a Jesuit church was begun in Gardiner Street, Dublin. A house in nearby Hardwicke Street, which had been acquired as a residence in 1816 was repurposed as a day school. By 1841, the school had outgrown the house and had to move to larger premises in nearby Belvedere House in Great Denmark Street.

The provision of education has always defined the Jesuits in Ireland. But in this period, it also served to keep the Society “below the radar.” Largely hidden from public view, the Society succeeded in avoiding major conflict or controversy in a period when it was regarded with suspicion by both the Protestant establishment and the Catholic hierarchy. When provincial status was granted in 1860 (Ireland had been designated as a vice-province in 1830), the provision of education remained the principal activity of the Society in Ireland. By 1860, there were 117 Jesuits in the country, a cohort of sixty priests, twenty-eight scholastics, and twenty-nine lay brothers. As well as schools at Clongowes, Tullabeg, and Belvedere and the Gardiner Street Church, a retreat house had been opened at Milltown Park in Ranelagh in South Dublin along with a day-school in Limerick and a residence and church in Galway.

Irish Jesuit formation had always involved travelling outside Ireland. But the establishment of the novitiate at Milltown meant that over time various stages of formation were repatriated to Dublin. This reflected the later stages of a process of transition from a mission to a settled, established, and self-sufficient institution.

The growing wealth and political influence of a vocal Irish Catholic bourgeoisie gave great impetus to the campaign for the provision of domestic third-level education that was acceptable to Catholics. John Henry Newman’s (1801–90) fledgling Catholic university was an episcopal initiative but legally it was a private college without a royal charter or degree awarding powers. The college was re-established in 1883 under Jesuit management. The renamed University College operated as part of the Royal University system (an examination and degree awarding body). This began a long association between the Society, university education and, more broadly, education policy in Ireland.

From a cohort of 117 in 1860, numbers rose rapidly. In 1880, there were 202 Jesuits in Ireland. By 1900, this had risen to 317, 400 by 1920, and 543 in 1930.10 Part of the function of a province is to take on responsibility for missions. Peter Kenney had pre-empted this responsibility with his work with Jesuits in the US. Irish Jesuits went to Australia in 1865 and Irish foundations quickly sprung up in Victoria and New South Wales. When the Australian mission achieved vice-provincial status in 1931, many Irish Jesuits remained there. In 1927, a Hong Kong mission had begun, and this was expanded into mainland China, Malaysia, and Singapore. Educational endeavor was the hallmark activity of Irish Jesuit missionary presence, reflecting the predominant activity at home.

Jesuit education in Ireland was initially focused on the formation of a Catholic leadership caste within the British imperial system and it is not surprising that the province was somewhat wrong-footed by the revolutionary events of the early twentieth century. An awkward shift was apparent in the post-independence period as Gaelic games and the Irish language were found a place on the curriculum and in the pages of Jesuit publications.

As the new Irish state developed, especially after the Civil War, the church filled a vacuum and a period of uncritical, Catholic hegemony, which the Society readily participated in, set the tone for much of the first fifty years or so in the development of the Irish Republic. Although occasional political commentary was to be found in the journal Studies, neither the Jesuits nor their former pupils, many of whom played significant roles in the development of the new state, offered any considered critique or challenge to a prevailing culture of compliance and orthodoxy.

The ending of the Second World War in 1945 signaled a new phase and there were a number of developments within the province. A second day-school was opened in Dublin (Gonzaga College), a Catholic Workers’ College was established; and the Irish province took over the Chikuni mission in Rhodesia (modern-day Zambia).

A significant step change in the 1960s witnessed more radical transformations. A number of Jesuits played a significant role in these and attracted the censure of successive archbishops of Dublin for their efforts. Michael Hurley (1923–2011) established the Irish School of Ecumenics at Milltown Park and was active in cross-community reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland and Roland Burke Savage also came under fire for promoting an ecumenical agenda.

These radical developments coincided with a sharp fall in recruitment to the Society in Ireland. They also occurred at a time of a fundamental change of direction within the wider Society of Jesus, which was increasingly focused on the faith and justice principles espoused by Superior General Pedro Arrupe (1907–91, in office 1965–83). One consequence of these developments was a review of the viability of some of the socially exclusive, fee-paying schools run by the Society. A number of these entered the state school system.

Among members of the Society, there was a move away from the traditional established residential setting and a number of smaller communities of active Jesuits were being embedded in communities in areas with recognized social deprivation.  Two communities were established in Northern Ireland: one in Portadown and one in Belfast. Others were set up in Dublin’s inner city and in newly established suburbs such as Ballymun. The Ballymun community evolved into the Centre for Faith and Justice (established in 1978) with a remit to promote social justice, critically examine issues of structural injustice and poverty, and advocate for social change. Falling vocations and closer community engagement led to greater Jesuit involvement in parochial responsibilities and a direct and central involvement in diocesan affairs whether working as parish clergy, training diocesan clergy or managing diocesan communications.

The role played by Jesuits within the Irish church continues to evolve and change. Some continue to make significant contributions to the cultural and academic life of the country. Others have played significant roles in the European and world-wide structures of the Society and many young Jesuits from European provinces, have studied and worked in Ireland. The development of lay partnerships in the running of schools is also now a significant and important feature of a province facing into and adapting to an increasingly secularized society.

This “Cook’s tour” of the history of the Irish province is intended to provide some general context. But I think that it also points to three very distinctive phases in the trajectory of the post-restoration Society in Ireland. An initial phase of re-establishment or reformation extends for much of the nineteenth century, arguably well beyond elevation to provincial status in 1860 and this is shaped, to a degree, by the ambivalent legal status of the Society, and by its conscious decision to maintain a relatively low profile and to operate from relatively secluded locations. A second phase, of consolidation, characterizes the Society in the period when it establishes a close, complacent, and complicit relationship with those in charge of the operation of the Irish state and they have an influential part in the shaping of its ethos in that period. The third phase, which emerges explicitly from the 1970s is one that might best be characterized as a metamorphosis. Jolted from torpidity, Irish Jesuits are prompted to grasp the nettle of radical initiative, social activism, and lay collaboration. In so doing they shaped and defined a new identity for the province and ensured that it was equipped to meet and adapt to the demands of a more secular Ireland.

Before looking at the historiography of each of these phases, there are a number of “meta level” resources that should be referenced.  Each of these are invaluable to anyone undertaking research in this area. A useful starting point might be Fergus O’Donoghue’s overview of the organization and holdings of the treasure trove in the Irish Jesuit Archive housed in the Jesuit House of Writers at 36–37 Leeson Street, Dublin.11 In the absence of a published history of significance anyone embarking on any kind of substantive research is compelled to focus on primary source material. In terms of material, the IJA holds provincial records, a selection of records of individual houses (e.g. Belvedere, Clongowes, and Milltown Park) as well as the personal papers of individual Jesuits. These include books and papers concerning Charles Aylmer (1786–1847), Thomas Betagh, Patrick Bracken (1795–1867; vice-provincial 1836–41), Bartholomew Esmond (1789–1862), and Peter Kenney from the restoration period; William Delaney (1835–1924), Edmund Hogan, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Denis Murphy, and Matthew Russell (1834–1912) from the era of consolidation and Edward Cahill (1868–1941), Timothy Corcoran (1871–1943), Edward Coyne (1896–1958), Aubrey Gwynn (1892–1983), John MacErlean, and Francis Shaw (1881–1924) from more recent times.

In terms of a broad published overview, the third and fourth volumes of the recent Cambridge History of Ireland offer a current and comprehensive account of the social, political, economic, and religious contexts of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Ireland.12 In terms of individual Irish members of the Society of Jesus, the Dictionary of Irish Biography is an invaluable resource and contains detailed biographical sketches, notes, and a summary of sources relating to fifty-four prominent members of the restored Society, including administrators and educators such as Peter Kenney, William Delaney and Timothy Corcoran, the historians Edmund Hogan, John Conmee and Aubrey Gwynn, Francis Browne (1880–1960) the photographer as well as more recent figures such as Francis Shaw, Ronald Burke Savage (1912–98), and Michael Sweetman (1914–96).13 

In terms of the bibliographical output of individual Irish Jesuits, there are a number of ways of approaching this material. Sommervogel’s edition of the de Backer Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus is a useful tool for locating work by members of the Society from the earlier period (nineteenth-century).14 But there is a rich vein to be mined from the pages of Jesuit produced or supported publications, particularly Studies, Irish Monthly, and The Month (published by the English province). Irish Ecclesiastical Record (published by Maynooth) and the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, which counted a number of prominent members of the Irish Jesuit community among its distinguished ranks, are also useful sources.15 The absence of any significant mainstream contribution to the history of the post-restoration Irish province by its own members or indeed by professional historians means that the only practical way to gather in the history of the Society in the period is to reconstruct this piecemeal from the numerous, often brief and frequently incidental articles that appear in the pages of these publications.

Phase One: Reformation

In Ireland, as in the rest of the then United Kingdom, the formal restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814 took place against a backdrop of a gradual softening of official attitudes to Catholicism. The pre-Union Irish Parliament had passed a series of Catholic Relief Acts that had brought about an incremental relaxation in the penal law regime and this process continued after 1800.16 However, this relaxation had not been extended to legislation relating to the Society of Jesus.  Formally, the provisions of the Elizabethan “Jesuit Act” of 1584 remained on the statute book.17 This law had effectively made membership of the Society a treasonable offence. Although redundant and recognized by legislators as neither desirable nor enforceable,18 the act remained law until the Roman Catholics Act of 1844 repealed more than thirty separate pieces of obsolete sixteenth- and seventeenth-century penal legislation. The general provisions of the act were only finally and formally removed from the statute book by the second Statute Law Revision Act of 1874.19

Relicts of times past were not the only obstacles in the way of a smooth restoration of the Jesuit presence in Ireland. The provisions of the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 that admitted Catholics to Parliament, contained a range of specific restrictions on the Society of Jesus.20 These envisaged a phased suppression of the Society from the territories of the United Kingdom by requiring registration of members already resident, providing for the expulsion of Jesuits arriving after the passing of the act (save those admitted under special license) and criminalizing the recruitment of new members into the order, an offence to be punished by fines, imprisonment, and transportation.21

In effect, the Society of Jesus remained for some considerable time after restoration (albeit technically) a proscribed organization within the United Kingdom. These specific restrictions were repealed by the new Irish state under the terms of The Government of Ireland Act, 1920.22 In Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, repeal came some years later by way of the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1926. The final vestige of this legislation was formally extinguished by the Statute Law Revision Act of 1953.

The status of the Society was also a matter of some controversy within the Catholic Church in Ireland and in the rest of the United Kingdom. Opposition to restoration was driven, in part, by a concern on the part of the hierarchy in Ireland to wrest control of the investments and property held in trust for the old Society. It was also apparent that as matters progressed towards Catholic Emancipation, the hierarchy and seculars were fearful that the restoration of the Society and public perception (and hysteria) about Jesuits were potentially prejudicial to the wider cause of Catholic Emancipation. It was clear to many that they were prepared to contemplate a scenario where the Jesuits, “like Jonas must be thrown into the sea to save the ship.”23 And so they and their political backers acquiesced to the inclusion of the exceptional Jesuit provisions in the Emancipation Act.

There have been a number of recent and important contributions to the historiography of the initial phase of the restoration period. Perhaps the most comprehensive is T J Morrissey’s biography of Peter Kenney, which sets out in meticulous detail the return of the Jesuits to Ireland, the establishment of their schools there, and the role played by Irish Jesuits in the restoration of the Society in North America.24 Similar territory is covered in Morrissey’s briefer contribution to a collection of essays to mark the (earlier) bi-centenary of the restoration of the English province, which dates from the formal association of Stonyhurst with the Society in Russia and the appointment of Marmaduke Stone (1748–1834) as English provincial.25 

When Peter Kenney returned to Ireland from Sicily in August 1811, the last link to the pre-suppression Society in Ireland, Thomas Betagh, had recently died. There was no established institutional structure or property in Jesuit hands. Before the suppression, the Jesuit mission in Ireland was relatively small in numbers (averaging twenty–twenty-five men during the eighteenth century). Most of these men were engaged in pastoral activity and at suppression they were able to transition into the secular diocesan structure. The assets of the Irish mission had been placed in trust in the hope that they would be used to support future members of a restored society.26 This fund was now made available to Kenny. By 1814, that fund was substantial with an accumulated value of around £32,500.27 

Kenney’s mission had been clearly defined by Fr. Brzozowski who indicated that his wish was “that a college should be set up in Ireland as soon as possible.” Kenney used around half of the available endowment to purchase the Castle Browne estate at Clane, County Kildare. However, this initiative (and rumors as to the origins of the funding) provoked unease among some members of Parliament, to the extent that Robert Peel (1788–1850), then chief secretary for Ireland, felt it prudent to seek assurances from Kenney that the college was a bona fide educational institution and not a Trojan horse for Ultramontane Romanism.28 Against this backdrop of official hostility and technical proscription, it is not surprising that when the Jesuits returned to Ireland, they proceeded with a degree of caution and sought to maintain a relatively discreet and decorous public profile. 

Clongowes Wood College was opened in 1814. Enrolment was brisk and strong demand for Jesuit schooling prompted the opening of additional schools. Tullabeg, at Rahan in County Offaly emerged first, as a preparatory school for Clongowes and was later established as a full college. The opening of the Gardiner St. Church in Dublin meant that the residence in Hardwicke Street was no longer required for that purpose. The house was initially used as a school, but it was soon too small to accommodate the demand for places. In 1841, the school was relocated to larger premises in Belvedere House in Great Denmark St.

For much of the nineteenth century and beyond, the principal activity of the Society in Ireland was the provision of education (and specifically expensive private education for the sons of an emerging and socially ambitious Irish Catholic professional class). In short, the Jesuits in Ireland were primarily engaged in producing generations of middle-ranking bureaucrats and administrators to manage, in the first instant, the British imperial project. Many of the products of this system would also come to be closely involved in the Catholic nationalist project. For many of the participants, these were not incompatible positions. The contributory role of the Society in the imperial project has been extensively explored by Ciaran O’Neill, first in his doctoral thesis and subsequently in a series of print articles and a 2014 monograph study, Catholics of Consequence. 29

The role of the Society in university education was also geared towards the empowerment of the growing Irish Catholic middle class. This was given something of a boost with the establishment of the Royal University as a non-teaching, examining, and degree-awarding body in 1880. This provided a lifeline for Newman’s moribund Catholic University project. As a private institution without a royal charter, the Catholic University could not award degrees. This meant, for example, that students of the Catholic Cecilia Street Medical School (the largest in the country) were obliged to obtain licenses to practice from the Royal College of Surgeons or Royal College of Physicians. The Royal University offered a mechanism for the awarding of legally recognized degree qualifications. At the same time, the Catholic University was reorganized and placed under a Jesuit management team in 1883. The energetic William Delaney (former rector of Tullabeg and an adviser to the vice-regal administration of John Churchill [1822–83], 7th duke of Marlborough, the grandfather of Winston) had exerted considerable influence over the shaping of the University Education (Ireland) Act 1879 that established the Royal University of Ireland.  When the Catholic University was re-opened under Delany’s direction, it enrolled 160 students (in 1879 The Catholic University had enrolled a total of three students). Under Delaney, the faculty would include a number of remarkable scholars, such as Denis Murphy, Edmund Hogan, Thomas Finlay (18848–1940), Gerard Manley Hopkins, (Louis Leopold), Martial Klein (1849–1934),30 and William Hahn (1841–1903). 31 For the next twenty five years, the Society would be the driving force behind the provision of Catholic university education in Ireland and this association continued beyond the establishment of the National University of Ireland in 1908 as many members of the Society continued as faculty members of a University College Dublin reconstituted under a lay president.

From a historiographical perspective, Edmund Hogan and Denis Murphy are interesting and significant figures. Both were accomplished historians with international reputations, and both were to become central to the diocesan hagiographical project. Murphy’s main interests lay in the field of Irish archaeology and history, the study of which he pursued enthusiastically through active memberships of the Royal Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Irish Academy. His first substantial historical work, Cromwell in Ireland, appeared in book form in 1883, although much of the text had previously appeared as a series of essays published in The Irish Monthly. Murphy set out to write a non-partisan history of Cromwell’s time in Ireland, tracing his progress from Ringsend to Youghal, day by day, through the surviving evidence from Cromwell’s own letters, eye-witness accounts, and other contemporaneous documents. The book was well received and positively reviewed. The most recent study of Cromwell in Ireland asserts that Murphy’s scholarship remains incontrovertible although reserves judgement on his literary style.32

This very public reputation for scholarly precision, scrupulous attention to evidence, and judicious even-handedness prompted Archbishop William Walsh (1841–1921) to appoint Denis Murphy as postulator for the cause of the Irish Martyrs as the initial diocesan process got under way in Dublin. The road to sainthood required rigorous inquiry that had to demonstrate particular regard for the research of “experts in historical matters and all matters relating to archives.”33  Walsh needed to involve Murphy because the rules required him to do so. Neither Archbishop Walsh nor Cardinal Manning were regarded as “friends” of the Society, yet they did not hesitate to harness Jesuit interest in historical research. One cannot help feeling that both may have taken considerable pleasure in knowing that in undertaking this particular task, the Jesuits were doing most of the heavy lifting for them.

This concern for a scientific evaluation of evidence was also recognized and appreciated by contemporaries such as Alphons Bellesheim (1839–1912), who, turning to Hogan for help and assistance, bemoaned the generally poor standard of scholarship, particularly among contemporary Irish Catholic writers who he felt were not up to scratch when it came to writing scientific history.34 But Hogan and Murphy shared a long apprenticeship, training in institutions across Europe, and engaging with the “Germanic” approach to historical writing that had become the standard among the Vatican archivists and the Bollandist scholars within the Society of Jesus.

Hogan’s published output reflects the ebb and flow of his intellectual interests over a long and distinguished writing career that spanned more than fifty years. The first discernible phase in his work, a twenty-year period from 1866 to the mid-1880s is focused on documenting the history of the Society of Jesus in Ireland from its earliest years. A second distinctive phase from the 1880s is focused on establishing the authentic textual authorities for the life of Patrick (fifth century). This period is also marked by a growing interest in Irish and Old Irish language and literature. Hogan was not a native Irish speaker and his approach to acquisition of mastery of Old Irish was essentially one of comparison, using Latin texts as a control. In the first instance, he used known hagiographic sources and set these side by side with authenticated modern Irish versions to try to tease out the nuance of meaning. As the scope of his research broadened and was enhanced by the expertise of some of his younger (and more fluent) collaborators such as John MacErlean and Eoin MacNeill (1867–1945), his linguistic reach extended into the realms of botany, place names, and local idiom.

As work on the causes progressed, Hogan published a series of biographical studies of Irish churchmen in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record and in the English Jesuit periodical, The Month. Some of these studies, particularly those of Irish Jesuits were subsequently collected and published in 1894 as a single volume.35 But in the latter period of his career as a historian, two works stand out, a History of The Irish Wolfdog of 189736 and The Irish People, Their Height, Form and Strength, published in 1899.37 The works are idiosyncratic, but they bear closer inspection as they highlight a number of issues with Hogan’s approach to writing history in this period of his life. Hogan was prompted to write The Irish People as a response to popular misrepresentation of the Irish in the English popular press. That may be one reason, but the work also reflects the intellectual fashions and enthusiasms of Hogan and his elite circle within the Royal Irish Academy at the end of the 1890s.

Hogan’s proposition was simple. The Irish people have been represented, particularly in popular newspaper and magazine cartoons, as small, backward, and primitive, and this representation is heightened by an adverse comparison to their English counterparts. In fact, Hogan asserts that the weight of historical evidence points to a contrary conclusion. And he offers an impressive range of textual, artistic, and scientific material to illustrate his argument.

What is abundantly clear from this book and from his History of the Irish Wolfdog was that beyond the very specific endeavors associated with establishing an authentic and scientifically robust proof of fama martyrii or documenting the story of Irish mission of the Society of Jesus, Hogan’s interest in history was eclectic, whimsical, and driven by personal enthusiasms.

When the Society of Jesus moved its headquarters from Fiesole back to Rome in 1895, work began in earnest to push forward with the project to set down the history of the order written “in conformity with modern criticism.” To facilitate the project, the general Luis Martín oversaw the creation of a purpose-built centralized repository and research facility at Exaten in Holland.

In January 1897, Martín wrote to the Irish provincial, checking that Hogan had everything he needed to write the required official history of the Irish province. Hogan sent occasional progress reports to Rome; for example, in one account, he provides details of the contents of some boxes of material he had consulted in the Irish College in Rome.38 But any enthusiasm he may once have had for the project had obviously waned. A letter of August 1899 from Provincial Patrick Keating (1846–1913;  in office 1894–1900), regarding a proposed research trip to Poitiers impressed upon Hogan the need to obtain certified transcript copies of all documents and noted that his last trip to Europe had been less than satisfactory as he had omitted to do this (despite spending more than four months in the archives at Rome and Exaten). Martín, concerned by the mounting expense and with little evidence of significant progress, instructed Keating to recall Hogan from Poitiers. The projected provincial history was never written. But Hogan, although well into his seventies at this point, had a further ten years of active and productive scholarship ahead of him. It would appear that the nature of the project rather than the burden of the work was the issue.

Martín’s historical project was not without its critics. Emboldened by the general’s interest in historical science, the Bollandists had, by the end of the century, become a significant cause for concern among traditionally minded “integralists” within the Vatican. The Jesuit general and his pet project had also come under increased scrutiny. Matters came to a head in January 1901 when Martín was instructed in very robust terms by the secretary of state, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla (1843–1913; in office 1887–1908) to rein in the Bollandists and their “modernist” project.39 It is clear from his correspondence that Hogan was very aware of these undercurrents in the shifting sands of the politics of the curia and he alluded to these in various exchanges with colleagues. An early contributor to the Bollandist project himself, Hogan’s instinct was to seek shelter from the gathering storm.40 

He found sanctuary in his teaching. Before 1900, it had been his practice to take on no more than two or three pupils at a time. After 1900, as many as twenty students were enjoying the informal eccentricities of his teaching style. Contemporary accounts confirm that he would often deliver lectures in his rooms, reclining on his bed, with a top hat perched on his head as he smoked a large churchwarden pipe.41 Hogan’s disengagement from the Society’s wider historical project may well have been prompted by a lack of interest. But this is not convincing. Hogan was intellectually adventurous and wide ranging. He was eclectic in his interests and he was quick to criticize the apparent lack of intellectual curiosity or academic rigor on the part of many of his colleagues in the Irish province.42  

Hogan may have been unduly dismissive of his colleagues’ lack of concern for scholarly pursuits but it is apparent that by the end of the nineteenth century the energies of the Society were finding new avenues and many members of the Irish province were increasingly engaged with social needs and issues that affected a much wider cross section of the population than could be reached from the school room, the lecture hall or the pages of learned journals. An immediate and graphic example of this shift is the work undertaken by a number of members of the province who served as military chaplains to Irish regiments during the First World War (1914–18).43 The edited letters of John Delaney provide eye-witness descriptions of Dublin during the 1916 Rising as well as his experiences as a chaplain working among soldiers in the trenches. However, perhaps the best known of these chaplains is now Frank Browne whose lifelong passion for photography has left us with a visually arresting record of early twentieth-century Ireland and of life in the Jesuit province.44

In the social sphere, Irish Jesuits were also emerging from their self-imposed scholastic cocoon. An engagement in parish missions through the Apostleship of Prayer was supported by an Irish edition of the Sacred Heart Messenger, established by James Cullen (1841–1921) in 1888. Cullen aligned the Irish version of the Messenger to the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association he founded in 1898. Both initiatives were aimed at Ireland’s large literate working class and engineered to harness their energies against the twin evils of alcohol and imperialism. By the time of Cullen’s death in 1921, the Pioneer movement had 280,000 members in Ireland.45

Phase Two: Consolidation

In broad terms, Jesuit social concerns and interventions at the end of the nineteenth century might be characterized by a paternalist concern to divert the laity to a good life and good works (through sodality membership) or self-improvement (through adult education, often via the agency of cultural nationalism). The turbulent early years that marked the foundation of the new Irish state created a space that the church (and the Society) were quick to occupy and they rapidly adopted the mantle of arbiters, guardians, and mentors of morality, order, and progress.

How this worked in practice is probably best illustrated by focusing on a number of discrete themes. Chronologically, the first of these falls into what we might call the category of the arbitrary. The success of the Pioneer movement and the establishment of the nascent Irish Catholic state emboldened some members of the Society to seek to extend their influence into other areas governing social mores. Richard Devane (1876–1951) began his priestly career as a garrison chaplain. He soon became involved in the temperance, sodality, and labor movements. Through his writings and activism, he exerted a significant influence on the Irish state’s stance and legislative interventions in the censorship of publications, film, and theatre productions as well as oversight of public venues (such as dance halls).46

In terms of guardianship, the Society sought to exercise this function at arms-length by offering guidance and advice in the framing and drafting of Éamon de Valera’s (1882–1975) proposed constitution for the Irish state but in many practical respects their overtures were rebuffed. The Irish state proved to be less inclined to be as Catholic as some members of the Society had clearly hoped that it could be.47

In their efforts to be mentors, the Society fared somewhat better, and this was in an area where they had proven experience and expertise, the field of education and training.  Mentorship operated on a number of levels. Adult education had been a common thread running through the strategies for the evangelization of the Irish working class adopted by both Catholic, non-Conformist, and Protestant churches.48 The Jesuit approach included classes and instruction in practical topics that went beyond the religious sphere. This was adopted as an integral part of Sodality and Pioneer activities. This was later complimented by an “extra-mural” offering at University College Dublin. But over time it was recognized that a more ambitious and radical strategy was required. The close relationship that Edmond Kent (1915–99) developed with representatives of the Irish trade unions was prompted by his early work and experience in the union labor colleges in New York. On returning to Dublin, he was involved in the establishment of a Catholic Workers College in 1951. In 1966, this became the National College of Industrial Relations and was subsequently rebranded, in 1998, as the National College of Ireland.49 Edmond Kent’s exposure to the American Catholic Workers College movement had a formative impact in shaping the ethos of NCIR and in the development of an Irish labor movement that was informed by radical ideas of social justice yet tempered by an instinctive nativist conservativism.

To understand what Irish Jesuits thought about the wider world they operated in, the most accessible point of entry is the Jesuit quarterly journal Studies. Founded in 1912, the journal has been one of the most significant and influential of Irish periodicals with a special interest in philosophy, history, economics, Irish studies, and social issues. Studies maintained close ties with University College Dublin and many of the Jesuit contributors and members of the editorial board were current or former faculty members. For over a century, the journal has provided a forum for scholarly and accessible articles by distinguished scholars. The original mission of the journal, set out in a foreword to the first issue was to provide a publication where the results of research could find expression “in harmony with the religious and national characteristics of our country.”50 Over time, editorial focus and priorities have shifted and so the journal offers us a mirror that reflects the changing priorities, values, and interests of the Irish province over time. And it also provides a reflection of the shared values of a wider cross section of those who shaped Irish society and influenced public opinion. Broadly speaking, the broad schema already suggested for the history of the restored Irish Province (Reformation, Consolidation, and Transformation) is readily discernible in the pages of Studies and in the content of the three thousand or so articles that it published throughout the period.

In its initial phase, the content of Studies reflected a socially conservative corporatist ideology, particularly with regard to family and education. Contributors wrestled with the problems posed by socialism, utilitarianism, and the “national ethos.”  This fed into a wider constitutional debate about the nature of the fledgling Irish state and, behind the scenes, a number of Jesuits sought to play an influential part in the process of formulating and drafting the 1937 Constitution of the Irish state.51  Over time, despite an anti-modernist rhetoric, a more socially liberal agenda emerged. In essence, the journey that the journal (and the Society) took was akin to what might be imagined for a doctrinaire Corn Law or Poor Law Libertarian inching inexorably towards a vocal commitment to social reform and Christian justice. But this was not an unimpeded progress and in some ways those articles that did not make it into print or those whose publication was significantly delayed throw as much light on the internal dynamics of the Society and its relationship with the hierarchy and the state as do those that appeared on the printed page. Two pieces stand out. The first is an article written by Michael Tierney (1894–1975) on higher education. The piece was commissioned in 1941 but it was never published. It was spiked by Timothy Corcoran as it raised the terrifying specter of an ecumenical merger of University College with TCD. Similarly, publication of Francis Shaw’s highly provocative appraisal of the prevailing official narrative of the foundation of the state, was delayed. The article, “The Canon of Irish History,” was intended as part of a fiftieth-anniversary issue assessing the significance of the 1916 Rising.52 Publication was delayed for six years, finally appearing in 1972.53

For the Society, and for the Catholic Church in Ireland, perhaps the symbolic turning point that signals the transition from consolidation to metamorphosis is the notorious incident of the “empty chair.” Ronald Burke Savage had organized an ecumenical event at the Mansion House in Dublin that was to be attended by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid (1895–1973; in office 1940–72) as well as President Éamon de Valera, the chief justice, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the papal nuncio, and George Otto Simms (1910–91), the Protestant archbishop of Dublin. Seven hundred people crowded into the Round Room of the Mansion House and the event was televised. However, there was some “confusion” over protocol and the event proceeded without the presence of Simms on the platform. The Protestant archbishop was present, sitting among the audience but the presence of an empty chair on the platform signaled to many that something had gone awry. It was widely assumed that McQuaid had baulked at the idea of sharing a public platform with Simms (although it is clear from their correspondence that the two enjoyed a cordial personal relationship). McQuaid, although conscious of his status and standing was quick to off load blame for the embarrassing incident on Burke Savage.54 But the general tone of public response to the incident was a very clear signal that change was expected by the laity. Burke Savage may have felt obliged to pen a lengthy panegyric celebrating McQuaid’s career to mark his silver jubilee as archbishop but it was clear that the “winds of change” were blowing about the streets of Dublin.55

Within the Society, this change was apparent with many Jesuits now opting to live among the community rather than within more traditionally run houses. In Ireland, the pioneer of this form of ministry was Michael Sweetman. During his convalescence from tuberculosis, he attended the Children’s Court in Dublin and this experience developed a strong interest in social justice. Subsequently, he spent most of his active life working in Dublin, living in the socially deprived areas of the North inner city, Summerhill, and Benburb Street. When these areas were “developed,” Dublin Corporation simply relocated and corralled the social problems of these areas into a high-rise residential complex in a new suburb of Ballymun in North Dublin. Sweetman and his colleagues followed. He was a tenacious campaigner for social justice and housing provision and set a clear forward agenda for the Irish Jesuits.56 This agenda was underwritten by the Thirty-second General Congregation of the Society, which declared that the promotion of justice was an absolute requirement for all Jesuits, and this spurred on and inspired the work of Sweetman and others.57

In the 1980s, unemployment in the Ballymun community stood at sixty percent, most people lived on low incomes, school drop-out rates were high, and resident turnover was rapid. The absence of a stable, settled community impeded the development of locally led community organizations. The Jesuits took on responsibility for one of the parishes in the area, not a traditional activity for the Society. This gave the Society two functions, care of a parish and a wider social ministry.  This twofold approach by the Jesuits tackled the reality of life in Ballymun. Kevin O’Rourke served as parish curate and Michael Sweetman and John Callanan lived close by in a flat in Thomas MacDonagh Tower. Once established in the area, the Jesuits created the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. John Sweeney was appointed as the first director of the centre, and Frank Sammon, who was later to succeed him, was appointed as a staff member. They also moved into Thomas MacDonagh Tower. Peter McVerry joined them some months later and opened a hostel for the homeless in a flat on the floor directly above the Jesuit community flat. The vision of the Centre for Faith and Justice was that it worked from a solid base of involvement with people. The Jesuit community took the name of the “Pedro Arrupe” community. Visiting Jesuits from other countries were to become a significant feature of the Pedro Arrupe community. The European Jesuit Worker Mission met in Ballymun and many Jesuits in international leadership roles in the Society also visited Ballymun including Hans-Peter Kolvenbach (1928–2016), Arrupe’s successor as general (1983–2008).

A second Jesuit community was established in 1988, at Sillogue Rd. The new community was one where Jesuits in the years immediately preceding their ordination to the priesthood lived and worked. The idea was that being in Ballymun would influence their theology studies, experience of God, personal development, and identity as Jesuits in the lead up to priesthood. This was deemed to be the best way to concretize a Jesuit mission of faith and justice.

The Arrupe Jesuit community contributed in very many ways to the life of Ballymun, including the establishment of the Youth Action Project, a local community response to the endemic problem of drug abuse in Ballymun. One of the key figures in this initiative, Philip Hartnett, a trained addiction counsellor, would later serve as superior of the Irish province.

There was the very clear agenda of social engagement that involved Jesuits in the establishment of a Credit Union, the formation of a Job Centre, JUST (an initiative to promote wider access to university education) and a Ballymun Task Force, which drew together elected public representatives, Eastern Health Board members, Dublin Corporation officials, and members of the Combat Poverty Agency as well as local community delegates in a partnership that led to a regeneration project that transformed the physical and social environment.58

Facing Forward

Today, Jesuit schools in Ireland remain as a readily identifiable testament to the Society’s legacy in Ireland. These institutions, Clongowes, Belvedere, and Gonzaga, are perceived as bastions of white upper/middle-class male privilege. The reality is, that like many other private schools established by other religious communities, the teaching staff are now (largely) recruited from among appropriately qualified lay people. The schools now operate as lay partnerships and are, practically and primarily, Jesuit institutions in name and patronage only. This in part is an inevitable consequence of a rapid decline in Irish Jesuit numbers. But it is arguable that this has also had a liberating effect, allowing for a re-evaluation of purpose and has permitted the Society to concentrate its efforts elsewhere.59 The radical reorientation of the focus and articulation of the core mission and its impact on wider Irish social values demonstrates that the Society continues to have the resolve and the appetite to fulfil that task.

But this process has not been without upset. It would be remiss of any attempt at an even-handed assessment of the history of any religious order in a period that includes the “long” twentieth century to overlook the uncomfortable reality of the abuse scandals that engulfed the institutions of the church have fundamentally altered, for better or worse, the attitude of many Irish Catholics toward the clergy and to the official organs of the church.

During the 1990s, a series of television news programs and newspaper reports publicized allegations of systemic abuse that had occurred, primarily but not exclusively, in various institutions within Ireland’s childcare system. Many of these institutions, due to historical circumstance, were owned and operated by the church. These accounts documented what amounted to a culture of church–state collusion in the operation of these institutions, and they exposed an initial reaction of denial on the part of the church hierarchy and the religious orders. In response to public outcry, the Irish government felt compelled to establish a formal commission. This found that substantial numbers of Catholic priests, brothers, and nuns had indeed been engaged in the systemic terrorizing of thousands of children, ostensibly in their care. This occurred over many decades, this culture was endemic, and it was apparent that government inspectors had made no intervention at any point.

The response of the Irish church was to establish a National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (2006) with a remit to ensure the safeguarding of children within the Roman Catholic Church on the island of Ireland, to establish standards and guidelines consistent with legislation, policy, and best practice, to monitor compliance, and to publish regular reports on activity.

The first series of reports, on eight male religious orders, noted 325 allegations of abusive behavior made against 141 individuals in the period from 1941 to 2015. Only eight of these cases were prosecuted and convicted. The report on the Society, completed in April 2015, indicated that in a forty-year period (1975–2015), a total of seventy-nine allegations or complaints were made against thirty-six individual members of the Society of Jesus. Of these only fifty-seven were reported to An Garda Síochána (the Irish police service). No one was prosecuted.60

The report on the Society confirmed that going forward, safeguarding practices within the order had been comprehensively developed and that it was now standard practice that each and every allegation made against a member of the Society was required to be promptly notified to An Garda Síochána.61  The Irish provincial, Fr. Tom Layden, confirmed that all recommendations contained in the report would be implemented in full. 

At this stage in its developmental arc, the scope of Jesuit activity in Ireland had moved well beyond the running and management of schools for the sons of the Ireland’s ambitious and assertive Catholic bourgeoises and therefore a very comprehensive and robust response on this issue was required.  In terms of day-to-day involvement in schools, the Society was now primarily acting as an institutional trustee rather than engaging in active teaching or pupil contact. However, the Society is now increasingly engaged in parish ministries and in the operation of apostolates where ministry involves varying degrees of contact with children and other vulnerable people. The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, which promotes alcohol abstinence among young people, parish ministry involves the preparation of young children for confirmation and an increasingly important area of contact is via the Jesuit Refugee Service, where staff are working with asylum seekers in detention centers or refugee institutions.

The Society of Jesus could not emerge unblemished from this national scandal. It has tarnished many Irish religious institutions and it is clear that overall public reaction has accelerated a process of secularization that has been a significant factor in a significant and relatively rapid disengagement on the part of a significant proportion of lay members from the personnel and structures of the official church.62 

This survey has identified the significant absence of any formal major historical study of the post-restoration Society in Ireland. In terms of the likely future direction of research, this would appear to be a significant opportunity and should be the principal demand on the attention of future historians with an interest in the Society. Within this broad topic, a number of themes appear worthy of attention and scrutiny. These might include the complexity of relationships between the Society, the official organs of the state, and the wider Irish Catholic community as these evolved through a number of distinctive phases. The history of the post-restoration Irish Jesuit community may be characterized in three distinct episodes. These may be defined under broad rubrics of Reformation, Consolidation, and Transformation and each episode presents a different and distinctive aspect to the Society as it evolves, adapts, and responds to the challenges and demands of circumstance.


1 John Bossy, “Take a tinderbox and go steady with your canoe,” London Review of Books 26, no. 10 (20 May 2004): 25.

2 GC XXI, Dec. 26.

3 John W. Padberg, Martin D. O’Keefe, and John L. McCarthy, eds., For Matters of Greater Moment: The First Thirty Jesuit General Congregations; A Brief History and a Translation of the Decrees (St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994), 487.

4 Antonio Astrain, Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en la asistencia de España , 7 vols. (Madrid: Razón y fe, 1905–25).

5 Bernhard Duhr, Geschichte der Jesuiten in den Ländern deutscher Zunge, 4 vols. (Freiburg: Herder, 1907–28).

6 Henri Fouqueray, Histoire de la Compagnie de Jésus en France des origines à la suppression, 1528–1762, 5 vols. (Paris: Bureaux des Etudes, 1910–25).

7 Work produced by the English and Irish provinces in the same period included Denis Murphy’s posthumously published volume Our Martyrs (Dublin: Gill and Sons, 1896) and John Morris’s Acts of the English Martyrs (London: Longman, 1891).  As postulator of the cause of the Irish Martyrs, Murphy also published a lengthy piece in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record explaining the technicalities of the initial stages of the process for a lay audience.  The piece appeared in advance of the initial diocesan court hearings convened during the summer of 1892.  Edmund Hogan who also undertook work on the Irish causes published a series of biographical studies of Irish churchmen in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record and in the English Jesuit periodical, The Month.  Hogan subsequently collected and published these studies as a single volume: Edmund Hogan, Distinguished Irishmen of the Sixteenth Century (London: Burns and Oates, 1894).

8 For example Louis McRedmond, To the Greater Glory: A History of the Irish Jesuits (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1991).

9 “Where Has God Been over the Past 150 Years?”: An Address to The Provincial Assembly, Gonzaga College, Saturday, June 11, 2011. (accessed April 7, 2020).

10 Each year, the Society produced a detailed directory or Catalogus Provinciae Hiberniae Societatis Iesu detailing Irish members of the Society at every grade both at home and those posted elsewhere.  Initial catalogues (from the “mission” period) survive in manuscript form and are held in the Irish Jesuit Archive in Dublin.  For the later period, provincial catalogues were printed and published, first by Fowler and subsequently by Browne and Nolan.

11 Fergus O'Donoghue, “Irish Jesuit Archives,” in Archivum Hibernicum 41 (1986): 64–71.

12 Thomas Bartlett, The Cambridge History of Ireland, ed. James Kelly, vol. 3–4: The Cambridge History of Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

13 James McGuire and James Quinn, eds., Dictionary of Irish Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

14 Carlos Sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, facsimile ed. in 12 vols. (Louvain: Héverlé, 1960).

15 Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review (Dublin, 1912–); Irish Monthly (Dublin, 1873–1954); The Month (London, 1864–2001); Irish Ecclesiastical Record (Dublin, 1864–1968); Proceedings of The Royal Irish Academy (Dublin, 1836–).

16 A series of “Catholic Relief Acts” notably those passed in 1778, 1782, and 1793 removed many restrictions on Catholics leasing, buying or inheriting land, voting, restrictions on education, practicing law or holding civil or military office. The Statutes at Large, Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland: From the 3rd Year of Edward II, A. D. 1310, to the 26th Year of George III. A. D. 1786 Incl., 13 vols. (Dublin, 1786–1801), 11:298–301, 12:237–42, 16:685–92.

17 An act against Jesuits, seminary priests, and such other like disobedient persons (27 Eliz.1, c. 2).

18 During the Commons Debate on the repeal of the various measures Macaulay described the enactments to be repealed as “a disgrace to the Statute Book of a civilised Christian country” and Peel asserted that the measures were “barbarous and obsolete” and that the laws repealed “were not, and could not be put in force” (HC Deb, 07 August 1844, vol. 76, c.1885).

19 The Roman Catholic Act 1844 [Full title as enacted: An Act to Repeal Certain Enactments made against Her Majesty’s Roman Catholic subjects], (7 & 8 Victoria c. 102) and Statute Law Revision Act (no 2) 1874 [Full title as enacted: An Act for further promoting the Revision of the Statute Law by repealing certain Enactments which have ceased to be in force or have become unnecessary], (37 & 38 Victoria c. 96).

20 An Act for the Relief of His Majesty’s Roman Catholic Subjects (10 Geo. IV, c. 7).

21 10 Geo. IV, c. 7. The provisions relating to the Society are set out in Sections 28–36 of the Act.

22  Section 5, sub-section 2 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 provided that “any existing enactment by which any penalty, disadvantage, or disability is imposed on account of religious belief or on a member of a religious order as such shall, as from the appointed day, cease to have effect in Ireland.” The Act came into force on May 3, 1921, by virtue of an Order of March 24, 1921 (Statutory Rules and Orders 1921, 349). The position was clarified in a ruling by the Irish High Court in, Re Daniel Byrne, Deceased, Dermot P Shaw, Plaintiff, v The Attorney-General of Saorstát Éireann, Most Rev Thomas Mulvany, DD, Rev John Byrne, SJ, Gerard Shaw, Aileen Shaw, Very Rev Michael Kirwan, SJ, and Very Rev Laurence, Kieran, SJ, Defendants (1935) IR 787.

23 Peter John L’Estrange, “The Nineteenth-Century British Jesuits, with Special Reference to Their Relations with the Vicars Apostolic and the Bishops” (PhD diss., University of Oxford, 1990), 59.

24 Thomas Morrissey, As One Sent: Peter Kenney, SJ, 1779–1841; The Restoration of the Jesuits in Ireland, England, Sicily and North America (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996 [2014]).

25  Thomas Morrissey, “Ireland, England and the Restoration of the Society of Jesus,” in Thomas M. McCoog, ed. Promising Hope: Essays on the Suppression and Restoration of the English Province of the Society of Jesus (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2003), 191–217.

26 For an account of mission funding, see Patrick Bracken, “Memoirs of the Suppression and Restoration of the Society of Jesus in Ireland,” Memorials of the Irish Province 3 (1900): 133–50; 4 (1901): 187–204.

27 There are a number of ways to calculate the current relative value of £32,500. On the basis of price indeces, the current value would be roughly £2 million but if an average income or GDP index were applied the figure would be roughly £25 million. In terms of output worth (benchmarked against GDP in 1814), the Jesuits assets had an equivalent value of £135 million. There are a number of online tools to estimate relative values of money. In this case, I have used In view of the relative size of the amount involved, it is understandable then that Archbishop Troy was making discreet inquiries about the money; L’Estrange, “Nineteenth-Century British Jesuits,” 55.

28 HC Deb 17 May 1814 Vol. 27 cc 931–39.

29 Ciaran O’Neill, “Rule Etonia: Educating the Irish Catholic Elite 1850–1900” (PhD diss., University of Liverpool 2010); O’Neill, “Education, Imperial Careers and the Irish Catholic Elite in the Nineteenth Century,” in Irish Classrooms and British Empire: Imperial Contexts in the Origins of Modern Education; David Dickson, Justyna Pyz, and Christopher Shepard, eds. (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012); O’Neill, Catholics of Consequence: Transnational Education, Social Mobility, and the Irish Catholic Elite 1850–1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

30 (Louis Leopold) Martial (Baynard de Beaumont) Klein was originally from Alsace, a former cavalry officer who retrained as a medical doctor after serving in the Franco-Prussian War. He joined the English province of the Society in 1878 and was among the small group of English subjects (including Hopkins and Richard Clarke [1839–1900]) who were sent to assist with the university project in Dublin. He was appointed professor of biology at University College and also held the position of professor of natural science at the Royal University of Ireland. At the time of his departure from the Society (in 1887), he was still attached to the English province. At the outbreak of WWI, he changed his surname to the less Germanic surname of his mother's family, de Beaumont.

31 William (Guillaume) Hahn was a biologist, psychologist, and was a member of the Belgian province (again assigned to assist with the establishment of the Jesuit-run University College in Dublin). Hahn succeeded Klein as professor of biology. See Fathers of the Society of Jesus, A Page of Irish History: Story of University College, Dublin, 1883–1930 (Dublin: Talbot, 1930). Relying heavily on college records, this volume reconstructs the development and early history of the Society’s role in Irish higher education.

32 Micheal O'Siochru, God's Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland (London: Faber & Faber, 2008), 3–4.

33 William Walsh, “Our Irish Martyrs: Their Canonisation,” Irish Ecclesiastical Record, series 4, 13 (1903): 9–14. M. H. MacInerny, “Archbishop Walsh and the Irish Martyrs," Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 10, no. 38 (1921): 177–90. 

34 Bellesheim to Hogan, May 11, 1886, Irish Jesuit Archive, Ms J472/50 (2).

35 Edmund Hogan, Distinguished Irishmen of the Sixteenth Century (London: Burns and Oates, 1894).

36 Edmund Hogan, History of The Irish Wolfdog (Dublin: Gill, 1897).

37 Edmund Hogan, The Irish People: Their Height, Form and Strength (Dublin: Gill, 1899).

38 Irish Jesuit Archive Ms J472/49.

39 David G. Schultenover, A View from Rome: On the Eve of the Modernist Crisis (New York: Fordham University Press, 1993); Bernard Joassart, Hippolyte Delehaye: Hagiographie critique et modernisme, Subsidia Hagiographica, 81, 2 vols. (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 2000); Schultenover, “Luis Martín García, the Jesuit General of the Modernist Crisis (1892–1906): On Historical Criticism,” The Catholic Historical Review, 89, no. 3 (2003): 434–63; Nadia M. Lahutsky, “Wilfrid Ward: Roman Catholic ‘Modernism’ between the Modernists and the Integralists,” The Downside Review 103, no. 350 (January 1985): 26–40.

40 Hogan had been a contributor to the Bollandist project: Edmund Hogan, ed., “Vita S. Patricii, Hibernorum apostoli, ex Libro Armachano,” Analecta Bollandia 1 (1882): 531–85; 2 (1883): 213–38; personal correspondence reveals a growing sense of unease with events and an evident shift in attitude towards historical scholarship within the curia, Irish Jesuit Archive Mss J472/50–59.

41 Michael Tierney, Eoin Macneill: Scholar and Man of Action, 1867–1945 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980), 15.

42 Letter to Alfred Hamy, January 23, 1893. I.J.A. Ms J472/59.

43 Thomas Morrissey, From Easter Week to Flanders Field: The Diaries of and Letters of Fr John Delaney SJ, 1916–1919 (Dublin: Messenger Publications, 2016); Damien Burke, ed., Irish Jesuit Chaplains in the First World War (Dublin: Messenger Publications, 2014).

44 Fr. Browne’s personal collection of over forty thousand photographs and negatives was discovered in a trunk some twenty-five years after his death. Since then, there have been a significant number of publications featuring his work, including photographs from the Titanic (Browne was ordered by his provincial to disembark from the ill-fated vessel at Cobh). Much of the collection of photographs can now be viewed online at: (accessed April 7, 2020).

45 Diarmaid Ferriter, A Nation of Extremes: The Pioneers in Twentieth-Century Ireland (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1998), Lambert McKenna The Life and Work of Rev. James Aloysius Cullen (Dublin: Longmans, Green and Co., 1924).

46 Aiden Beatty, “Where Does the State End and the Church Begin?: The Strange Career of Richard S. Devane,” Studi irlandesi: A Journal of Irish Studies 9 (2019): 443–64.

47 Seán Faughnan, “The Jesuits and the Drafting of the Irish Constitution of 1937,” Irish Historical Studies 26 (1988): 79–102; Dermot Keogh, “The Jesuits and the 1937 Constitution,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 78 (1989): 82–95.  Gerard Hogan, “De Valera, the Constitution and the Historians,” Irish Jurist 40 (2005): 293–320;  Anne Dolan, “Politics, Economy and Society in the Irish Free State, 1922–1929,” in Thomas Bartlett, ed., The Cambridge History of Ireland, volume 4: 1880 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 323–48.

48  Elizabeth Neswald, “Science, Sociability and the Improvement of Ireland: The Galway Mechanics’ Institute, 1826–51,” British Journal for the History of Science 39, no. 4 (2006): 503–34; Jim Cooke, “The Dublin Mechanics’ Institute, 1824–1919,” Dublin Historical Record 52, no. 1 (1999): 15–31.

49 David Limond, “The Jesuits, Mary, and Joseph: The Catholic Workers’ College, Dublin, 1951–66,” Catholic Historical Review 102, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 318–39.

50 Studies: An Irish Quarterly Journal, 1, no. 1 (March 1912): 3–4.

51 Dermot Keogh, “The Jesuits and the 1937 Constitution”, Studies : An Irish Quarterly Review 78 (1989): 82–95; Seán Faughnan, “The Jesuits and the Drafting of the Irish Constitution of 1937,” Irish Historical Studies 26 (1988): 79–102.

52 Other articles appeared in the Spring 1966 issue, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 55 (1966), no. 217.

53 The influential role of Studies on Irish intellectual life is discussed in Bryan Fanning, The Quest for Modern Ireland, The Battle of Ideas 1912–1986 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2008); see also Fanning, An Irish Century: Studies 1912–2012 (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2012). The impact and significance of the Shaw article is explored in Patrick Maume, “Fr Francis Shaw and the Historiography of Easter 1916,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 103, no. 412 (Winter 2014–15): 530–51 (special issue: The Jesuits in Ireland: Before and after the Suppression). The article itself appeared in the 1972 summer issue, Francis Shaw, “The Canon of Irish History: A Challenge,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 61, no. 242 (1972): 113–53.

54 Clara Cullen and Margaret Ó hÓgartaigh, eds., His Grace is Displeased: Selected Correspondence of John Charles McQuaid (Dublin: Merrion, 2013), 173–84.  John Cooney, John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Catholic Ireland (Dublin: The O'Brien Press Ltd., 1999), 373–79.

55 Ronald Burke Savage, “The Church in Dublin 1940–1965,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 54, no. 216 (1965): 296–346.

56  Michael Sweetman, “A Personal Experience of Christianity: 1912–1987,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 75, no. 300 (1986): 432–40.

57 Decree 4: “Our Mission Today: The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice,” General Congregation 32 (1975); (accessed April 7, 2020).  

58 Sermon delivered by Michael O’Sullivan on July 6, 2003 to mark twenty-three years of the Jesuit community in Ballymun; (accessed April 7, 2020).

59 Peter McVerry, “Making Ireland a Caring Society,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 100, no. 397 (Spring 2011): 7–16.

60 The Irish Times, September 9, 2015;

61 (accessed April 20, 2020).

62 While the 2016 census indicates that eighty percent of the Irish population continues to identify in some way as Catholic, the level of engagement with the sacramental culture of the church suggests a very different picture. In common with many European countries, regular church attendance and sacramental participation has collapsed. It is estimated that weekly observance is now hovering at thirty percent of the Catholic population and that the age profile of active members is very heavily skewed towards an elderly demographic. According to market research commissioned by the Association of Catholic Clergy in Ireland in 2012, only thirty-five percent of the population attended Mass on a weekly basis.

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