Catholic revival in the north of Ireland, 1603–41


Brian Mac Cuarta SJ

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-051-9
July 2007. 288pp.

‘This meticulously researched book represents a very valuable and very welcome addition to the historiography of the Catholic Reformation in Ireland. In essence, it represents a detailed study of the metropolitan province of Armagh during a period of crucial importance in terms of the development of rival confessional identities in the island … the range of sources consulted, both printed and manuscript, is deeply impressive … this book represents a very formidable achievement. It is the product of meticulous research and the result is a comprehensive picture of the manner in which Tridentine Catholicism became established in the metropolitan province of Armagh. It is lucidly written throughout and the detailed footnotes are where they should be, at the foot of the page for easy reference. Without doubt, Dr Mac Cuarta’s study is essential reading for any scholar or student interested in the religious history of early modern Ireland', Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin, Studia Hibernica (2008/9).

'MacCuarta, a tutor in history at Queen’s University, Belfast, handles his material well and makes sense out of a complex and confusing story', Books Ireland (2008).

‘Mac Cuarta gives a vivid picture of this period of Irish History’, Book News (2008).

‘[Mac Cuarta] uses the careful accumulation of patiently gathered details (many of them new) to illuminate the period … It is the details, hard to convey in a brief review, in which the value of this book to other historians largely lies … for those keenly interested in the emergence of the peculiar Northern identity of modern times, that is a Catholicism whose main interaction was with Presbyterianism of the Planters, and the Catholicism in the rest of the island, whose interaction was with the Church of Ireland, a very different body both in terms of theology and social standing, will find this book filled with both detailed information and fruitful insights’, Peter Costello, The Irish Catholic.

‘The celebrations in 2007 to mark the fourth centenary of the Flight of the Earls created renewed interest in the history of Ireland in the period leading up to that pivotal event and in its aftermath. This volume explores masterfully one aspect of that period, namely the life of the Catholic Church in the ecclesiastical province of Armagh in the first half of the 17th century … This is a scholarly and well researched work, with extensive footnotes, on a complex but fascinating period in Irish ecclesiastical history … It is a substantial and significant contribution to the study of the Catholic Church in the northern province during a difficult period in its history', Aidan Ryan, The Furrow.

‘Brian Mac Cuarta suggests that the Catholic resurgence in early seventeenth century Ireland has been neglected. In part, want of evidence is to blame. However, by employing richly varied sources, including correspondence in the Vatican Archives, he sets out to remedy the neglect … [T]he systematic assembling and discussion of often unfamiliar evidence enables Mac Cuarta to offer a much fuller account of the reception of Tridentine Catholicism in the north of Ireland than hitherto has been available. His thought-provoking account contributes valuably to the continuing debates as to when and why the Protestant reformation failed and Ireland became a predominantly Catholic island', T.C. Barnard, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (October 2008).

‘Why the state-sponsored Reformation failed in Ireland is a question that has much exercised historians over the past three decades. In this pioneering study Brian MacCuarta changes the question and invites historians to approach the explanation for that surprising outcome from a different direction. What exercises him is why the state-proscribed Counter-Reformation succeeded ... The history of the Reformation in Ireland has been a staple academic study ever since history was established as an academic discipline in Irish universities in the early decades of the twentieth century. The field of Counter Reformation history has been much less cultivated, not least because of the range of linguistic skills required to tackle the sources. MacCuarta’s monograph, meticulously researched, reflective and measured in its conclusions, fluently and lucidly presented, makes a major contribution to that under-subscribed genre’, Brendan Bradshaw, STUDIES: An Irish Quarterly Review (December 2008).

‘Over the past decade historiographical debate regarding the failure of the reformation to take root in Ireland, has given way to a renewed concern in the gradual implementation of ecclesiastical reform, and the gradual separation of the Roman Catholic majority from the Protestant minority in possession of the physical churches and cathedrals. Mac Cuarta’s monograph … contributes significantly to this movement', Thomas M. McCoog SJ, Recusant History (October 2009).

'The author of this new study lucidly explains the multifaceted legal apparatus of church courts, assizes, and court of castle chamber (Ireland’s star chamber) and captures the sheer weight of the burden of recusancy fines and tithes ... this remains a solid piece of work. Catholic reform in Leinster and Ulster consolidated a doggedly separate identity permeating a whole community. The reform movement emerges as all the more impressive because Mac Cuarta conveys so clearly that the threat of religious coercion was "real" (p. 198) and weighed heavily on the poorer classes in particular. It was all to play for', Padraig Lenihan, English Historical Review (February 2009).

‘This volume is to be welcomed for a number of reasons. First of all in contrast with most historians who confine themselves to explaining why the Reformation failed to make real progress in Ireland, Mac Cuarta demonstrates how Catholicism not only survived but actually underwent a revival during the reigns of James I and Charles I, leading to the emergence of a church parallel to that established by the state. Secondly, it is a regional study, whereas most studies of seventeenth-century Irish Catholicism have worked on a national level … Mac Cuarta is most nuanced throughout the volume, carefully distinguishing between three kinds of Catholic clergy, native ministers, survivalist, unreformed priests, and new-style Tridentine clergy. He also alerts the reader to the differences between recently founded religious orders like the Jesuits and Capuchins and their older counterparts such as the Franciscans and Dominicans … Brian Mac Cuarta is to be congratulated on adopting this regional approach to the study of Irish ecclesiastical history. It is to be hoped that others will follow his example', Mícheál Mac Craith, The Historical Journal (2009)