of the Catholic Diocese of Dublin
James Kelly & Dáire
Catholic, January 2000
much history of the Church in Ireland has been written from the outside.
More need to be written from the inside. This book is at least a start.
It consists of sixteen chapters by contemporary Irish historians. It
is in effect a set of extended essays, carefully chosen so that there
is some account of almost every century in the long history of the diocese.
Some deal with periods: James Kelly on the impact of the penal laws,
others with people: Dáire Keogh on Archbishop Troy, Donal Kerr
on Archbishop Murray, Seamus Enright on Women in the Catholic Life of
Dublin from 1766 to 1852. Some again are on buildings: Michael McCarthy
on Dublin’s Greek Pro-Cathedral, David Sheehy on Archbishop’s House.
There is something for everyone, and the style of writing is not excessively
academic. But the essays are the work of professionals and statements
are supported by copious references.
book is but a beginning and the vast task of writing the full history
of the diocese remains to be undertaken. It will need many years and
many scholars. What the present book does is to offer a model of how
the history of a diocese should be written. It accepts that the primary
concern of bishops is with religion and the faith of their people.
In developing these, bishops are brought into contact, and indeed
conflict, with politicians of varying polity and priests of various
moralities. What they say and do pleases some and displeases others.
They can follow policies that are wise or unwise. Nor is the history
of a diocese the history of its bishops any more than the history
of a country is the history of its kings. The religious orders
are of enormous importance, as too are often powerful lay associations.
What is important is that it be a history of the Church. There is
all the world of difference between a history of the Church carrying
some account of events in Ireland, a history of Ireland carrying some
account of events in the Church. The point of view is different, and
in history the point of view is everything. History is always “history
as seen by”. The present book is a brilliant start to a vast undertaking.
I commend it highly. Our thanks must go to the Archbishop of Dublin
who invited the editors to take on this task, and to the editors and
other authors for having responded so splendidly to this invitation'
Prof Michael Nolan, Irish Catholic.
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