After several years spent in Rome, at a time when the papal states were under constant attack, Cullen was sent back to Ireland as Archbishop of Armagh and subsequently of Dublin. He had been charged with reorganizing the Catholic Church in his native country—a task which brought him into conflict with the authorities, many of his fellow-bishops and frequently nationalist opinion. The first Irishman to be made a cardinal, he played a leading part in securing the declaration of papal infallibility from the First Vatican Council (1870).
Cardinal Cullen has not generally been well treated by historians. A brilliant scholar, whose intelligence was never underestimated by contemporaries, he has been dismissed as an ‘industrious mediocrity.’ A tough-minded, indefatigable political tactician, he has nevertheless been described as a world-denying spiritual leader. Cullen was the most devoted of papal servants, yet he was accused of ‘preferring the ... principles of Irish nationalism to the opinions of his friend Pius IX.’ Generations of Irish nationalist historians, however, have taken a different view, seeing the leading Irish churchman of the nineteenth century as a tool of the British government.
In Paul Cardinal Cullen and the Shaping of Modern Irish Catholicism, Desmond Bowen shows the true purpose of Cullen’s mission. An Ultramontanist of the most uncompromising type—‘a Roman of the Romans’—neither the aspirations of the Irish nationalists nor the concerns of British governments were of primary importance to him. The mind and accomplishments of this most reserved and complex of men can be understood only in his total dedication to the mission of the papacy as he interpreted it during a time of crisis for the Catholic Church throughout Europe.
Desmond Bowen, Ph.D. is Professor of History at Charleton University Ottawa. He is the author of The Protestant Crusade in Ireland 1800–70 (1978); Souperism: Myth or Reality? (1971); and The Idea of the Victorian Church (1968).
James Carroll turns to the notion of practice—both as a way to learn and a means of improvement—as a lens for this thoughtful and frank look at what it means to be Catholic. He acknowledges the slow and steady transformation of the Church from its darker, medieval roots to a more pluralist and inclusive institution, charting along the way stories of powerful Catholic leaders (Pope John XXIII, Thomas Merton, John F. Kennedy) and historical milestones like Vatican II. These individuals and events represent progress for Carroll, a former priest, and as he considers the new meaning of belief in a world that is increasingly as secular as it is fundamentalist, he shows why the world needs a Church that is committed to faith and renewal.
‘An essential book ... closely-reasoned, formidably intelligent and utterly compelling ... required reading across the political spectrum ... important and riveting’ Roy Foster, The Times
‘An outstanding new book on the IRA ... a calm, rational but in the end devastating deconstruction of the IRA’ Henry McDonald, Observer
‘Superb ... the first full history of the IRA and the best overall account of the organization. English writes to the highest scholarly standards ... Moreover, he writes with the common reader in mind: he has crafted a fine balance of detail and analysis and his prose is clear, fresh and jargon-free ... sets a new standard for debate on republicanism’ Peter Hart, Irish Times
'The one book I recommend for anyone trying to understand the craziness and complexity of the Northern Ireland tragedy.’ Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes