Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

A short Biography of

Bishop James Warren Doyle

Irish Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin

James Warren Doyle was born near New Ross, County Wexford, Ireland, 1786; he died at Carlow, 1834. Hi father was James Doyle of Ballinvegga New Ross and his mother was Anne Warren. His father died before his birth and it was largely left up to his mother to bring him and educate him. Anne Warren was a Roman Catholic but of Quaker extraction. From an early age, it seems, James was destined for the priesthood He belonged to a family, respectable but poor, and received his early education at Clonleigh, at Rathconrogue, and later at the Augustinian College, New Ross. As a boy he would have witnessed the atrocities of the Rebellion of 1798.  In 1805 he joined the Augustinian Order at Grantstown near New Ross and continued his education at the University of Coimbra, Portugal where he first manifested his great intellectual powers. In the university library he read everything,

Voltaire and Rousseau among the rest. As a consequence his faith became unsettled; but his vigorous intellect soon asserted itself, and subsequently he became the fearless champion of the Church in which he was born. During the Napoleonic Peninsular War in 1807 he did sentry work at Coimbra, and accompanied the English to Lisbon as interpreter, and such was the impression he made at the Portuguese Court that he was offered high employment there. He declined the offer, however, and, returning to Ireland in 1808, was ordained to the priesthood the following year. Then for eight years he taught logic as Professor of Theology at the Augustinian College, New Ross. In 1817 he became professor at Carlow College, and two years later the priests of Kildare and Leighlin placed him dignissimus for the vacant see. Their choice was approved at Rome, and thus, in 1819, Doyle became Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.

At that date the effects of the Penal Laws were still visible in the conduct of the Catholics. Even the bishops, as if despairing of equality and satisfied with subjection, often allowed Protestant bigotry to assail with impunity their country and creed. This attitude of timidity and acquiescence was little to Dr. Doyle's taste, and over the signature of "J. K. L." (James, Kildare and Leighlin) he vigorously repelled an attack made on the Catholics by the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin.

He also published an extremely able pamphlet on the religious and civil principles of the Irish Catholics; and a series of letters on the state of Ireland, in which the iniquities of the Church Establishment, the exactions of the landlords, the corrupt administration of justice were lashed with an unsparing hand. The clearness of style, the skilful marshalling of facts, the wide range of knowledge astonished all. And not less remarkable was his examination before two Parliamentary committees in London. Seeing his readiness and resource, the Duke of Wellington remarked that Doyle examined the committee rather than was examined by them. He joined the Catholic Association, and when O'Connell was about to contest Clare, Doyle addressed him a public letter hoping "that the God of truth and justice would be with him".

After Emancipation these two great men frequently disagreed, but on the tithe question they were in accord, and Doyle's exhortation to the people to hate tithes as much as they loved justice became a battle-cry, in the tithe war. Meantime nothing could exceed the bishop's zeal in his diocese. He established confraternities, temperance societies, and parish libraries, built churches and schools, conducted retreats, and ended many abuses which had survived the penal times. He also waged unsparing and incessant war on secret societies. He died young, a martyr to faith and zeal.

His published writings, pastoral, political, educational and inter-denominational still read extremely well and are much consulted by historians: A Vindication of the religious and civil principles of the Irish Catholics (1823);

Letter on the state of Ireland (1825); An essay on the Catholics claims (1826). He was an ally of O’Connell in the fight for Catholic Emancipation. He gave extended evidence on the state of Ireland in Westminister to parliamentary enquiries in 1825, 1830 and 1832. The project of building Carlow Cathedral of the Assumption crowned his most remarkable life. The Cathedral opened at the end of November 1833. The Bishop was ill for a number of months before his death on 15 June 1834. He is buried in the Cathedral in front of the Main Altar. Biographies of J.K.L. have been produced in the nineteenth century.

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