The nomination of Adam Loftus to succeed Hugh Curwen as archbishop of Dublin in the spring of 1567 was greeted with great hope and expectancy amongst the reforming circle in the Irish administration. Lord Deputy Sidney gave the clearest expression of this official anticipation, when he heralded the appointment as signalling nothing less than the coming of ‘the hour’ for the reformation of the church. It is doubtful, however, whether Loftus himself was quite so sanguine about his promotion. While it was certainly true, as Sidney averred, that the see's wealth and English culture offered the most favourable conditions for establishing the reformed religion in Ireland, the new archbishop would have had few illusions that the task was anything other than formidable.
Loftus's appreciation of the difficulties that lay ahead was rooted in an already extensive knowledge of the state of religion in Dublin, which he had acquired from two distinct sources. The first of these was his role as a participant on the commission for ecclesiastical causes appointed in October 1564. By virtue of this commission, which was executed largely through his own lead, Loftus had built up a detailed dossier of ‘all manner disorders and offences’ committed against the Elizabethan settlement throughout the English Pale.