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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2009

4 - The bishops in the ascendant, 1635–1640



An ecclesiology which held that bishops were a separate order had consequences across all three of the Stuart dominions throughout the 1630s. Their political, social and economic standing would have to match. This meant that in Ireland, once all the machinery of recovery had been put in place, they were the designated managers whether they wished it or not. At a practical political level, too, the established church in Ireland could not be reconstructed by the efforts of Laud, Bramhall and Wentworth alone. They would not remain in power forever and they could not guarantee the actions or attitudes of their successors, so it was vital to exercise great care in the appointment of new bishops and control of existing ones. In any event, emphasis on the dignity of the office precluded the possibility of a few salutary dismissals. Changes made to the Irish episcopate in the 1630s were no ‘Arminian apocalypse’ nor a roll call of churchmen sympathetic to Wentworth or Bramhall. Certainly, the revival of Cloyne as a separate diocese was a striking example of a reconstruction driven by the concept of the historical rights of the church. Yet at the same time, a three-year vacancy in Ardfert proved that smaller Irish dioceses continued poor and unattractive. Bishops were now expected to be enthusiastic in the recovery of rights but also to take increased control of their clergy and their dioceses and, above all, their jurisdiction.

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