John Charles McQuaid

1895-1973 [fam. “Charlie”]; b. 28 July, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, his mother Jenny [née Corry] dying in childbirth; after which his father, Eugene, a dispensary doctor in Co. Cavan and Monaghan, quickly remarried Agnes ‘for the children’; ed. St. Patrick’s College, Cavan, where he was poorly fed and bullied, moved to Blackrock College, Co. Dublin, 1910; influenced by Br. Gaspard O’Reilly, an ascetic; Clongowes Wood College; made tour of European Marian shrines with his father, novice at Holy Ghost Fathers, Kimmage; ed. UCD (Classics), and Rome; ord. St. Mary’s, Rathmines, 29th June, 1924; appt. Dean of Studies, Blackrock College, 1925, discovering a natural flair for networking;
appt. President of College, 1931-39; forbade women’s participation in athletics for reason of dress; appt. Archbishop of Dublin, Dec. 1940; est. Catholic Social Service Conference, 1942; estab. Catholic Social Welfare Bureau, 1942; conducted extensive building programme; reiterated ban on Catholics attending TCD, 1944, and renewed these instructions annually in Lenten letters; objected to the use of tampons, especially by unmarried women, 1944; fnd. Dublin Institute of Catholic Sociology (later Dublin Inst. of Adult Education; prominent opponent of Mother and Child Scheme proposed by Dr. Noel Browne as Min. of Education, 1950; met with Costello, who agreed that a serious issue of ‘faith and morals’ was involved, leading to resignation of Browne;
told his diocesans on returning from Vatican II, ‘no change will worry the tranquillity of your Christian lives’; secret care of poor and ill; created diocesan press office; imposed ban on Catholics attending TCD under ban of mortal sin, Lenten Pastoral, 1961; deemed material in the dismissal of John McGahern from Clontarf Secondary School; vigorously opposed contraception up to his last pastoral, “Conscience and Contraception” (1971; received with surprise the news from the Papal Nuncio Gaetano Alibrandi that his resignation had been accepted by the Pope, on 27 Dec. 1971, leading to his retirement Feb. 1972;
d. Loughlinstown Hosp., 11 am., on 7 April 1973; reputedly asked an attending nurse, Margaret O’Dowd, if he would get into heaven, and accepted her assurance; he was succeeded by Dr. Dermot Ryan, who commended his ‘service to the truth’ shown in his ‘pursuit of right doctrines’; sometime called McQuaid has been called the “druid of Drumcondra”; there is a life by John Cooney - generally considered injudicious as to psycho-sexual conjectures. DIB DIH DUB WJM
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JC McQuaid

Higher Education for Catholics (1961), 22pp.

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John Cooney, ‘Mother’s Death at Childbirth Shaped Archbishop’s Fate’, in The Irish Times (28 July 1995) [see extract]; John Cooney, John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Catholic Ireland (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1999), 526pp., [see details]; Francis Xavier Carty, Hold Firm: John Charles McQuaid and the Second Vatican Council (Dublin: Columba Press 2007).

See also Michael O’Carroll, ‘Inspired Educator and Ecumenist of Sorts’; Deirdre McMahon, ‘The Politician – A Reassessment’, and Dermot Keogh, ‘Towards a Biography of an Archbishop’, in Studies, 87, 348 (Winter 1998) [with remarks on John Feeney and McQuaid - as supra].

See also James Kelly & Dáire Keogh, eds., History of the Catholic Diocese of Dublin (Dublin: Four Courts 2000); Diarmaid Ferriter, Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland (London: Profile Books 2009).

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Bibliographical details
John Cooney, John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Catholic Ireland (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1999), 526pp., [16pp. photos]. CONTENTS [chaps.]: War Against Satan, 1932-34; Dev’s Man, 1934-40; The Hidden Ruler, 1944-48; The Arch-Druid of Drumcondra, 1950-51; McQuaid’s Dreary Eden, 1940-73.

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John Cooney, ‘Mother’s Death at Childbirth Shaped Archbishop’s Fate’, in The Irish Times (28 July 1995), [q.p.] outlines family circumstances in which his real maternity was hidden from him when his father quickly remarried, resulting in his idealisation of his mother on discovering her identity; comments that ‘his mourning for her shaped his dogmatic belief in the Virgin Mary and in the immaculate conception of Jesus; her death also made it impossible for him to tolerate any form of contraception […] put a curse on an Ireland that would legalise condoms […] wore Jenny’s wedding stone in his own episcopal ring.’ (See also remarks quoted by Roy Foster, under Edna O’Brien, infra.) Note that allegations of a sexual assault on a boy in a Dublin pub, aired in Cooney's life of McQuaid, have been widely disparaged by reviewers.

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Maurice Harmon, ‘In Charge of Scholarship and Sanctity’, review of John Cooney, John Charles McQuaid, in Books Ireland (March 2000), writes: ‘Not since Cardinal Cullen had there been a member of the Irish hierarchy as influential as Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. […] From his own perspective he was doing God’s work, seeking to make Ireland a totally Catholic state, within which the clerical influence was supreme and all-encompassing. He was autocratic and demanding, putting down opposition and disagreement with his views. He was also anti-semitic and anti-Protestant, and favoured censorship of books, magazines, films, theatre. He interfered in political life, carefully nurturing good relations with Eamon de Valera and John A. Costello. […]/ The mindset behind the McQuaid (p.70) strictures makes for fascinating reading. Page after page amasses evidence of the man’s obsession with preserving his flock from sin and occasions of sin, […] He was, Clooney writes “a key figure in determining the constitutional prohibition on divorce, its outline of education and social policy, and even on issue of the death penalty.” / His elevation to the See of Dublin increased his influence enormously and he became the most powerful figure in the hierarchy. […] No activity of life, he declared, may be withdrawn from the guidance of Faith and the control of Charity. / He had little time for Sean O’Faolain and his fellow-writers at The Bell. They were, he thought, infected with liberalism. When Edna O’Brien and John McGahern came along in the sixties they were hammered just as their predecessors had been. This portrait and the details previded throw new light on the work of Austin Clarke and Sean O’Faolain. Clarke’s gallant depiction of suffering, restriction, and spiritual pain makes even more sense in the context of McQuaid’s Ireland. O’Faolain’s steady attempt to introduce new thinking in The Bell and his constant appeal for humanism, liberalism, tolerance and non-sectarianism are given an illuminating context.’ pp.70-71.

Patricia Craig, reviewing John Cooney, John Charles McQuaid (O’Brien Press), writes: ‘McQuaid, the supposedly humane priest, amused himself by shooting harmless birds from the windows of his Victorian Gothic mansion outside Dublin, amassing a collection of writings on sexology (for censorship purposes of course) and gloring in ecclesiastical pomp, while going out of his way to impare the lives of millions of Irish men and women. By the 1960s, his influence was on the way (he died in 1973), and he himself has not evaded suspicion of sexual misbehaviour among the avalanche of information on this t0pic that has become available; but he had already achieved considerable damage and retrogression. […] He must, for example, bear some responsibility for the eruption in the North, simply by embodying Ulster Protestants’ worst fears about the Catholic state.’ (Times Literary Supplement, 17 March 2000.)

Dermot Keogh, review of Cooney, John Charles McQuaid, in Studies (Summer 2000): ‘McQuaid’s sermon on Passion Sunday, 13 March 1932, to a congregation in his native Cavan on the theme: Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ or Satan? Its content was then, and remains today, quite shocking as McQuaid spoke out against what he considered to be the legacy of the French Revolution. His remarks were also directed against those whom he felt were responsible for the continuation of the revolution in the twentieth century - Jews, Free Masons and Communists. In what might today be described as a “wide-ranging” talk, he listed the evils of Hollywood and Jewish producers who, in films like Ben Hur, The King of Kings and the Ten Commandments, were attempting to show Christ as only a Great Man and a member of the Jewish race (Cooney, p.71). On the same occasion he voiced his opposition to young women rowers being dressed in men’s scanty athletic attire. Quite what the burghers of Cavan town made of this sermon remains a mystery but the content would seem to be somewhat wide of their immediate pastoral needs. Keogh finds that the ‘author’s exaggerated understanding of McQuaid’s role in the drafting process is very much a symptom of the weakness intrinsic to the entire biography […]’ (See at Studies, online.)

See also The Thirsty Gargoyle [blogspot] remarks on Cooney’s allegations of sexual misconduct in his biography of McQuaid - in extract [under Noel Browne supra] or online.

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Cycling ladies: ‘I hereby assure you that no boy from my college will take part in any athletic meeting controlled by your organisation at which women will compete, no matter what attire they may adopt.’ (Leter to The Irish Times, 7 Feb 1934, protesting against the National Athletic & Cycling Association’s decision to include men and women in track and field events as ‘un-Catholic and un-Irish’; quoted in John Cooney, John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Catholic Ireland, Dublin: O’Brien Press 1999, p.81.)

Fianna Fail: The party was, on many occasions, opposed to Episcopal directions [...] the inner spirit of sympathetic and open collaboration with the Hierarchy will be missing from the Fianna Fail Government. Not that anti-Catholic measures may be expected from men who faithfully practise now the Faith, bu, as I have said in my present Quinquennial Relatio, a definite Liberalism is always present. In my opinion, that Liberalism must be incessantly watched. (Q. source; quoted in J. Ardle McArdle, review of Diarmaid Ferriter, Judging Dev: A Reassessment [...], RIA 2008, in Books Ireland, Oct. 2008, p.226.)

Irish Feminists: ‘The feminists are getting angry and are moving into action. They seem stung by the suggestion that the normal place for a woman is the home. I shall shortly have another note to meet these persons. Their thoughts are very confused.’ (Fr John Charles McQuaid to de Valera, 1937; retweeted by Liam Hogan and quoted by Frank Callery on Facebook, May 2018.)

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Patrick Kavanagh: Archbishop McQuaid wrote to Kavanagh’s widow at her husband’s death that he ‘had arranged that at the shortest notice the poet would be received and cared for in the Mater Private Nursing Home. But it was not God’s will.’ (See Bernard O’Donoghue, review of Antoinette Quinn, Patrick Kavanagh: A Biography, in Times Literary Supplement, 29 Nov. 2002, p.10; and see further under Kavanagh, Notes, supra. also Quinn, op. cit., p.462.)

Cardinal?: In 1953 McQuaid was disappointed in his hopes of receiving a cardinal’s red hat when it went instead to John D’Alton, the Archbishop of Armagh. On information of Joseph Walshe, the Irish minister to the Holy See, he learnt that the appointment was political, being motivated by the desire to conciliate the North and emphasise the unity of Ireland. Additionally, he lacked the support of Eamon de Valera on account of his support for the teachers’ strike, which had antagonised the premier; finally, he had made a reputation for undue egoism by constantly raising the question of precedence whenever the Papal Nuncio attended the pro-cathedral and warned that if he became Cardinal. (See Wikipedia article on McQuaid, online; accessed 05.12.2010.)

Red tape: ‘[Kathleen] O’Malley recalls school concerts [in a Dublin orphanage] especially staged for visiting Americans, who would pick the prettiest and most talented children from themselves. The powerful Archbishop of Dublin at that time, John Charles McQuaid, decided how passports could be issued for the exported children and ensured that the adopting Americans, vetted only for their religious affiliations, encountered the minimum of red tape. [Recounts how Hollywood actress Jane Russell, a Protestant, received an Irish passport for a child sourced in London.] The passport issue caused consternation at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and media interest in the country’s clearly ambivalent atttiude to adoption was aroused. When a German newspaper suggested that Ireland had become a hunting ground for foreign millionaires seeking to adopt, all hell broke loose. The government was finally embarrased into drawing up adoption legislation […].’ (See ‘Millionaire’s Hunting Ground’, review of Kate Adie, Nobody’s Child, including reference to Kathleen O’Malley, Childhood Interrupted], in Books Ireland, Nov. 2005).

Pidgeon-shoot: Mrs Ita Geraghty, school-teacher and neice of the Labour Mayor of Limerick, recalls visiting Archbishop McQuaid at Drumcondra in search of clerical release from an unhappy marriage and being told by him - without removing the rifle he used to shoot pigeons from the veranda of the archebiscopal palace from his shoulder - ‘Go home, woman, and look after your husband.’ (Family anecdote / BS.)

Inside trader? Elaine A. Byrne writes that McQuaid made bumper profits when the Irish railways were nationalised. See Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010: A Crooked Harp? (Manchester UP 2012), and Irish Times review of same by Fintan O'Toole (The Irish Times, 2 June 2012, Weekend, p.11.)

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