Negotiating the Middle Ground: Thomas Moore on Religion and Irish Nationalism
Moore was a young man during the Napoleonic era in European history. This was a period when the papacy suffered serious setbacks, beginning with the French Revolution and culminating in the humiliation and effective imprisonment of Pope Pius VII by Napoleon between 1804 and 1814. John Roney’s study of Moore is thus set at a time when the very future of the Vatican and of Catholicism still seemed uncertain, though by Moore’s later years the future had become much more assured. Roney argues that although Moore is often depicted as a nominal Catholic (as an adult he wasn’t a church-goer), an examination of his religious thought reveals an ecumenical dimension. As a student in the 1790s he attended Trinity College, Dublin (with its strong Protestant ethos) and studied the history of theology. He married a Protestant, and his children were raised as Protestants. Roney contends that Moore had hopes of presenting Irish Catholicism as a respectable faith in Protestant eyes; for instance, he expressed the common (Protestant) view that papal authority tended to render Catholics slavish in their outlook, and his view of the historical and contemporary Catholic church was very much a Gallican one.