Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cullen, Paul
CULLEN, PAUL (1803–1878), cardinal, archbishop of Dublin, son of Hugh Cullen, farmer, by his wife Judith, sister of James Maher, a well-known parish priest at Craigue, county Carlow, was born at Prospect, near Ballytore, county Kildare, on 27 April 1803. He received his first instruction in the famous school kept by members of the quaker family of Shackleton at Ballytore, where Edmund Burke had formerly been a pupil. He next studied in Carlow College under Dr. Doyle, afterwards bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, and in the Urban College of the Propaganda at Rome, which he entered 29 Nov. 1820. His character is thus described in the archives of that institution: ‘Bell'ingegno, eccessivo nello studio, illibato nei costumi, osservantissimo, divoto, docile, irreprensibile, commendabilissimo in tutto.’ His college course was brilliant, and he distinguished himself in scriptural and oriental literature. When a student in the Propaganda he was selected to hold a public disputation before Leo XII and his court on the occasion of that pontiff's visit to the Collegio Urbano on 11 Sept. 1828. Cullen undertook to defend all theology in 224 theses. At the close of the proceedings the pope with his own hands conferred upon him the doctor's cap. After being ordained priest in 1829 he left the Propaganda College to be vice-rector, and subsequently rector, of the Irish College in Rome; and from May 1848, after the departure of the jesuits, to January 1849 he was rector of the Propaganda College.
In 1848 the revolution broke out in the pontifical states, and Mazzini became master of Rome. An order was issued by the revolutionary triumvirate commanding the students to leave the Propaganda within a few hours. Cullen applied to a son of General Cass, who was then American minister at Rome. Cass promptly went to Mazzini, and in the name of his government demanded protection for the Propaganda on the ground that several students of the college were American citizens. Some American ships of war were then lying in Italian waters, and the revolutionary leaders had asked permission to take refuge in these vessels whenever they should be obliged by the French to fly from Rome. Consequently the American minister's request was at once granted. The triumvirs then issued a new order stating that the Propaganda was a literary institution of great merit, that it was the proud privilege of republicans to foster learning, and that therefore the Roman government forbad any interference with the property of the Propaganda. Thus Cullen in 1848 managed to save the college by placing it under American protection (Brady, Episcopal Succession, i. 347).
While rector of the Irish College Cullen acted as the agent of the Irish bishops in nearly all their transactions with the apostolic see, and during the pontificate of Gregory XVI, who raised him to the rank of monsignor, cubicularius intimus ad honorem, he was regularly consulted by his holiness. His advice, it is said, prevented the pope from issuing a strong mandate for the discouragement of O'Connell's agitation for the repeal of the union. A document of an admonitory character was indeed issued by the authorities at Propaganda, but it was never vigorously enforced, and it encountered not a little opposition.
In holy week 1849 William Crolly, archbishop of Armagh [q. v.], died, and the primacy of Ireland was left vacant. The three ecclesiastics nominated by the chapter of the archdiocese were passed over by the pope, and Cullen was appointed by Propaganda in December 1849 to succeed Dr. Crolly. The nomination was confirmed by Pope Pius IX at Portici on 19 Dec., and Cullen was consecrated on 24 Feb. 1850 in the church of St. Agatha of the Goths, Rome, by Cardinal Castrocane. Soon after his return to Ireland he entered into the discussion on the education question, declaring himself the opponent of the mixed system of education in every form. Having noticed how the persecutions of nearly three centuries had impaired the external pomp and surroundings of the catholic worship, he sent to Rome a report embodying his views on this subject, and was in consequence empowered to summon the first national synod held in Ireland since the convention of Kilkenny under the papal nuncio Rinuccini in 1642. He himself presided over the synod, held in the college at Thurles in August 1850, in the double capacity of primate and delegate apostolic legate. The assembled prelates and clergy condemned the queen's colleges and recommended the establishment of a catholic university. The decrees of the synod of Thurles were confirmed in the following year, and promulgated in all the catholic churches in Ireland on 1 Jan. 1852. In 1851 Cullen presided at an aggregate meeting of the catholics of Ireland, held in the Rotundo at Dublin, to protest against the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill.
On the death of Dr. Murray, archbishop of Dublin, Cullen was almost unanimously nominated as dignissimus to succeed him. He was translated from Armagh to Dublin by resolution of Propaganda of 1 May 1852, approved by Pope Pius IX on 3 May. At the same time he was confirmed as delegate apostolic for carrying out the decrees of the synod of Thurles and for the erection of the catholic university in Ireland. He refused to accept the seat at the national board which had been occupied by his predecessor, and in a series of vigorous letters he denounced some of the books, particularly some scriptural works compiled by Archbishop Whately, as being designed for the subversion of the catholic faith of the children who read them. Throughout his whole career Cullen was an unflinching opponent of the model schools and of what he considered to be the objectionable extremes of the system of national education.
In 1853, when dissensions arose in the tenant-right party, Cullen prohibited the clergy of his diocese from any further participation in public political movements. Frederick Lucas denounced in the ‘Tablet’ the action of the archbishop, regarding it as an authoritative declaration against the ‘popular’ party, and eventually went to Rome in the vain hope of obtaining from the authorities there a reversal of the prohibition. In 1859 Cullen promoted the organisation of the Irish Brigade which went to the papal states to assist in upholding the temporal sovereignty of the pope. From the outset he was a determined opponent of the Fenian brotherhood and all other revolutionary combinations, and a loyal supporter of the crown, the law, and the constitution. He was therefore attacked in terms of unmeasured abuse by the Fenian press both in Ireland and America.
In the consistory of 22 June 1866 he was created a cardinal priest with the title of San Pietro in Montorio (La Gerarchia Cattolica, 1878, p. 78), being the first Irishman thus raised to the rank of a prince of the church. He was also nominated a member of the Sacred Congregations of the Propaganda, Index, Sacred Rites and Regular Discipline. In the course of his long episcopate he paid several visits to Rome, where he was always a welcome visitor to Pius IX. At the Vatican council he formed one of the majority who asked for the definition of papal infallibility, and it is said that the form of words in which the dogma was finally accepted was suggested and drawn up by him. In September 1875 he presided at the synod of Maynooth. He had intended to take part in the conclave for the election of a successor to Pius IX, but on reaching Paris he learned that the election had already taken place. He completed his journey, however, and at Rome paid his homage to Leo XIII. Soon after his return he died at his residence in Eccles Street, Dublin, on 24 Oct. 1878, and on the 29th he was buried beneath the high altar in the chapel of Clonville College.
Cullen was a churchman of a pronounced ultramontane type and of ascetical habits. His strictness in enforcing discipline caused him at first to be viewed with feelings of dislike by some of the clergy under his jurisdiction, but his strong will and pertinacity overbore all opposition, and even Father O'Keeffe, a refractory priest who summoned the cardinal before the law courts and brought his conduct under the notice of parliament, finally submitted to the authority of his ecclesiastical superior. For twenty-eight years Cullen's name was a foremost one in the history of Ireland. Shortly after his death the ‘Times’ insisted on the conscientiousness with which he exercised his great personal influence and absolute power. During his tenure of the see of Dublin the archdiocese was dotted over with new or restored churches, convents, schools, and refuges for reclaimed or repentant evil-doers. He may be regarded as the founder of the Catholic University of Ireland, and the noble hospital of Mater Misericordiæ is a lasting monument to his memory. There are several engravings of his portrait.
[Tablet, 2 Nov. 1878, pp. 547, 549, and suppl.; Freeman's Journal, 25–30 Oct. 1878; Times, 25 Oct. 1878; O'Byrne's Lives of the Cardinals, p. 13 (with portrait); Fisquet's Histoire du Concile Œcuménique de Rome (with portrait); Guardian, 13 Oct. 1878, p. 1501; Annual Reg. 1878, pt. ii. p. 171; Weekly Register, 2 Nov. 1878; Brady's Episcopal Succession, i. 232, 345, iii. 376, 496; Fitzpatrick's Life of Dr. Doyle, i. 68, 450, ii. 146, 348, 489; Killen's Eccl. Hist. of Ireland, ii. 507, 508, 512, 517, 525 n.; Duffy's League of North and South, 136, 171–5, 301–81.]