This was an important period for religious life in Ireland when all churches confronted challenges to their spiritual authority or their position. Against a backdrop of social and economic change, religious leaders tried to introduce reform, improve administration, and discipline their flocks. The churches were under growing pressure from the secular world and from its ideas, its education, and cultural activities. In the face of all this, there was an increase in religious passion. In Protestant churches, much of this can be explained by evangelicalism and its emphasis on a more ‘enthusiastic’ style of religious expression.
The Irish scholar Kevin Whelan claimed that “the provision of Catholic education in Ireland by the indigenous teaching orders became the main motivation of Irish Catholicism between 1770 and 1830, and it was “an essential component of the artillery of the revised Tridentine Church” which developed in Ireland in the 1830s and 1840s and began to develop in Newfoundland Catholicism in the 1850s and 1860s”.
Yet progress was slow in the pre-Famine era. On the other hand, some important building work was begun and a new generation of reforming bishops brought their influence to bear on the lower clergy through regular conferences, retreats, and visitations. At the same time as priests were encouraged to improve their preaching and pastoral work, regulations were introduced to address personal standards of behavior. Whilst discipline was tightened as a result of these measures, the rapid rate of population increase made any improvement in the ratio of priests to people impossible.
The years 1826-7 saw the beginning of a more rigorous evangelical challenge to Catholicism. The so-called ‘Second Reformation’ began in Co. Cavan with reports of the conversion of several tenants of the evangelical landlord, Lord Farnham. Accusations&nbsp.of proselytism quickly followed and were furiously refuted.&nbsp.

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