He was born in that city on 17 September 1735 in Cork, Ireland, son of John Moylan, a well-to-do merchant. He was educated at Paris, at Montpellier, and afterwards at the university of Toulouse, where he studied theology, and became acquainted with Henry Essex Edgeworth, then a boy, living there with his father. Edgeworth and Moylan became lifelong friends.
On his ordination to the priesthood in 1761, Moylan was appointed to a curacy in Paris by the archbishop, Mgr. de Beaumont, but soon after returned to his native diocese. In 1775, he was consecrated Bishop of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and was translated in 1786 to Cork, to fill the vacancy caused by the defection of Lord Dunboyne. When the French fleet appeared off the south coast of Ireland in 1796, Moylan issued a pastoral letter to his flock urging them to loyalty, and his native city, in recognition of his attitude, presented him with its freedom, an unusual mark of esteem to be bestowed on a catholic in those days. The lord-lieutenant (Earl Camden) ordered one of his pastorals to be circulated throughout the kingdom, and Pelham, the chief secretary for Ireland, wrote to congratulate Moylan on his conduct.
In 1799, Lord Castlereagh suggested to ten of the Irish bishops, who formed a board for examining into the affairs of Maynooth College, that the government would recommend catholic emancipation if the bishops in return admitted the king to have a power of veto on all future ecclesiastical appointments, and if they accepted a state endowment for the catholic clergy. The prelates, Moylan chief among them, were disposed to adopt these proposals in a modified form, but subsequently, on learning Lord Castlereagh's full intentions, repudiated them. Moylan afterwards vigorously deprecated 'any interference whatsoever' of the government in the appointment of the bishops or clergy, and took a leading part in the great 'veto' controversy.
Moylan was in favour of the legislative union of Ireland with Great Britain. He took an active part in the establishment of Maynooth College, and had some correspondence on the subject with Edmund Burke. He was a most successful administrator of his diocese, and helped materially in the establishment of the Presentation order of nuns founded by Nano Nagle for the education of poor girls.
There can be, and there never has been, but one opinion of the firmness, the steadiness, and the manliness of Dr. Moylan's character, which, it was agreed by all those who had the pleasure of meeting him here [Bulstrode], was as engaging as his person, which avows and bespeaks as much goodwill as can be well imagined in a human countenance.
He died on 10 February 1815, and was buried in a vault in his cathedral.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Nolan, Pierce Laurence (1894). "Moylan, Francis". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 39. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Hutch, Life of Nano Nagle (Dublin, 1875)