Early in February the idea was mooted that the government would extend toleration to catholics who agreed to renounce their belief that loyalty to the pope took precedence over their loyalty to the state; and in the following month ‘an order was made in parliament for admitting Roman Catholics to compound for their estates on easy terms’ (Carte, Ormond, iii, 423–4). So although Crelly got no immediate response to his proposal, he received some promise of religious toleration and security of landholding for the future. The English political climate, however, was changing rapidly. The parliamentary negotiators, who now apparently included Oliver Cromwell (qv) and Henry Ireton (qv), had no real interest in making a compromise with Irish papists, for they had already begun to muster an army of conquest that was determined to deal with the ‘Irish problem’ once and for all.
In addition to mediating with the parliamentarians Crelly sought assistance for the Old Irish cause from the Venetians and Spaniards; in 1650 he spent six months in Rome lobbying leading cardinals for aid, and finally (thanks to the intervention of Rinuccini (qv)) secured another audience with the pope himself. The abbot set out to demonstrate that ‘Cromwell was much disposed to a liberty of religion, if not formal toleration of popery, and would much incline the parliament thereto, and therefore that it was not safe to provoke either’ (quoted in C. H. Firth, ‘Thomas Scot's account of his actions as intelligencer during the commonwealth’, EHR, xii, no. 45 (Jan. 1897), 120). The papacy accepted Crelly's analysis and in June 1650 he jubilantly hurried back to England to attend to ‘affairs of the catholic faith and his own house’ (Copy of a memorial given to Infantado by an Irish gentleman, 23 Jan. / 2 Feb. 1650 (AGS, Eo. 3020, unfol.)). He appears to have resided in London throughout the 1650s, serving as both a Spanish and papal agent. According to the Spanish ambassador, Cárdenas, he was ‘a well informed person with excellent contacts with several members of parliament in our [Spain's] confidence . . . The said abbot enjoyed the entire confidence of secretary of state John Thurloe, who was most trusted by Oliver Cromwell’ (Cárdenas's secret accounts, 1638–55 (AGS, Eo. 2532, unfol.)). It was rumoured that Crelly, dubbed by one contemporary as ‘an energetic and intellectually enthusiastic Irish monk’ (Commentarius Rinuccinianus, IV, para 558), later converted to protestantism and married.