Stearne (Sterne), John (1660–1745), Church of Ireland bishop of Clogher, was the only son of the famous physician John Stearne (qv) and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Charles Ryves (d. 1700), who was examiner in the chancery of Ireland. The boy, who had three sisters, was educated at St Patrick's cathedral grammar school in Dublin and entered TCD in 1674, graduating BA in 1677, MA in 1681, and DD in 1693. He was ordained deacon in 1682 by Bishop Anthony Dopping (qv) of Meath, who subsequently appointed him as his domestic chaplain. He held several livings in this diocese: around 1688 he was appointed vicar of Trim, in 1692 rector of Clonmacduffe, and in 1703 rector of Killary. He became chancellor of St Patrick's, Dublin, in 1702, and in 1705 was chosen dean of the same cathedral in succession to Jerome Ryves, a kinsman of his mother. He represented the chapter in the Church of Ireland convocation in 1707, of which assembly he was prolocutor in 1711.
When in Trim, Stearne came to know Jonathan Swift (qv) who was then in the neighbouring parish of Laracor, and who was to influence his selection as dean. They maintained a long association, which was at its warmest in the early years of Stearne's deanship when Swift often enjoyed his generous hospitality. His next promotion, to be bishop of Dromore in 1713, was also in some measure the work of Swift, who then succeeded him at St Patrick's. A deeper friendship was that with the archbishop of Dublin, William King (qv), who greatly admired Stearne. In 1717 Stearne was translated to the diocese of Clogher, where he remained for the rest of his life. One of the curates there was the celebrated Philip Skelton (qv), whose biographer is critical of the bishop's failure to promote him; Mant and Mahaffy however defend Stearne. In 1721 he was appointed vice-chancellor of Trinity College and was actively discharging the attendant duties at least until 1742. He was a member of the Irish privy council by 1730 and was sharply criticised by Swift in 1733 for his support of two church bills the previous year.
He died unmarried on 6 June 1745 and his will included many legacies (amounting to about £50,000) for educational, religious, and charitable purposes. Some of the beneficiaries had already enjoyed gifts in his lifetime (for example, Trinity College, whose printing house he paid for), and he had spent considerable sums improving church buildings as dean, and as bishop in two sees. His will further included bequests to Dr Steevens’ Hospital, the Blue Coat Hospital, Marsh's Library, and Swift's Hospital. The manuscripts he left to Trinity College included the important and controversial depositions relating to the 1641 rebellion; these he had obtained from the widow of John Madden who, like his son Samuel Madden (qv), was the bishop's neighbour.
Stearne, who has been praised for his Latinity, appears to have published just two works: Tractatus de visitatione infirmorum, which appeared in 1697 and in many later editions under such titles as A treatise of the visitation of the sick and The curate's manual; and his address to convocation, Concio habita ad . . . archiepiscopos . . . episcopos, et clerum inferioris domus convocationis ecclesiae hibernicae . . . 1703 (1704). Some other publications occasionally attributed to him are in fact by another John Stearne (c.1654–1704), whose writings are listed by Harris. This Stearne, perhaps a relative, was chaplain to Sir Charles Porter (qv). Confusingly, he too held benefices in Meath, and was curate of St Nicholas Within, while his more famous namesake, when dean of St Patrick's was nominally curate of St Nicholas Without.