The Catholic community in New South Wales 1788-1815: a church without clergy
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 02:01 by Joseph A. Morley
This thesis is a study of the Catholic lay community in New South Wales between 1788 and 1815. It contends that the community was a Church without clergy; that its members were the Catholic Church in New South Wales. It seeks to provide a clear, coherent account of early Australian Catholicism, based on a firm documentary base. In almost all previous histories of the Catholic Church in Australia, little or no attention is paid to the role of lay Catholics in the foundation of the Church. Because documentary or narrative records were and are not readily accessible, historians, including Cardinal Moran,^ neglected or dismissed the history of the lay Church in a few pages. They consigned it to the " too hard " basket of history. Others, such as Kenny,^ ignored the laity and triumphalised the institutional Church which was not established in the colony until 1820. The thesis provides documentary evidence, some for the first time in Australian Catholic historiography; and makes new appraisals of material previously published but lightly passed over in Catholic histories. Research was conducted in local archives and libraries, and in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Europe and the United States, particularly in the Vatican archives. The results not only break new ground but hopefully will inspire future research. The fundamental human rights of liberty of conscience, of worship and association, denied to the Catholic laity, by the Anglican establishment; a real evaluation of Father Thomas Walsh, the first Catholic priest to volunteer to minister to the Catholics of New South Wales (his request was denied or disregarded), and who was labelled by one Australian Catholic historian as an obscure priest;" the inflated and triumphalised narratives of the ' Convict Priests', transported from Ireland (patriotically referred to by some Catholic writers as 'martyrs', as 'apostles', or as 'missionaries'); myths and legends (Cardinal Moran's claim that Portuguese navigator De Quiros discovered the east coast of Australia, and that his chaplains celebrated the first Mass on Australian soil; the myth of 'the convict nun;' the mythical First Fleet convict priest), fostered to bolster the role of the institutional Church, the claims that Catholics were flogged for refusal to attend Anglican church services; these and other matters, are dealt with. A vignetted portrait of the Catholic community of 1788 - 1815, dispelling false claims about its composition, is also produced. Finally, an explanation is provided for the neglect by English and Irish bishops and the seeming disregard by Vatican authorities of the spiritual needs of the Catholic community in New South Wales in the foundation years.