December 8th 2007

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: After the landslide: the challenges ahead

CULTURE: Dealing girls a raw and racy deal

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Has the Liberal Party any future?

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Can Australia avoid an economic downturn?

WATER: Vehement opposition to permanent water-trade

QUARANTINE: Horse flu inquiry exposes AQIS's abject failure

NATIONAL SECURITY: We have met the enemy, and he is us

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The WHY and HOW of Labor's victory / Now for the Delphic Oracle ...

CULTURE: Dealing girls a raw and racy deal

SCIENCE: People will marry robots, scientist predicts

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Abortion link to pre-term birth and cerebral palsy

MEDICINE: Dolly's creator abandons therapeutic cloning

OPINION: William Wilberforce's lessons for us today

Bad economics (letter)

Ten points for Kevin Rudd (letter)

DLP resurgence (letter)


BOOKS: PRINCE OF THE CHURCH: Patrick Francis Moran, 1830-1911, by Philip Ayres

BOOKS: CONJUGAL AMERICA: On the Public Purposes of Marriage, by Allan Carlson

Books promotion page

PRINCE OF THE CHURCH: Patrick Francis Moran, 1830-1911, by Philip Ayres

by Michael Daniel (reviewer)

News Weekly, December 8, 2007
Australia's first cardinal

Patrick Francis Moran, 1830-1911

by Philip Ayres
(Melbourne: Miegunyah Press)
Hardback: 384 pages
Rec. price: $55.00

Almost a century after his death, a biography has been written of Patrick Francis Moran, Australia's first cardinal, in the opinion of many, its most influential Catholic prelate. Noted scholar and author Philip Ayres, whose previous works include biographies of Douglas Mawson, Owen Dixon and Malcolm Fraser, has produced a very impressive portrait of Moran, the fruit of years of extensive research.

Born in Ireland in 1830, Moran left for Rome in 1842, in the company of his uncle, Paul Cullen, then rector of the Irish College in Rome, later cardinal-archbishop of Dublin.

Scholarly skills

As a student and young priest, Moran manifested his scholarly skills, developing his expertise in ancient languages and Irish history, his focus being on finding and editing important documents and manuscripts related to Irish ecclesiastical history. Some of the editions of his works remain important source materials to this day.

This scholarly interest was to remain with Moran throughout his priestly and episcopal career, first as bishop of Ossory and later as archbishop of Sydney.

Moran was later author of a large tome, History of the Catholic Church in Australia. While this work has been criticised for favouring the Irish over English Benedictine elements in the Australian church hierarchy, it nonetheless, like Moran's other studies, contains an impressive collection of detailed source materials which cannot fail to impress the modern reader, daunting though it is in sheer size.

In 1866, Moran returned to live in Ireland as secretary to his uncle. There he developed his talents as an administrator. In this capacity he accompanied his uncle to the First Vatican Council (1869-70). It is generally recognised that the definition of the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility is based on Cullen's proposal, and Ayres suggests that there is strong evidence that Cullen's proposal was largely drafted by Moran himself.

As with many of Cullen's ecclesiastical circle, Moran became a bishop. Appointed coadjutor bishop of Ossory late in 1871, he was consecrated the following year. His first challenge was to revive a diocese that had stagnated under the poor health of its elderly bishop and which faced the challenge of the actions of the charismatic but schismatic priest, Fr Robert O'Keefe.

Moran revived the faith through strategies such as an extensive program of parochial visitation. While Moran's leadership skills were evident in the progress of events associated with Fr O'Keefe, it was not until 1875 that he was able to regain possession of the parish church which O'Keefe had occupied.

Moran, along with other Irish bishops and leading clergy, had condemned the Fenians, the movement seeking Irish independence; however, he supported the aims of the Land League, but not their methods.

His interest in political life was to develop significantly after his arrival in Australia. He stood, albeit unsuccessfully, as a candidate for the 1897 Federal Convention that prepared the final draft of Austalia's Constitution. However, perhaps his most famous foray was his support of striking mariners in 1890. After the appearance of the Catholic Church's papal encyclical in support of working people, Rerum Novarum (1891), he was to endorse and support the rights of labourers to better their conditions.

Moran's leadership abilities were fully realised with his appointment as archbishop of Sydney in 1884. With the death of Roger Bede Vaughan, the English Benedictine primate of Sydney, the Irish bishops in Ireland and Australia were eager to secure an Irish appointee to the see, and Moran was eventually chosen.

Moran's real ambition, however, was to be archbishop of Dublin. When, in 1885, he received a telegram ordering him to proceed to Rome upon the death of cardinal-archbishop of Dublin, Edward McCabe, he proceeded immediately, hoping to receive the appointment of archbishop. However, by the time he arrived, the appointment had been made, and instead he was appointed a cardinal.

During his tenure as Sydney's archbishop, Moran oversaw phenomenal growth in the Catholic Church. Virtually the first action he undertook was to end definitively Archbishop John Polding's vision of the Catholic Church in Australia as an English Benedictine mission. Henceforth, it would be predominantly an Irish foundation, with bishops and clergy being either Irish or of Irish origin.


One of Moran's chief contributions, in which he looked to the future of an Australian Catholic Church, was the establishment of a seminary at Manly, largely because of his concern about the poor quality of priests being sent to Australia from Ireland.

He also fulfilled the role of Apostolic delegate and, in this capacity, made numerous recommendations for episcopal appointments and managed crises, for example, in the case of Bishop Matthew Gibney of Perth, who had chronically mismanaged his diocesan finances.

As a leader, Moran could be hard with his opponents while demanding loyalty from his supporters. The staunchest of these was his secretary, Denis O'Haran, whose career was blighted by allegations of adultery, when he was named co-respondent in the celebrated Arthur Coningham divorce case.

Although there is probably nobody alive old enough to remember meeting Moran (he died in 1911), he left an impressive legacy. Sydney was not to see such a forthright bishop until the accession of Archbishop George Pell.

Under Moran's leadership and direction, the Catholic Church in Australia not only made significant progress, but also signalled its support for the cause of the working-man, and also its commitment to scholarship and providing an intellectual defence of its positions.

Philip Ayres's biography is an excellent account of this remarkable Australian, whose contributions deserve to be more widely recognised and celebrated.

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