Ch. 9: Ideological watershed: The Spanish Civil War controversy in Victoria

The Spanish Civil War began in July of 1936 when the forces of General Francisco Franco attempted to overthrow the Popular Front government of Manuel Azana, elected to power the previous February. Preceding the conflict was a century of spasmodic attempts at liberal democracy, attempts invariably vitiated by the intolerance and persecuting fervour displayed by Spanish political factions towards one another. Predictably, Azana’s accession to power was followed by a spate of priest-murders, church-burnings, and assaults on private property, disorders which the shaky new coalition was either unable or unwilling to prevent. The Spanish Church, fearing the onset of a persecution such as it had suffered under previous Liberal and left-wing regimes, gave its support to Franco, and enabled his unsuccessful military coup to take on the character of a popular rebellion. Italy, Germany and Russia subsequently sent men and material to the battle-front; and fighting raged for three years before ending in victory for Franco’s Nationalists.

Throughout the West the Spanish War had a catalytic effect in drawing to itself and intensifying the idealism of the age. Non-Catholic liberals regarded it as a battle between progressive democracy and clerical/Fascist authoritarianism; Communists saw it as a desperate attempt by reactionaries to forestall the fulfilment of a proletarian revolution; Catholics viewed it as a deadly struggle between Christian civilisation and Communist barbarism. Everywhere vague ideological sympathies were transformed by the conflict into passionate convictions.

Australia was no exception to the rule. News from the war figured prominently in the popular press, which was universally pro-Republican and anti-Franco. It was the Communist Party, however, which took the lead in rallying support for the Republican cause; and for the first time the Party began to make major advances in size and influence. Through its ‘front’ organisations it began to gain significant numbers of supporters and sympathisers among the middle-class and intelligentsia. Bodies such as ‘Food for Spain’, the Spanish Relief Fund, and the Council Against War and Fascism, united Communist trade union leaders with non-Catholic clergymen, academics and literary people in support of the one cause. Furthermore, in the trade unions the Communists sought to use the Spanish issue as a means of coaxing the established Labour left away from its traditional insularity, and of imbuing it with a new sense of solidarity with international working-class

ts No longer could the Communists be dismissed as merely a tiny poup of agitators within the industrial movement.

The effect of the Spanish War and of its local ramifications upon Australian Catholic opinion was cataclysmic. All the predictions of previous years of a possible breakdown of Western civilisation seemed to be in the process of being realised. In Victoria, where the ideological strength of both Catholicism and Communism had been greater than in the other States? the reaction was most marked. Dr, Mannix referred to the conflict as ‘a stand-up fight between God and the devil, and between Communism and Christianity’.1 The Advocate was packed with news of the war, arid with dramatic forecasts of what it could mean for Australia and for Christian civilisation.

The Victorian Catholic schools naturally reflected this intensified sense of alarm. The 1936 Annual Report for St Kevin’s College referred ominously to ‘Godlessness . . . imposed in the name of righteousness, fetters in the name of freedom, and untold atrocities in the name of humanity and constitutional Government’. Father Hackett, in his Annual Report for Xavier College, warned school-leavers that they were passing out into ‘a world more tortured and more upset than anything we have experienced’. The Report for St. Patrick’s College, East Melbourne, was almost entirely dedicated to the Spanish War and its effects. It spoke of a ‘Satanic Crusade of hatred and destruction’ emanating from Russia, and called on Catholics to rally ‘to save decency, morality, civilisation’.2

As the early months of 1937 passed, and the Spanish conflict entered a critical stage, an unprecedented wave of anti-Communism swept Australian Catholicism. In March this was augmented by the release of the Papal Encyclical Divini Redcmptoris. Appearing in the same month as the antiNazi Encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, it was the first major Papal document to be directed entirely against the ‘satanic scourge’ of International Communism. It represented the completion of the cycle through which Pope Pius XI had been forced to pass since the beginning of his pontificate, evolving from the mild Wilsonian liberal of 1922 into the militant crusader of 1937, rallying the forces of Catholic Christianity to a massive campaign to save civilisation from a resurgent paganism. Unlike most Papal documents the Encyclical was written in direct and forceful language.. It attacked the Communists from every angle, and was particularly blistering in its denunciations of their so-called ‘peace’ movements. It concluded by placing the onus for the defence of Christendom firmly on the shoulders of the ‘stalwarts of Catholic Action’.

The impact of Divini Redemptoris in Australia was extraordinary. As published in pamphlet form by the Australian Catholic Truth Society, its sales far outstripped those of any other A.C.T.S. publication of the decade, and in just over two years had mounted to 87,000. Next in order of bestsellers was a companion pamphlet, The Red Menace in Australia, by Sydney’s Father Leo Dalton, M.S.C.. which sold over 43,000 copies. Two other of the six most popular A.C.T.S. pamphlets for the period were likewise concerned with the Communist threat: For God and Spain, by Aodh de Blacam (published 30 December 1936, sold 30,000 copies); and A Cote chism of Communism for Catholic Youth (unsigned, published 10 October 1936, sold 25,000 copies).1 Furthermore, over 100,000 copies were distributed of a leaflet summary of Divini Redemptoris prepared by the Professional Men’s Sodality of St. Patrick’s College, East Melbourne.4 Thus the expansion of Australian Communism occasioned by the Spanish War was matched by a massive intensification of Catholic anti-Communism.

Within the Labour movement the first signs of a new Catholic solidarity became evident. In Victoria, moves to obtain official support for the Spanish Republicans were defeated in most major policy-making bodies of both industrial and political Labour, with the fierceness of debate indicating the strength of Catholic feeling on the issue.’ The Advocate frequently warned of the ‘white-anting’ of Labour organisations by the Communists, something it had never done previously; and it emphasised the ‘duty of every member of the Labour movement in Australia’ to oppose ‘by every means possible the capture of that movement by Communism’.6 If Communist strategies succeeded, it maintained, the Labour movement would be perverted, ‘as European Labour movements have been perverted, to be the instrument of forces hostile to religion and to genuine social reform’.’

At Melbourne University also a strong defensive outburst of Catholic militancy occurred. So effective were Catholic voices of protest at various pro-Republican meetings that the Students’ Representative Council in October 1936 passed a motion expressing concern that ‘certain press reports make it appear that the University has declared itself in sympathy with General Franco’, and dissociating itself from ‘any such expression of opinion’.’ The courteous relations which had previously existed between Campion men and Labour Club activists became strained; and Newman College displaced the Melbourne University Rifles as the centre of anti-leftist feeling on campus. Niall Brennan, who entered the University and the Campion Society in 1937, later recorded that his Catholic faith ‘Was never endangered, not because of my knowledge but because of the Spanish war.

I knew my team when I arrived at University, and with hardly a thought for Christ I became as militant a Christian crusader with fire-hose and flour-bag as ever marched into the Holy Land.’

The Campion Society as such did not participate in the controversy. That it refrained from doing so was attributable above all to Kevin Kelly, who insisted that as it aspired to be a model Catholic Action body, it must abide by the Papal regulations which forbad such bodies from engaging directly in political or pressure-group action;® Acting as private individuals, however, Campion men led the anti-Republican cause in Victoria, and few were more active in this regard than Kelly himself.

The culmination of the Spanish War dispute in Victoria occurred on the night of Monday 22 March 1937, when the Public Lecture Theatre at Melbourne University was packed to hear two teams debate the motion, ‘That the Spanish Government is the ruin of Spain’. This occasion not only revealed the strength of the Catholic case; it gave a foretaste of the ability of Victoria’s Catholics to mobilise en masse when they felt that their fundamental values and interests were seriously threatened.

Preceding the Great Debate, as it came to be known, were several weeks of correspondence controversy in the Age, and of challenge and counterchallenge between Campion men and Communists. Eventually agreement had been reached that a debate would take place on neutral ground, the University campus, under the auspices of the University Debating Society. On Kevin Kelly’s insistence, the motion to be contested was so worded that the Catholic team had only to condemn the Republican Government and not to support Franco’s administration as such.” Kelly, Santamaria, and Stan Ingerwersen — all leading University debaters — were chosen to defend the motion. The opposing team was made up of Nettie Palmer, a prominent Australian literary figure who had been in Spain at the time the rebellion began; J. W. (Jack) Legge, a third-year Science student and Communist Party member; and Dr. Gerard O’Day, who was well known as a fiery Communist and ex-Catholic. The latter team had been poorly organised: Legge had been asked to participate at the last moment, and had agreed to do so only because of the insistence of the Debating Society Secretary.12

On the Catholic side a great deal of organisation had gone into the affair. The Campions, anticipating Communist attempts to ‘stack’ the meeting, had passed, word through the C.Y.M.S. branch network that the debate was likely to be of major strategic importance to both sides involved, and that it was essential that every available Catholic young man arrive, and arrive early. The response was overwhelming: an audience of 1,500, ‘packed to a two-thirds majority by the Catholics’,13 filled the theatre to more than double its normal capacity. All seats were taken; the aisles were crammed; and large crowds had to be refused admittance. A squad of police was present to maintain order. Inside, the atmosphere was tense with excitement and apprehension.

There ensued an unforgettable two hours which carried the Catholic team to a resounding victory. Their case was tightly organised and presented with great dramatic effect. Kelly and Santamaria both gave stirring orations, closely reasoned and well substantiated; and Ingwersen thrilled the audience with his polished delivery, his control of irony, and his magnificent stage presence. The arguments of the first two were the tighter:14 but even so, it was undoubtedly Ingerwersen who emerged as the star of the evening.

The opposition speakers fared poorly by comparison. Nettie Palmer, calm and factual, could scarcely be heard; jack Legge, who was not an experienced debater, was hesitant and lacked force in his presentation; and Dr. O’Day, although a practised tub-orator, was goaded into making a violent attack on die Catholic Church, with the result that the end of his speech was drowned out by ‘hoots and groans’15 from the audience. The crowd was rowdy. Catholic and partisan. After Kelly had delivered the final speech the motion was put to the vote, and carried amid ‘unparalleled scenes of enthusiasm’. Santamaria’s cry of Tong live Christ the King’ — a phrase coined in the Mexican persecution — likewise drew thunderous applause.16

The ramifications of the Great Spanish War Debate were widespread and long-lasting. A combined effort by Campion men and young Catholic working-class militants from the C.Y.M.S. had given Victorian Catholicism a notable triumph in its first conspicuous clash with the representatives of its greatest enemy of the age. Communism. Catholic morale had never been higher; and a precedent had been set for concerted pressure-group action in the years ahead.

The left-wing forces at the University, on the other hand, were severely demoralised. Farrago, which at the time was controlled by Labour Club activists, gave only a tiny segment on its back page to a report on the debate, and even then it ‘doctored’ Dr. O’Day’s most controversial statement to make it appear less inflammatory than it was.’7 An acrimonious correspondence controversy on the affair was sustained in the paper for three weeks, and was then cut off. For the remaining two years of the Spanish War Farrago refused to print material on the issue. It was generally felt that too much heat and ill-feeling had already been generated on the campus over Spain; and that, in the words of one correspondent, ‘it is time we returned to what I had believed were the decencies of University discussion’.”

However, the wave of Catholic popular militancy was not yet ready to subside. On 18 April a large Spanish aid meeting in Geelong was attended by coordinated cadres of Catholics, the organisers of which were Father J. H. Cleary and the local Campion/C.Y.M.S. activists.’* The convenors of the meeting had contended that moneys raised would be expended impartially in assisting victims of the war; but the Catholics were disturbed to note that the proposed distributing agency was the English Joint Aid Committee, which they knew operated only in Republican-controlled areas of Spain. Their organised efforts on the evening were aimed solely at ensuring genuine impartiality in the apportioning of funds; and in this, despite determined opposition, they were successful.20 To all outward appearances, the meeting passed without incident. Again, however, the Catholics had felt their collective strength.

In Ballarat the controversy was conducted much more fiercely. During the early months of 1937 a long correspondence dispute over Spain occurred in the Courier, culminating in a public debate in the Town Hall on the evening of 21 April. Stan Ingwersen travelled down from Melbourne to accompany John J. Sheehan, a prominent local Campion man and C.Y.M.S. debater, in putting the Catholic case, with the motion again being: ‘That the present Government is the ruination of Spain’. Their opponents were A. C. Williams and E. J. Rowe, the latter a Communist, one-time C.Y.M.S. debater, and local Trades Hall identity.

The debate was almost an exact replica of the Melbourne one. Again the Campion-C.Y.M.S. organisational machinery was set in motion; again the massed forces of the Catholics arrived early, with the doors being opened a half-hour ahead of time to admit them;21 again Ingwersen stole the limelight. The audience, boisterously Catholic, gave an impatient hearing to Williams and Rowe, although the latter presented his case forcefully. Ingwersen’s final call for ‘Three cheers for General Franco and the crusaders of Spain’ brought forth ‘a tremendous response’. Mr. Rowe, according to the Courier, then rose and ‘called apparently – he could not be heard – for three cheers for something else – and a mingled storm of cheers and boos was the result’“

Ingwersen’s final hour of glory was yet to come. Less than two weeks after the Ballarat debate he travelled to South Australia at the invitation of the Catholic Guild for Social Studies. He was lodged at the Dominican Priory in Adelaide; addressed several Catholic schools; and gave a public lecture in the Australia Hall on ‘Spain and the Last Crusade’. On 5 May he organised the disruption of a meeting in the Town Hall which was being sponsored by the Spanish Relief Fund Committee.23 Five hundred men from assorted Catholic societies assembled at St. Francis’ Church, then marched to the Hall, spread around inside, and maintained such a barrage of questions and interjections that the Lord Mayor was forced to declare the meeting closed prematurely. Some scuffling occurred; and Ingwersen, protected by a body-guard, managed to mount the dais. However, his intention to deliver a short lecture was thwarted by the police, who ordered all present to leave the premises. Subsequently the demonstrators reassembled outside the Hall in King William Street, and sang ‘Faith of Our Fathers’, the stirring hymn which had become a favoured Catholic battle-song.24

By mid-1937 the heat was beginning to leave the Spanish War controversy. Republican supporters were becoming increasingly disheartened by the steady advance of Franco’s armies; and further to this, the Australian public was tiring of the constant disputation. Communism, however, was now a force to be reckoned with in this country; and the Catholics were aware that unless they organised themselves more effectively, the Communists could well increase in strength to the point where they represented a real national threat. Thus, not surprisingly, the Spanish War dispute was paralleled by a rapid acceleration in the rate of growth of the Catholic actionist movement.

During the course of 1936 the Campion Society had continued to expand. At the time the Spanish War was getting under way it had five Central groups, including a Junior Group; nine affiliated suburban groups; and country groups at Wangaratta, Ballarat, Bendigo, Sale and Albury.25 In Perth, Western Australia, a Campion-type society, the Chesterton Club, had been formed in July, with its foremost figure being Keith Spruhan, editor of the Catholic Record. It conducted four study-groups, and its members were helping to sell the Catholic Worker.34 In Brisbane, Queensland, a Campion Society centred on the Aquinas Library was founded towards the end of the year, its initiators being John P. Kelly and Arthur S. Hegerty;27 and in Townsville, several Campion groups were established by a Father D. Twomey.28

In Melbourne, the influence of the Campion in the Catholic media was further increased when Father James Murtagh was taken onto the editorial staff of the Advocate in 1936, and Frank Murphy in 1937.2* During 1936 well-attended lecture series were conducted at the University and at the Central Catholic Library; and the familiar work of lecturing and writing continued unabated. At the Annual General Meeting in August high praise was forthcoming from Archbishop Mannix, who declared that he had always had ‘the utmost confidence in the society.’, and that he regarded it as ‘the flower and fruit of the Australian Catholic school system’.30

In November 1936 Frank Maher resigned as President, and was succeeded by Murray McInerney.3’ Shortly afterwards the Society lost two established members to the priesthood, in Howard Bainbridge, a convert and scholar of liturgy, who left for Belgium to join the Benedictine Monks at Amay-Sur-Meuse; and Jack Beasley, a Dux of De La Salle College, Malvern, who entered the Vincentian novitiate in Sydney.32 Much more tragic was the passing of John Merlo, who died after a short illness on Sunday 6 December 1936. Married and with an infant daughter, Merlo had risen to the position of University lecturer in History at a time when academic appointments were virtually closed to Catholics. The death of this gifted and universally liked personality, an original Campion member, cast a shadow of gloom over the Society, and moved Denys Jackson to write an eloquent and touching tribute to him in the Advocate.33

With regard to external activities, the Society in September 1936 sought to cut down its correspondence work, and to answer many of the queries commonly put to it, by releasing a twenty-five page pamphlet, Prelude to Catholic Action. Published by the Australian Catholic Truth Society, it was distributed throughout the country via pamphlet racks and paper stalls in Catholic churches. It contained a Foreword by Father W. P. Hackett, S.J.; a short history of the Campion Society; extensive advice on the formation of study-groups; and a detailed syllabus and book-list. Its introductory pages painted a grim picture of the spread of paganism, totalitarianism, and anti- Christian persecution; and they reiterated the Pope’s urgent calls for a crusade of Catholic Action to save the Church and civilisation. However, the pamphlet asserted that the immediate task facing Australian Catholicism was that of training leaders and propagating ideas, which was only a prelude to the main campaign.

The real development can only come when the Hierarchy of Australia decides to organise Catholic Action on a national basis… It will come here when the Catholic people have awakened to its importance.

That this ‘awakening’ was progressing apace was everywhere apparent. As the Spanish War controversy mounted, and the Catholic sense of isolation increased, the Campion Society entered its period of greatest expansion. At the end of 1936 a fifth permanent Central group, the Chesterton Group, was created; and at the beginning of 1937 a record intake of thirty recruits necessitated the formation of three Junior Groups to replace the one previously existing.34 A series of lunch-hour lectures conducted early in the year at the Central Catholic Library proved popular, attracting average audiences of two hundred, ‘nearly all young people’. Gerard HefTey spoke on ‘Why a Catholic Cannot Be a Communist’; Frank Misell on ‘Fascist and Catholic – Are They the Same?’; Bob Santamaria bn ‘The Fight for Social Justice – Is the Church Reactionary?’; and others on ‘Christianity and Peace’, and ‘Race Suicide’.35 Later in the year a lunch-hour lecture series at the University was similarly well supported.34

In January two further Campion publications appeared

World Moves On (‘Campion Pamphlet No, V A.C.T.S. No, 732), which comprised a series of talks given by Frank Maher on the Catholic Hour, The other was a tiny brochure, The Campion, the contents of which were also printed in the Advocate of 14 January. Intended to attract new members, it played down the intellectual nature of the Society, insisting that the Campion was ‘not an organisation of highbrows’, and was ‘definitely not confined to University students’. It reflected a slight change of emphasis within the Society from the education of intellectuals to the formation of a broader class of young Catholic leaders.

The need for leaders was plentifully apparent in the extraordinary proliferation of study-groups which was taking place. Late in 1936 a Geelong Campion group re-appeared, being sparked into life by the Spanish War dispute. Most of its members were C.Y.M.S. debaters, with the key figures being John Toohey, a convert and Clerk of Courts, and Father James H. Cleary, both of whom were recent arrivals in the city.® At Warrnambool in 1937 a Campion group was founded by Brian Harkin, who had been transferred to the district a year before. Other Campion circles appeared at Ararat, Bacchus Marsh, Benalla, Daylesford, Horsham, and Iona.3* The Melbourne Campion sought to keep in touch with these groups by sending teams of representatives on periodic visits to the rural districts, the first such excursion taking place in June 1937.® Outside Victoria, groups Were formed at Port Augusta in South Australia,40 and at Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales. The Wagga Campion group, like that existing at Albury, operated informally, and consisted predominantly of Catholic professional and semi-professional men.41

Two new Catholic societies were also formed during this period as a result of Campion initiative. The first was the Assisian Guild for Catholic teachers, which was founded on 27 September 1936 at a teachers’ Retreat organised by the Wangaratta Campion group. Its name reflected the venue of its birth, the Franciscan Retreat House, ‘La Verna’, in Kew.42 The Guild’s main activities came to be the organisation of an annual teachers’ Retreat; the establishment of study-groups; the promotion of the Wangaratta Campion teachers’ circular, Epistles and Postcripts. and the magazine which succeeded it, ‘Tremendous Trifles; and the encouragement of Catholic teachers to take an active part in the Victorian Teachers’ Union.43 Within three years the Guild had 300 members, 250 of them women.”

The second Campion-inspired body to be founded at this time was the Clitherow Society, a women’s equivalent of the Campion. It originated in a small study-group of girls, many of them wives and girl-friends of Campion members, which had been established early in 1936.” By mid-1937 there were four groups meeting separately; and in July these combined to form the Clitherow Society, taking the name of the Blessed Margaret Clitherow, a contemporary of Edmund Campion who, like him, had been executed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. A Campion-based Constitution was drawn up; the Archbishop’s approval was obtained; and a study- programme with a more literary, less sociological bias than that of the Campions was adopted. The new society expanded rapidly, with study-groups being formed or admitted to affiliation in several Melbourne suburbs and some country centres.44

Another organisation which was founded in 1937 and which was subsequently to be of importance to the Catholic Action movement was the Catholic Boys’ Legion. In 1934 Archbishop Mannix had expressed concern at the lack of Catholic associations for boys who had left school but who were under 16, the minimum age for C.Y.M.S. membership.4′ Subsequently Catholic boys’ clubs had appeared in various parishes; and about the beginning of 1937 several of these, incorporating some 400 members, united in a loose federation, the Catholic Boys’ Legion.4′ The convenor and controller of this body was Father J. Lanigan, a gaunt, restless, Irish-born curate in his late ’thirties who disliked parish work. The main function of the Legion’s Committee was arranging an annual Australian Rules football competition; and for this reason an ex-A Grade player in the Victorian Football League, David Nelson, was chosen as President. Nelson was the leading figure in the Clifton Hill C.Y.M.S., the associated C.Y.M.S./Campion discussion group, and the Clifton Hill Catholic boys’ club. A Campion enthusiast, he sought to give the Legion a Catholic Action orientation;4’ however, Lanigan, who had no interest in Catholic Action, was impatient of his suggestions in this regard. Nelson was able nevertheless to run his Clifton Hill boys’ club along Jocist lines.”

Since the C.B.L. was almost entirely sport-orientated, a smaller blit complementary organisation was brought into being in mid-1937 to cater for the intellectual interests of the same 14-18 year age group. This was the Catholic Youth Movement, a discussion group federation, the founder of which was the parish priest of West Melbourne, Father J. J. Norris, a veteran Catholic activist of the Austral Light era. Within eighteen months of its establishment the Youth Movement had spread to ten parishes, and had seventeen discussion groups operating.51

This great upsurge of Catholic actionism, engendered as it was by the Spanish War furore, had one characteristic which worried senior Campion men, and that was an excessive preoccupation with Communism. The Campions, and the Catholic Worker, had always presented Capitalism and Communism as twin evils; and they had promoted Catholic social philosophy as a viable and constructive ideological alternative to both. In July 1937 Murray McInerney, writing in the first issue of Tremendous Trifles, the unofficial organ of the Assisian Guild, warned that if Catholics wished to avert ‘an Australian reproduction of the Spanish tragedy’, they would have to stop being merely negative and anti-Communist.

We will have to be positive—to go further and present… ways and means whereby the present social injustice can be ended and ‘a better economic order’ set up in its place.32

In November Ted Hennessy made a similar observation at the Annual Communion Breakfast of the North-East Catholic Debating and Sports Association. Qualifying sentiments expressed by preceding speakers, he warned that although ‘the Catholic Church’s crusade has been stated to be gainst Communism’, it was preferable to say ‘that its crusade was for social justice’.**

Yet, regardless of its negative bias, the general movement forged ahead. Letters directed to the Campion Society poured into the Central Catholic Library, requesting book-lists, study-syllabi, and advice of all kinds on the operation of study-groups. Enquiries came from all parts of Australia, and from as far away as New Zealand. In mid-1937 the Society was forced to hire rooms in the Perpetual Trustee Building in Queen Street, and to pay a member, W. Gordon Long, secretary of the Thomas a’Beckett Group, to work there three afternoons per week replying to correspondence.54

The Campions knew, however, that this could only serve as a temporary measure. In May Kevin Kelly, writing in the Advocate as ‘Campionus’, warned that if Catholic Action in Australia were not soon established on a formal basis, and backed by substantial resources, ‘the whole movement may be put back for ten years’.55 A month later Frank Maher publicly called attention to the ‘great need for some central secretariat’ to ‘direct and inspire’ the Catholic Action movement.55

Finally, on 5 July,57 a group of senior Campions visited Dr. Mannix and gave him their assessment of the situation. They requested him to seek the establishment of a National Secretariat of Catholic Action as a matter of urgency. The Archbishop was agreeable; and further, since the Hierarchy of Australia and New Zealand was due to meet in Plenary Council in September, he asked the Campions to prepare a detailed memorandum which he could present there. Subsequently a Memorandum Committee was appointed, consisting of Frank Maher, Murray McInerney, Kevin Kelly, Denys Jackson, Ken Mitchell, and Gordon Long; and regular drafting sessions were held at Newman College. The completed document, running to 15,000 words, was presented to Dr. Mannix shortly before his departure for Sydney for the Council.58

The assembled Hierarchy accepted the general recommendations of the Campion Memorandum, and on 13 September 1937 formally inaugurated Catholic Action for Australia and New Zealand. An Episcopal Subcommittee was appointed to establish in Melbourne an Australian National Secretariat of Catholic Action, and to oversee its operations. Archbishop Mannix was made Chairman of the Sub-Committee; Archbishop Simonds of Hobart became its Secretary; and Coadjutor Archbishop Gilroy of Sydney and Bishop Gleeson of Maitland were its remaining members.59

For the Victorian Campion Society this decision by the Hierarchy represented the high-point of six-and-a-half years of sustained effort. Australian Catholic Action, hitherto an unofficial movement relying on amateur enterprise, had now entered a new and more professional phase of its development.


1 Adv. 12 November 1936, p. 16.

2 See the 1936 Annuals at the respective Colleges; that of St. Patrick’s, East Melbourne, at the Latrobe Library.

3 Adv. 6 July 1939, i>. 3. A complete set of A.C.T.S. pamphlets is held in the Advocate offices, Melbourne.

4 By August 1937 ‘More than 70,000 copies’ had been distributed (Adv. 5 August 1937, p. 15); and by the end of 1938 ‘More than a hundred and forty thousand leaflets on Communism and other evils’ had been circulated by the Sodality in Australia and New Zealand—the great majority of them doubtlessly the Divini Redemptoris summary (Sodality report. The Patrician, 1938, Latrobe Library). A copy of the pamphlet (Sodality Sociology Series 1: Every Catholic Should Know Why the Pope Condemned Atheistic Communism) is in Box 6, Hackett papers, Jesuit Archives.

5 See M. Andrews, Isolationism and Appeasement, Chapter 4, passim.

6 Adv. 15 October 1936, Current Comment.

7 Ibid., 22 October 1936, editorial.

8 Cited in the Worker’s Voice, 23 October 1936.

9 Niall Brennan, A Hoax Called Jones, p. 36. Flour bombs and water bombs were employed by some of the younger enthusiasts from both camps in attempts to disrupt meetings of their opponents; and on at least two occasions attempts were made by Republican supporters to use fire hoses. One of these occasions was during the Great Debate, when a strategically-concealed Catholic police constable foiled an attempt to bring a fire hose to bear on the audience in the Great Hall through an opening in the roof —interview with Mr. David Nelson, 22 November 1971.

10 Interview with Mr. Justice McInerney, August 1967; memorandum, K. T. Kelly to author, 1970.

11 Memorandum, K. T. Kelly to author, 1970.

12 Interview with Mr. J. W. Legge, 17 June 1972.

13 Niall Brennan, op. dt., p. 37.

14 The only comprehensive contemporary account of the debate is in the Catholic Worker, 3 April 1937. Short reports appeared in the Age, Argus and Herald of 23 March 1937.

15 Argus 23 March 1937, p. 3.

16 C.W. 3 April 1937; C. M. H. Clark, Melbourne University Graduation Ceremony Address, 21 December 1974.

17 Farrago 5 April 1937 quotes O’Day as saying ‘no country had ever been ruined for refusing to support Catholicism.’ C.W. 3 April gives the pertinent sentence as: ‘What country, what nation has not profited by having the Catholics thrown out?’ The Argue 23 March 1937, p. 3, records that ‘Hoots and groans drowned the end of Dr. O’Day’s speech in which he attacked Catholic Christianity?

18 L. A. Moroney in Farrago 20 April 1937.

19 Interview with Father J. H. Cleary, 21 November 1972.

20 Ibid.; cf. Adv. 29 April 1937, p. 15; Geelong Advertiser 3 April, 19 April 1937.

21 Interview with Mr. Joseph Lynch (a Ballarat C.Y.M.S. leader of the time), 9 Jan. *72.

22 Ballarat Courier 22 April 1937, p. 4; cf. Ballarat Mail 23 April, p. 3; Adv. 29 April p. 15.

23 An account of the foundation of the Relief Fund Committee is given in Eric M Andrews, Isolation and Appeasement, p. 82.

24 Interview with Dr. S. Ingwersen, February 1967; cf. Workers’ W^My n May 1937

“Faith, of Our Fathers” was composed by the nineteenth-century Oxford convert F. W. Faber.

25 Prelude to Catholic Action, A.GT.S. No. 718, 10 September 1936, p. 21.

26 Michael J. Lane (Perth) to Heffey, 25 November 1936, H/B; Campion AG.M. report, Adv. 20 August 1936, p. 10; circular, ‘The Chesterton Club’, Box 9, Hackett papers, Jesuit Archives.

27 Campion Q.M. report, Adv. 3 December 1936, p. 23; telephone conversations with Mr. John P. Kelly, 16 March 1974, and Mr. Martin Haley (joined 1937), 15 March 1974.

28 Campion Q.M. report, Adv. 3 December 1936, p. 23.

29 Telephone conversation with Mr. Frank Murphy, 16 March 1974.

30 Campion A.G.M. report, Adv. 20 August 1936, p. 10.

31 Campion Q.M. report, Adv. 3 December 1936, p. 23.

32 Orders of the Day, January 1937, Box 6, Hackett papers.

33 Adv. 17 December 1936, p. 4.

34 Orders of the Day, January 1937, Box 6, Hackett papers.

35 Ibid., February 1937, Box 6, Hackett papers.

36 Adv. 29 July 1937, p. 12; cf. Campion A.G.M. report, Adv. 19 August 1937, p. 7.

37 Interview with Father J. H. Cleary, 21 November 1971. Two of the members—John Patterson and Roger O’Halloran—had been in the earlier (1934) Geelong Campion group. Among the others (of 1937) were D. P. F. O’Keefe, who frequently wrote for the Catholic Young Man as ‘Bonaventura’; and M. J. (‘Jock’) Travers, a C.Y.M.S. debater and prominent local trade unionist.

38 Campion A.G.M. report, Adv. 19 August 1937, p. 7.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid.

41 Members included a medical practitioner, a dentist, a solicitor, four school teachers, and a priest (Father B. W. Hayden): Interview with Mr. K. J. Smythe (an original member), 10 November 1971.

42 Epistles and1 Postscripts, November 1936, Box 6, Hackett papers.

43 Ibid., March-December 1936 (excluding July and September issues), Box 6, Hackett papers.

44 Assisian Guild A.G.M. report, Adv. 24 August 1939, p. 7.

45 Interview with Mrs. W. B. V. Knowles (nee Dorothy Baldwin), 16 February 1972.

46 Orders of the Day, July/August, October 1937, January 1938, Box 6, Hackett papers.

47 See 1934 C.Y.M.S. Annual Report, Catholic Young Man, December 1934, MAA.

48 Its existence was announced by Dave Nelson in a letter in the Advocate, 18 February 1937, p. 21.

49 Ibid.

50 Interview with Mr. D. Nelson, 22 November 1971.

51 See C.Y.M. Annual Conference report, Adv. 3 November 1938, p. 23.

52 Tremendous Trifles, July 1937. Copy in possession of Mr. Justice Mdnterney.

53 Adv. 18 November 1937, p. 24.

54 Memorandum, Mr. Justice McInerney to author, September 1967; cf. Campion A.G.M. report, Adv. 19 August 1937, p. 7.

55 ‘The Crux of Catholic Action’, Adv. 20 May 1937, p. 7.

56 Adv. 24 June 1937, p. 42. Speech at Catholic Men’s Club luncheon.

57 Date from 1937 diary of Mr. Justice McInerney.

58 Interview with Mr. Justice McInerney, August 1967.

59 See the official announcement by Archbishop Simonds of the inauguration of Australian Catholic Action (prepared subsequent to Archbishop Gilroy’s resignation from the Sub-Committee) in the Advocate, 20 January 1938, p. 9.