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Catholic Australia

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The early history of Catholic Australia is the story of the progress of the church from having no acceptance at all by the colonial authority through many false starts, until, with the appointment of a bishop, the place of the Catholic Church in Australia was confirmed. On January 26, 1788, one thousand Europeans arrived in Australia, at Botany Bay. In the very early years of the colony, only the Anglican religion was allowed to be practiced, because New South Wales was an English colony. The government ordered everyone to attend Anglican services, and if someone didn't, they were to have their rations halved. Attendance at church services was thought to be a good way to keep order and respect for authority. However, some Irish Catholics had arrived in Australia as well, and there was a lot of conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants. This was one reason that the first church wasn't built until 1793, and without government help. ...read more.


Rev. Marsden believed that Catholics were all likely to rebel and try to overthrow the governor. Protestants feared that if Catholics gained control, they would not be allowed to practice their religion. They barely tolerated the Catholics, but some felt that letting them have priests would stop them becoming even more violent and ignorant than they already thought they were. Governor King was very pleased with his Irish toleration experiment, and gave Dixon an official salary of 60 pounds a year. This experiment was not to last long. 300 Irish convicts rebelled at Castle Hill, in March, 1804. King was certain that Dixon's Mass had been used as cover for Irish meetings. He withdrew his salary and permission to hold Mass. King wrote to Hobart : '...and [I] have also been necessitated to withold the salary from the Romish priest Dixon, for very improper conduct, and to prevent the seditious meetings that took place in consequence of the indulgence and protection he received.' ...read more.


Replacements were called in, Fathers Power, Dowling and McEncroe. Therry couldn't get along with Power or Dowling, but he co-operated with McEncroe. McEncroe was also more acceptable to the colonial powers signaling a more hospitable atmosphere for local Catholics. In 1829, the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in England, removing much of the persecution of Catholics there. This was a sign that Catholics were becoming more accepted in the English society. In 1833 the Australian Church needed a person of authority, and William Bernard Ullathorne arrived as Vicar-General to be that person. He was an English Benedictine, which suited the local authorities who preferred to avoid Irish priests. Soon there was the need for a Bishop, and the man who was chosen for the job was John Bede Polding, who was also an English Benedictine. In 1835 there were twenty thousand Catholics around Australia, looked after by eight priests. The early Catholic priests in Australia did their best to provide for the pastoral needs of the colonies Catholics, despite their idiosyncrasies and the initial lack of acceptance and prejudice that they endured from the English government. ...read more.

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