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Origins of the Catholic Church in Australia

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Origins of the Catholic Church in Australia.

The first Catholics to come along to Australia, were amongst the first convicts to step foot on the shores of Port Jackson in Sydney. These Catholics were Irish in origin, and brought Catholicism to Australia, although Anglican Ministers were trying to stop the spread of Catholicism in Great Britain and her colonies. Most of the Irish who came here came here because of the British persecution of Irish Nationalists.

The first obstacle to Catholicism spreading came with the Passing of the so called, White Australia Act, 1903 which prohibited those with of non-white colour from successfully settling in Australia. After World War II, there then came a relaxing of the immigration prohibitions, the Federal Government under Prime Minister Menzies and Prime Minister Chiefly opened Australia's doors to immigrants of European origin, which brought over 1 million Catholics in a short period of time. This period brought dramatic change to the Australian Catholic Church.

The Church was not the centre of life as it was in Asia or in Europe. The separation of Church and State was clear, and the Church had nearly no influence in Politics. Australian Catholics focused on saints of Irish and English origin, while these saints held nearly no influence in other nations.

Catholic Practices Prior to 1962.

The Catholic Church prior to 1962 was very different to what it is today. Most things were practiced differently, such as mass, churches, and catholic participation in the church. This all changed when in 1962 the pope at the time called a council that would forever change the church.

Before this council, the way a church building would have been set out was very different. A church built prior to 1962 would have been built as if it were a large cross if you were to look at it from the sky.

Also, pre-1962, a Catholic Mass was very different. In a catholic mass prior to 1962, a priest would speak to the congregation in Ecclesiastical Latin and it was not practiced in the local languages. The people were not encouraged to participate. Practices such as Benediction, Novenas, and Rosary were practiced by the family as a whole. Benediction was on Friday nights where the whole family would attend. The novenas would be attended by children prior to important schooling events (held by the school itself) and the rosary was a family activity practiced after dinner. Abstinence was also a key part of being a Catholic pre-1962. It was practiced by all Catholics at the time as it was forbidden by the church to do many things.

Catholic Organisations

There were many Catholic Organisations in the time before 1962. Many organizations or Sodalities rather, helped with the disadvantaged and unfortunate within the Catholic Community.

* Legion of Mary: This sodality had its origins in Ireland and was founded by Frank Duff, a common man. Its role was to help the spiritual life of its members and help those who were sick and house-bound. They also helped explain the Catholic Faith to those who did not understand it. This was joined by the many parishioners.

* Young Catholic Workers: This organization was founded by a Father Joseph Cardijn who was from Belgium. The aim of the organization was to talk about the Gospels and teach what the Church Teaches to the wider community. This was joined by people who were in the Workforce.

* Theresian Club: This sodality helped the children from less enthusiastic Catholic Homes and taught them about their faith. They were mostly religious women, and they had many practices within the church.

The Roles of the Religious and the Laity.

The role of the clergy, or priests rather was to administrate the Catholic Schools, encourage the funding of the schools and church. The Nunnery was used along with priests, called the Lay Teachers to teach the laity in the schools. These teachers were used as they knew the basic religious teachings and were very cheap labour, and worked for practically free.

These teachers were valued as it was thought that what they taught was the orthodox teachings, but the reason above was a reason more so for letting they teach.

The Laity on the other hand helped fund the schools and go to church. They were encouraged by the clergy to help the church and become soldiers of the Lord, in other words, nuns, monks or Priests. But, the laity would often be scared by the clergy as they assumed that they were superior to the laity, being closer to God and all.

Catholic Education

The Catholic School is one to the key points of the Catholic Church in Australia. The starting point of the Catholic school as before 1872 when all schools, government or church were funded by the Colonial government, but then in 1872, the Free, Compulsory and Secular Act of 1872 passed through the Colonial Victorian Government, removing all state funding from Catholic, or Religious denomination schools.

This forced the Catholic Schooling System to charge fees to those who attended, but at the same time, the Catholic schools threatened the parents of children's with excommunication if they did not attend a Catholic school.

The parish priest acted as the principal, while they used the lay teachers as they were free to teach. Until the late 1950's Catholic Schools relied on the Catchechism for schooling of children. Class sizes were also very big, at times, lay teachers had upwards of 80 pupils to one class.

Relationships between Catholics and Non-Catholics

Before the Catholic Church had been reformed after the conclusion of Vatican II the relationship of Catholics and Non-Catholics was rather tense. All over Australia, Catholics were discriminated against in the workplace and in the government, sometimes in the eyes of the law. Segregation was very much apart of the relationship between Catholics and Non Catholics, one such example was on a World War One Conscription poster, it said, 'Catholics need not apply'.

In Public life, Protestants and Catholics used verbal and physical abuse against one another. It was also taboo for Catholics and Protestants to mix together, much like the segregation of the Southern US in the early 1960s. With this taboo came mistrust of either side. One Catholic Priest from the film, "Brides of Christ" was noted saying "You will be damned as the Worst protestant is damned", which pretty much summed up the feeling between Catholics and Protestants during the

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