Rock Choppers: Growing up Catholic in Australia
Penguin Australia, 241 p., $6.95 pb.
The decisive influence on Australian politics and culture has been the fact that our society has always included a large minority who, even if they considered themselves British, were definitely Irish and not English. The fact that this minority has been Catholic and, as a result, has felt itself discriminated against, has shaped the church into an Irish rather than a European mode, so that, as Campion points out, not only was to be Irish to be Catholic, but to be Catholic was to be Irish.
The first paragraph in Campion’s book describes his first university lecture, where he sees ‘a girl named Myfany ... a strange name I had never heard before, so different from the Eileens and Irenes and Kathleens of my boyhood. Its strangeness seemed to tell me that I was that day taking my first step outside the Irish-Australian Catholic world in which, up until then, I had lived, moved and had my being.’ Many of us felt the same way when we had our first encounter with black-garbed priests or nuns and found that they, too, were after all human.