Gerard Henderson takes as the subject of this important book the relations between the bishops of the Catholic Church and its lay organisation, the Catholic Social Studies Movement during the period from 1940 to the 1960s. The study is particularly welcome as neither Church nor Movement were given to public self-exposure. Henderson, by using the files of the National Civic Council and the minutes of relevant episcopal committees, has given us an insight into the conflicts within the church over its role in political activity in this period.
The key figure in the study is Mr B.A. Santamaria. As the driving force behind the CSSM and behind the postwar willingness of the church to speak out on social and political issues, Santamaria occupied a position of great influence within the church, especially in the period 1947 to 1954. Henderson characterises him as a ‘kind of quasi-bishop who ran a political machine and reported directly to the bishops’. He also says of Santamaria that he was engaged in no less than a crusade to ‘permeate’ Australian social and political organisations with the aim of imposing a Catholic social order.