Religion

George Pell is the most polarising religious leader Australia has had in recent decades, certainly since Daniel Mannix – perhaps since Samuel Marsden. For most of his career he has been loathed or adored for his sternly inflexible defence of a Catholic orthodoxy predating the second Vatican Council, his robust and sometimes ...

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This book came my way at the right moment. I read it in the week that the Royal Commission enumerated the fact that, so far, 4,444 individuals have brought cases of sexual abuse against Catholic institutions in Australia – a staggering number. I know of others who are still struggling to come forward and tell their story. The archbishop of Sydney described the res ...

According to A.N. Wilson, the Bible is badly misread by those fundamentalists, whether believers or atheists, who choose to read it in a literal-minded way rather than as ...

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‘Most history is simply lost.’ By means of a regular biographical column in the Jesuit magazine Madonna published over the past twenty-five years, Father Edmund Campion has preserved pieces of Australian personal history that might otherwise have been neglected, if not forgotten altogether. In this, the author’s second collection of biographical sketche ...

Simon Caterson reviews 'Mannix' by Brenda Niall

Simon Caterson
Wednesday, 25 March 2015

With her long-awaited life of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, Brenda Niall, one of Australia’s leading biographers, has conquered a subject that for decades she regarded as compelling yet ‘intractable’. ‘As a presence (I wouldn’t claim such a remote and magisterial being as a neighbour) Daniel Mannix was part of my childhood,’ Niall recalls. She grew up in the ...

Ray Cassin reviews 'The Prince'

Ray Cassin
Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Church leaders have rarely become national public figures, let alone objects of political contention, in Australia. Since Federation, the number who could be so described can be counted on fewer than the fingers of one hand. There is Ernest Burgmann, the Anglican prelate who earned the sobriquet ‘the red bishop’ for his espousal of left-wing causes during ...

Tony Coady reviews 'Why Priests?'

Tony Coady
Thursday, 26 September 2013

Garry Wills is a distinguished American historian whose writings over the past twenty years or so on the frailties of the Catholic Church, notably in such books as Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit (2000) and Why I Am a Catholic (2002), have provided stinging critiques of the institution to which he still steadfastly belongs. His new book, < ...

Ray Cassin reviews 'Unholy Trinity'

Ray Cassin
Monday, 26 August 2013

Many people have heard of Gerald Ridsdale, defrocked Catholic priest of the diocese of Ballarat and a notorious convicted paedophile. But comparatively few people have heard of Ridsdale’s contemporary John Day. A priest in the same diocese, he too preyed upon many hundreds of children who came under his pastoral care. Ridsdale, who for a time served as Day’s cur ...

Ray Cassin on The Life of Pope Pius XII

Ray Cassin
Monday, 27 May 2013

Not the least portent of change in the Catholic Church since the Argentine Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio was elected as Pope Francis earlier this year has been mounting speculation that the new pontiff will disclose all documents in the Vatican archives concerning the most controversial of his twentieth-century predecessors, Eugenio Pacelli, who reigned as Pius XII from 19 ...

Any recent ‘big picture’ church history will suffer by comparison with Diarmaid MacCulloch’s A History of Christianity (2009). That book discovers all manner of new evidence about this protean religion and opens up questions about its life in every age and across every continent. Even its subtitle, The First Three Thousand Years, wants us to appreciate that Christianity has to be understood through its origins in the Hebrew and Greek cultures of the millennium before Bethlehem. Geoffrey Blainey’s history begins more conventionally with the birth of Jesus.

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