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Rosemary Goldie and the Santamaria Split

Crusade or Conspiracy: Catholics and the Anti-Communist Struggle in Australia, by Bruce DuncanFew women have played such an important recent role in the Catholic Church as Rosemary Goldie, who died on 27 February at the age of 94, after some years' retirement in the Little Sisters of the Poor at Randwick in Sydney.

From the early 1950s Goldie worked in the Vatican as secretary to Vittorino Veronese (later director general of UNESCO) in the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of Catholic Action (COPECIAL), which was encouraging the development of Catholic Action in various parts of the world.

She saw her work as helping to clarify the new roles for lay activity in the Church and in wider spheres, roles that were strongly endorsed by the Second Vatican Council.

She continued to develop the new direction, not just in her organisational role, but through her extensive range of personal contacts as well as her writings, including in European Catholic journals. She also lectured at the Pontifical Lateran University in later years.

Petite, open and honest in her views, Goldie was nevertheless very professional and conscientious in her work. She was also a gifted linguist, and understood well the theological debates of the time.

At a time when very few women worked at senior levels in the Vatican, Goldie earned the respect of colleagues and ecclesiastics, including the popes of her time. She was one of the few women auditors at the Second Vatican Council, and through COPECIAL contributed to the formation of Council documents on the lay apostolate.

Of special interest to Australians are her role and observations on the debates about the Santamaria anti-communist Movement from early 1954. I owe Goldie a special debt of gratitude because of her help in clarifying the views of the International Secretariat of Catholic Action about the Movement.

Goldie had met Santamaria in the 1940s when he gave some lectures at the Grail training course, 'The Quest', but she left Australia in 1945. While still a member of the Grail, she worked for Pax Romana, the international organisation of Catholic intellectuals. She went as a delegate for Pax Romana to the 1951 Congress of Catholic Action in Rome, but was caught up helping organise its 'chaotic' secretariate.

Her successful intervention there resulted in her accepting what became a long-term position as secretary in COPECIAL, where she also worked closely with Mgr (later Cardinal) Pietro Pavan, one of the leading thinkers in Catholic Action, and later the main author of Pope John XXIII's famous 1963 social encyclical, Peace on Earth.

Pavan was deeply influenced by the thinking of the philosopher, Jacques Maritain (whom Rosemary had heard lecture in France). He insisted on the distinction between Catholic Action, which was properly action undertaken under Church direction, and the 'action of Catholics', which was to be lay people acting independently in their social and political affairs, but with the inspiration of the Gospel and Church social teaching.

This matter had been of concern in various countries, and the international secretariat was intent on keeping the Church's Catholic Action organisations clear of direct political action.

In July 1953, Santamaria wrote to Goldie proposing a social action conference in Melbourne, which he intended to use to extend his model of direct political involvement by a Church organisation throughout South-East Asia. Goldie and her colleagues in the Rome secretariate were alarmed at the implications. She met Santamaria in Melbourne later in the year, but was unable to convince him of the need to keep Catholic Action out of direct political involvements.

Goldie maintained close contact with colleagues in Sydney and Melbourne, and acted as a conduit of information to the Vatican secretariate, as Santamaria pursued his efforts to set up his Pan-Pacific organisation on the Movement model, even after the Labor Split in 1955.

When the Sydney alignment of bishops went to Rome in late 1956 to appeal for Vatican intervention to resolve the Movement dispute, Goldie did some secretarial work for Cardinal Gilroy. The case for both sides of the Movement dispute was presented for the commission of cardinals to judge, and Pavan was nominated to present the case against the Movement model, which he did convincingly. The Vatican directed that the Movement was to cease its political activities.

Goldie continued to monitor the affair as it unfolded in following years, but was mainly involved with her work helping coordinate and encourage Catholic lay movements throughout the world. In 1959, she became executive secretary of COPECIAL, and in 1966 under-secretary for the Vatican's new Council for the Laity.

Goldie had no personal animus against Santamaria, and admired his dedication to defeating the communist hold on key trade unions, as well as his efforts to translate Catholic social principles into practical policies. But she was disconcerted by his refusal to concede the matters of principle involved in the Movement dispute, and dismayed by the Movement's defiance of clear directives from the Holy See.

Goldie blazed a path for other intelligent, committed women in fashioning new roles even at senior levels in Church organisations. Her autobiography was published in 1998, From a Roman Window — Five Decades: the World, the Church and the Catholic Laity (Melbourne: Harper Collins).

Responses to this article:

'Santamaria and the bishops in politics' — Gerard Henderson, executive director of the Sydney Institute, responds to Bruce Duncan's article

'Disagreeing with Gerard Henderson' — Bruce Duncan's rebuttal of Gerard Henderson's letter

Bruce DuncanBruce Duncan CSsR lectures at Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne and is Director of the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy.

Topic tags: bruce duncan, Santamaria, anti-communist movement, Rosemary Goldie, labor split



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Existing comments

I did not think I would ever applaud Mr. Santamaria, but find I do in his sticking to his principles and not alowing the Vatican to bully him. Oh for a Santamaria now to take up the cause to leave our English translation of our Liturgy(and the deeper issues this movement conceals) alone.

Questioner. | 09 March 2010  

Santamaria was always frowned upon in Sydney - rivalry between the two places? I am an admirer of his and his policy of independence. He has always been a staunch Catholic and did not mince words.

Peter M | 09 March 2010  

Thanks Bruce for reminding us of Rosemary Goldie's (undersung!) contribution. Open and honest in her views, professional and conscientious in her work, gifted and committed to using her gifts - a good formula for life!

Katie | 09 March 2010  

I am absolutely at a loss why something that occured half a century ago in a totally different world - even pre-Vatican 2 - has any relevance at all today; there must something of contemporary interest to write about.

PHILIP JOHN NEWMAN | 09 March 2010  

By way of rejoinder to Philip, I think any historical review or commentary, not just those of newly-arisen events, can be relevant and important today: we often learn lessons and see true patterns after some passage of time when the relationship of events is more clearly discernable. Our own bias may incline us to accept or reject particular analyses but, if we are conscious that we bring our own values and perceptions to any reading, we can check ourselves in a spirit of openness, and perceive and draw benefit from all reviews. The philosophical and religious motivations behind the differences between Mr Santamaria and his supporters and other Catholics and other Australians seem to me to still resonate today (albeit under different labels). Can we see the shortfalls in both, prompted by this review, and learn a better way? I think we can.

Stephen Kellett | 09 March 2010  

This one sided article gives plenty of detail of the forces mounted against Bob Santamaria's proposals.

Omission of any mention of support for Mr Santamaria's case in Rome illustrates the atmosphere he had to work in. Likewise the omission of any mention of support he received from Archbishop Mannix - one of the great minds, at the grass roots level, of the Church.

Pat Healy | 09 March 2010  

Whilst Bob Santamaria respected the Vatican, they were a long way away. As long as his work had the ongoing blessing of the great man Archbishop Daniel Mannix, it was always going to continue.

Peter Golding | 09 March 2010  

Strange how Bruce Duncan forgot to mention that Bob Santamaria had the support of Archbishop Mannix whose loyalty to the Pope and the Magisterium was second to none. What about the political involvement of Priests, Brothers and Nuns trying to defeat John Howard in the 2004 Federal election and joining the Labor party in 2007 fighting against John Howard

Ron Cini | 10 March 2010  

Several of your readers ask why I have neglected mentioning Mannix's support for Santamaria. My article was indeed partial, as it focused on Goldie's role. In my book, Crusade or Conspiracy, I have exhaustively examined the support Santamaria received not only from Mannix, but also from Archbishop Carboni, the Apostolic Delegate at the time. At the Vatican hearings on the case, Santamaria's view was ably put by Fr Messineo SJ to the cardinals. Santamaria was so convinced of his views that he was greatly shocked by the Vatican decision.

Bruce Duncan | 10 March 2010  

I notice a whiff of the old antagonisms rising from the current discussion over The Movement. Perhaps, after so many years, it should be acknowledged – maybe even with apologies – that those on both sides were acting honourably according to their own perceptions.

And it hardly needs be said that the study of history is valuable – even if disconcerting – so we won’t make the same mistakes again.

At a more technical level, there is no doubt that Bruce Duncan’s monumental book is the most comprehensive source of information about The Movement – including a substantial bibliography from which a wide range of opinions can be found.

There is also a less well known work – a Deakin University doctoral thesis by Andrew Campbell, 'Politics as a vocation: a critical examination of B. A. Santamaria and the politics of commitment, 1936-1957'. It is in-depth study of Santamaria and the forces that drove him.

Bob Corcoran | 10 March 2010  

An interesting article on Rosemary Goldie. I knew very little on her role. It is pleasing to have a women's role acknowledged. The Catholic Church has never been very good in acknowledging the role of women and feminist philosophy. It is disappointing that antagonisms still exist between conservatives and liberals - a lack of Christian spirit.

I have never had much time for people such as Bob Santamaria and his colleagues in the Movement and the National Civic Council; they were/are a disruptive influence in the Church, the Labor Party and the Trade Unions. We do not need extremists such as Bob Santamaria and others from both the left and right sides of politics.

Mark Doyle | 12 March 2010  

Where to begin?

Catholic Action = properly action undertaken under Church direction.
By "Church" I assume the author means the hierarchy of the Catholic church.
How pre-Vatican 2!
Post-Vatican 2:
"The Church respects and encourages the political freedom and responsibility of the citizen" (Gaudium et spes 76#3)
Except - it would seem - when politically active Catholics show the hierarchial Church that it knows next to nothing about the reality of politics in the factory, the boardroom, the university, etc.
Thank God! Mr Santamaria received guidance and support from the Jesuit Social Justice powerhouse, Belloc House, in Melbourne.

Uncle Pat | 15 March 2010  

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