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Rosemary Goldie and the Santamaria Split

  • 10 March 2010
Few 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