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The right to be an agitator



In the 1982 High Court decision of Neal v The Queen, Percy Neal appealed his sentence of six months imprisonment with hard labour for serious assault. Mr Neal, an Aboriginal man who subsequently became the mayor of Yarrabah near Cairns in Queensland, had spat at Mr Collins, the manager of the local store, following an argument.

Main image: Raised fist at protest (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

The magistrate had described Mr Neal as an ‘aggressive agitator’, and in what Justice Murphy later described as a political statement, continued: 

‘I can say unequivocally that the majority of genuine Aboriginals (sic) do not condone this behaviour and are not desirous in any shape or form of having changes made. They live a happy life, and it is only the likes of yourself who push this attitude of the hatred of white authority, that upset the harmonious running of these communities.’

The High Court overturned what it found to be an excessive sentence. Of interest, especially in light of the current peaceful protests around Australia as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, is the context for Mr Neal’s actions. Justice Murphy described these in some depth — characterising the matter as a ‘race relations case’.

‘The evidence showed that Mr Neal and his fellow Aborigines (sic) at the Yarrabah Community have a deep sense of grievance at their paternalistic treatment by the white authorities in charge of the Reserve, including Mr Collins. The Council and Aboriginal members of the Community had no control over what was sold at the store under management of Mr Collins. The evidence… was that although Mr Neal complained that Mr Collins sold rotten meat, Mr Neal and the Aboriginal Council were powerless to do anything about it, apart from making representations to departmental officers.’

The Neal decision is an example of the over-reaction of the law to ostensibly minor actions taken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that inevitably lead to the disproportionate incarceration of Indigenous people. But it also speaks to the daily experience of many Indigenous communities.

This was a point made at the 7th June Cairns Black Lives Matter protest. Terry O’Shane, a member of the North Queensland Land Council board, pointed out to the crowd that Black Lives Matter was about much more than deaths in custody — as important as that issue was. He reminded those present that we stand on stolen land. That the country is profiting from the free labour of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples — in mining, pastoralism, the pearling industry, and infrastructure — the labour of all those who never came home.


'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples already bear an "unnecessary and unacceptable risk". This risk is so bad, and government is so intent on ignoring it, that communities have taken to the streets.'


He said that Black Lives Matter is not just about incarceration rates. It’s everywhere.

This was the point missed by Senator Mathias Cormann on Sunday when he described those ‘recklessly’ attending demonstrations as ‘incredibly selfish…incredibly self-indulgent’. He asserted that attendance at protests imposed ‘unnecessary and unacceptable risk on to the community’. 

The reason that protests are occurring in Australia — and around the world — is a persistent and abject failure in governance that represents not just an issue for particular individuals, but an issue for society as a whole. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples already bear an ‘unnecessary and unacceptable risk’. This risk is so bad, and government is so intent on ignoring it, that communities have taken to the streets.

It is not a question of self-indulgence that brought Australian crowds out in their tens of thousands. It is a question of survival for Indigenous people.

Governments have had a choice for a long time, and they had a choice in advance of the protests. It is government that has the power and the capacity to implement the structural change that our society needs so that all might reach their potential. It is government that might have extended an invitation for round table, socially distanced, conversations to work through the solutions to the ongoing struggle experienced by Indigenous people.

Instead we saw only patronising invocations to stay at home.

If our governments fail to roll out frameworks of good governance when times are good, they cannot expect to have the trust of the people during a crisis. So long as Australia fails to enter into proper legal relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we will see protests, and ‘agitators’ will continue to call for justice. Justice Murphy observed in Neal v The Queen:

‘As Wilde aptly pointed out in The Soul of Man under Socialism, “Agitators are a set of interfering, medding people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation.” Mr Neal is entitled to be an agitator.’

And so are we all.



Kate GallowayKate Galloway is a legal academic with an interest in social justice. She is presently associate professor of law at Griffith Law School.

Main image: Raised fist at protest (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)


Topic tags: Kate Galloway, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Percy Neal, Black Lives Matter



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Existing comments

Kate you are absolutely right. However if you tried expressing those sentiments in HongKong (for example) you could disappear without a trace. We are lucky to be able to express our opinions. As for spitting, the reason it suddenly became so serious was because of Aids. Amongs other things Jesus was spat on because he was an agitator for change in the religious caste system in Jerusalem. He bore it stoically showing none of the outrage of your good Mr Collins. Again you are right. Our successive governments have been totally paternalistic in dealing with Aboriginal Communities and expect them to be content with minimalist handouts rather than make any move toward self determination.

Francis Armstrong | 11 June 2020  

The only place for agitators is in "washing machines"!

Grant Somonsky | 11 June 2020  

The single and most overwhelming reason for Aboriginal incarceration ... is 'domestic violence' including child abuse - where special provisions for cultural difference are already unable to stem the flow. The 'survival' of Indigenous people in Australia is anything but 'under threat' - there are special programs and support for Aboriginal people all over Australia - including a specialised Health service and specialised housing - specialised employment and specialised entry into Tertiary Education available for Aboriginal people. Australian police do not murder Aboriginal people in the streets and there is absolutely no basis whatever for Australia to mimic the American BLM movement except to please the Communist Party of Australia which organised the BLM marches. Mathias Corman is correct in accusing the demonstrators of being selfish ... they have ignored the privilege that has been heaped upon Indigenous people for over fifty years.

Patrick McCauley | 11 June 2020  

A reserve, being at some distance from an urban centre which is located where it is for rational economic reasons, becomes a captive market of low-income individuals forced, because of transportation costs, either to pay beyond their means for goods of adequate quality or within their means for goods of inferior quality. You can abolish the reserve and move the residents to a more economically rational location where the welfare payment will produce more bang for the buck or where the recipients might go off welfare into employment, re-interpret equality of citizenship to interfere with natural supply and demand and subsidise the goods, re-interpret equality of citizenship by increasing the welfare payment because of the location, or transform the reserve into an economically productive unit so that it becomes an economically rational location for a population, like a mining town. In any case, the human being, with six trillion brain cells, is not designed to be a life-long tenant of a crib. At least, in those circumstances, agitation is a sign of life.

roy chen yee | 11 June 2020  

We are all entitled to be agitators? Not if you’re UQ student Drew Pavlou. He was just 6 months away from graduation, but was suspended by the university for 2 years because of his on-campus activism supporting Hong Kong freedom fighters, and for criticizing UQ’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The Left, who once stood by oppressed workers to better their conditions, now stand up for the powerful to silence dissent. Australian universities have grown fat on the Chinese Communist Party’s money. And academics, who now depend on this largesse for their positions of privilege, don’t want agitators disrupting a “perfectly contented class of the community.”

Ross Howard | 11 June 2020  

Morrison suggested that the planned protests could cost 25 billion dollars. He knows the connection between life and dollars. so here is the question. If Australia had spent that amount or even half that amount on implementing the recommendations of the Deaths in Custody Royal Commission would there be any need, or desire for a protest. Then Cormann suggests the protesters do 'something useful'. Could that be, if he is a model, the 2014 Budget or his betrayal of his mate Turnbull?

Michael D. Breen | 11 June 2020  

The mass protests were irresponsible. My friends put up red yellow and black stramers and I walked past plackards posted on gates that “Black lives Matter”. The protesters proved that to them the lives of the “at risk persons” such as the Elderly and Indigenous did not matter.

Anna | 12 June 2020  

How does taking unacceptable risks in spreading the (allegedly) deadly coronavirus amongst demonstrating aboriginal activists and their allies outweigh the unacceptable risk of (alleged) racial discrimination? Who is holding the set of scales? At some point the virtue-signalling rhetoric has to touch base with reality or all credibility is lost.

HH | 12 June 2020  

a friend of mine who works in emergency department at a local Melbourne hospital was spat on and abused while trying to help a patient who presented themselves for emergency treatment. as a result she has been on stress leave for over six weeks where is her justice?

lex miller | 12 June 2020  

Dear Kate, there are different kinds of agitators. Take the agitator of a washingmachine. The agitator is supposed to quietly rotate and mix the water with the soap and the clothes. HOWEVER, when it rotates so strongly that it tears the clothes to threads and makes the machine shake the foundations of the laundry I would say, call the mechanic.......

Marcel WERPS | 12 June 2020  

If, as prominent Black Lives Matter movement agitators accuse, racism in "White" society is structurally inherent, it's a wonder that countries such as America and Australia that allegedly perpetrate and perpetuate "systemic" injustice are able to bring those charged to trial at all. Personal responsibility seems to be a factor conspicuously lacking in exclusively race-constructed narratives of society. Without acknowledgement of its part, the story, to say the least, is incomplete; and agitating voices have a hollow ring.

John RD | 14 June 2020  

When I read most of your responses, Kate, I realise just how far down the evolutionary ladder we still are. In comparison with Europe (our closest 'cultural' neighbours) our infection rates are commendably low. Does this mean that we accept the bleak, paternalistic hand of authority and sanction at the expense of recognising and acting on urgent and timely impulse when the occasion calls for it? Primitive, I'd call it!

Michael Furtado | 15 June 2020  

It is interesting that, in Western Australia, the Attorney-General, John Quigley, is attempting to limit excessive charges from Perth-based professionals on the trust funds of Aboriginal communities generated by the mining industry. This is one example of a government doing something worthwhile for Indigenous people in this country. One of the problems I have with the recent BLM marches is the piggybacking on them by certain people, such as the two young women charged in connection with defacing Captain Cook's statue in Hyde Park. To me there seemed to be an anarchic, even nihilistic, tone to this. There seems to be an underlying theme amongst certain sections of the community, not mainly Indigenous, who are highly privileged themselves, that Australia is some sort of racist, misogynist, homophobic and everything-else bad country whose whole foundations need to be torn down and rebuilt. This is basically a Marxist view. It will lead, not to an Earthly Paradise, but to a morally constricted Brave New World. Justice for Indigenous Australians can be achieved without going down this path.

Edward Fido | 16 June 2020  

An impressive example of government support which brings a reality check to the charge of "systemic racism" that has become a "buzz word" in media commentary - spreading almost as quickly (though without the same intensive scrutiny) as the Corona-19 infection - is the "Aboriginal Pathways Program" offered by universities which offer - and have for some time - courses in Literacy, Numeracy, Culture and Country, and Digital Technology specifically designed to meet the needs of indigenous students. To regard such provision as "paternalistic" is regressive and counter-productive to genuine efforts in education that seek to "close the gap".

John RD | 16 June 2020  

In the aftermath of the Reformation, Catholics will recall that statues were demolished as a form of idolatry and to expunge Protestant Christianity of/f the more obvious signs of a clerical regime that was widely regarded as sullied, extravagant and corrupt. Catholics, meanwhile and especially in the Anglosphere, stood powerlessly by and regarded this as a barbarous form of mob-violence. Over the centuries that have elapsed some forms of accommodation and appreciation of the complexity of factors resulting in such a fracture between the two sides has been achieved culminating, for some, in toned-down expressions of the liturgy that have embraced simplicity, authenticity and an up-to-dateness with contemporary cultural modalities. In my youth I was struck by the similarities between Catholic and Hindu religious statuary, and I recall my Jesuit form master, Fr Gilson, explaining that Catholic depictions of Hell and everlasting punishment were not far removed from depictions of the Goddess Kali, who is the Patron of Evil, much in the manner in which Christians have portrayed the Devil. Perchance Edward has missed the symbolism behind extremes of agitative behaviour in his critique of those who deface statues, while people like Rayshard Brooks lie shot to death beneath them.

Michael Furtado | 16 June 2020  

M.F. : The fact that pagan religions have approximated Catholic truth on some points is not at all surprising. Indeed, it is to be expected if the Catholic account of revelation, divine and natural, is true.

HH | 18 June 2020  

At a time when the editors of Eureka Street are as commendably anxious to maintain a revenue stream to support the work of social justice, as they equally commendably hand-wringingly strive to maintain civility of commentary, I find it hard to measure the 'Yes; but' pernicketiness of some fundamentalists here against events on the global stage that within the past week have seen a man arrested for drunk-driving shot and killed for attempting to flee the scene of a drive-by food outlet where he was detained for a breathalyser, after an interrogation that took more than forty minutes. The high drama of this event, following on the footsteps of a similar incident in which a similar person was suffocated to death by the forces of law and order, highlights the point about the legitimacy - nay the necessity - of agitation if we are all to survive, which is surely Professor Galloway's point. That naysayers here should appeal to Revelation to justify their position when Mary's Prophecy alludes to the mighty, whether statuesque or not, being toppled from their thrones, surely invites the tragic observation that sometimes to 'scratch the Christian is to find the pagan spoiled' (Zangwill, II, 6).

Michael Furtado | 18 June 2020  

The more florid and abstruse the rhetoric, the more one suspects that the actual argument is being desperately avoided. There's daylight between Cicero and his imitators.

HH | 19 June 2020  

HH, what on earth has my reference to Kali and Hindu religious cosmology got to do with your commendable distaste for false gods, unless one of them happens to be the problematic disagreement at hand about agitative justification? If so, and were you to forsake the fig-leaf of acronymity, you might reveal yourself as conservative and also white, privileged and therefore blindly content to observe the niceties of a politeness code that serves as an inaccessible slur of contempt for the down-trodden. While I'm sure there's no loftier riposte than your appeal to Cicero, I well remember Shylock's plea in The Merchant: 'O Father Abram! What these Christians are, whose own hard dealing teaches them (to) suspect the thoughts of others!' (I. iii. 161)

Michael Furtado | 20 June 2020  

Michael Furtado: “'O Father Abram! What these Christians are, whose own hard dealing teaches them (to) suspect the thoughts of others!' (I. iii. 161)” Isn’t Shylock projecting onto Antonio what he thinks Antonio is projecting onto him? But, is it ‘projection’ to be as cunning as a serpent (while being as gentle as a lamb)?

roy chen yee | 21 June 2020  

I have a real problem with meaningless, unjustified rage resulting in senseless violence, Michael Furtado. Jesus was definitely never into that. His anger and the resultant action were always justified and proportionate, as with the money changers in the Temple. Jesus was not into destroying society, but reforming it. The riots in Chicago following on from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis are reported to have caused a devastating effect mainly in Black areas to Black Americans. Someone like Mahatma Gandhi was not interested in destroying the symbols of British rule in India, but gaining Independence from the moral high ground. His vision of India was not Hindutva but one that embraced everyone of every religion. It seems to me that many who claim association with the BLM movement lack the unifying vision of Martin Luther King and Gandhi who inspired him.

Edward Fido | 21 June 2020  

Au contraire, Edward; every public statement I'm aware of on behalf of the global Black Lives Matter movement has invoked the examples of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Apart from the predictable RMWFs (i.e. reactionary myopic white fundamentalists) on show here - with the possible exception of Roy Chen Yee, who woefully misreads my point about Shakespeare's own racial stereotyping of Jews - every public figure on record has endorsed the impressively peaceful displays of global protest following upon the murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. What a pity you fail by your own excellent standard of appeal to the principle of moral proportionality when you cannot see that the overwhelming balance of violence blindly perpetrated by the privileged has for many centuries been on one, generally White, side! And, BTW, despite Gandhi's peaceful agitation, the British imprisoned him whenever he went on fast and he successfully appealed to others to follow his examples of non-violent protest. As usual, its not the violence of the protests but the effectiveness of agitation that has taken the mighty unawares. Or maybe its the fragility of White bystanders in the currently unfolding drama of the global BLM movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU

Michael Furtado | 22 June 2020  

Your hunch is good, M.F. I'm unapologetically white ( I won't pretend to be otherwise ), conservative (actually more paleo-con, but let's not split hairs) and (worse) male, and (worse again) a bit elderly, and, yes indeed, immensely privileged. Privileged, that is, to be able now to devote myself to caring full time for an increasingly dependent older sibling - someone who might easily in the current climate be declared a "life unworthy of life" - whom I nevertheless love dearly and who has given me much more over a lifetime than I could ever give back. I could wish for nothing more than this honour ... except, of course - the overriding desideratum - to abide to my dying breath in the One True Faith. By all counts, then, I'm abhorrent to the current zeitgeist. Frankly, my dear M.F., I don't give a damn. God bless, and, in all sincerity, "Oremus pro invicem."

HH | 22 June 2020  

HH, you sort life out by labelling yourself as a member of This group, as opposed to That. We’re Us; they’re only Them. Your classification only works for a while; though, because old doubts with stronger reinforcements return, lots of extra-terrestrial post-mortal supernatural paraphernalia accrue - solemnly asserted or dismissed - and backed up not only by enthusiastic numbers and quotations, but even by heaps of ceremonial, artistic, visible, volumed, audible and quasi-dance entertainment, accompanying solemn and even difficult practices, which latter tend to increase their credibility, their aura of divinely conferred infallibility for us. And like that sentence, we feel we really ought to shut up and that we're in past our depth. So shut up we do, to everyone’s relief, and go along, or if not, then just quit. Now here's the thing. Avoid self-pity: life without defences is utterly fulfilling. Be alive to every nudge inside you. Interrogate the one that says: 'Trump is my saviour. I shall not want'. Get back in the ring, but not the Fortress Catholicism that you describe. Don’t fall into the have-to trap, especially in the spiritual arena. Listen to the Spirit. Go along with it. Life is bigger than death!

Michael Furtado | 23 June 2020  

I think there are those who might be tempted to accuse you of being a Sophist with your use of what appears to be a variant of Woke Rhetoric, Michael. I have not read anything which appears like a RMWF post on this thread. The ghastly heritage of slavery still haunts the USA. I have seen enough evidence of copycat rioting - not protests, straight out rioting - devastate the Black community there. This to me is just anarchy, which destroys society. I do not think the polarised thinking which sees all Whites as bad and responsible for crimes which occurred long ago or all Blacks as automatic victims helps anyone. Someone like the late Beyers Naude was very much part of the struggle which overthrew Apartheid in South Africa.

Edward Fido | 23 June 2020  

Nice of you to gently caution against the dangers of sophistry, Eduardo carissimo, but there's nothing WOKE about poor old incorrigibly culturally-Mediterranean me. My insights into agitation incline towards my pulse being raced by the Holy Spirit, Who, I like to imagine, especially in times like these, goads us into radical loving action while we try to shackle Her with mildly moderato WASP warnings, urging prudence, and manifestly here on show, that She torridly shakes off with a toss of what I imagine to be Her fiery female baroque tresses. Bartoli - and Vivaldi, of course! - unerringly nails this concept with the following outstanding bravura performance. Enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6czLBVqo_zw

Michael Furtado | 24 June 2020  

Thanks for your apologia, HH. I commend you for caring for your sibling but note that the Gospel injunction is to love your enemy; though I suppose it points to a perverse kind of logic that, in order to love another, one has to make an enemy of them first! As to the 'One True Faith', I imagine that most who contribute here subscribe in one way or another to the same overall Christian belief. The critical question then is what construction of Jesus do you subscribe to, since the arch-prophet of the paleo-conservative Fortress Christianity that you enthusiastically endorse is, widely acknowledged to be Donald Trump. I, for one, given today's news of the prosecution of a White policeman and his adult son for the slaughter of the African American, Ahmaud Arberry, while he was out jogging in Georgia, cannot subscribe to a faith that says: 'Trump is my shepherd; I shall not want.' Indeed, I feel privileged to be described as an agitator in Arberry's shocking cause. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8326053/Ex-cop-shot-dead.

Michael Furtado | 25 June 2020  

Yes, Michael Furtado, the question Jesus himself poses "Who do you day I am?"(Mtt.16:15) is critical. But its answer is not a construction of the individual in isolation from the belief of the Church to which Christ has entrusted his self-revelation and the mission of making himself known and loved. For Catholics, the heuristic conditions of his identity are Scripture and the Apostolic tradition. No justice is done to this critical question and its practical implications by dismissive caricature of the faith affirmed by those who refuse to have Christ and his gospel reduced to an ideological construct.

John RD | 27 June 2020  

M.F.: “… though I suppose it [the command to love your enemy - HH] points to a perverse kind of logic that, in order to love another, one has to make an enemy of them first!” With respect: as a matter of logic, a command to “love your enemy” does not as such perversely imply that one must love only your enemy. And as a matter of simple exegesis, the relevant biblical passage, in context, is urging us to love not only our neighbour, but even our enemy, just as, for example, in other parts it condemns not only adultery, but even the intention thereof. Just as we are forbidden by Our Lord to commit adultery, even in the mind or heart, so we are enjoined by Him to love all, neighbour and enemy alike.

HH | 28 June 2020  

M.F.: “… though I suppose it points to a perverse kind of logic that, in order to love another, one has to make an enemy of them first!” With respect: as a matter of logic, a command to “love your enemy” does not as such imply that one must love only your enemy. And as a matter of simple exegesis, the relevant scripture passage is urging us to love not only our neighbour, but even our enemy, just as, for example, in another part of His sermon Our Lord condemns not only the act of adultery, but even the intention or wilful desire thereof. Anyway, that’s my “Fortress Christianity”, elderly white immensely privileged male Trump-is-my-shepherd construction of it, FWIW.

HH | 29 June 2020  

I couldn't be more in agreement with you, HH; for, if you had read me as I intended, my point was that it is relatively easier to love a friend than an enemy, as I think it was Our Lord Who also meant that in His various disquisitions on love and justice. I am accordingly unable to follow your tangential segue into adultery and its attendant moral pitfalls, though I note that we are enjoined not to judge in case we too, and especially the Pharisees amongst us, are also judged. My main concern for you is your reckless endorsement of paleo-conservatism, which, insofar as you equally proudly proclaim your membership of the One True Faith, rather raises the question of how that arch paleo-con, Donald Trump, stands alongside equally proud White you, on the same day in which he tweeted his support for a White Nazi racist. In losing yourself in a labyrinth of your own creation you invite the criticism of John RD who, in flying to your assistance, hoists you and your paleo-conservatism on his pet anti-ideological petard, often trundled out by John when the prospects look somewhat grim for his side of conservative politics and theology.

Michael Furtado | 29 June 2020  

M.F., I can’t help noticing that, after citing the biblical injunction not to judge (which is really about *rash* judgement, according to the authorities), you launch into a litany of judgments as to my “reckless” paleo-conservatism, my “proud” whiteness, the implied evil of the supposed “White Nazi racist” - who was, on the evidence of the tape, just ironically and humorously hitting back at the ridiculous and hate-filled epithets hurled at him by the mob - and the “pet anti-ideological petards” of John RD. Speaking for myself: you don’t know if I’m a “proud” white or a modern day Manichean self-loather. Well, truth to tell, I love being what God created me as: white and male. But - I’m sorry if this doesn’t compute - I equally love. and thank God for, black people being black, and God knows how I would cope if women weren’t women. I'm deeply racist: I unapologetically aver that the West Indian black batmen are by far the most beautiful strokemakers the game of cricket has ever seen, closely followed by the Indian and Sri Lankans, with the stodgy, ever so correct, white English and Australians way behind, a poor crop at best (Bradman excepted). I have lifelong friends (and probably enemies, mea culpa) of all colours. One of my favourite saints is the freakish Martin de Porres, O.P., a mulatto. I also love St Augustine, who hailed from present-day Algeria. And I worship Our Lord, who, needless to say, was both divine and a not-white male, but whose Church is the Ark, His mystical (not specifically white!) body, outside of which there is no salvation.

HH | 03 July 2020  

HH, I was amused by the stock caricatures you draw. Our audience surely recognises them immediately for what they are: cheerful, one-dimensional figments of the white male imagination of the Sixties. Unlike you, as a gay youth I saw the Windies and Aussies as deliciously sinewy objects of my hungry sexual imagination. Lithe gods were they! As for the 'girls', well into the Fifties our screen goddesses were being tied to sofas, tripping over lilacs and getting rescued for a living: housewives first, glamour-pusses second, meat-parcels ripe for devouring third, and persons a poor fourth, while ridiculing the maiden aunts and nuns of the time, purely functional items in the white male gender repertoire, and always, always cast to play the dolly-bird interest but never, never the principal part. Indeed so ingrained were these tropes that drawing room tenors like brown moi were co-opted into strutting their stuff (at the Oxford Playhouse, as it happens for those who demand verification) singing 'Girls were Made to Love and Kiss', hopelessly unsuccessfully as it happens, not just musically but in respect of my later, annulled marriage. Cut - not just the Manicheism - but the solipsisms that construct God in your image!

Michael Furtado | 04 July 2020  

Sorry to hear about your being distracted from high quality cricket, M.F. I daresay Fr. Tanqueray might have suggested that, to avoid occasions of sin, it would be prudent for you to follow the tests on the radio.

HH | 06 July 2020  

HH: “follow the tests on the radio.” The slowness of cricket is not the same as the slowness of chess. With chess, the viewer is like a God, seeing the past, present and future all at once. With cricket, if there’s nothing to see on the field, what is there to hear on the radio?

roy chen yee | 07 July 2020  

That wouldn't have worked, HH, because, as a counter-tenor myself, I am especially attracted to the male voice, whether celebrating the thwack of willow on leather or not. However, introduced by a cousin, Julius Lipner - then a junior don - to Mgr Gilbey at Cambridge in 1965, I was intrigued by the monsignor's shrill falsetto as well as his exquisitely effeminate mannerisms, thought to reflect his upper-class, gin-distilling background. Apropos this tete-a-tete, Mgr Gilbey rejected, as you evidently do, any suggestions of equality and democracy. For him, and like you, it was self-evident that different classes and races had separate roles to play, and he could see nothing wrong with it. He insisted, as you do, that this did not imply for him that one group was of less value than another. He unashamedly pointed to the misery that the abandonment of traditional values had caused, wearing buckled shoes, gaiters, a cape and biretta at all times. Vatican II was also apoplectically anathematic to him and he obtained permission from Rome to celebrate the Tridentine Mass at all times. In that same year he was removed from his chaplaincy for refusing to open it to women. What about you?

Michael Furtado | 07 July 2020  

A great man. His “We Believe” (Tan Books) is one of the best descriptions of the Faith ever written. Gilbey brought hundreds, if not thousands, into the Faith. I’ve never believed in equality, except when it cashes out as dealing with each person according to natural justice. And modern democracy – the “will of the people” above all else – has proven to be what Aristotle suspected: a cover for mob rule. As to classes and races, my friend Madeleine Beard in her memoir quotes Gilbey saying: “We need to take stock of ourselves and try to assess accurately the circumstances in which Almighty God has placed us - the circumstances of time and sex and colour which he has chosen for each one of us from all eternity. We need to go further and to try and identify the whole complex pattern – no less surely chosen by Almighty God – of gifts and handicaps which is the character of each one of us. And having identified them as accurately as we can, we have then to accept them not sullenly, unwillingly, because we can have no other, but whole-heartedly, lovingly and gratefully as the choice of Almighty God and therefore the best possible… This acceptance, of course, does not mean that we give way to the weaknesses of our character but that we recognise them, accept them as an objective fact, do all in our power to overcome them, and are not discouraged by our failures to do so, knowing that the weaknesses, however much we may succeed in disciplining them, will be with us to the end. Above all we need to avoid those fruitless flights into unreality, wishing that we were of another colour, or race or class or that we were born in another period of time, or of other parents or that we were free of those faults of character which we find so humiliating.” Magnificent Catholic wisdom. And as for women and his Cambridge chaplaincy: 1. AFAIK, Gilbey resigned from it. He was not “removed”. 2. Catholic Cambridge women had their own Chaplaincy at the time. 3. He had wanted to retain the quasi-monastic spirit of his male Fisher House Chaplaincy. I support his wish there just as I do womens’ health clubs and the C.W.A. I guess I’m into diversity more than a lot of today’s opinionista. Anti-VII? Prophetic. Traditional Latin Mass? Ditto. R.I.P. Mgr Gilbey.

HH | 08 July 2020  

HH, Gilbey's pietism was really a dressed up version of Chesterton's orthodoxy. This might have passed muster in the inter-war context but, given the tragic association of orthodoxy and Catholic corporatism, its elision towards justifying or at least adopting a neutral stance towards fascism in the Spanish, Italian and German political arenas (revealing the reactionary anti-democratic impulse of contemporary inter-war Catholicism) has made your quaint but embarrassing allusions and recommendations regarding both Gilbey and Tanqueray somewhat suspect as well as obsolete, especially in terms of uncovering your appalling justifications for sexism and racism and against agitation. Since we both claim membership of what you call the 'one true church' let me say that I find your advice as amusing as it is irredentist, posing you and your ideas - as opposed to your motivations, which I assume are well-intentioned - as no more than the retelling of an endless trope of Miguel de Cervantes' 'Don Quixote de la Mancha'. That said, I have stated, as well as to the best of my puny ability shown, that some of your ideas are positively dangerous because they masquerade under the umbrella of a Catholicism unrecognisable other than in Tanqueray's and Gilbey's times.

Michael Furtado | 09 July 2020  

M.F., 1. I’ll take it that, rather than fessing up you have not a skerrick of evidence that Mgr Gilbey was *removed* from his Cambridge Chaplaincy, as opposed to voluntarily resigning for the reason I put above, you are content to dodge the delicate point and thereby leave his reputation, and that of those who allegedly removed him, falsely besmirched. Hardly a good look for an advocate of not judging. But then, who among you supremacist lefties gives a toss about the facts? For the record: Gilbey was always welcomed back to Fisher House, and his remains were honourably interred in its courtyard in 1998. 2. Anyone who subscribes to the fatuous assertion that the requirement to avoid occasions of sin wherever possible is a teaching peculiar to the time of Tanquerey (1854-1932), thus being absent from the doctrine of Alphonsus, Teresa of Avila, Eureka Street’s own Ignatius, and the rest, is a black belt graduate of Jack Chick University. Congratulations, I guess. "Of all the counsels of Christ, one of the greatest, and so to say, the foundation of religion, is to fly the occasions of sin." So said San Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444). Clearly in your eyes yet another proto-fascist who acrobatically manages to be both quaint *and* dangerous at the same time. If you insist on pulling down his statues, you’ll find cheap rope at Bunnings … or even better, as Gilbey’s St John Fisher knew too well: a spineless cleric might offer you some for free.

HH | 13 July 2020  

I request the same privileges as for your post of August 3 and 8. Gilbey was born on 13 July 1901. To have been born a day before or after would have been singularly inappropriate: 12 July is Orangeman's Day. He was a passionate promoter of monarchy and its personification in the person and ideals of James II. For him, the latter was not the last of the Stuarts. The 'legitimist' line never died out and portraits of 'James III', and even 'Henry IX' (Cardinal Duke of York) adorned the walls of Fisher House. It would have been scarcely less convivial to him to have been born on 14 July (Bastille Day). His distaste for all that was associated with the slogan 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity' was unbounded and forgivable within the context of late-19th-century papalism as represented by Pope Pius IX, and the subsequent condemnation of Modernism. The rot, for Pius and Gilbey, had started with the French Revolution. Not only was 'liberalism' condemned but so were 'religious freedom' and individual rights of conscience. The overturning of these notions at Vatican II became the main ground for 'traditional' Catholic resistance to ecumenism and an updated vision of the Church. Unlike other universities which admitted women, Gilbey maintained his opposition to their admission (whether Catholic or not), citing his rejection of the notion of 'equality of the sexes'. He was never fully at ease in female company and resigned as chaplain in 1965 when it became certain that Fisher House would open its doors to women undergraduates. His intense conservatism was reflected in his liturgical tastes. He continued to say Mass in the form fixed by Pope Pius V after the Council of Trent, complete with all its medieval accretions and the novel theological overtones thereof. Another notable Gilbeian characteristic was adherence to the clerical dress of another age. For everyday wear: shovel hat, flyless breeches, double-waisted waistcoat and frock coat. For formal occasions: monsignorial cassock with colourful silk cincture, piping and embellishments. When 'robed in the sanctuary': watered-silk purple soutane, tasselled cape and purple pompon to biretta. This was as much a protestation of his Victorian outlook and Ultramontane Catholicism as a mere question of sartorial preference. Hardly mortal sins but by the same token irrelevant to the dire needs of the People of God in this day and age.

Michael Furtado | 13 July 2020  

Thank you for admitting, via Gerard Noel’s 1998 obit. in the U.K. ‘Independent’, that Mgr Gilbey was not “removed” from the Cambridge Catholic Chaplaincy, M.F. I’m sure Gilbey would appreciate your commitment to truth, as I do. As to the effectiveness of Gilbey’s taste in liturgy, liturgical vesture and “Ultramontane”(= orthodox) Catholicism in addressing the dire needs of the People of God, history has so far given it a resounding thumbs up. Gilbey brought in shoals of converts up to his dying day. In stark contrast, we have the mainstream Church, with “relevance” as its overriding goal, shedding members at an historically unprecedented rate. Rather than stressing over the colour of this much-loved priest’s biretta pompons (he was after all not doing his own thing, just dutifully observing regulations for the liturgical attire of a monsignor), it’s high time liberals faced up to the undeniable 6.5-ish decade long autodemolition of the Vatican II Church run by priests strutting their stuff in ghastly psychedelic chasubles, nuns in slacks, and bishops and cardinals presiding at clown masses where the music is, as St Paul would put it, skubala.

HH | 16 July 2020  

Michael Furtado: “by the same token irrelevant to the dire needs of the People of God in this day and age.” The dire need (‘needS’ can be addressed later) of the People of this Age is to believe again in sin. If they knew what it was, the uniqueness of the gift to forgive it would impel them to bestow upon its possessor a material finery commensurate with that uniqueness. But in becoming habituated into taking him for granted as another species of religious, People have lost sight of what a Roman Catholic priest is. Imams, lamas and evangelical preachers can't re-open Heaven for you. The Roman Catholic priest can.

roy chen yee | 17 July 2020  

HH exposes me as a plagiarist when severe constraints account for my accidental omission. Fortunately the length of time taken to enflesh our respective positions has enabled readers from overseas to contact me in order to tender the following information. Cambridge, like Oxford, is a collations of colleges and halls that are autonomous. However, both university senates exercise a power of patronage over matters such a student admission to award-conferring examination. Both universities and their overwhelmingly non-Catholic colleges and institutes (with the exception of Campion Oxford, which attracts its great share of illustrious Jesuit scholars) exercise hidden but enormous privileges relating to the professional and private behaviour and attitudes of dons and students insofar as these are publicly-known and paraded, simply because of the global social standing of their alumni. At a time in the 1960s, when Harold Macmillian was preparing his people for the inevitable postcolonial 'winds of change', Mgr Gilbey, whose independent means (both in respect of his personal wealth and original detachment from a diocese) was regarded by many Catholics to be an anachronism and an embarrassment, had to go. There is no doubt that pressure was brought on him to resign, as it has for others.

Michael Furtado | 18 July 2020  

M.F., I was not accusing you of plagiarism. I was hoping to lend weight to your account. Mgr Gilbey was not “removed”. He resigned, as your Noel excerpt attests. We now agree on that, thank God and your good self. It’s irrelevant that Gilbey might have been pressured to resign; I don’t doubt it for a bit. The further evidence that you supply, that Mgr Gilbey’s being of independent means was the reason for that pressure (“He’s not a leech? How deplorable! He has to go!”), is not only in itself disturbing as it hints (possibly accurately) at base motives of envy and class hatred, but also compromises your original narrative. That being said, it’s time to lift our gaze from a much loved convert-making self-funded old white male loyally Catholic traditional priest who died more than two decades ago (r.i.p.), and turn to the big picture which is so gloomy for the post Vat II church of blessed relevance which held his type up for ridicule. Let’s recall that Kate’s post seems to be egging on the Marxist barbarians at the gates. As of Saturday last, they have destroyed Nantes Cathedral’s irreplaceable organ, and churches, statues of Our Lady and saints across Europe and the USA, and, well, killed people – because ‘Black Lives Matter’ – not to mention the ramped up persecution of Christians in China by other Marxist devotees. In response timorous Vat II bishops and the Pope (rumoured to be shovelling in billions of Chicom dollars as per the Vatican-China Accord which the Church of Relevance and Transparency so stubbornly insists on keeping secret) wring their hands but pointedly refuse to condemn. Because, (repeat the antiphon): ‘Black Lives Matter’. It’s beyond pathetic: it’s the demonic French Revolution coming right back at Catholicism again, this time on steroids, from within and without. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” (Yeats). There’s still cheap rope around, I hear, if you must join them.

HH | 21 July 2020  

First to Roy Chen Yee. Its sobering indeed to be reminded of the Church's teaching that the identity and status of a Catholic priest, like my own gayness, is an ontological reality. At consecration his position, we are taught, changes categorically from one plane to the next, whereas mine, soberingly, never lets up! While I would hope that the keys he carries open Heaven's Gates, my intuition is that these are sometimes locked from the outside, relegating the priest's role to that of gatekeeper, whereas, from pastoral experience, he is called - as well as undertakes - to do more than that. So, splendid Roy; much as I don't disagree with you, I have to say that I shy away from the model of Fortress Catholicism that you so singularly pursue. Its hard enough being human and gay without having to bear the burden of your security. To stentorian HH, then. I dare to say that you underestimate the power of your own somewhat static theology and the responsibility it bears for the dire circumstances of the Church. If the Church has been left to continue Christ’s Revelation, you sure as Hell know how to put a stop to it.

Michael Furtado | 21 July 2020  

"The dire need . . . of the People of this Age is to believe again in sin." (roy chen yee, 17/7). As novelist Ian McEwan, no friend of any religion, has his protagonist reflect in "Saturday" (London Jonathan Cape, 2005): " . . . the pursuit of utopia ends up licensing every form of excess, all ruthless means of its realisation." It seems that indifference to or denial of sin has released a new and monstrous creed: a utopianism that believes it can actually exist in the world outside the imagination. It manifests as a secular faith that would supersede the Christian recognition of the need for grace understood as the means of transformation and progress infused by a loving God - One who resists sin's having the final say in the lives and destinies of us humans to whom failure in our created capacity for truth, freedom and love is neither unknown nor insignificant. This contemporary utopianism is particularly evident in new-Left writings like those of the Frankfurt School's Herbert Marcuse, whose peculiar blend of Freud and Marx became a strong influence on the politicised New Age ideology that emerged from the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, and is with us still.

John RD | 22 July 2020  

Yes, M.F., the Church has indeed been commissioned "to continue Christ's Revelation". However, this is a very different task, would you not think, in virtue of its divine origin, than inventing or replacing it with human substitutes?

John RD | 22 July 2020  

While its nice to know that John RD's literary tastes embrace a novel that inspired a 'hip' Crowded House song, his Hobbesian critique of contemporary Catholicism wallows perennially the gloom of The Fall and he flounders badly in his attempt to claim Ian McEwan's 'Saturday' as a novel that damns Utopia and everything associated with it. Having read it, I regard it, like many others, as not much more than a commercial success that cleverly chose to exploit the shocking affects of 9/11. Indeed, in 2008, McEwan publicly spoke out against Islamism for its views on women and homosexuality, two of John's pet peeves. At the time McEwan publicly stated that fundamentalist Islam wanted to create a society that he 'abhorred'. Simultaneously McEwan, an atheist, said that certain streams of Christianity were 'equally absurd' and that he didn't 'like these medieval visions of the world according to which God is coming to save the faithful and to damn the others' - apocalyptic forebodings advanced by at least three parties to this correspondence. John, like Roy Chen Yee, should truthfully read as well as properly digest the opening lines of 'Gaudium et Spes', instead of attributing to it prophecies of doom.

Michael Furtado | 23 July 2020  

M.F. My theology is somewhat "static" because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

HH | 24 July 2020  

Michael Furtado: What is "Hobbesian" about grace conceived as God's response to sin?

John RD | 02 August 2020  

Yes and no, HH. It would surely depend on the shackles we placed on Him yesterday and not just today or tomorrow! Straightjacketting Christ, a favourite pasttime of fundamentalists, was a prime reason for convening Vatican II and, guess what! Those who would atrophy Him are still in the business of His containment and abbreviation.

Michael FURTADO | 02 August 2020  

Wot! Has ES succumbed to a Victorian style lockdown in more ways than one just as this sparring was most needed? One thinks here of Trollope's the Rev Obadiah Slope, whose aversions were carried to things outward as well as inward; whose gall rose at a new church with a high-pitched roof; a full-breasted black silk waistcoat as a symbol of Satan; a missal scandalously misprinted in red with a cross emblazoned on the back instead of the front! Are there no heresy-hunters here to mock us for desecrating the Sabbath with emphasising the New Testament at the expense of the Old? And what of the Society for the Defense of Leviticus and its Purity Code? Can its members have been caught napping? Why, indeed, should the meek inherit the earth and the merciful obtain mercy when its gross moral turpitude that needs root and branch obliteration? Where are the temple police on this site or has the dreaded lurgy claimed them all in one fell coronaviral swoop? If so, surely this is the hand of Satan at work when what we need most at this time are cultural warriors intent on manning Catholicism's doctrinal ramparts and saving the Church?

Michael FURTADO | 04 August 2020  

Aw, C'mon Mick! Let's make it a round 50 and eclipse Frank Brennan's record commentary draw-card of 49...... if only for the heck of it. ;)

Michael FURTADO | 05 August 2020  

M.F.: Perhaps the ES commentators you routinely address as "temple police", "fundamentalists" and "Hobbesians" decline your invitation to "sparring" sessions because they see no point in further giving fuel to a merely parodic style of response and cavalier dismissiveness of doctrine's content and status in the life of the Church.

John RD | 06 August 2020  

M.F., "Fundamentalist" is what a Modernist routinely calls a Catholic. I was regarded as a rigid Fundie while I studied theology because I defended the teaching against artificial contraception in Humanae Vitae, the intrinsic evil of direct abortion, and the intrinsic evil of all deliberate completed sexual acts, apart from the marital act between a husband and his wife. (I received many HDs for my essays in this field, so at least my lecturers were fair, even if they often disagreed with my POV. Kudos to them.) Being trashed as a Fundie is de rigueur for a straightforward orthodox Catholic. So you have your uses, M.F. When you stop bestowing epithets such as "Fundie" upon me, well, frankly, I'll be rather alarmed, and have to check what I had said for unintentionally heretical misspeaks.

HH | 11 August 2020  

My apologies. I’ve been way too caught up in all this back and forth about secular agitation. I realized just now that I’ve forgotten the one thing necessary: we must pray for the repose of the soul of poor George Floyd. If we assume he’s not already a saint in heaven, but is fundamentally a good person, (as I do) then that’s what he most urgently, right now, wants us seculars to do: to release him with our prayers, fasts and other good deeds from the excruciating agonies of purgatory as soon as can be. So that’s the way we can best help him, if we truly love him, whether or not we knew him personally in his earthly life. Eternal rest grant unto George Floyd, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

HH | 12 August 2020  

I showed our correspondence to my PP, who has a DPhil in Scripture Studies from Oxford. He ruefully reflected on the quality of your Theology degree and examiners thereof. He further mused that your view of human embodiment and the senses which, he insisted, constitute the only vehicle through which the human person can interact with others, and which includes sexuality, appears to be far removed from both the general overall pastoral theology upon which the Church's teaching on the body and marriage is framed but also specifically lacking in appreciation of the natural law teaching of St Thomas Aquinas which you appear to reduce to a set of rules, dismissive of free-will and without regard to the role of conscientious decision-making for married couples. He feared, he said, a lapse into dualism, privileging the 'angelism' of the spirit above the incarnational embodiment that Jesus himself took on as God-Made-Man and in respect of which we share in all aspects of His Bodily Assumption and that of His Mother. He concluded that he was appalled by your closing reference to the repose of George Floyd's soul without any reference to the fact that Catholics are bound to protect human life.

Michael FURTADO | 19 August 2020  

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