Elective unit                                                                                                      (Min. No. 8)

1st semester: Thursday evening



This unit will explore the history of the Catholic Church in Australia. It will examine its foundations and its development phases through lay beginnings, the Benedictine ‘Dream’, the rise of the Irish Hierarchy and the eventual ‘Australianisation’ of its clerical leadership, to its current leadership crisis. Among key issues studied will be the influence of ‘Sectarianism’, encroaching secularisation, the Church in the colonial political and social environments, the influence of the religious orders and the Church’s stance regarding education. The unit will also consider the changing face of Catholicism following two Vatican Councils (1869-1870 and 1962 – 1965). It will also examine the significance of women in the Australian Catholic Church, its relations with the Vatican Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, relations with other Christian traditions, its missions to indigenous cultures and the impacts of migration.

PREREQUISITES: One foundational unit in Church History


Upon successful completion of this unit, it is expected that students will be able to:

  1. read critically the key primary and secondary sources of Australian Church History
  2. articulate the main phases of the Australian Catholic Church’s development
  3. critique the various perspectives on sectarianism as a major force in Australian religion
  4. evaluate Catholic attitudes to the marginalised (women, indigenous peoples, poor)
  5. discuss the major impacts of critical events in the life of the Australian Catholic Church
  6. evaluate the contributions of major figures of the Australian Catholic Church
  7. analyse current trends to identify possible futures for Australian Catholicism


One 2000 word tutorial (40%); one 4000 word research essay (60%)


BIBLIOGRAPHY *set texts recommended for purchase

Ayres, Philip. Prince of the Church: Patrick Francis Moran, 1830–1911. Melbourne: Miegunyah, 2007.

Breward, Ian. A History of the Churches in Australasia. Oxford: OUP, 2004.

Campion, Edmund. Australian Catholics: The Contribution of Catholics to the Development of Australian Society. Melbourne: Viking Press, 1987.

Duncan, Bruce. Crusade or Conspiracy? Catholics and the Anti-Communist Struggle in Australia. Sydney: University of NSW Press, 2001.

Gardiner, Paul. An Extraordinary Australian, Mary MacKillop. Sydney: E.J. Dwyer, 1993.

Hogan, Michael. The Sectarian Strand: Religion in Australian Society. Melbourne: Penguin, 1987.

Livingston, Kevin. The Emergence of an Australian Catholic Priesthood, 1835–1915. Sydney: Catholic Theological Faculty Press, 1977.

Morgan, Patrick. Melbourne Before Mannix: Catholics in Public Life 1880–1920. Ballan, Vic: Connor Court, 2012.

O’Brien, Anne. God’s Willing Workers: Women and Religion in Australia. Sydney: Uni. of NSW, 2005.

O’Farrell, Patrick. The Catholic Church and Community: An Australian History. 3rd ed. Sydney: University of NSW Press, 1992.

O’Sullivan, Dominic. Faith, Politics and Reconciliation: Catholicism and the Politics of Indigeneity. Adelaide: ATF Press, 2005.

Shanahan, Mary. Out of Time, Out of Place: Henry Gregory and the Benedictine Order in Colonial Australia. Canberra: ANU Press, 1970.

Walker, Carol. A Saviour of Living Cargoes: The Life and Work of Caroline Chisholm. Ballan: Connor Court, 2011.