Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cardinal Moran and the culture wars

Read Patrick Ford's Cardinal Moran and the ALP. I think it was the only book Ford, a Catholic priest ever wrote, published in 1966 it has hints of being an intervention in contemporary Labor politics and stresses Moran's role in steering Labor from the course of 'continental socialism'. Ford attributes Labor's poor electoral performance in the late 1890s to a reaction by Catholic voters against its socialism. I would see a more general reaction against the party, but my analysis of early Labor electoral support at the 2003 Labour History conference would have benefited by a consideration of Ford's work. Ford fails to see that Moran's political room to manoeuvre was closed off after 1901 by the rise of political Protestantism, he had to reconcile himself to Labor's moderate socialism to an extent he refused to do so in the 1890s because there was nowhere else for Catholics to go. From a contemporary view I think of current religious panics. Ford describes how in 1868 Australia’s first royal visor Alfred Duke of Edinburgh was shot at and slightly wounded by Henry O'Farrell. Premier Henry Parkes alleged a Fenian (to simplify they were the 19th century version of the IRA) conspiracy. O'Farrell claimed to be a Fenian but then retracted this and it is clear that he was deranged and acted alone. Parkes however claimed there was a conspiracy and someone had been murdered to cover up the conspiracy. This seems to have been a pure invention or hysterical imagining. Ford also brings out how the Free Traders under Reid played the sectarian card. Worth remembering when there is much silliness today from 'classical liberals' and others (such as the apparently defunct Reid group) about how enlightened the Free Traders were unlike those nasty racist protectionists. Protestant campaigners also argued that the practice of confession enabled Catholics to lie in defence of their faith and that Catholics were taking over the public service. Today exactly the same claims are made about Muslims by the inheritors of the old protestant right such as John Stone. However the contemporary revolutionary left should consider how Moran campaigned against socialism, and note that on the O'Haran case (where Moran's private secretary was cited in a divorce case) there was more evidence for the case against O'Haran than Moran or Ford admits, although this ABC account disagrees and takes a simplistic pro-O'Haran position.


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