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Item‘The Bishop with 150 Wives’: Interrogating the Missionary and Ecclesiastical Career of Monsignor Francis Xavier Gsell MSC (1872-1960)Francis, Michael Philip ( 2020)This thesis provides the first comprehensive scholarly investigation into the missionary and ecclesiastical career of Monsignor Francis Xavier Gsell MSC (1872-1960). Remembered as the apocryphal ‘Bishop with 150 Wives’, Gsell is famous for his work among the Tiwi people, from whom he purchased the marriage rights of young women as part of a broader evangelisation strategy. A mythic figure in popular histories of the Northern Territory, Gsell’s complex legacy, however, has rarely received thorough academic scrutiny. Going beyond the many myths and legends, this thesis uses Gsell as a lens through which to examine race relations in northern Australia during the first half of the twentieth century. It locates Gsell within the context of evolving Indigenous policy in the Northern Territory, over which he exerted significant influence through strategic collusion with Commonwealth authorities, while simultaneously demonstrating the ways in which Gsell stood at the forefront of shifting Catholic attitudes towards First Nations peoples. It reveals a man of strong conviction, incredible political reach, and conflicting legacy. Gsell worked as an advocate for Indigenous welfare and challenged the racist attitudes of his contemporaries. Notwithstanding his ethnocentric paternalism, the missionary’s gradualist approach to Christian conversion helped ensure the preservation of a great many aspects of traditional culture on the Tiwi Islands. Yet Gsell also wholeheartedly endorsed assimilation policies which saw the forced removal of mixed-descent children from their families from as early as 1910. This resulted in the destruction of many Indigenous languages and cultures as, torn from kin and Country, these children became members of the Stolen Generations. By interrogating the legends, this thesis ultimately provides a new and holistic appraisal of Gsell’s life and legacy in the Northern Territory.
ItemThe foundation of Newman College: Victorian Catholic identity, 1914-1918Francis, Michael Philip ( 2015)This thesis examines the foundation of Newman College within the University of Melbourne, 1914-1918. Newman opened during a period when Catholicism was considered by many in the Victorian community to be synonymous with radicalism and anti-imperialist Irish nationalism. This identity was heavily constructed, and far from natural. Indeed, Newman College represented a dynamic site of contention in the ongoing process of identity formation within the Catholic community of Victoria during the early twentieth century. Its foundation became both emblematic of these cultural characteristics, and contributed to them. Throughout its development, clerical and lay leaders engaged in vigorous debate about what it meant to be Catholic: Conservative or progressive? Loyalist or radical? British or Australian? Rich or poor? Integrated or separated? Their various visions for Newman College reveal a web of complex conflicts over ethnicity, class and politics. Within the crucible of these often acrimonious disputes, Victoria’s Catholic identity as one that was distinctively Irish was shaped and consolidated. As an elite tertiary institution, the foundation of Newman College also provides a unique insight into the aspirations of middling and elite lay Catholics, so often forgotten in Church histories. Contributing to recent scholarship on the Irish diaspora, it challenges assertions of entrenched Catholic disadvantage by examining the lives of prominent laymen responsible for the Newman project. In addition to safeguarding religious principles, these Catholics wanted to cultivate a class of gentlemen who would raise the moral and intellectual standard of the community as a whole. In the early stages of the building project, secularism was considered the most potent threat to the Catholic community. Newman was envisaged as a religious shelter from the free-thinking university environment. Yet the enemy would shift in 1916 following the outburst of sectarian tensions which accompanied the Easter Rising and Archbishop Daniel Mannix’s political position on conscription and the efficacy of the Great War. In the face of wider community hostility, Catholics closed ranks and came together in spectacular displays of group solidarity, of which the opening of Newman College, an event attended by some 40,000 people, is an example. In this context, Newman came to be seen as a Catholic fortress, producing champions of the Faith numerous enough to resist sectarian discrimination wherever it was encountered in the professions. The thesis will, however, conclude by showing that such an outcome dismayed many prominent Catholics, whose political and cultural sensibilities often differed greatly from those of their Archbishop.
ItemCatholics and conscription: a problem of loyaltyFrancis, Michael Philip ( 2013)Saturday the 16th of September 1916 was a rainy day at the Albert Hall in Clifton Hill. Despite the threat of stormy weather, a sizable crowd of Melbourne’s lay and clerical Catholics had gathered for the opening of a bazaar dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Amid enthusiastic applause, Dr Daniel Mannix, the Coadjutor-Archbishop of Melbourne, ascended the podium and delivered an address, lasting merely three minutes. Mannix spoke in response to an announcement made on 30 August by Prime Minister William Morris Hughes. Returning from England earlier in July, Hughes was convinced that Australia needed to boost enlistments in order to aid Allied forces in the war effort. The voluntary system had failed to meet expectations and Hughes was determined to introduce conscription, which required amending existing legislation. The Commonwealth Defence Act of 1902 allowed for compulsory military enlistment for home defence, but prohibited conscription for service abroad. Many of Hughes’ own Labor Party, which had a majority in the Senate, were opposed to conscription, so in an attempt to avoid a party split, the Prime Minister decided to seek the endorsement of the Australian people and had announced a referendum to be held on 28 October. What followed was one of the most divisive public debates in Australia’s history since Federation. (From Introduction)