Santamaria and the legacy of the Split: fifty years on

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Santamaria and the legacy of the Split: fifty years onHaif a century on, the Split in the Australian Labor Party and the Catholic Church is still a painful memory. Yet the Santamaria Movement has left a distinctive impression on Australia’s religious and political culture, and can be seen as a remarkable attempt to respond to contemporary social, political and cultural trends, that might be loosely identifled as those of ‘modernitv’, in the
alien Antipodes.

The rancour of those years left some lasting legacies, yet the events were mired in controversy, and the issues remained unclarified for much too long. Partly this was because the bishops and the Church in general wanted to avoid further dissension and to heal the rift that tore through much of the Catholic community, inciuding the bishops themselves. Partly also it was because some key participants refused to revise their views in line with Vatican directions. Moreover, the 1957 Yatican directives were not publicly available, or accessible even to priests. While attempts to dampen down the controversy gave time for passions to cool, resentment continued to fester between the Sydney and Melbourne alignments, and many if not most Catholics recoiled from the Movement claim to direct Catholic social action and thinking in thename of the Church.

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