Tribute to Cardinal Patrick Moran


I rise to mark the centenary of the death of Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran. Cardinal Moran, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney from 1884 until 1911, died 100 years ago last week. I believe Patrick Moran to be one of the most significant figures in the colony, and then state, of New South Wales in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Patrick Moran was born in County Carlow in Ireland in 1830. His mother died when he was 14 months old, his father when he was 11. He was then cared for by his uncle Paul Cullen, Rector of the Irish College in Rome, future Cardinal and leader of the Irish Church.

Moran spent his first twelve years in Ireland, the next 24 in Italy, another 18 in Ireland and then 27 in Australia. Moran was fluent in eight languages. He was a distinguished scholar, expert in archaeology, palaeography and the Irish language.

He wrote extensively on the history of the Catholic faith in Ireland. I am particularly partial to the Historical Sketch of the Persecutions Suffered by the Catholics of Ireland under the Rule of Cromwell and the Puritans.

He attended the First Vatican Council in 1869-70. He was elected Bishop of Ossory in Ireland in 1871. Pope Leo XIII appointed Moran Archbishop of Sydney in 1884. Immediately before his departure Moran met the British Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, to discuss Irish and Australian affairs.

When Moran arrived on 8 September 1884, twenty steamers packed with thousands of Sydney's Catholics sailed out to greet him. Tens of thousands lined the shores. This was a time when the Catholic population of New South Wales was downtrodden and underprivileged.

The first bishop of the Catholic Church in Australia was John Bede Polding, who arrived in Sydney in 1835. The English Benedictines had controlled the Church here, yet the grassroots faithful were Irish. As Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, Patrick Moran was culturally one with the faithful.

"They were Australians, Ireland was the cultural home, and now they had an archbishop of their own", as Philip Ayres put it in his compelling 2007 biography of Moran, Prince of the Church.

Moran convened plenary councils of the Australian archbishops. He created his own federation of the Australian Catholic Church in advance of the political federation of the Australian colonies.

He supported the seamen and wharf labourers in the 1890 maritime strike. The marching strikers stopped at St Marys Cathedral and gave three cheers for 'our friend the Cardinal'. Moran wrote that 'the rights and dignity of labour were never so clearly set before the people as during the late strike'.

He wrote this a year prior to Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum. Moran backed Rerum Novarum with his own Lecture on the Rights and Duties of Labour, supporting the role of trade unions.

Rerum Novarum was issued in 1891. The Labour Electoral Leagues were formed in 1891, and won 35 seats in the NSW Legislative Assembly. The groundbreaking 1891 papal encyclical, and the birth of a Labor Party in the same year, were responses to the commodification of human beings that was a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. Both were built around the notion of the dignity of human labour.

Moran wrote this after the 1891 New South Wales election:

" was a triumph for Australia that the representatives of the working classes had been elected to Parliament to urge the claims and defend the rights of labour".

Moran was a seminal influence on the infant Labor Party. He led it away from Marxist influences.

The growth of the Labor Party - from a third party that sought concessions in exchange for measures advantaging working people, into a party of government at both the federal and state levels by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century - was aided and supported by Patrick Moran.

Under Moran the Catholic population of Sydney more than doubled, and Catholics came to fully engage in public affairs. The role of the Catholic Church in education, charity and health care grew massively.

He led his Church boldly. He was a central public figure in the affairs of New South Wales and Australia.

The fact that the centenary of Cardinal Patrick Moran's death last week passed without any comment from our media and political establishment - apart from that in the Catholic Weekly newspaper - says much about our society's lack of a public memory today.