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The influence of ecclesiastical and community cultures on the development of Catholic education in Western Australia, 1846-1890

McKenna, Eugene (2005) The influence of ecclesiastical and community cultures on the development of Catholic education in Western Australia, 1846-1890. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Historians have generally tended to represent the pioneering Catholic mission in Western Australia as an homogenous ecclesiastical entity with little cultural diversity. With a few notable exceptions the nature of the Western Australian colonial Catholic mission is portrayed as a 'hibernised' form of Catholicism with an Irish clergy taking care of the pastoral needs of a predominantly working class Irish Catholic constituency. This thesis challenges the traditional paradigm as restrictive, and argues that it ignores significant contextual influences and veils the wider cultural tapestry in which the Western Australian pioneering Catholic mission proceeded.

The traditional analysis of the internal dynamics of the Catholic mission implies that there was a beneficial, almost symbiotic relationship between sympathetic bishops and their 'valiant helpers.' Internal conflicts concerning administrative issues have been represented as little more than mere personality clashes.

The thesis takes a more critical contextual approach and argues that the manifestation of internal dissension during this period can only be fully explained by taking account of external influences rather than local conditions. These influences include both Gallican and Ultramontane ecclesiastical perspectives as well as the individual community cultures that were transported from Europe to the Perth diocese by missionary personnel.

This new perspective corrects the more traditional approach which overlooked the different ecclesiastical approaches, orientations and community cultures that were represented within the colonial Catholic mission. This expansion of the existing interpretative paradigm through which historians view the West Australian Catholic mission in general and the development of the school system in particular marks a significant shifi in the existing historiography. As a consequence, scholars will in future take a more critical approach to the study of not only the Catholic education system but also the Western Australian Catholic mission in general. Rather than representing the definitive closing chapter it is intended that this work will invigorate renewed historical interest in the development of the Australian Catholic mission.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Strong, Rowan
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