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Intellectual Life

Intellectualism has always been a part of the catholic life which is why it is not surprising to find that it has played significant roles in the development of some fields.

Thomas Aquinas’s scholastic philosophy was the Catholic Church’s first official philosophy. It dominated smarty teachings until the 1960s and philosophy was made compulsory to teach in seminaries. It was usually taught in Latin, and highly trained philosophers from Rome taught it. Scholasticism was based on natural law ethics which believed right and wrong are due to human nature and not God’s command or utility or tribal custom.

In 1945, Austin Woodbury, a Thomist philosopher, the established Aquinas Academy in Sydney. The academy taught philosophy and later on psychology and spirituality. After the 60s, the popularity of Thomist philosophy reduced as the number of seminaries dropped. Today, philosophy in seminary still retains some orientation towards the natural law teachings for ethics. Eric D’Arcy who later became Archbishop of Hobart and head of Philosophy Department in Melbourne University published a book in 1961 where he supported the freedom of religious minorities from state coercion and the rights of conscience.

Catholic philosophy has always been opposed to mainstream views on life issues due to its natural law orientation. Such issues where it takes a different view include euthanasia, abortion, health care allocation, and new medical technologies. In 2014, bioethicist and author, Anthony Fisher, became the Archbishop of Sydney.

Theology is a core course in seminary training and used to be taught by experienced lecturers. In the 20th century, a lecturer at St Patrick’s Seminary, Thomas Hayden, argued that the historical validity of the early Genesis chapter is less than what we have thought it to be and was condemned by the Papal for this. He accepted this condemnation. Rosemary Goldie who specialises in lay Catholic action also served as Undersecretary for the Pontifical Council for the Laity between 1967 to 1976. May other women have made significant impacts in theology in recent times.

This is the defence of faith through public argument. It is a very popular practice in Australia and the Coadjutor Archbishop of Sydney, Michael Sheehan once wrote a popular book titled Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine. The mid-20th century also saw the likes of  Dr Rumble on the radio with his Question Box program.

There are many poems that deal with Catholicism in one form to another in Australia. Popular ones include those by Fr Patrick Hartigan (John O’Brien”) such as ‘The Little Irish Mother’, ‘Said Hanrahan’, and ‘At Casey’s After Mass’.  Morris West, who was a former Christian brother, also achieved international success with his novels such as The Devil’s Advocate and The Shoes of the Fisherman, both of which sold over 60 million copies.

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