Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria

Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria (born 1915), a Roman Catholic publicist and organizer in Australia, founded the Catholic Social Movement.

Bartholomew Santamaria was born in Brunswick, Victoria, on Aug. 14, 1915, the son of Italian immigrants. He was educated at the University of Melbourne and soon became prominent as a Roman Catholic ideologist and organizer in Victoria. In 1937 he became assistant director and, in 1947, director of the National Secretariat of Catholic Action. This organization had been founded to enlist the support of the laity in the pastoral work of the Roman Catholic Church and existed in all parts of the world under the patronage of the Pope. In 1943 Santamaria created, and became president of, the Catholic Social Movement, which was organized and largely recruited by the members of Catholic Action.

By the 1940s Santamaria's principal concern was the advance of communism in the Australian Labour party, and to counter it he sought to organize the Catholics in the trade union movement. He and his followers in the Labour party in Victoria regarded communism rather than capitalism as the enemy. They attempted to secure the elimination of communists from the leadership of the trade unions.

The Catholic Social Movement supported efforts of the non-Labour federal government of Robert Gordon Menzies to proscribe communism. Fearing socialism as a potential menace to the property of the Catholic Church, the organization was vigorously antagonistic to some of the more radical and dogmatic ideas of the Labour party. Santamaria's influence within the ranks of the Victoria Labour party steadily increased, causing much sectarian bitterness. In October 1954 the federal leader of the Australian Labour party, Herbert Vere Evatt, publicly denounced what he called "a small minority of Labour members located particularly in the state of Victoria" who, he said, had become "increasingly disloyal to the Labour movement and the Labour leadership."

This public accusation split the Labour party in Victoria; the supporters of Santamaria resigned from the party and formed themselves into what was termed the Anti-Communist Labour party and, later, the Democratic Labour party. In the elections in Victoria in May 1955, these dissident elements campaigned and voted independently of the Australian Labour party and contributed to the defeat of the state's Labour government. Similarly, in Queensland the split in the party resulted in the defeat of a state Labour government.

In the federal sphere, the Democratic Labour party, though never in a position to secure a substantial number of seats in Parliament, helped to destroy the Australian Labour party's chances of regaining office for the next decade and more. Santamaria himself, however, dropped out of public prominence, but he remained an important contributor to public debate on political problems facing Australia. He became a regular political columnist for The Australian and wrote several books on Australian politics and political leaders, including: Archbishop Mannix: His Contribution to the Art of Public Leadership in Australia (1978); Against the Tide (1981); Daniel Mannix, the Quality of Leaderhship (1984; and Australia at the Crossroads: Reflections of an Outsider (1987).

Further Reading on Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria

Santamaria's own account of the Catholic Social Movement can be found in his The Price of Freedom (1968) and in his contribution to Henry Mayer, Catholics and the Free Society (1961). Point of View (1969) was a collection of his commentaries on Australian foreign policy and domestic affairs. Tom Truman, Catholic Action and Politics (1960), was a detailed discussion of the entire subject.

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