‘192. Thanksgiving Sunday, 17/11/18‘, Shire at War, 12 November 2018
Another excellent microcosmic piece – Phil Cashen has done 192 of them to date – from the Shire of Alberton, this time closely examining sermons in local churches on the first Sunday after the Armistice. On one hand, the Protestants were sure God had been on the side of the Allies, particularly the Empire.
Cashen summarises the role played by Protestant clergy in this part of Gippsland throughout the war:
They preached the lessons of patriotic duty, Christian sacrifice and Imperial destiny. They actively promoted recruiting and served on local recruiting committees. They supported Belgium Relief. They backed conscription and publicly campaigned for the Yes vote, again serving on local committees. They supported PM Hughes and the Nationalists. They spoke frequently at the local state schools on Empire and duty. They also spoke at formal farewells and welcomes home for soldiers. They all called for greater religious piety, purity and sacrifice in the cause of the War. They could now share in the victory.
The Catholic reaction to the Armistice was far more muted. Indeed, reports of local services were lacking. Further afield, Archbishop Mannix and Bishop Phelan were far from triumphalist, Mannix arguing that ‘it was cruel to talk to the mothers and fathers of the dead of the glories of war. They hear too much of the victories and the glories that war could give; of the slaughter of which mankind should be ashamed, and which was a disgrace to civilisation.’
Cashen provides close textual analysis of Phelan’s remarks and concludes thus:
The sermon also reflected ongoing anger on the part of Catholics at the way they perceived they had been attacked over the years of the War. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, the sermon reflected careful political positioning on the part of the Catholic hierarchy – whereas Protestantism, as the religion of the Empire, continued to locate Australia’s experience of the War within the fundamental commitment to the British Empire, Catholicism was making a bid that the experience needed to be located solely within the context of the (Australian) Nation. One of the key conflicts associated with the history, legacy and ownership of the War was underway.
This is excellent, evidence-based work, as has been the case previously in Shire at War. We made much use of Cashen’s efforts in our now concluded ‘Divided sunburnt country’ series. For other pieces by Cashen (including a recent note on the Spanish flu epidemic) use our Search engine. Here also is a later post on Armistice celebrations in the Shire of Alberton, including the distinctions made between men who went and those who were rejected for service.