The fog surrounding Perth’s controversial first bishop is lifting.
Almost nothing was known of the life of Perth’s first Catholic bishop, John Brady, from the time he left Fremantle in 1852, banished under papal order, till his death in southern France in 1871. Now the efforts of Fr Kilian Mitchell OPraem, an Irish Norbertine priest at Kilnacrott Abbey in Ireland, together with references collected by the Perth archdiocesan archivist Sr Frances Stibi PBVM, have made it possible to construct a timeline of Brady’s post-Perth life based on diaries, letters and reports.
4 October 1851
Cardinal Fransoni wrote to Bishop Brady: “It is inexplicable why, against the will of the Supreme Pontiff – namely that you should remain in Rome until your case was decided – and although you also well knew the responsibility for the Church of Perth had been handed over to Bishop Serra, you left the city like a fugitive and, under false pretext, you did not hesitate to undertake the journey to Australia.”
9 January 1852
As a result of the seemingly impossible situation in Perth, Bishop Serra wrote to ask Archbishop Polding, Metropolitan of Sydney, to come to Perth as he felt Polding’s presence would calm everyone down.
3 July 1852
After a long and arduous journey, Polding arrived in Perth.
4 July 1852
The following minute was written describing the event in the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Perth by Thomas Little JP, Acting Secretary to the Archbishop Metropolitan:
On Sunday the fourth day of July 1852, appeared before the Most Rev John Bede Polding, Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of the Province of New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land, the Right Rev John Brady, Bishop of Perth in Western Australia, but suspended from his functions by Our Most Holy Father Pius the Ninth by a Motu Proprio dated 3/10/1851.
The Most Rev Archbishop Metropolitan, being vested and prepared to celebrate Mass, proceeded to the Throne, and being seated thereon the Right Rev John Brady came to the Sanctuary, and having genuflected before the Blessed Sacrament, presented himself to the Archbishop Metropolitan, and on his bended knees read a declaration to the purport following:
1 His Lordship professed his unreserved and perfect submission to the Sentence of Suspension passed upon him by His Holiness Pope Pius IX.
2 His Lordship solemnly promised to abide under it until canonically absolved by the Supreme Authority from which it emanated.
3 His Lordship signified and declared, that he would follow and fulfill the directions and injunctions of the Most Rev John Bede Polding, Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land, as regards the time when, the manner in which, and the circumstances in connection with his proceeding to the Holy See, for the purpose of obtaining absolution from the Holy Father, and in obedience to the mandate of His Holiness.
4 Furthermore, His Lordship surrendered unto the said Most Rev John Bede Polding, Archbishop and Metropolitan as aforesaid, all right or title to, or possession of lands, goods and chattels, either held in his own name or in the name of others, for his own proper use, or for the use of others, with all Deeds, Documents, and other instruments, referring to, or descriptive of the same; and all this to be understood without restriction or reserve, as extending to and including all lands, goods and chattels held by him in Western Australia.
5 And moreover, His Lordship expressed his deep regret for whatever disturbance, disquiet or dis-edification may have been occasioned since his return to this colony; and
6 Lastly, placed himself with unqualified obedience in the hands of the Most Rev the Metropolitan, as Representative of the Supreme Head of the Church on earth, our most Holy Father Pope Pius IX, whom God in his mercy long preserve.
This declaration having been made, the Archbishop addressed some words of paternal and affectionate admonition to the Right Rev Bishop, and assured His Lordship of the great consolation he derived from receiving this manifestation of submission and obedience, which he would transmit by the first opportunity, to the Holy See.
Then the Right Rev Bishop proceeded with his written declaration as above to the centre of the Sanctuary and, having genuflected, ascended to the altar, and on the altar subscribed his declaration with his name and title, then his declaration so signed was placed before the crucifix and remained there during the holy sacrifice of the Mass which the Most Rev the Archbishop commenced to celebrate and at which the Right Rev Bishop was present.
Now all this was done in the Church of St John the Evangelist … in … Perth in Western Australia, and to the truth of this record, the undersigned bears testimony, being witness to every circumstance mentioned therein.”
Before the end of the week Brady sought to recover his lost powers through the Civil Court but was unsuccessful. The following week the Rev John Coyle took Archbishop Polding to Court for wages owing to him and a letter of protest against Polding appeared in the Perth Gazette.
1 August 1852
Polding was not prepared to put up with this lack of peace any further and so, on Sunday, 1 August 1852, the bell of the church was rung to summon the faithful, the book of transgressions was read and the anathema pronounced. Candles held by the congregation were flung down and the transgressors were locked out of the church.
Polding made the following pronouncement: “All such parties we declare to be Excommunicated from the Holy Roman Catholic Church of God, to have no part in the prayers, sacrifices, sacraments, whilst living, and when dead to be denied the rites of and place of Christian burial.”
By request of Governor Fitzgerald, a passage had been arranged for Bishop Brady on the Eugene and so on 19 September when the Eugene was ready to sail, Serra’s agent Martin Butler mounted the deck to hand the impecunious Dr Brady £130 which had been agreed upon for his fare to Rome. Brady had promised to pay the passages of four families to Melbourne. Captain Beauvais descended upon him and demanded the fares. Brady was penniless once more. He left Fremantle for Melbourne, never to return alive to Perth. Not long after that, Cardinal Fransoni wrote to Bishop Serra, enclosing a personal letter from the Pope addressed to Brady. It commanded him to leave Australia but arrived too late as Brady had already departed.
24 August 1853
Archbishop Paul Cullen of Dublin wrote to Cardinal Fransoni, “… in regard to Mgr Brady who is mentioned in the same letter, he has not yet appeared in Ireland. I feel however that he is not acting too well since I see that a Pamphlet has been put in circulation against Mgr Polding and in favour of Mgr Brady which displays a bad spirit. This Pamphlet is anonymous and the place of printing is not indicated. Since it contains all the correspondence which passed between the Archbishop and Mgr Brady it lies open to suspicion that it is the work of the latter’s pen.” Although Bishop of Perth until the end of his life in 1871, Brady left Perth in 1852; Bishop Serra was then able to carry out his appointment as Apostolic Administrator from 1852 until his resignation was accepted in 1862.
He never assumed the title Bishop of Perth.
24 September 1853
Dr Richard Madden wrote to Dr Meagher, Vicar General of the Diocese of Dublin, “…in the performance of his clerical duties – I mean, administering the Sacraments, assisting at the altar visiting the sick, promoting the education of the poor … in assisting the distressed, and, above all, in dealing charitably and kindly with the poor natives – I can safely say that the conduct of Dr Brady was exemplary.”
27 September 1853
Again Dr Madden wrote to Dr Meagher, “On my arrival in the Swan River Settlement, of which I was Colonial Secretary, I found Dr Brady contending single-handed against the entire local Government … I found Dr Brady battling for his Mission stoutly and sincerely, not always discreetly or effectually … Without his pertinacity, and I would say daring, in confronting powerful opposition, in contending against adverse circumstances of the most formidable kind, the Mission would never have been established.”
1 October 1853
Archbishop Paul Cullen to Kirby in Rome, “… Mgr Brady is at present here in Dublin. He is fully repentant of all that has happened. Do me the favour of begging the Holy Father to deign to enable him to be absolved from the censures and irregularity incurred by the default for which he is now repentant. He does not say Mass any longer and has promised to be obedient for the future. Obtain this favour as soon as possible.”
23 November 1853
Archbishop Paul Cullen to Cardinal Fransoni, “… In regard to Mgr Brady I have already carried out the commission entrusted to me by absolving him from the censures and giving him the allowance assigned to him. He has retired now to make his retreat amongst the Trappist monks of Mount Melleray. He says he will soon go to Rome …”
7 April 1855
The nominations for by-elections in Cavan took place in the entrance hall of Cavan Courthouse at 10 o’clock on Easter Sunday. The candidates and their supporters occupied the balcony at the top of the stairs. Hughes’ friends consisted of priests, some prominent laymen and one or two members of the established Church. In all, 16 priests are mentioned; 12 of them, including one Bishop – Bishop John Brady on the balcony with Hughes.
26 July 1855
The Examinations in St Augustine’s College, Cavan. The usual examinations came off last week before Dr Browne, Dr Brady, Rev John O’Reilly, Rev Patrick Magauran and Rev Edward Lynch. The solemnity that year was provided by the presence of two Bishops. Dr Brady, Bishop of Perth and a native of Castletara, was on an extended visit to Bishop Browne. He presented a chalice to the Academy where his nephew John Smith of Cavan Town was a student. Matthew and Patrick Gibney and Hugh Brady were present among the students.
10 June 1856
During a trip by students of St Augustine’s College to Bellamount Forest in the Anglo Celt, “… Dr Browne and Dr Brady, on their morning walk to the chapel were cheered loudly from the passing cars.”
Part II: Brady at Vatican I – but not in official photos.