We publish this feature article here because it shows the reaction by the church to the radical approach taken by the Catholic Workers community against the church’s support for ‘the military industrial complex’. This opposition was reflected by non-violent direct action in taking down of the sword from a cross at the ANZAC memorial at Toowong cemetery and opposition to weapons being carried into St Stephens cathedral in Brisbane. I don’t really like the term non-violent direct action because it mostly results in real violence and financial penalty to those taking the action.
I first met Jim Dowling when I was 17 & we spontaneously linked arms to march out of King George Square into a mosh pit of Queensland cops. They were there to enforce the ban on Street marches, demonstrations and free speech!
I was a weedy kid and was duly bashed by a humungous corrupt plain clothes detective John Frédéric Johnstone – from the corrupt Consorting Squad and then (par for the course) I was framed on “assaulting a police officer”.
It was the early years of video and I had to go through reams of it to find witnesses to the incident. I tracked Jim down to get him to testify at my court case.
I had the corrupt Magistrate William Joseph McKay and was duly fitted up, framed and convicted by the Pigs.
Flames of discontent
A few days later a friend rang McKay to ascertain his correct address went to his two-storied brick home in an outer suburb, Beenleigh, poured petrol on his lawn, lit it and read out loud Marx’s Grundisse (Fundamentals of Political Economy Criticism) in the shivering flames of discontent. He called on the magistrate to atone for his crimes against the working class! Having finished his epistle, my friend demanded that McKay re-imburse him for fines levied unjustly by said magistrate and vanished into the dark.
It was the 1970’s, things like that happened!
Anyways, I lost contact with Jim until Christmas 1981 bumping into him in the mail sorting rooms of Roma Street Post Office where we both had seasonal work. I gave him a copy of our Christian anarchist newsletter and later in 1982, he moved in the Catholic Worker House we had started for homeless aboriginal kids in West End Brisbane. And Jim had pretty much stayed put for decades – in a variety of locales pursuing the Catholic Worker vision + praxis ever since.
Jim and I are very different and in some ways very similar – stubborn, dogged, Christian Brothers educated and trying our best to follow the praxis pioneered by Dorothy Day, Dan & Phil Berrigan.
We spent 2 years living together, decades resisting and getting arrested together. We spent time together in Boggo Road Jail where we tried (unsuccessfully) to help Gary Grey and others escape… as was our understanding of practising “the acts of mercy” at the time! Gary had much more success with escapoligy later – making it all the way to Darwin before recapture!
If “hillbilly” wasn’t such a Protestant term and Jim wasn’t such a devout Catholic you may want to hang it on him. But you would be mistaken – Jim is a deeply reflective man who has had the rough edges knocked off him by me and others he lived in community with, the poor he has hosted, the woman he married and the children he raised.
What follows is a very funny tale by Jim about his interaction with a bank and 2 Bishops!
It takes place shortly after he and other Catholic Workers protested outside the military mass (complete with weapons in the Cathedral!) on ANZAC Day and a couple of years after he and other Catholic Workers removed a sword embedded in a cross at a Brisbane war memorial – on ANZAC DAY.
NB: During the street marches of 1977-79, Ciaron and Jim were placed in cells in Boggo Road Jail. Ciaron was jailed on the whim of corrupt police and magistrate William Joseph McKay.
A funny thing happened on my way to the bank …
Yesterday I went to the bank to get some money to buy an old car. In 1983 the first Catholic Worker community in Brisbane started a bank account with the Archdiocesan Development Fund (the ADF), the Brisbane Catholic church bank.
This was not so much out of any loyalty, but because we were very concerned about ethical investment, and the bank only dealt with churches, schools, hospitals, nursing homes – no mines, bombs, uranium, tobacco etc.
We got a cheque book, and as nowadays most stuff is done online I rarely go there, except to get cash, maybe two or three times a year.
Over the years it been the bank account for other Catholic Worker communities.
The ADF only has one office. It is now on the 6th floor of a building next to the Cathedral.
I proceeded to this office, as I have done for the last 37 years, with never the slightest problem. I had rung them the day before as they need notice to make cash available (it was only $1800).
The glass doors swing open on the ground floor, and right in front of me blocking my path was a tall guy dressed like an office worker. He was holding some papers.
“Can I help you with anything?” he says
Taken aback a little, I simply say, ”I am just going to the ADF office”
“Which floor?” (Now, the ADF is only on one floor as far as I am aware.)
“What are you going there for?”
“To get some money out. Our community has banked there for over 30 years”
“What are you going to do with the money?”
Having by this stage amazed myself by my own restraint, the Dowling sarcasm could hold itself in no longer.
“What do you spend your money on? I am not going to buy drugs with it! Are you security or something.”
He replied in the affirmative.
I said, ”You don’t look like security. Undercover, eh? Jim is my name, and I put out my hand. He shook it and replied with a deadpan expression, the only one he seemed to possess, “Roger”
“What is your last name Roger?”
“Do you know me? “
“I know about you.”
“Oh, famous am I?”
“No not famous, I just know about you.”
What do you know about me? No response.
“ Look, you can accompany me up to get the money out if you like.”
“OK, let’s go.“ was all he said.
Up we go in the lift. In the bank office Roger walks down a left corridor as I walk up to the desk and say hello to a person I had been dealing with for probably 20 years. We sort out the cash, and have a short discussion about giving more notice to take out a lot of cash. ($1800 seems to be an enormous amount of cash in this cashless society).
I turned to leave and noticed Roger on my right. “See you later Roger”, I said.
But Roger did not reply and simply followed me to the
“Oh you are going to escort me out as well?”
In the lift, I said “Only the Queen would get this sort of treatment, I reckon?”
“You’d be surprised.” He said
“Would the archbishop be accompanied up and down the lifts?”
“You’d be surprised”
“Well, I am very surprised! But you are not doing much to un-surprise me! What do you know about me?”
“I know you don’t wear shoes. “
“Well you can see that. You don’t have to know anything about me to see that”
Now we are out the lift almost to the front doors.
“What is your last name again, Roger? “ I asked (I had forgotten)
“Bishop. Bishop with a smile”
I laughed. “Oh I must have missed that!” I said. The smile I meant. The only expression I saw on his face could have been described as one of subdued contempt.
So this is the sad, sad state of affairs. Obviously this is the aftermath of our removal of the sword from the cross at Toowong war memorial, and our campaign to remove guns form the Cathedral. Archbishop Coleridge is terrified of Catholic Worker nonviolence, as he surrounds himself with guns, politicians, and the military on Anzac Day in the Cathedral.
With the Archbishop refusing to talk to us for the last two years, and the Dean of the Cathedral says his hands were tied on the issue, (he described himself as a mere “minion”), we once again handed out leaflets outside the Cathedral on the days leading up to Anzac Day. On the day I was there, Archbishop Mark passed near me twice, perhaps on his was to and from the nearby post office. He refused to look at me, and seemed angry.
I have little doubt he was responsible for that strange banking event yesterday. Who Roger Bishop is I do not know. Googling the name Bishop in relation to the Catholic church is an impossible task as you can imagine. Any enlightenment would be welcome.