Academic journal article Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society

The Price of a Wife? the Priest and the Divorce Trial

Academic journal article Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society

The Price of a Wife? the Priest and the Divorce Trial

Article excerpt

Author: Anne E. Cunningham Anchor Books Australia

Available for $34.95 from www.anchorbooksaustralia.com.au ISBN: 97809 8033 5491

Launched by former Irish Ambassador, Richard O'Brien, at the Irish-Australian conference hosted by the Global Irish Studies Centre at UNSW on 6 December, this is a story of love, lust, blackmail, religious bigotry and old-fashioned skulduggery.

In December 1900, Fr Denis O'Haran, Dean of Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral, became entangled in a bitter divorce trial. Australian cricketer, Arthur Coningham, accused the priest of having an affair with his wife, Alice, and demanded 5000 [pounds sterling] compensation for the loss of his conjugal rights. The priest denied the affair and two court cases ensued. The action in the courts was inflamed by sectarian tensions and, in ways not dissimilar to that of today, newspapers became enthralled by intrigue in the Catholic Church and the activities of a myriad of local characters, including Evangelical Protestant, Rev. William Dill-Macky; Catholic solicitor, politician and civil servant, Thomas Michael Slattery; barrister and politician, Jack Want; the whistle-blowing priest, Fr Kenny, known as 'Zero'; and a collection of characters from St Mary's Cathedral.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This story is well-known in some sections of the Catholic Church but recently unearthed documents allow a new interpretation of the story. …

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