Bill Daly RIP: fearless defender of Catholic orthodoxy in Australia

Bill Daly RIP: fearless defender of Catholic orthodoxy in Australia

Fr James Tierney

In 1970 I was assistant priest at St Charles Borromeo, Ryde, when I first heard the name Bill Daly (1913-2007. The parish priest said to me, 'The Apostolic Delegate has just rung. The Holy See wants to know who Mr William Daly is. Apparently he lives in our parish. Do you know him?'

'Never heard of him,' said I - but I was soon to do so. Bill and his wife, Imelda (may she too rest in peace) called at the presbytery and explained that, due to moving from their cattle station near Rockhampton, they had prepared their daughter Mary for her first Confession and Holy Communion, which they were now requesting.

In those days, home preparation for the Sacraments was unheard of, though thanks to Bill and Imelda and others, it is normal enough now, and I was to pioneer it parish-wide at St Nicholas of Myra, Penrith, later in the 1970s.

In 1971, I protested against the new materials of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine of the Archdiocese of Sydney for high schools, because of its ego-philosophy, i.e., self-worship, and against lectures impoverished in doctrinal content for catechists.

I was discarded as a lecturer at the evening training courses for catechists, so I began an alternative daytime catechist training course at Ryde, by authority of the parish priest. Bill Daly came along - to check up on where I stood.

He gave me his imprimatur and told me that overseas some priests were demythologising the Resurrection of our Lord.

I remember telling him that no Catholic could possibly do that! It was not until 1974 that I discovered the hard evidence for myself. Heresy was indeed happening here - 'The bones of Jesus may still be lying around Palestine ...'.

As dissent escalated in the early 1970s, Bill placed before various Church authorities his evidence of catechetical confusion. He told me how a priest who could not cope with the evidence simply denied it and 'attacked the messenger', and an auxiliary bishop, his eyes flashing with anger, sent him to a pair of well known demythologisers.

I was experiencing similar treat- ment myself. In those days I used write regularly to Church authorities, hoping they would fix things, but they refused to acknowledge there was any problem.

The first ever, and, as it has turned out, the only ever, conference of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for all the dioceses of NSW (to which Canberra and Goulburn was attached) was convened by the Archdiocesan CCD of Sydney at Santa Sophia Women's College at Sydney University, during the last week of the August 1974 school holidays.

Bill and I were there, upholding the teaching of Catholic doctrine, with no adulteration or leaving out of ess- entials. At the internal meeting of the delegates from the Archdiocese of Sydney (about 35, which was half the Conference), Bill moved a motion, which I seconded, that catechesis in the Archdiocese be based on the Gospels, Vatican II, the 1971 Vatican General Catechetical Directory, and The Renewal of the Education of Faith (an Australian presentation).

The motion was defeated by 32 votes to 3.

Just before this Conference, in July 1974, the Cardinal Newman Catechist Centre opened as a resource centre on the upper floor of the old presbytery at Parramatta, with the support of Cardinal Freeman and staffed by experienced catechists.

Bill guided us into directly importing the best books from the USA. He wanted us to have in stock a title against every doctrinal deviation.

He was the inspiration and chief benefactor for the expansion of the Cardinal Newman Catechist Centre, a work which still continues at Merrylands thanks to its dedicated staff and to Father Rod Bray.

Later, he would be vital in setting up the monthly family catechetics gatherings in the early 1980s.

Meanwhile, by 1977, several issues were coming to a head in the Archdiocese of Sydney and beyond.

Independently of each other, though with each other's cognisance, four people, namely two laymen, one priest and one nun, over a period of several months, were moved by the Spirit to visit Archbishop Gino Paro, the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, who was at that time still residing at 40 Edward Street, North Sydney.

We reported on defective catechetics, the corrosive sex education introduced into Catholic schools in 1975, the demythyologising of the Resurrection at the seminary and the fallacious philosophy and theology courses being taught at the Teachers' College at North Sydney (now a part of Australian Catholic University).

The Nuncio took action and Rome sent out an investigator who, unfortunately, ended up whitewashing the situation. By then the Nuncio had had a stroke from which he never recovered. He was flown back to Rome where he died two years later.


In October 1980, the leading Australian demythologiser recounted to a meeting of priests what he had said to a select ecumenical meeting of the Catholic and Anglican bishops of Sydney. Bill Daly was at that meeting. How did he manage to gain admission?

Seemingly, in his follow up, he prevented this demythologiser becoming an archbishop.

Later on, Bill was writing to Rome again. He proposed 'a staff college' for bishops, akin to the staff colleges for generals and their head- quarters staff, who work out the strategies and implement them.

In particular, Bill wanted the bishops to be taught to recognise the errors of the day - the way Benedict XVI laments the relativism of European thinking which asserts that nothing definite can be known and there are no moral absolutes.

Next, Bill wanted the bishops taught effective ways of combating these errors, so each bishop would be an effective 'watchman', for that is what the word 'bishop' means.

Apparently they took notice as there now seems to be a course in Rome put on for new bishops.

There is much more that Bill Daly did to promote and defend the faith, including writing a book on the priesthood. We are all indebted to this fearless defender of Catholic truth.

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