Bob Santamaria

Bob Santamaria

Brian A. Peachey

On 12 December 2007 I made a formal submission to Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, as required by the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, to inquire about the life, virtues and reputation of sanctity of the late Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria, who in my humble opinion was a true Servant of God who displayed heroic virtue and whose canonisation should be sought.

Archbishop Hart responded, thanked me for the submission and informed me that no other member of the faithful or any legitimate group had made such a request. At the time I had not shown the submission to anyone else, other than my wife.

I made the submission after much prayerful thought as we approached the tenth anniversary of his death.

I first met Bob Santamaria in 1956 and for the next 42 years until his death he was a friend with whom I worked closely. I had been a member of the Labor Party and an active Trade Unionist in Western Australia and experienced the tragedy of the split in the Australian Labor Party during 1954-57 over communism.

I accepted the strategy that Bob Santamaria and others adopted to force the Labor Party to shed its involvement with Communists in the Trade Unions by depriving the ALP of power in the hope that it would return to its true Labor roots. From 1957 to 1964 I was the Western Australian State Secretary of the Democratic Labor Party.

Bob Santamaria had incredible God-given intellectual gifts which I have never witnessed in any other person. Archbishop Romolo Carboni, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, said of him in 1959: "In your Secretary, Mr Santamaria, you have been with a genuine Christian man of unbelievable apostolic exuberance and outstanding intellectual brilliance, a genius for organisation and a leader able to elicit the fullness of dedication and loyalty from his followers, even though he has been unable to promise that they would receive any repayment than that which the men of the first century repaid the Divine Master and his apostles, misunderstanding, opposition, contempt, even death.

"Looking at things the way the world does, one might have prophesied for Mr Santamaria in his student days a most resplendent future. His university record would have ensured for him a monetary remuneration and mundane success far beyond the hopes of his fellows. It could have offered him acclaim, possessions, temporal prestige. Yet when an invitation of his Archbishop to dedicate himself and his remarkable talents totally to the lay apostolate, to the dynamising of the Catholic laity, was received, this truly great Christian man responded immediately. He knew that his choice would mean the forgoing of legitimate riches, worldly praise, even of understanding and friendship from many of his fellow Catholics, yet he unhesitatingly accepted."

In my submission to Archbishop Hart I enclosed the whole of Archbishop Carboni's statement, the panegyric of the then Archbishop Pell given at Bob Santamaria's funeral and a homily preached at St Mary's Cathedral by Archbishop Hickey.

I firmly believe Bob Santamaria lived a life of heroic virtue. Although he may not have given his life as a martyr, he suffered great personal anguish on several well-defined occasions, which in a sense is a form of martyrdom.

His funeral in 1998 with the presence of an incredible number of bishops and priests was also a confirmation that I had witnessed the passing of a truly holy man.

In his panegyric, Archbishop Pell observed: "Some would believe that his greatest religious contribution has been during the last ten or fifteen years as different forces contended for the soul of Catholicism. Here he stood squarely with the Holy Father. No other person had the intellectual skills or organisational ability nationwide to inform Australian Catholics of the nature of the challenge they faced.

"He changed the course of Australian religious debate on both faith and family. He inspired many of us to join him in the long twilight struggle between good and evil, between faith and unbelief. We thank God for this. Bob Santamaria was a great Australian, and a saintly Catholic."

BRIAN A. PEACHEY
Woodlands, WA

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