Sectarian religion in a new country
Much of the religious dialogue in Australian history relates to Catholics and Protestants.
Catholic/Protestant differences were evident from first settlement as about a tenth of the convicts were Catholic, the Irish convicts, many transported for political rebellion. They were forced to attend the Church of England services and their children to adopt the Anglican faith. Catholicism remained a point of social animosity and suspicion, reflecting tensions between the English and Irish back home. Only in 1819 were two Irish priests appointed and paid by the British government supported by Governor Macquarie who donated 20 guineas towards a catholic church in Sydney and laying its foundation stone, also supporting Wesleyans and their first church at Parramatta.(Blainey, 2015, p. 363)
The splitting of Protestants from Catholics, the Protestant Reformation, had begun in 1517 when German monk Martin Luther (who famously nailed his objections, the ‘ninety-five theses’, to a church door), French theologian John Calvin and others ‘protested’ the doctrines, formal church procedures, and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church. The outcome of this dissention was that Europe became religiously divided on more or less geographic lines. Northern Europe became Protestant (with the exception of Ireland, the Netherlands and a few regions of Britain), southern Europe remained Catholic, and central Europe became the site of religious wars that persisted for over 100 years, ending with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
Though Christianity was a shared faith of profound social importance it contained within it major social divisions based along denominational lines. The major branches of the faith in Australia, as in Britain, were: Roman Catholic, Anglican (Church of England), Pentecostal and Protestant (a category that sometimes encompasses Anglicanism).
Roman Catholicism was based around the central authority of the Pope and Vatican in Rome but there was no similar authority for Protestantism which was divided, but of much less social consequence, into doctrinal sects, perhaps the best known being the Adventists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Evangelicals, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Reformed Church, and Unitarians (the method of categorizing these varies).
Religious sectarian groups have been associated with certain geographic regions of Australia: Prussian Lutherans in the Barossa Valley of South Australia and parts of Queensland; Methodists in South Australia; Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Baptist churches at Sevenhill, in the newly established colony of South Australia in 1848; Austrian Jesuits founding missions and schools.
Eventually the ideal of a Christian civilization promoted through a union of Church and State was abandoned in the face of ever more demands from Dissenters, Catholics, the Jewish community and concerns about religious freedom and individual rights. State support for religion was abolished in 1863.