Report on Female Factory

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
20 September 1844

After the close of the first Provincial council of Australasia, the Clergy from the several Deaneries of the Archdiocese of Sydney assembled at St. Mary’s Presbytery, on the 13th September, 1844, when the Secretary to the Archbishop laid before them the following Letter, referring to a Sermon preached on the 4th June last, at the Female Factory, Parramatta, and published by the Right Reverend the Bishop of Australia.

Sydney, June 17, 1844

“SIR,—I am directed by the Most Reverend Dr. POLDING to transmit the enclosed Sermon, by the Bishop of Australia, that it may be brought officially under the notice of his Excellency the Governor. From the title page it appears to have been preached at the Female Factory, at Parramatta, on June the 4th instant. It has been since published and advertised. It contains much offensive misrepresentation of the doctrine and distortion of the tenets, of the Roman Catholic Church. If this circumstance were the only thing to be complained of, the present production of his Lordship would be permitted to pass in our wonted silence. Taking into consideration the occasion when, the avowed object for which this sermon was preached, and its general purport, it is impossible to suppose that any other individuals than the Most Rev. Dr. POLDING, who was actually engaged in his sacred duties at the Factory at the time a part of the sermon was preached, the Catholic Clergy, and the Sisters of Charity, are aimed at, and included in the heavy personal charges urged by the Right Rev. Dr. BROUGHTON.

“The inference left on the mind of the reader by a perusal of the preface is, that the spiritual exercises recently conducted in the Female Factory were for the purpose of proselytism.

“This inference ripens into a direct charge in page 6.

“His Lordship informs his audience and readers that he is there, i.e. in the Factory, on the 4th June, ‘because he has heard that some there are who would lead them into error and delusion in religion;’—and again, ‘that there are those who would covertly lead them captive, taking advantage of their restraint and seclusion from all proper means of information, to spread amongst them persuasions foreign to God’s Word.’ In page 7 we are described as agents of the Church of Rome, tampering with their belief, i.e. the belief of the Protestant women in the Factory, and secretly endeavouring to draw them out of it. In page 9 the prisoners are informed by the Bishop of Australia what is our real belief, and our first principle of religion—’not the acknowledging Jesus Christ with sincere faith as the Son of the Living God, but the acknowledging with unquestioning submission the Pope or Bishop of Rome as the supreme governor of the Church upon earth.’ And as if this were not strong enough, his Lordship goes on to say, ‘that if they,’ i.e. the prisoners, ‘had our books, or we could be induced to declare our real sentiments without reseve, that they would find our principles just as he has stated.

“With grief and shame the most Rev. Dr. POLDING observes, that the principle thus emphatically laid down to be the first principle of our religion, contains doctrine which shocks our ears, which we reject as blasphemous, which from our hearts we detest.

“It is not surprising that the more refined language of his Lordship conveyed ideas to his audience, which in the language of the Factory were expressed by stating, that the Bishop of Australia in his sermon has declared that the Archbishop and his Priests were liars and hypocrites, and whoever listened to them would be sure to go to hell with them.

“As before observed, the general misrepresentation and distortion of our tenets in this sermon are not complained of; it is for his Excellency to decide whether such misrepresentations and discussions tend to edify and to promote the blessing of Christian charity. Justice, however, to the Archbishop’s character, and to that of the persons implicated, requires that the charges above noticed, which may be deemed personal, should be brought under examination.

The Rev. Mr. COFFEY, and the Sisters of Charity, deny that they have laid themselves open to these cruel and insulting charges.

“The Most Rev. Dr. POLDING solemnly assures his Excellency that during nearly nine years, that is, since he came to the colony, he has not, on any occasion, addressed the prisoners of the Crown on subjects of controversy. Hundreds of times has he addressed them, in the Church, or in the places of their confinement, and not once has he deemed it necessary or proper to touch upon such subjects. The same may be asserted, he believes, of every Catholic clergyman in the colony.

“The Right Rev. Dr. BROUGHTON intimates that the Government has several times interfered to prevent proselytism. Twice the Most Rev. Dr. POLDING has been compelled to invoke the interference of Governemnt on this subject, and he is not aware that the conduct of himself, or his clergy, has ever been the subject of animadversion in this matter, before the present occasion.

“In reference to the recently conducted spiritual exercises in the Factory, I am directed by the Most Reverend Dr. POLDING to observe—

  1. That all his instructions were given in the room devoted to the divine worship of the Catholic Church, except when he visited individuals in the hospital and cells.
  2. That he did not speak to his knowledge to any one Protestant woman a word on the subject of religion.
  3. In all his instructions and exhortations in the Factory, not one word was uttered of a controversial nature; and he respectfully requests his Excellency to call upon those who have asserted the contrary, to make good their assertions.

“Convinced of the truth which was some years since declared, in the presence of his Excellency in the Legislative Council, ‘that passing impressions are not sufficient to reform the human heart when long steeped in vice;’ and anxious to discharge his duty towards the unfortunate Catholic inmates of the Factory, the Most Rev. Dr. POLDING determined to devote a sufficient time to instruct them in the principles of their religion, and, under the influence of Divine Grace, to persuade them, if possible, to live up to them. To inspire them with a practical belief in the existence of God, to bring before their minds their responsibility as moral agents, the excellence of their immortal souls, their duties to God as their Creator, their Redeemer, their Sanctifier—to develop the nature of sin as the greatest of all evils—the source and cause of shame and misery here and hereafter—to make them feel a horror of it—to penetrate them with a sorrow for the past—to influence them to resolve upon amendment of life by the help of Divine Grace—to point out the means to be employed to ensure perseverance in good—to prepare them for the sacred rites of religion. These were the topics which privately and publicly occupied the time spent within the melancholy walls of the Factory.

“Since the Bishop of Australia has thought fit to publish and advertise his Sermon, and since the public at large are in possession of the insinuations and mis-statements contained therein, the Most Rev. Dr. POLDING earnestly requests his Excellency to cause an inquiry to be instituted respecting the recent proceedings in the Factory.

“1st.—Respecting the conversions stated by the Bishop of Australia to have taken place.

“2nd.—In reference to the general charge of Proselytism, as stated by his Lordship in the above quotations, and urged against the Most Rev. Dr. POLDING, the Rev. Dr. COFFEY, and the Sisters of Charity.

“Without presuming to dictate to his Excellency, I am directed respectfully to suggest that the enquiry be conducted by two Clergymen, one appointed by the Right Rev. Dr. BROUGHTON, the other by the Most Rev. Dr. POLDING, and two Magistrates, Catholic and Protestant, to be appointed by his Excellency,—the Rev. Messrs. COFFEY and BOBART, with Mr. ELLIOTT, to be excepted.

“I have the honor to be,


Your most obedient servant,

(Signed) “H. G. GREGORY

“The Hon. the Colonial Secretary.”

The letter having been read, the Rev. JOHN RIGNEY was forthwith voted to the chair, when the following Resolutions were proposed and unanimously adopted by the Clergy:—


Proposed by the Rev. MICHAEL BRENNAN, seconded by the Rev. CHARLES LOVAT:

Resolved — “That having read a sermon preached at the Female Factory, Parramatta, by the Right Rev. the Bishop of Australia, and published by his authority, in which assertions, mis-statements, and misrepresentations have been made, grievously aspersing the character of our venerable Archbishop—of our esteemed brother clergymen, and of the benevolent and retiring ladies, the Sisters of Charity—imputing moreover to us the inculcation of tenets which we ourselves did not believe to be true; although we are at all times willing to honour those to whom honour is due—to pay deference to those in high station, and to respect those whom we may presume know how to respect themselves—still considering the accusations of the Right Rev. Dr. BROUGHTON as untrue, calumnious, and unprovoked, we should be wanting to ourselves if we did not give expressions to our unqualified, unanimous, and indignant reprobation of such accusations, especially as they emanated from the recognised head of a numerous and respectable body of Christians and fellow citizens, with whom we are in the daily interchange of the duties, civilities, and hospitalities of life.”


Proposed by the Rev. JAMES GOULD; seconded by the Rev. JOHN T. LYNCH:

Resolved—’That we feel much pleasure in being able to assert, that while the history of the Colony would supply many instances of patient and Christian endurance on the part of the Catholic body, it would not afford even a solitary instance of their wantonly insulting Christians of any denominations, by making their religious tenets the subject of invidious remark.”


Proposed by the Rev. JOHN FITZPATRICK; seconded by the Rev. JOHN GRANT:

Resolved—”That the proceedings of this Meeting be published in the AUSTRALIAN DAILY JOURNAL AND MORNING CHRONICLE, and the English paper the BRITISH QUEEN; and that copies of them be transmitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, to Sir ROBERT PEEL, and LORD STANLEY.”

See Original: “No title,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 20 September 1844, p.1