Calwell under WWII suspicion over links to Italian priest

ASIO's predecessor agency harboured suspicions about former Labor Party leader Arthur Calwell's loyalties during World War II because of his links with an Italian-born Jesuit priest who was later banned from returning to Australia, a researcher has found.

The Australian reports that Calwell was investigated during the war for allegedly putting his Catholic loyalties ahead of the national interest while a minister in the Curtin Federal Labor Government.

Information uncovered during research for a new book to be launched by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone in Melbourne tomorrow show the Commonwealth Investigation Service, the precursor to ASIO, was concerned Calwell and his wife were unduly influenced by an Italian-born Jesuit, Fr Ugo Modotti.

Fr Modotti was censured by a Vatican tribunal and was returned to Rome from Australia in 1946.

He was never allowed back despite Calwell constantly pressing the Church authorities to allow his return when he later became Australia's first immigration minister.

A document sent by RAAF courier from the CIS office in Melbourne to its Canberra headquarters alleges Fr Modotti had "such a hold on the Calwells by virtue of his priestly character, that he is using that power to force the Minister to carry out the desires of a secret junta".

The revelations are made by Melbourne journalist Geoff Easdown in Gualtiero Vaccari: A man of Quality - the biography of a man who landed in Melbourne from Italy in 1912 and went on to serve fellow Italians and the Curtin Government during World War II, caring for thousands of his countrymen who were interned in Australia.

Easdown quotes from a document stamped "top secret" that says: "Disclosures made by Mr G Vacarri during an interview at this Melbourne office this day are of such a nature that I feel compelled to bring them to your immediate notice ... Father Modotti has become the supreme influence in the activities of the Minister where Italians are concerned."

Calwell's church links probed during WWII (The Australian, 13/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Arthur Calwell (Wikipedia)

Last post for Melbourne's multicultural pioneer (CathNews, 9/10/06)

13 Dec 2006