Knights and Dames
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 23 March 2006

 We continue to see a need for the restoration of the fourth level of the Order of Australia.

We were delighted to see that the former President of the NSW Legislative Council, now chairman of the board of The Catholic Weekly, Mr. Johno Johnson has been installed as a papal knight in recognition of his distinguished service to the Church in Australia.

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, presented Mr. Johnson with the insignia of the Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great at a ceremony at the Polding Centre on Friday, 24 February 2006. This is reported in detail by Kerry Myers on 5 March, 2006 in the Catholic Weekly

We congratulate Mr Johnson, but we still wonder why Australia cannot recognize the contributions of its citizens at this level.

The objection does not seem to be the conferring of a knighthood but rather the titles, “Sir” or “Dame”. I had previously suggested that the solution could lie in awarding the rank of Knight or Dame, without the title. I said that people would probably be inclined to address a knight or dame with their title, even if it had not been granted.

Some readers suggest this is not necessary. A precedent offered by bishops of the Church of England may offer a more acceptable solution. For some time it has been the practice of Anglican bishops to refuse the accolade, that is the dubbing, the stroke on the shoulder with the sword, and consequently, the title “Sir”. This is because a knight would give military service to the king, and the clergy did not think this appropriate for them.

So when they accepted a knighthood, they would not them take the title, “Sir”. This was also the practice in Australia among Anglicans, Sir marcus Loane being an exception.

Catholic bishops in Australia would normally take the accolade, and proudly used the title granted by their Sovereign. You can imagine that there might have been a tinge of regret among the Anglican bishops when they read or heard of the activities of, say, Sir Norman Cardinal Gilroy or Archbishop Sir James Duhig.

Perhaps this Anglican practice provides the solution. Reinstate the AK and the AD, but allow recipients to reject the accolade. Those who don’t want the title could reject the accolade; those who were happy with it could accept it.

Is this the solution?