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cause was brought to my door: a nun took up a "Save the Mater" petition while standing outside my office in th Corso; a letter campaign deluged my mail with protests from former patients; and several involved medicos demanded interviews. I was sympathetic -- I had once been a patient of the hospital myself, and the nuns there had cared for my mother during her final illness. But the Government had a responsibility to provide health care for everybody and to face economic reality.

For help in dealing with the Church, I turned to my parliamentary colleague and friend Michael Maher -- "The Cardinal". On a Monday afternoon the two of us set out to pay our respects to the local clergy.

At the Balgowlah presbytery we were greeted by a sleepy looking priest who told us that he had just been reading the works of one B.A.Santamaria. We quickly backed out. At St Mary's, on the flat of Manly, Father Ryan invited us in for a cup of tea. Through a thick brogue, he chatted about politics in a non-committal manner. As we got up to leave, he lowered his voice: "Did you know that there's a letter? It's from the Bishop, to be read at mass on Sunday."

The prospect of being denounced simultaneously from every Catholic pulpit on the North Shore was daunting. Michael Maher and I anxiously headed up the hill to St Patricks Seimary, where we sought advice from a friend on the teaching staff.

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