Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review

Volume 12, Issue 1, 2021

Bernard Doherty
Pages 1-16

The Faith We Left Behind? The Order of Saint Charbel, Roman Catholic Traditionalism, and the Conservative Reaction to Vatican II in Australia

The Order of Saint Charbel, and its founding prophet William Kamm (b. 1950), also known as “The Little Pebble,” has been a marginal presence on the fringes of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia since the 1980s. While a series of bishops from the Diocese of Wollongong (and other dioceses) have issued official statements taking issue with the beliefs and practices of the group and publicly distancing the group from normative Catholicism, little systematic analysis of its beliefs has been undertaken which situate these within a wider historical Roman Catholic context. This article offers a preliminary analysis of some key themes occurring in the “private revelations” which form a key aspect of the Order of Saint Charbel’s religious repertoire and their relationship with the broader theological positions of Catholic traditionalists. This article suggests that the Order of Saint Charbel, while sharing some concerns with traditionalist and other groups across the spectrum of conservative reactions to Vatican II, is best classified as a “devotionally traditionalist” lay movement exhibiting a kind of popular theology that can only be properly understood when viewed against the wider backdrop of traditional vernacular Catholic devotional practices, many of which have either declined or become marginalized since Vatican II.

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