Melbourne News

Archbishop Daniel Mannix: His legacy

Kairos Volume 24, Issue 6

Words David Schütz     
Pictures John Casamento

Now, I would bet if [Archbishop Daniel Mannix] would walk into this room today through those doors behind us, I think most of us would recognise him straight away. Whereas if his Sydney contemporary, Archbishop Michael Kelly, walked in, I doubt that any of us would know him. And I don’t think it is just a Melbourne-Sydney thing, because I think if Mannix’s predecessor, Archbishop Thomas Carr, were to walk in, none of us would recognise him either.
Professor Elizabeth Malcolm

ARCHBISHOP Daniel Mannix’s long archbishopric in Melbourne had a deep and lasting effect upon the character of the Victorian Catholic Church, and indeed upon wider Australian society in general.

The conference, ‘Daniel Mannix: His Legacy’, was organised by the Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission and hosted by the State Library of Victoria. The conference marked the 100th anniversary of Mannix’s arrival in Melbourne on 23 March 1913 and the 50th anniversary of his death on 6 November 1963.

As Professor Malcolm intimated in the introduction to her paper on ‘Mannix Cartoons’, Archbishop Daniel Mannix was a larger than life character—a fact immortalised for all to see by his statue in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Daniel Mannix came to Melbourne at the age of 49 upon his appointment as coadjutor archbishop to Archbishop Carr after a distinguished career at Maynooth College in Ireland. He became Archbishop of Melbourne on the death of Archbishop Carr on 6 May 1917, and remained Archbishop until his death at the age of 99. Mannix’s own coadjutor, Archbishop Simmonds, had been appointed in 1942.

Mannix’s influence touched many areas of society beyond the Church community, in Australia and in Ireland and England. In early days he became notorious for his opposition to conscription and his position on the Irish troubles, and in latter days for his connection with B. A. Santamaria and ‘the Split’ in the Australian Labor Party.

Fifty years after his death, Mannix remains an object of fascination for historians and for many who were old enough to remember him. But among the wider community, his memory has faded. I was born in South Australia in 1966, and raised in a non-Catholic, Liberal-voting household, so he never really came onto my radar. I only really came to know of Mannix when I became a Catholic, and I only really got to know him when I began working on the correspondence he carried out in the early 1930s with Anglican Archbishop F. W. Head.

It was to this latter study that I owed the invitation to speak at the conference on ‘The Eucharistic Procession Controversy 1932-1934’ and to attend the excellent conference dinner at Mannix College in the evening.

The conference, opened by Archbishop Hart, attracted about 120 people.

Professor Emeritus Dermot Keogh came from University College in Cork, Ireland, to give the keynote address on ‘Mannix, Memory and Irish Independence’. Dr Michael McKernan came from Canberra to address us on ‘Mannix and Conscription’. Another young Irish historian and Mannix enthusiast, Patrick Mannix, author of The Belligerent Prelate: An Alliance between Archbishop Daniel Mannix and Eamon de Valera, also came from Ireland. While he is still trying to pin down his exact relationship to the Archbishop, he is organising a commemorative event for Daniel Mannix to take place in Charleville, County Cork, later this year.

Local speakers included Dr Brenda Niall AO, who gave a touching account of ‘The Archbishop at Home: Daniel Mannix at Raheen from 1917 to 1963’, full of personal recollections. Other speakers and topics included Patrick Morgan (‘Archbishop Mannix: Tribal Leader, Political Strategist, Prelate and Aristocrat’); Professor Gabrielle McMullen (‘Daniel Mannix on Inducing Catholics To Take Their Proper Place in Universities’); and Dr Val Noone (‘Daniel Mannix: Parish Priest of West Melbourne 1913-1917’).

Dr Edmund Campion came down from Sydney to chair the panel discussion and sum up the conference. Unfortunately, Dr Brian Costar, who was to have given a paper, ‘Mannix and Santamaria: Loyalism, Sectarianism and Communism’, was ill and unable to attend.

During the lunch break, there was the opportunity to view several films of Mannix from the Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission, including an interview with Gerald Lyons of the ABC which was done in 1962, when Mannix was 98 years old.

There were 60 for the dinner at the Monash University residential college named after Mannix, where we were joined and entertained by the students of the college.

The weekend’s activities continued the next day on Sunday 17 March, when Rachel Naughton led a bus tour for 26 participants to places of interest around Melbourne associated with Archbishop Mannix. Dr Val Noone related much colourful local history along the way.

Special congratulations should go to Rachel Naughton, the Archdiocesan archivist, for administrating the conference, and Dr Val Noone for being the master of ceremonies.

David Schütz is the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, Archdiocese of Melbourne.

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