Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Daniel Mannix (1864–1963)

by James Griffin

This article was published:

View Previous Version

Daniel Mannix (1864-1963), by unknown photographer, c1919

Daniel Mannix (1864-1963), by unknown photographer, c1919

Australian War Memorial, P01383.001

Daniel Mannix (1864-1963), Catholic archbishop, was born on 4 March 1864 at his father's substantial tenant farm Deerpark, Charleville (Rathluirc), Cork, Ireland, son of Timothy Mannix and his wife Ellen, née Cagney. He was born in the year of the Syllabus of Errors, six years before Vatican Council I. When celebrating his last Mass on the opening day of Vatican II (11 October 1962) he drank from a gold copy of the fifteenth-century de Burgh chalice presented by his friend President de Valera of Ireland, and wore a handwoven replica of the vestments presented by the Empress of Austria to St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and worn by the Archbishop of Dublin at Mannix's own ordination (8 June 1890).

His parents were scrupulously devout and ambitious; three other surviving sons went into medicine, farming and law, and a sister finished her education in France. All but one were similarly long lived although Daniel was anaemic and non-insurable as a student. His domineering mother steered him from Sisters of Mercy and Christian Brothers' primary schools into Latin-teaching academies, thence through St Colman's, Fermoy, to Maynooth in 1882. Later, in Australia he would have one cousin, Daniel Foley, as suffragan bishop of Ballarat, and six others as religious, five of them nuns. In 1889-90 he continued his outstanding scholastic success at Dunboyne Establishment, qualifying for a doctorate of divinity (awarded 1895) and proceeding directly to a lectureship in philosophy and the chair of moral theology at Maynooth (1895).

Sources are too exiguous for a well-rounded appreciation of his character and standing in Ireland. He burned documents, wrote letters sparingly and kept no diaries so that posterity could not 'analyse my soul'. His answers and notes in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record upholding Rome's authority and disparaging gallicanism, together with aloof austerity, led to his being called 'a lonely frigid theologian'. However, his letters show a glimmer of disdain for canon law and, in Melbourne, he largely ignored it, ultimately advocating abolition of its 'irritative' penalties because 'you can't make people good by punishment'. Mannix discouraged note-taking in class, relied on a single text, but was a lucid, free-ranging expositor. As inaugural secretary (1896-1903) of the Maynooth Union he promoted discussion of 'urgent' socio-economic questions such as temperance, co-operatives and housing, advocated free-enterprise economic nationalism as more vital to Irish self-respect than Home Rule, and delivered (1901) a cogent if unoriginal 6000-word paper on the land question. This paper advocated freehold for tenant-farmers such as his family and, unlike Parnellites, protection and alliance with the Tories. It was the only substantial article he ever wrote. He assisted his relatives in land negotiations and ultimately, with £1000, tried to salvage the family farm which his brother Timothy wasted in drink and mismanagement.

Mannix travelled abroad in vacations, belonged to the exclusive Papal Household Club in London, rode with the other professors to hounds but, although tolerant of conviviality, was a conspicuous leader of the Pioneer temperance movement. His probity, care for rubrics, discipline and deference to the hierarchy led to appointment as vice-president and then, rapidly, president of Maynooth (1903) by unanimous election. Henceforth he rode only in a brougham. Rome appointed him monsignor in 1906.

Mannix's major tasks were to remove 'the finger of scorn from priests' and, as senator of the moribund Royal University of Ireland, to press acceptance of Maynooth, against Orange opposition, as a recognized college of the new (1909) National University of Ireland. Whereas in 1903 only 11 of 80 Maynooth entrants had qualified for matriculation studies, all priests now met degree requirements. Mannix was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws. Maynooth, once described by Canon P. Sheahan as a 'rude cyclopean [institution] … without one single aspect of refinement', became a 'West Point'. Among those sent down for smoking were Kevin O'Higgins and a future bishop. Mannix introduced the Manual of Etiquette and Good Manners, and improved salaries and domestic welfare. Books on the Index were removed from the library, Maynooth was screened for tinges of 'modernism' and speculation in the Irish Theological Quarterly discouraged. Mannix contemptuously repelled student protests but was esteemed for his holiness and personal care of the sick; 90 per cent of students emerged teetotallers. However liberal he may have wanted to be, he was compelled, if he wished to join the hierarchy, to satisfy his narrow episcopal trustees. His former students were surprised to learn that their magisterial, tall, gaunt and handsome president was regarded in uptown drawing-rooms as a man of wide culture.

Certainly he appeared oblivious of the Gaelic revival: his opposition to compulsory Irish—he was never known to use a word of it—as being useless to diasporic clergy led to intemperate criticism from its propagandist Professor Michael O'Hickey. Mannix became the 'Mephistopheles' who allegedly engineered O'Hickey's dismissal from Maynooth. The 1916 martyr Padraig Pearse asked: Is Mannix an enemy to Irish nationalism? In 1926 John Devoy was still condemning him to 'sackcloth and ashes'. He must have been desolated to be seen as a 'castle Catholic' but he had eschewed politics and had cordially entertained King Edward VII (1903) and King George V (1911) in loyal displays at Maynooth. This was 'toadyism' even to Redmondites. Later Mannix and his adulators would gloss over these visits.

Through antagonizing nationalists and, probably, important hierarchs, Mannix seems to have forfeited his chance of a major Irish see. He was appointed to Melbourne (1 July 1912) soon after O'Hickey's embarrassingly protracted appeal to Rome was discontinued by the Rota. Archbishop Thomas Carr had for years wanted him as a coadjutor and with Carr's age, Cardinal Patrick Moran's demise (1911) and Archbishop Michael Kelly's dullness, a formidable leader was needed in the struggle for state aid. Ultimately, Mannix was not consulted about his appointment and, as he had insisted that his students obey Rome unquestioningly, he did not demur. He was consecrated titular bishop of Pharsalus on 6 October 1912, taking the motto Omnia Omnibus ('all things to all men'). He then fell seriously ill with pneumonia and, ignoring a prearranged student valediction, dispiritedly slipped out of his beloved Maynooth, never to return.

He arrived in Adelaide on Easter Saturday 1913. The autumn heat made him wonder how he could persevere, but the enthusiastic reception next day at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, where he was hailed as a world-class theologian and educationist, must have assuaged his loneliness. He said he hoped to be a good Australian and to see Catholics share in 'the good things in private and public life'. By 1918 St Kevin's central secondary and Newman tertiary colleges were opened as pledges of this. Even the Argus looked forward to some brilliant contribution to the community but was startled to hear his immediate aggression against 'the one great stain on the statute books'—no state aid for church schools. Within a year he was linking this deprivation to Cromwellian persecutions and convict floggings which he believed had been inflicted less than fifty years before for not attending Anglican services.

Moran's more amiable leadership of the Church gave way to deliberate confrontation. Mannix advised the 100,000-strong Australian Catholic Federation 'to twist the political screw', particularly against Labor, in balance-of-power tactics, while being gratified that 'to wince and smart' under 'the unjust burden' would enhance Catholic solidarity. He encouraged infiltration of the Labor Party although Catholics like James Scullin and Joe Lyons stressed the benefits to workers from Labor governments and predicted an inevitable sectarian backlash. But Mannix was naive about political processes and was insensitive to the rationale for 'godless' state education. Catholic voters generally ignored him; A.C.F. members were barred from the Labor party.

Mannix approved of Britain's declaration of war in 1914 but did not preach the heroics of holy war or take part in recruiting. Rather he used Catholic voluntary participation to press for state aid and denounce 'race suicide' (contraception). Throughout 1915 sectarianism became more virulent; Catholics were falsely alleged not to be doing their share. 'Apparently not enough nuns are joining', retorted Mannix. This exasperation did not prevent his deploring the 1916 Easter Rising, but he quashed Kelly's proposed episcopal protest against it because he held England culpable. He wept over Pearse's execution, became convinced of England's irremediable perfidy and patronized the raising of relief funds. He rebuffed Billy Hughes's overtures to support conscription but entered the first referendum campaign only twice to emphasize that Australia was already doing enough. Philosophically his stance was not clear. Conscription was somehow both a purely political question, as the apostolic delegate insisted, and yet an 'evil' in itself. Victoria voted 'Yes' but afterwards Hughes scapegoated Mannix for his narrow defeat. Mannix responded by deriding this 'sordid trade war' and with 'wilful ambiguity' proclaimed he was simply putting Australia before the Empire while following the Pope's call for an honourable peace and Woodrow Wilson's plea for self-determination—which would have to be applied to Ireland.

His noble panegyric on Carr, whom he succeeded as archbishop on 6 May 1917, stressed the synonymity of Irish and Catholic in Australia, although at Maynooth he had told his levites not to hang green from their steeples overseas. Mannix now became a workers' hero, denouncing inequality of sacrifice, endorsing the justice of strikes and declaring that a vote for Hughes in the 1917 election would be a vote for conscription. When, in November, the Exhibition Building trustees refused him access, he drew possibly 100,000 people to John Wren's Richmond racecourse with the scathing laconic oratory he had carefully practised under William Lockington in the cathedral grounds. The trustees could not run 'a punch and judy show'; their supporters had the 'backbone … of boiled asparagus'; Australians without knowing it were really Sinn Feiners; for Ireland, England's plight meant NOW or NEVER. In the second conscription referendum Victoria voted 'No' but again Mannix's role was hardly decisive.

Mannix dismissed contemptuously those 'self-styled leading' middle-class Catholics who expressed outrage at his 'disloyalty': Charles Heydon was a 'second or third class' judge. Boycotted by such people at St John's College, Sydney University, in March 1918, he told the 'real' Catholics who mobbed him that one could search in vain for front-rank, university-educated Catholics who had not denied their faith. He returned to Melbourne for the St Patrick's Day procession where he did not doff his biretta at the National Anthem. Demands for his deportation climaxed in a mass demonstration led by Herbert Brookes who for years financed fables of the 'Scarlet Woman'. However, Mannix relished being 'the lightning-rod' for Protestant bigots and slept peacefully, although Catholics were refused jobs or lodgings. Yet most Catholics probably felt a surging ethnic morale and righteous indignation rather than despair.

Mannix's scorn for his chaplain-general's uniform was reported to King George V who suggested he be transferred to Rome: 'God forbid', replied Cardinal Gasquet. The Vatican did try to silence him but was fearful of a schism. Mannix solved any church-state dilemma by simply claiming to speak qua citizen. What non-Catholic clergy 'could say in a pulpit, he could say in a paddock', but the 'paddocks' were usually church grounds and functions. At a 1918 episcopal conference the threat of Vatican discipline obliged him to propose a motion deprecating divisive publicity by bishops, but as the laity was not informed he did not lose face. He had become arguably the most revered and reviled figure in Australian history. Wren financed a climactic vindication when, on St Patrick's Day 1920, fourteen Victoria Cross winners on white chargers led the march, the Union Jack was obscured, and for their farewell concert a few days later 1500 Christian Brothers' students sang 'God Save Ireland'. Odes were written to Mannix, medallions struck, busts and portraits adorned Catholic homes.

In May 1920 friendly crowds organized by Wren delayed Mannix's boarding a train to begin his ad limina visit to Rome via the United States of America and Ireland. He had declined a £50,000 testimonial initiated by Wren, as he did all personal gifts, but Wren's adapted lyric 'Come back to Australia [Erin]' was meant to augur that he would not be refused re-entry or accept an Irish see. Sydney held a mayoral farewell. Though he said he had not corresponded with de Valera, mass meetings were organized in America. He was, to his surprise, an international figure. He said America had been the only ally with 'clean hands' and that England had been, was and always would be America's enemy; in New York he was given the freedom of the city. He came to accept the austere, pious, machiavellian de Valera as the greatest Irish leader ever.

In August the British government decided not to allow Mannix to disembark in his insurgent, Black-and-Tan-ridden homeland, and landed him at Penzance, Cornwall. 'The greatest victory the Royal Navy has had since Jutland', he quipped, 'without the loss of a single British sailor'. Lloyd George looked foolish, Mannix victimized. He refused to visit Ireland on terms or have Lloyd George bring his octogenarian mother to England. Forbidden to visit Liverpool, Manchester or Glasgow, he drew crowds outside their environs and throughout England and Scotland. In Rome he expected reproof and perhaps recall from Australia but, after three audiences, Pope Benedict XV donated 20,000 lire to Irish relief and had Mannix draft a letter of sympathy—the first Vatican censure of British conduct in Ireland. He would not allow the pontiff to intervene to get him to Ireland. In August 1921 Mannix returned to Australia to the chagrin of loyalists and the well-organized joy of his flock.

Aside from four visits to New Zealand and one to the Chicago Eucharistic Congress in 1926, Mannix made only one other overseas tour. During Holy Year 1925 he led an Australian pilgrimage to Rome, Lourdes (France) and Ireland. He was now the only episcopal supporter of de Valera in Ireland and Australia. The New York Irish World later called him Mannix contra mundum Britannicum tyrannicum, et Black and Tannicum. As a moral theologian he probably eased some republican consciences following the pro-Free State strictures of the Irish hierarchy, and he did not see perjury in de Valera's signing 'under duress' the oath of allegiance to the Crown in order to break it. As he (Mannix) was not infallible, so neither was the hierarchy!

In Ireland he was ostracized; only one bishop visited him—after dark, 'like Nicodemus in the night', Mannix said. Biding his time he stepped out of Charleville to accept officially the freedom of towns conferred on him in 1920; he was hallowed in torchlight processions and republican rallies. Declaring that he came in reconciliation, he derided leading Free Staters as placemen and the recent Senate election as a fiasco. The Free State was not 'a stepping stone' to liberation. 'I'll never set foot in Ireland again', Mannix vowed. 'Dan never understood Ireland', his clericalist mother had said before she died earlier in 1925. He saw himself as prescient when de Valera did come to power in 1932, though the Free State was accepted and partition remained. He continued to comment on Irish affairs. The apostolic delegate censured him in 1933 for jibing at General O'Duffy and his semi-fascist 'blueshirts'; during World War II Mannix defended Irish neutrality, rationalizing that Germany would have overrun her otherwise; he took the St Patrick's Day salute till his death.

But Melbourne was now utterly his home. He considered there was 'no country in the world where there was a stronger bond between hierarchy and people … Catholics should stand against the world'. He loved the city and people. Some saw a rebuff in Sydney being granted the International Eucharistic Congress in 1928 but Mannix's triumphalist oration, 'The winter has passed … the flowers have appeared in our land', was an acknowledged highlight: two things mattered, the Mass and the papacy. His National Eucharistic Congress for the Victorian centenary in 1934, the greatest of his mass demonstrations, culminated in 80,000 people passing to benediction before Mount St Evin's hospital reportedly before half a million watchers.

At the accompanying conference Mannix promoted lay Catholic Action against the narrow clericalism of Kelly and other bishops. He had founded the Catholic Central Library with William Hackett in 1923, fostered the Catholic Evidence Guild and, after pressure from the Jesuits, a Catholic Hour on radio 3AW (1932), but he refused to have a Catholic radio station. He was indulgent of Catholic businessmen's response to Freemasonry, the Knights of the Southern Cross. The autonomous, intellectual Campion Society (1931) was 'the flower and fruit of his higher educational efforts', dedicated to the study of papal social encyclicals and Chesterbellocian distributism. Its offshoot, the monthly Catholic Worker (1936), was selling 55,000 copies by 1942; other journals also flourished. The Young Christian Workers, National Catholic Girls' Movement and Young Christian Students were founded on European models and, together with the National Catholic Rural Movement, were mandated by the hierarchy as official Catholic Action and co-ordinated by a National Catholic Secretariat for Catholic Action (1937).

In spite of a vast library and subscriptions to numerous journals there is little evidence, other than the awe he inspired, to suggest that Mannix was deeply versed in political or socio-economic questions. Basically he was a social democrat. While he could praise Mussolini to an immigrant Italian audience in 1943 as 'the greatest man living today', he had been critical of the invasion of Abyssinia, and had condemned Nazism and especially anti-Semitism. He was fervently pro-Franco, and hostile to Stalin except as expedient ally, but in 1943, being sceptical that Australians could be fooled, thought communists should not be excluded from the elections. Until then capitalism was the major enemy. He enjoyed cordial relations with Labor governments. Arthur Calwell treasured a filial relationship with him and helped to arrange exemptions from wartime regulations for persons serviceable to the Church. Mannix corresponded with Bert Evatt on constitutional safeguards for religion, approved his 1944 powers referendum, humoured him when he complained of Catholic Worker criticism, approved bank nationalization provided co-operative banks were allowed, and supported Evatt's stand against the Big Powers at San Francisco in 1945.

Mannix condemned the Hiroshima bombing as 'immoral and indefensible', but later complained that General MacArthur had been sent to Korea to make war but forbidden to win it. However, he mustered the other bishops behind B. A. Santamaria's Catholic Social Studies Movement (1941) which from 1945 became a secretive, ambiguously authorized form of Catholic Action although, theologically, it should have been simply 'action of Catholics', not involving the hierarchy and thus not enjoining the consciences of Catholics. Later he denied the 'secrecy' and justified using the same tactics as communists. Mannix could not distinguish between ecclesial and civil roles or understand why a party could not accept outside manipulation. Although, unlike Santamaria, he personally voted against dissolving the Communist Party in the referendum of 1951, he affirmed with increasing obduracy that Australia was in the gravest danger from communism, even after 1956 when the party was shattered.

Controversies in the Church following the 1954 Labor split elicited from the Vatican a condemnation of 'the Movement' as impolitic and theologically unsound. Mannix tried to obscure the ruling and backed the National Civic Council and the Democratic Labor Party. 'Rome has blundered again', he said; 'Santamaria is the saviour of Australia'. He intervened in subsequent elections, allowing his auxiliary bishop to pronounce that no Catholic could vote in conscience for Labor, although in 1960 three of the four Federal Labor leaders including Calwell, a future papal knight, were Catholics.

While Mannix was politically naive and, in spite of his quick-wittedness, intellectually shallow, this was not crucial to his spiritual constituency, the clergy and faithful. Folklore asserted he was one of the four cleverest men in the world. Certainly he was God's warrior in the breastplate of St Patrick smiting bigots with apparent logic and ridicule and edifying the Church militant. Over fifty years the diocesan faithful increased from 150,000 to 600,000; churches from 160 to 300; students in Catholic primary schools from 21,792 to 73,695; secondary pupils from 3126 to 28,395; priests increased by 237, brothers by 181, nuns by 736; 10 new male and 14 female orders were introduced; 10 seminaries and 7 new hospitals, 3 orphanages, homes for delinquents, the blind and deaf, hostels for girls …

During the Depression, with Catholics hard hit, he continued building with Keynesian aplomb. He finally crowned Eastern Hill in 1939 with cathedral spires, an event he celebrated coincidentally with the centenary of the first Mass in Victoria in a pageant, Credo, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This was attended by 60,000 people, including an English author whom he had personally invited to record the spectacle of Mannix in excelsis giving the final benediction. Entering the portals of St Patrick's for High Mass, with the Vienna Mozart Boys' Choir which he had saved from wartime internment intoning Palestrina's 'Tu es Petrus', Mannix with steepled hands majestically evoked the numinous mediaeval Church. Ceremony was one source of his undisputed charisma.

Increasingly venerable and dignified, he would spend up to five hours a day in strenuous prayer. Basically an Ignatian formalist, he was neither speculative, mystical nor innovative in liturgy. Sodalities flourished, he sponsored popular devotions such as the Fatima statue and rosary crusades, and adhered to meatless Fridays and morning Mass for fear of 'protestant' indiscipline. Each Saturday he confessed humbly at St Francis' Church, then shrived penitents for long hours at the cathedral, never stinting his homilies. He was accessible to all at Raheen palace, comforting the troubled and dependent with his solicitude and charming the curious and eminent with his wryness of mind. He performed a perpetual round of communion breakfasts, confirmations, bazaars, requiems, corporal works of mercy, laying foundation stones and blessing new buildings. He kept his patronage for his own people and, unlike Archbishop James Duhig, never attended levées or official garden parties. (Nor did he ask if Queensland Catholics were better off without 'confrontation').

He thought hatred of Catholics by Protestants, with their unfilled churches and babel of doctrines, was inevitable. With tridentine disdain he never entered their churches; he offered courtesy, never fraternization. In 1916 he defended Lutheran schools against closure; but Luther himself was 'a distasteful subject … impossible to quote in decent surroundings'. He enforced the ne temere decree deploring mixed marriages. The wife of a divorced Catholic, Marcel Dupré, the French organist, who paid a courtesy call, found Mannix the rudest man she ever met. Mannix ignored his apostate brother Patrick (1865-1957) when in England. Such attitudes in a diffused plural society entrenched subcultural divisions but for Mannix Catholics would come into their own on their own terms. Teaching orders were inspired to more exacting efforts to notch government scholarships while they successfully subsidized Catholic upward mobility through celibacy, poverty and obedience. Their schools did not grasp the chance for divergent curricula; they conformed to the state syllabi plus doctrine and apologetics. Mannix applied himself to wording rigorously the penny catechism; he was hardly an educationist. Before the public subscription for his diamond jubilee was converted into the Mannix travelling scholarship (1950) for aspiring Catholic academics, he had to be briefed on the need for them to gain higher degrees.

Mannix's cathedral administrator was also his personal secretary and vicar-general; he preferred a single conduit however overburdened but, in time, there were mitres for assiduity. With minimum effort he controlled policy and patronage; aspiring bishops did the work. Filing systems were a mystery to him; he marvelled at speedy retrievals. He avoided canonical visitations to parishes and schools: his overawed but trusty clergy were left to themselves to minister, raise funds and build. Amateurish planning led to the bungled seven-figure impost on parishes for a new seminary at Glen Waverley (1959) which added to the onerous Schools Provident Fund. This inglorious pile—aesthetics was not Mannix's forte—was soon cheaply sold for a police college. At his death diocesan administration needed serious overhauling. He started a Catholic Education Office (1932) with one priest, one room and no staff. He was parsimonious even with the reliable Jesuits to whom he entrusted Newman College, his relatively liberal Corpus Christi seminary at Werribee (1923) and the encouragement of lay action. Among secular clergy and suffragan bishops he felt more comfortable with intellectual mediocrity.

Considering that Mannix was too dominant in episcopal councils and influenced preferment for Irish clergy, the apostolic delegate (1935-48), Archbishop Panico, who declined ever to stay at Raheen, appointed the first Australian-born archbishop, Justin Simonds of Hobart, coadjutor to Mannix without consulting either party. It was a slight to Mannix's competence. He gave Simonds only peripheral duties; awkward relations were aggravated by Simonds's disapproval of 'the Movement'; Mannix's longevity crippled Simonds's career. In 1945 Australia's cardinalate went to circumspect (Sir) Norman Gilroy of Sydney; there followed graciously mordant congratulations from Mannix but a noisy protest from Calwell, and disapproval from Duhig. Mannix was unacceptable to Rome. His recalcitrance on 'the Movement' brought Cardinal Agagianian of Propaganda Fide to Melbourne in 1959 to see if he was senile. The cardinal was bluntly reassured but a local attempt in 1962 to get Mannix a red hat, Newman-fashion, was futile.

Mannix has been praised for 'inflexible liberalism'. On matters such as lay participation, non-confessional universities, sex education, capital punishment (in 1953 he pleaded with President Eisenhower for the Rosenbergs) and socio-economic issues, he was usually more progressive than other bishops. However, his diocesan weeklies were restricted, manipulated and jejune. In 1919 he forced its lay proprietors to sell the Advocate to him at his own low valuation or face extinction; the clericalist Tribune criticized him by implication only once—over his attitude to Irish republicanism in 1923. An admirer of Charles Maurras, Denys Jackson, dominated the diocesan political columns from the 1930s. Santamaria, while still in his twenties, became Mannix's major political adviser, ultimately seeing him three times a week. In 1955 the Catholic Worker was banned from the cathedral for saying that Catholics could conscientiously vote for the Labor Party. As Mannix foresaw, most parishes followed his lead and sales dropped catastrophically; yet he claimed never to have banned anything. Errant clergy were offered kindness and reformation but those who challenged his judgement had the full rigour of canon law. He listened and opined but never deigned to argue. His dignity and authority were sacrosanct. Although he generated bitterness and lack of charity among his followers, he rarely attacked people by name, even in conversation, but he often found intimidating sarcasm and jibes irresistible. His clergy generally admired and feared him although, in earlier days, there were unpublicized critics among them and later the young curates did not know him.

Mannix was painstaking about his appearance. His top hat was carefully poised, using a mirror, before he strode with frock coat and stick from Raheen through Collingwood to St Patrick's, dispensing shillings to the needy. He cut his own hair and at 97 bought an electric razor because he could not bear to be touched. He always wore a biretta, never the zucchetto. He disliked 'ecclesiastical millinery' and tried not to appoint monsignors. Not even Hackett or Jeremiah Murphy were addressed by first name. Though personally monastic, he did not live in the cathedral 'palace' as did his predecessors but had Raheen, formerly Sir Henry Wrixon's mansion, purchased for him in 1918 from diocesan funds. His hospitable table carried crystal and silverware though he only picked at food (indeed, fainted at Mass in 1930). He never owned but always hired a chauffeur-driven car and very rarely spoke on the telephone. He rarely officiated at marriages, baptisms, extreme unction, or at personal, rather than mass, confirmations. During speeches there was some restrained theatricality, especially wearing his Maynooth cloak with velvet collar and chain. His accent was cultivated and neutral, with neither blarney nor brogue. The pungent lines were carefully memorized but delivered as if impromptu with a shorthand writer to transcribe them; Mannix would personally 'sub' them for publication, making, as expedient, textual changes.

Admirers were encouraged to believe that he wrote an article, 'The Australian Commonwealth and the States', published under his name in Twentieth Century in 1954 though drafted by Santamaria; he was alleged to have constitutional expertise through his (honorary) doctorates of law. His birthday greetings were received in courtly fashion during annual holidays at Queenscliff and Portsea. As a prince-bishop he was the delight of portraitists such as John Lavery, Max Meldrum, John Longstaff, Clifton Pugh, Jack Cato and Helmut Newton. His friendship with Wren was publicly compromising; although he banned liquor at Catholic functions, he detested wowsers and sabbatarians. He was shocked by Frank Hardy's Power Without Glory. Though a neighbour, he said he had never visited Wren's mansion; Wren was a pious and loyal philanthropist, that was enough. As for Billy Hughes, a letter of condolence on the death of his daughter led to a visit to Raheen and respectful communication till Hughes died.

Mannix ceased his daily walks on his ninetieth birthday, but in 1961 he was still able to give a memorable television interview. Three days before his death Santamaria called to tell him that (Sir) Robert Menzies would announce limited aid to independent schools as part of his election promises. Mannix imagined that the existence of the splinter Democratic Labor Party brought about this aid. It was deeply gratifying; perhaps he did not see that Catholic schools were accepted now by the 'Ascendancy's' heirs as a buttress and were no longer a challenge. On Melbourne Cup Day, 1963, after his annual domestic sweepstakes 'flutter', he collapsed at racetime and died with dignity next afternoon, 6 November, with a loyal court, including Calwell and Santamaria, at his bedside. The cathedral bell tolled ninety-nine at minute-intervals. Mannix had broadly welcomed Vatican II, without anticipating the radical changes it would bring, and wished ruefully he had been more like John XXIII. He expected a long purgatory. Menzies praised his unsurpassed 'power of persuasive speech'; de Valera eulogized on Radio Eireann; Simonds in his panegyric said his 'incursions into the affairs of state were not his greatest contribution to Australian life' and that he was 'primarily a man of God'. No one asked whether his political interventions and pro-Irish statements had arrested the integration of Catholics into the Australian community, or if his support for 'the Movement' had undone some of the unifying effects of World War II. A leitmotif of his career had been: 'I am unchangeable and unrepentant'. Age and obduracy had made him venerable.

Mannix had asked for simple obsequies with no public procession. The bugler of Southern Command honoured its chaplain-general—a position he declined to relinquish to Gilroy of Gallipoli—with the 'Last Post' and 'Reveille', and a 13-gun salute was fired. He had lived long enough to learn of the assassination of President Ngo Diem—whom he had honoured at Raheen—but not to pronounce on conscription for Vietnam. As he rarely distinguished his own from diocesan funds, his will was brief: small bequests to his servants and two hunter-type gold watches worth £150 and a £5 mantel clock inscribed with 'God Save Ireland'.

Select Bibliography

  • W. McDonald, Reminiscences of a Maynooth Professor (Lond, 1925)
  • J. Murphy and F. Moynihan (eds), The National Eucharistic Congress, Melbourne, Australia, December 2nd-9th 1934 (Melb, 1936)
  • F. Murphy, Daniel Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne 1917-1963 (Melb, 1972)
  • P. Ormonde, The Movement (Melb, 1972)
  • W. Ebsworth, Archbishop Mannix (Melb, 1977)
  • G. Cresciani, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Italians in Australia, 1922-1945 (Canb, 1980)
  • M. M. McKernan, Australian Churches at War (Syd, 1980)
  • B. A. Santamaria, Daniel Mannix (Melb, 1984)
  • M. Gilchrist, Daniel Mannix, Priest and Patriot (Melb, 1982) and for bibliography
  • G. Henderson, Mr Santamaria and the Bishops (Syd, 1983)
  • C. Kiernan, Daniel Mannix and Ireland (Morwell, Vic, 1984)
  • Catholic Worker, Aug 1944, Feb, Sept 1945, June 1950, Apr 1955, July 1959, Dec 1963
  • Twentieth Century, 8, no 3, autumn 1954
  • Journal of Religious History, 10, no 4, Dec 1979
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 13, 20 May, 23 Sept 1916, 3 Feb, 15 Mar, 23 June, 10, 24 Nov, 1, 8 Dec 1917, 5 Jan, 9, 16 Mar 1918, 20, 27 May 1920, 30 Sept 1928, 19 May 1929, 1 Oct 1947, 20 May 1948, 11 May 1950, 28 July 1954, 28 Apr, 22 Sept 1955, 7, 14, 21 Nov, 12 Dec 1963, supplement, Feb 1968
  • [Catholic] Tribune (Melbourne), 23 Nov 1916, 13 Aug 1921, 24 Sept, 12 Nov, 10, 17, 24 Dec 1925
  • Argus (Melbourne), 29 Jan 1917
  • Herald (Melbourne), 28 July 1920
  • Bulletin, 10 May 1961
  • Times (London), 7 Nov 1963
  • J. Griffin, Daniel Mannix and the Cult of Personality (forthcoming publication, manuscript held by author, Canberra)
  • Hackett papers (Society of Jesus Provincial Archives, Hawthorn, Melbourne)
  • Mannix papers (including Murtagh notes and materials for Mannix biography, Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission Archives).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

James Griffin, 'Mannix, Daniel (1864–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Daniel Mannix (1864-1963), by unknown photographer, c1919

Daniel Mannix (1864-1963), by unknown photographer, c1919

Australian War Memorial, P01383.001

Life Summary [details]


4 March, 1864
Charleville, Cork, Ireland


6 November, 1963 (aged 99)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.