Mannix, Daniel (1864–1963), catholic archbishop, was born 4 March 1864 at Charleville, Co. Cork, one of five children of Timothy Mannix, substantial tenant farmer, and Ellen Mannix (née Cagney). Educated at St Colman's, Fermoy, and Maynooth, he qualified for a DD in 1890 at the Dunboyne Establishment and was ordained priest on 8 June that year. He competitively won the prestigious chair of dogmatic and moral theology at Maynooth in 1895 and was unanimously elected president of the college by the Irish bishops in 1903.
As president, Mannix ignored the Gaelic revival, concentrating on the education of his students in the English that many of them would need to serve the Irish diaspora. He required them to take degrees and, to that end, achieved the recognition of Maynooth as a college of the National University in 1908. In 1901 he wrote a substantial article on the land question, but for the rest of his life he was a reader and thinker rather than a writer. A stern disciplinarian and teetotaller, though no killjoy, he lifted the standards of Maynooth and encouraged interest in social issues while disdaining any involvement in politics. Blocked from nomination to an Irish see for reasons that remain obscure, he was consecrated as coadjutor-archbishop to Archbishop Thomas Carr of Melbourne on 6 October 1912 and succeeded to that see on Carr's death in 1917.
From the 1870s the catholic church in Australia had gradually erected its own system of education rather than entrust its flock to a ‘godless’ state education. The financial burden was enormous, and no aid from the state was forthcoming. Mannix, expected by all to conform to the image of a remote and disinterested theologian, had become instead a prickly and forthright controversialist since his arrival in Melbourne in 1913. His long labours for state aid were rewarded a few weeks before his death when the federal government began to see the political wisdom of such aid, whatever it thought about its innate justice.
Conscription of Australian males for service overseas in World War I met Mannix's determined opposition. Many contemporaries saw his intervention as crucial to its eventual rejection, but some historians – uneasy at the thought that a catholic archbishop could wield such influence – have contested that matter, as they have also rejected the claim that he became a hero of the working masses.
The events of 1916 in Dublin heightened his Irish nationalism, which won him international acclaim. Fearing his influence in Ireland, the British government had him arrested at sea to prevent his landing at Cork in 1920. Mannix derisively said it was Britain's greatest naval victory since the battle of Jutland, and won without the need to fire a single shot. Having become a close friend and admirer of de Valera (qv), he returned to Ireland in 1925 where, welcomed by rallies and processions, though not by his fellow bishops, he spoke against the Free State and partition. Once back in Melbourne he was by then the most reviled and most loved figure in Australian history.
He gave the rest of his life to Melbourne, the city he loved and of which he was intensely proud, and to its catholic people. Education, from primary to tertiary levels, was his foremost concern. Newman College at the University of Melbourne, a Catholic Central Library, a ‘Catholic hour’ on the radio, numerous primary and secondary schools throughout the archdiocese, twenty-four newly introduced male and female religious orders, a seminary for diocesan clergy staffed by Jesuits, and the Campion Society (which formed intellectual lay catholics in papal social teaching), were all fostered and guided by him. The church in Melbourne rapidly became the intellectual force, central focus, and exemplar of Australian catholicism.
Mannix was wholehearted in trusting those to whom he delegated authority when he appointed them to influential positions. More than any other Australian prelate, he extended that trust to the laity. He was convinced that the church of the future would draw its greatest strength from a united and well prepared laity, and to that end he fostered the growth of Catholic Action movements. B. A. Santamaria, whom Mannix never ceased to support, worked within the flourishing Catholic Action bodies to set up a parallel organisation commonly known as ‘the Movement’. Its principal aim was to defeat communism in the political and industrial arenas. Theologically unsound in its conception, sometimes objectionable in its methods, but partially successful in its operation, Santamaria's organisation was a major cause of a catastrophic split in the Australian Labor Party in the 1950s. Mannix's support of the Movement was his least praiseworthy initiative.
A curious blending of conservative and liberal elements in his character resulted (on the level of dogma) in his never deviating from tridentine teachings. He upheld papal authority, although he scrupulously guarded his own as ordinary of his archdiocese. He condemned the atomic bomb, opposed capital punishment, unflinchingly rejected communism, but voted against outlawing the communist party, while flaying the excesses of capitalism and supporting bank nationalisation. Without hesitation he stepped onto the political scene whenever he thought faith or morals were at stake and used his rights as a citizen to comment on social issues.
Mannix was a man with a simple faith, whose life of prayer was priestly and constant. He loved the poor irrespective of their religion and respected the faith of others, but held aloof from any personal association with protestant clergy. With scarcely a trace of a brogue or blarney, his oratory was incomparable in its elegant simplicity, which he put down to a constant reading of editorials in The Times. Reserved in his demeanour, tall and dignified in stature, Mannix never owned a motor car and avoided the telephone. Mordant wit marked his conversation; he ate with utmost frugality at his well laden table, and lived like a hermit in the stately residence, ‘Raheen’, bought for him by the archdiocese.
In the fifty years of Mannix's episcopate Melbourne's catholics grew in number from 150,000 to over 600,000 and their churches from 160 to 300. During those years catholics were transformed under his leadership and example from the rank of second-rate citizens, derided by many as ignorant, superstitious Irish, to confident, self-assertive Australians. They looked up to him as an incomparable pastor and leader and thanked Ireland that, in him, Australian catholicism had received its greatest gift.
On 6 November 1963 Mannix died peacefully in his 99th year at ‘Raheen’, leaving material assets worth AU$3155. He was buried in St Patrick's cathedral, where his statue now stands. The presence of dignitaries of both church and state marked his passing. In their many thousands, his people mourned him.