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Mannix, Daniel (1864 - 1963)

A Social Democrat

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 H. V. 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.

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Copyright © J. Griffin Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10

 

 
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