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The Mannix Era: Melbourne Catholic Leadership 1920-1970.

The Mannix Era: Melbourne Catholic Leadership 1920-1970

Author: Patrick Morgan

Publisher: Connor Court Publishing, 2018

ISBN: 9281925826166

Paperback: i-xv/304 pages

Price: $29.95

Published six years after Patrick Morgan's Melbourne Before Mannix: Catholics in Public Life 1880-1820 (Connor Court, 2012), this sequel completes this historian's wide-ranging picture of life in the Melbourne Archdiocese from 1880 to 1970.

The author identifies four "heroes" in his story: Archbishop Daniel Mannix, his Archdiocese, its weekly newspaper The Advocate and "the well organised Catholic community". Topics arising under these headings are so numerous that, in the pages of one book, the author could make only fleeting references to some of them. In a comprehensive bibliography he points to a large number of these subjects that writers have developed. Others could be pursued by anyone keen to learn or teach more.

It may be thought that another book about Daniel Mannix, adding to the thirteen listed in the bibliography, might have been superfluous, but Morgan considers and demonstrates that more is to be said about the great prelate's life and attitudes. He draws, for example, on the Mannix biographer Brenda Niall's recording of what the old man, in his final year and remarking on Cardinal Montini's election as Pope Paul VI, said to the former Melbourne priest Joe Broderick: "I believe he (Montini) remembers me. I can't say I remember him. But that's not surprising. After all, in Rome at the head of the Australian pilgrimage in the Holy Year (in 1925), I was the Archbishop of Melbourne, and he was just another monsignor around the place. (Longish pause). Now he's come into his own. And I'm still here, sittin' on the shelf." Morgan calls this "a rare personal statement, with an uncharacteristic touch of the maudlin about it". He adds: "The world saw the aging Mannix as a great figure and heaped plaudits on him, whereas he remembered himself as missing out, as he had on his last visit to Ireland almost four decades before. Lesser people had overtaken him." This is a reference to the Archbishop's final visit in 1925 to Ireland, where he was "ostracised" by other Irish bishops because of his unfruitful support for what had been Eamonn De Valera's approach to Irish independance. The author claims that Mannix's "deep sadness", which stayed with him forever after 1925, has been less understood than his famous wit. He says that "plaudits he received in later life were scant consolation for what he had earlier missed out on".

Patrick Morgan's suggestion that Mannix went to his grave still disappointed over what he failed to achieve in Ireland reminds me of a long conversation I had with the Archbishop in September 1963, about six weeks before he died. He had asked that, before heading for Rome to report on Vatican II's second session for The Advocate, of which I was the Associate Editor, I should visit him in his home, Raheen. Expecting and hoping for him to talk about the Council, I was surprised when he spent most of the three-hour conversation (mostly one way) recalling his 1920 visit to the USA, his meeting that year with Pope Benedict XV and the ill-fated final visit to Ireland in 1925. Although his public references to Ireland had become rare in the last decades of his life, I conclude now, after reading what Morgan writes, that the Irish struggles and their unsatisfactory results were still foremost in his thoughts--and he wanted to ensure that a priest-journalist in his service knew about them.

Among other fascinating questions raised by Patrick Morgan concerning Mannix are about the precise nature of his relationships, on the one hand, with his principal lay adviser in the last decades of his life, B.A. Santamaria, and, over roughly the same period, with the Church in Sydney, personified in Cardinal Norman Gilroy.

In reviewing for Sydney's Catholic Weekly other books written or edited by Patrick Morgan, in which, noting how he is able to modify his own obvious preference for Mr Santamaria's and the Democratic Labor Party's/National Civic Council's side in the sundering Labor Party/Anti-Communist Movement split in the 1950s and beyond, I have expressed admiration for the degree of even-handedness in his writing on that subject. That remains true of much in chapters on "The Movement" and "The Great Split" in this latest work, but there are departures from such objectivity elsewhere in this book, of which more anon.

The author refers candidly to Santamaria's "overwhelming drive for control", to the fact that he was "as much an initiator of sectarian tensions as a loser from them" and to his indirect admission of "past misgivings". But of more interest is what Morgan says about the "element of mystery" in the personalities of both Mannix and Santamaria, with neither one of them ever revealing "his full hand". He writes: "It is best to approach any assessment of them as works in progress. We will never fully understand the real relationship between them. Who was running the show?" Is there any validity in the theory that, consciously or not, Mannix saw in Santamaria a reincarnation of De Valera and in the DLP or the NCC the IRA reborn? Or is that too far-fetched?

As for Mannix's relationship with the Church in Sydney and its leaders, Morgan accurately judges that it was less than friendly, above all after the ALP split. In comparing the form of Catholicism existing in Melbourne with Sydney's, the author favours the southern Archdiocese in its better days, attributing its superiority to the leadership styles of Mannix and his predecessor Thomas Carr, while lamenting the destruction done to its energy and creativity by political battles after 1954, in which its leadership was far from blameless. He gives some of the credit for its best times to the Campion Society, thriving with Mannix's blessing in the 1930s. It is praised for moving Melbourne from being "an independant Irish fiefdom" to "an assertive, internationalist, public policy orientation while Sydney continued to defer to the strain of Irish Jansenist piety which marked Archbishop (Michael) Kelly's personality". Sydney Catholic historians may well have other opinions about this.

Much of The Mannix Era is devoted to personalities, organisations and events in the Melbourne Archdiocese during the fifty years covered by the book. Prominent among the people named, in some cases with succinct summaries of their backgrounds and contributions, are other bishops (Justin Simonds, Eric D'Arcy, Arthur Fox and the author's uncle, J.A. "Alo" Morgan, being the most significant), the five gifted Irish Jesuits who arrived in the early 1920s and did so much to support the Archbishop's initiatives, other clergy like Percy Jones, Francis Moynihan and William Mangan, such political figures as Arthur Calwell, Robert Menzies and the Victorian Premiers E.J. "Ned" Hogan and John Cain senior, the influential knighted Michael Chamberlin, Hugh Devine, Norman O'Bryan, Bernard Callinan and Eugene Gorman and The Advocate's writers Denys Jackson, Patrick O'Leary, Frank Murphy, Marion Miller Knowles and Caroline Goulding ("Catherine Kaye"). Few other women are given much space, although Saint Mary MacKillop joins Mannix and Santamaria in the author's trio of the Melbourne Archdiocese's "most famous figures". Attention is also fittingly given to another candidate for canonisation, Melbourne's Dr (Sister Mary) Glowrey, activist and contributor to women's health in India.

Of outstanding interest to this reviewer, given my intimate association as a young priest with The Advocate from 1961 to 1969, is the attention given in this book and also in Melbourne Before Mannix to that weekly newspaper, which existed from 1868 to 1980. It was my editing task in February 1968 to oversee production of the paper's centenary edition. That task would have produced a better result if at the time I had as much knowledge as Patrick Morgan displays of the journal's history and personalities before and after Mannix bought it in 1919 from its private owners, the Winters family, and made it diocesan property.

At this point, however, I feel compelled to comment on what the author writes (pages 257-259) about my being the guilty one who "made the running in The Advocate" as its Assistant (the correct title was "Associate") Editor in encouraging and giving prominence to certain unorthodox policies during what he terms "the authority vacuum after Mannix's death". The allegation is that "the paper got too far ahead of the pack, as it had no brief to support policies not endorsed by the church through Vatican II". Caught up in "the passion to overthrow accepted ideas" The Advocate is said to have used "a Catholic organisation to endorse political positions"--something that "many liberals had accused Santamaria of doing".

Frankly, I find these charges unfair if not absurd.

First, there was not a "power vacuum" during the greater part of Justin Simonds's few years as Melbourne's Archbishop. Early in that period he had told The Advocate that he did not mind the paper running letters criticising him for his early action in ending Santamaria's weekly use of space on a Catholic TV program. He also sent us words that he wished us to publish with any such correspondence. They clarified his position on the so-called sacking and reiterated his well-known views on the Church and politics. Around the same time, he was to repeat to me what he had said when I acted as his secretary and interpreter in Rome during his 1960 ad limina visit. He had urged me to keep my distance from the NCC's politicising after returning to Melbourne from nine years in Rome.

The allegation against me probably refers to the last eighteen or so months of the Archbishop's life, spent after strokes in the Mercy Hospital and for some of that time in a comatose state. It is offensive, however, to imply that I might have exploited that situation to promote unorthodox or "modernist" views in the paper. Certainly it was my wish, based on the principle of the right to information, to inform our readers about what was happening in the Church world-wide. This included the dialogue occurring between Catholics and Communists in a number of places, including Australia, with the encouragement of Pope Paul VI and his Secretary of State Cardinal Casaroli. About this, Patrick Morgan offers what I find unsatisfactory and one-sided words (page 258). It is a subject on which I had long exchanges with Bob Santamaria in the following year (1968), with Archbishop James Knox in charge of the Archdiocese. Hard taskmaster as he could be on media matters, Knox had no objection to my part in a debate which some readers thought I had won, although the coincidental Soviet invasion of Dubcek's Czechoslovakia certainly did not help my case. Nor did Knox have qualms about the six articles I wrote in 1969 for our paper and others (noted derisively by Morgan) about the state of Catholicism in the Netherlands. I had conducted some eighty exhaustive interviews in that country, with extremists on both the traditionalist and radical sides included. Again, my motive was to report rather than to proselytise, even if I had been impressed by some but by no means all of the partly experimental changes I had witnessed or heard about.

If there was any exploitation of the absence of Archbishop Simonds in the early months of 1967, before his retirement took place and the announcement that James Knox was to replace him, it was by the two men administering the Diocese on behalf of the ailing Archbishop--Auxiliary Bishop Arthur Fox and Vicar General Monsignor (later Bishop) Leo Clarke, both ardent champions from way back of the Movement, the NCC and Daniel Mannix. I was angrily berated by them for objecting to their unprecedented command for our paper to run a pre-State Election editorial supporting the DLP position on State Aid to schools - and to have it written by Denys Jackson, a Santamaria supporter. Manifestly, our other editorial writer, the News Editor Frank Murphy, and I were not to be trusted.

It had long been my justifiable aim at the paper to end the domination by the Church's right wing, politically and theologically, of its editorial position, like that of every other Church-controlled media organ in Melbourne and Victoria. Unfortunately, the aim was only temporarily and partly achieved at The Advocate, where some in my opinion unfortunate changes under Archbishop Knox were about to take place while I was preparing to leave the paper and the clergy. About some of this Patrick Morgan writes informatively and kindly enough without presenting or having the chance to know all the facts.

With that off my chest (and more could and perhaps will be said or written by me some day) I must congratulate Patrick Morgan on producing a very worthwhile history in two volumes of ninety action-packed, absorbing years in the life of what is now Australia's largest diocese.

Reviewed by Michael Costigan (*)

(*) Michael Costigan was Associate Editor (as a priest) of The Advocate (Melbourne); founding Director of the Literature Board of the Australia Council; and first Executive Secretary of the Australian Bishops Committee for Justice, Development, Ecology and Peace. He is an Adjunct Professor of Australian Catholic University.
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Author:Costigan, Michael
Publication:Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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