daniel mannix_optJames Griffin Daniel Mannix: Beyond the Myths
(Melbourne: Garratt Publishing 2012) Pp. xix + 396. RRP: $49.95

Reviewed by Bruce Duncan

Who would have thought we needed another biography of Daniel Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 to 1963? Jim Griffin did, because many of the previous eight biographical works on Mannix were uncritical or even adulatory, sustaining a mythical image of Mannix as a cultural or political hero.

Griffin had in 1986 written the entry on Mannix for the Australian Dictionary of Biography (10, 398-404), which proved contentious, and aroused some outraged responses. Daniel Mannix is thus in part Jim’s response to critics, but also a much more detailed and forensic examination of Mannix’s actions and speeches. Not surprisingly, he is highly critical of many of Mannix’s political interventions, but he also analyses the mythmaking in earlier biographies. Jim pays a particular tribute to Fr James Murtagh, who died in 1971, “as a most reputable historian of the Catholic Church” and who, after Mannix’s death, researched his family background thoroughly. His notes provided much unpublished information about Mannix’s life in Ireland.

Jim Griffin died on 9 May 2010. Realising that he would not live to complete his 120,000-word draft, he asked Paul Ormonde to help finish the book, particularly the later chapters on Mannix’s role in the controversies involving B. A. Santamaria’s Movement.  Ormonde had been on the editorial board of the Catholic Worker with Jim; in 1972 Ormonde wrote The Movement, and in 2000 edited Santamaria: The Politics of Fear. The last chapter in Griffin’s new book, “Mannix’s Death and his Legacy”, appears with Ormonde as the author. Jim’s wife, Helga, played a major role in assisting Griffin with the writing and editing throughout.

To read Bruce’s review in full, click HERE.


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