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Catholic Opposition to Conscription

Archbishop Mannix’ role

Photograph, Archbishop Daniel Mannix

Archbishop Daniel Mannix

Finally, there was the role of Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop, Daniel Mannix, one of the few high profile church leaders of the day to challenge official interpretations of the war and the need for conscription. Influenced by the brutal British suppression of the Irish Sinn Fein Easter Rising in early 1916, Mannix called the war “a trade war”, challenged the government’s figures on the need for reinforcement through conscription, and continued to challenge  Hughes throughout the lead up to the second referendum, denouncing the Prime Minister for “not having the ordinary honesty or even decency, to put a fair, straight question”.[38] Mannix’s interventions played an important role in delegitimizing and discrediting the official justifications for conscription; and F.B.Smith notes that the “censors’ onslaughts on the Sydney Worker and the Melbourne Catholic Advocate only alienated large sections of opinion and served to call attention to their message”.[39]

MHG