Born in Melbourne, he was ordained as a priest of that city in 1949. He graduated Bachelor and Master of Arts in the University of Melbourne before pursuing doctoral studies in philosophy at both Oxford and Rome (Gregorian).
He garnered unwanted notoriety in 1955, when a letter undersigned by him was leaked to the press confirming the existence of 'The Movement' (modelled on Catholic Action groups in Europe) within the Australian Labor Party. The resulting furore contributed to the Labor Split.
He taught in the Philosophy Department, University of Melbourne, eventually becoming its head, and was the author of Conscience and its Right to Freedom (Sheed and Ward, 1961) and Human Acts: an essay in their moral evaluation (Clarendon Press, 1963).
He became Bishop of Sale, Victoria, in 1981 before his appointment to Hobart in 1988, and was Archbishop Emeritus of Hobart from his retirement in 1999 until his death in Melbourne in 2005, aged 81.