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Revelations shed new light on Bill Morris dismissal

Frank Brennan |  27 March 2012

Some Catholics think last year's dismissal of William Morris as Bishop of Toowoomba is just a storm in a teacup about a recalcitrant country bishop, and that it is time we all moved on. This is a serious misreading of the signs of the times. Church structures need to be reformed to be more aligned with contemporary notions of justice and due process. 

Ten months on, people are left confused as to whether Morris was sacked chiefly for what he wrote in his 2006 Advent letter about women's ordination, for what was reported by the Apostolic Visitor, Archbishop Charles Chaput, or for what was reported to Rome by those sometimes described as 'the temple police'. Now more details have come to light showing how threadbare and confused the processes were.

In his 'Statement of Position' to the three Cardinals gathered in Rome in January 2008, Morris said, 'At the end of the Apostolic Visitation, when Archbishop Chaput was being driven back to Brisbane, he remarked to Fr Brian Sparksman, our diocesan Chancellor, that he would be astounded if our diocese were to lose its bishop.

'He also asked John Bathersby (Archbishop of Brisbane) why he thought he was asked to investigate me because as far as he could see from the material provided to him things that I had reportedly said and done were happening in other places as well.'

Fr Sparksman told me last week: 'I cannot say with certainty that Chaput used the word 'astounded' but it was a word like that. I definitely took heart and was relieved by what he said because as you can imagine it was a tense time for us all and that was a difficult drive to Brisbane. I was very anxious at first but then very relieved by what Archbishop Chaput had to say.'

Archbishop Denis Hart wrote to The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne's The Age on 4 February 2012 telling us Chaput 'said he discussed the contents of his report with Bishop Morris in Toowoomba'. Hart's claim contradicted Morris' letter to the Holy Father dated 24 December 2008 in which he said: 'I have not seen the report prepared by the Apostolic Visitor; the Apostolic Visitor did not discuss his findings with me; I have not been shown any of the 'evidence' that was gathered or even the list of the 'accusers'.'

Hart's claim was strenuously denied by Morris when he then wrote in response to the same newspapers on 8 February 2012 stating: 'I categorically deny that Archbishop Chaput ever discussed with me what he was going to put in the report.'

At World Youth Day in Madrid last year, Chaput, realising that Gerard Holohan, Bishop of Bunbury, was from Australia, drew him aside in the cathedral before mass 'to indicate vigorously that he had indeed discussed the contents of his report with Bishop Morris — except for the names of who he met — at the end of his Apostolic visit to Toowoomba'.

If the processes were working correctly, there would have been no need for an Apostolic Visitor to draw aside a bishop he had never met to assure him of due process in relation to another bishop when the stranger bishop had not even made an inquiry.

If Morris was sacked for what he wrote in his Advent letter about the possible ordination of women, married priests, and recognition of other orders, 'Rome willing', there would have been no need for Chaput to make his visit and his report. But then again if he was sacked for matters detailed in Chaput's report, we are left wondering why Chaput being apprised of the Advent letter and having completed his visit would have told the Diocesan Chancellor how extraordinarily surprising it would be if Morris were to be sacked.

The matter is a complete mess reflecting very poorly on a Church which prides itself on a code of canon law which provides for the protection of the rights of all Christ's faithful, including priests and bishops.

When Morris met with the curial cardinals in January 2008, they spoke specifically to only six of the issues listed in the unsigned, unsourced and inaccurate memorandum which had been presented to Morris by the nuncio in September 2007. The first issue listed was the vague assertion that 'Toowoomba is moving in a different direction than that of the Catholic Church'. The second issue was the Advent pastoral letter.

The third issue listed was the false statement: 'At least in the past eight years there have been no priestly ordinations in Toowoomba' and that priests in good health were retiring early and being replaced 'by deacons or laity'. There had been four priests ordained in the last eight years, and Toowoomba had no deacons.

The fourth issue was the third rite of reconciliation. The Cardinals said, 'With regard to 'general absolution', we are glad to hear of Bishop Morris's statement that 'general absolution is no longer common'.' Morris was able to assure them that he had given permission for general absolution only twice in the last three years, and for the most appropriate canonical reasons.

The fifth issue was his general failure to correct liturgical abuses. Morris assured them: 'Reports of aberrations have been addressed immediately, when referred to me.' The sixth issue was 'the general theological climate of the diocese, and especially of its priests, need(ing) to move towards a more authentic Catholic identity, as found in the Catechism'.

For the Pope to be totally free in the appointment, transfer and removal of bishops, he and his flock have to be assured that his curial officials exercise their power to recommend appointment, transfer or removal in a just and transparent manner. This did not occur in the case of Bishop Morris.

Frank BrennanThis article is excerpted from Fr Frank Brennan SJ's address 'Bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel (John XXIII's half century challenge)' at the Catalyst for Renewal Dinner, Hunters Hill, 23 March 2012. Full text is here.



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Submitted comments

Never mind about..."The matter is a complete mess reflecting very poorly on a Church which prides itself on a code of canon law which provides for the protection of the rights of all Christ's faithful, including priests and bishops."...but, rather the complete disavowal of the Lord's teachings. Fr Brennan's commentary would carry much greater weight had he included a direct challenge to the body of Australian bishops to now address this latest wound t0 the Body of Christ itself.

Brian Haill - Melbourne 28 March 2012

The only course open to the Pope is to revoke his original decision which forced Bishop Morris to retire. Along with the revocation should come an apology from, and the seeking of forgiveness by, the Pontiff. There are three victims in all this mess (as frank Brenna calls it). Firstly the pope is a victim of bad advice from many quarters; the bishop is a victim of bad process and decision making; and thirdly, the whole Church is a victim, as once again its leaders have acted without transparency and accountability. "If you want Peace" sais Pope Paul VI, "then work for justice" The Church leadership has a long road to travel to reach those twin goals. Fortunately, for them, the Church leadership is not a Queensland political party, who last weekend failed the same test!

Garry Everett 28 March 2012

As always, I am impressed by the way Frank Brennan puts his own church under scrutiny from a justice perspective. I would disagree with his view on same sex marriage which was included in the full version of his speech. The Australian Marriage Act was conceived in a religious era, has moved to try to combine both civil and religious ceremonies, and is on the way to becoming a fully secular creation. The churches are entangled in this mixture. It would be better for the civil aspects of marriage to be dispensed by civil authorities and then religious groups coud add their own ceremonies. However, while it is called "The Marriage Act" and is dispensed by both secular and religious agents, it is understandable that same sex couples will want to be treated equally.

Rev. Harry J. Herbert 28 March 2012

Spot on, Frank! Bill Morris is "hung out to dry" for intelligent and thoughtful comments that address the obvious. I attended my daughter's school year commencement liturgy recently and Bill was the celebrant. His homily was inspirational. What a great leader! Like many other Australian Catholics, I'm tired of the nonsense & cronyism played out in Rome. Their actions defy logic and leave the faithful completely disillusioned! The appointment of Parramatta's Bishop is a classic example. I wonder how the parents of the Foster girls reacted to this appointment in 2010? The word is PATHETIC!!! Courageous men like Bill Morris and Paul Collins continue to provide hope BUT The People of God will continue to speak with their feet.

Andrew 28 March 2012

This matter is never mentioned in Brisbane. We continue to sit through long winded attempts to link the Sunday readings to daily life. At best these connections are tenuous, at worst totally artificial and impractical. I wonder how many mass goers have ever heard an exposition of the Church's attitude to abortion. How many know anything about the social justice issues involved in thinking about immigration, homosexuality or the environment? Topical concerns such as these and the treatment of Father Bill Morris are never publicly aired in our chiurches and the archdiocesan control of our media ensures such matters are never fully treated there. In this part of the world Catholics are reliant on the world's worst tabloid, 'The Courier Mail," for any real Church news. Thank God for Eureka Street.

grebo 28 March 2012

Dear Fr Frank, I was very sad when I watched what happened to Bishop Morris. I am glad that you are bringing it to peoples attention, i.e. the ongoing progress. His fellow priests and bishops need his support and you keeping the general public informed is very helpful and brave. You are a man who is truly willing to live out the message of the gospel. Go well.

Julia Trimboli 28 March 2012

Who was it coined the phrase.."The mark of Catholic orthodoxy is persecution by the Church"? Bishop Morris joins an illustrious band of such martyrs

jim macken 28 March 2012

Catholic commentary and press is beginning to present the themes of expectation and excitement hopefully glued to the forthcoming 'Year of Grace' initiated by the Australian bishops. What will it really mean for Aussie catholics. Again the Toowoomba matter, the wounded heart of the Australian church, will not go away and thanks to Fr.Brennan, among others, who with intelligence and quiet passion keep the truth of what has happened before our hearing and seeing. There is a festering sore of unrequited truth that will lay an agonizing claim on just about anything the Aussie bishops do for a long time to come -and grace will go quiet until truth can partner its redemptive ways.

Paul Goodland 28 March 2012

Yet what precisely are the supposed new revelations here? That AB Chaput has asserted that he did indeed inform Bishop Morris of the content of his report? Which makes it a question of which of the two bishops do you believe, the impartial one with nothing to win or lose here, or the one with a vested interest?! Certainly a few desultory comments on the likelihood or otherwise of Rome acting or otherwise on a car trip do not constitute great new revelations! We do indeed need to move on - perhaps Rome has some learnings to take out of this process for next time, but continuing bang this drum does nothing to aid the salvation of the faithful, which is what reading the signs of the times should be about.

Kate Edwards 28 March 2012

As a "practicing" Catholic who has looked on the hierarchy with some cynicism over the years Fr Brennan's articles further reinforces this view. The sacking of +Morris is even more confusing. Could there be other issues, more secular, that had motivated the sacking ? If so, natural justice demands that these accusations must be made public so that they can be answered. Until this action is taken the Social Justice statements made by the Catholic hierarchy, past and future, is hollow and meaningless.

nick agocs 28 March 2012

Simply put, the pontiff has the ability to remove a bishop if he sees fit without reason or rhyme. However, this does not mean that this should be done. To my mind they should have gone through every single reason as to why he should have been removed long ago. As for Garry Everett's submission that the Pontiff should apologize, I agree wholeheartedly. He should apologize to all Catholics of Toowoomba for his failure to remove him earlier.

Francis 28 March 2012

The problem with Toowoomba is that the people there are too passionate about their faith (the bishop, priests and the flock). If they were more apathetic and were just content to batten down the hatches and fade away into oblivion this wouldn't have happened. A passionate faith community is a living, dynamic organism and needs to grow and change. The response from the church hierarchy is they prefer the church to fade away.

AURELIUS 28 March 2012

The Catholic Church insisted upon governance based on the rule of law. It is wretched to watch ite descent yet again into the depths of, if you have the power, use it.

Moira Rayner 28 March 2012

Thanks for this report, Frank! I find it bizarre that some of the paranoid Catholic Church hierarchy objected to Bishop William Morris's opinion on women's ordination. I think their attitude can only be explained by an unwillingness to accept feminist philosophy and to treat women as equal with men.

Mark Doyle 28 March 2012

Unfortunately,what most catholics see from the papacy and the bishops is very demoralising.It seems clear to me that any churchman ,except those in orders such as the Augustinians or the Jesuits who actually addresses a problem as Christ would have done is removed.I see a deep movement of conservatives who wish to return the Church to pre vatican II "values".All that will do is further damage the churchand a further generation ,us over60`s will be lost to the Catholic Church

paul Tocchini 28 March 2012

I am an Anglican priest but studied in an ecumenical Bachelor of Theology in Adelaide, and took many courses at the Catholic Seminary there. I am currently undertaking a Masters at Notre Dame Fremantle. I have long admired catholic theology and spirituality, and my favorite theologians ar Boff, Tillich and Schillebeeckx. It saddens me to see the drift away from the courageous theology implied in vatican 2, back to a pre-Vatican 2 position. The Catholic Church is one of the most powerful agents for justice and human rights in the world, and its spiritual tradition is rich and challenging. However, its credibility and cutting edge in the world is becoming blunted, and its sacred voice muted, by a reactionary and conservative shift in theology snd practice. I hope and pray this does not continue for long...

Chris Beal 28 March 2012

Thank you, Kate Edwards. You have hit the nail on the head as to where vested interest lay in this affair and , more so, in your exhortation to "move on". That vested interest, however, may well have been justified self defence in so much as Bishop Morris was a victim as also was the Church (in the context of the Body of Christ), the process of administration and indeed the Pope himself. All of these have become victims as the result of an agenda which is not isolated to the Toowoomba parish and its pastor. You refer to this, Fr Brennan, when you indicate that complaints to the Vatican regarding Bishop Morris' administration required response from the bishop and were acted upon.These complaints you record as "Reports of abberations...the general theological climate of the diocese, and especially of its priests, needing to move towards a more authentic Catholic identity, as found in the Catechism." Those responsible for these complaints and reports to the Vatican are the evil doers in this matter, the creators of the victims, judged by them as unworthy, presumably because they themselves have been charged by God as His sole custodians of His Church and teachings. What needs to be said in this matter is that those responsible for this attempt to rid their church of heresy are restorationists', extreme conservatives embodied in sects such as Opus Dei and the Legionaires of Christ whose agenda is to take the Church back to pre-Vatican II days with all the fear and self-flagellation that their extremes survive on.This conservatism is a great danger to the Church in today's world. The great paradox, of course, is that so many of these people are indeed very good people, devoted to Christ, but sadly living in fear and suffering from their scruples. They cannot trust in God without strict guidelines which define the pathway to eternal salvation. They do not live in love with their God but in fear of Him. Might I add a word for the Rev Harry J Herbert. Dear Rev Herbert, In man and woman God has created the means of accomplishing His creation of human life. This means of His creation of life is perhaps the greatest of all His creation because through this means His Image propagates on this planet. God, through Crist, assumed a human element to go with his immortal spirit. In creating man He added a spiritual element, two creatures in one, human and immortal, god-like, in God's image. This is sacred, therefore; it is special: it requires God's creation of different sexes; it is why you cannot support men marrying men or women marrying women as a Christian pastor. It does not mean, however, that you should not recognise that if some maldirected same-sex poor human beings choose to live together in a purely sexual relationship that a civil recognition of eg, property rights might be appropriate. But please, do not suggest that there is anything Christian about that- it is a purely Godless civil arrangement.

john frawley 28 March 2012

In last week's Spectatator Richard Holloway tells of talking with then Scottish Cardinal, Tom Winning, who said if Pope told him to ordain women he would. As Holloway- at that time Primus of Episcopal Church of Scotland- says "So for them obedience to authority is the greatest good". Is this where Morris failed?

Brian Poidevin 28 March 2012

JOHN FRAWLEY: Why did God create these Godless 'maldirected same-sex poor human beings". You speak of the great paradox of the fact that extreme conservatives are also good people - but you have ignored the paradox (actually it's simply a fact) that homosexual people can also be ultra conservative, progressive, religious, atheist, celibate or not called to celibacy. We are all called to be chaste and faithful, and this plays itself out differently for each human being.

AURELIUS 28 March 2012

Frank, I have long since lost respect for institutional church. It does not seem to me just a matter of 'curial officials', unless you mean by the term the cardinals and bishops who make up the curia. It is rather, and has been, since the dreadful persecution of scripture scholars in the early 20th century, and the ruthless pursuit of liberation theologions and other open minded thinkers by John Paul 2's right hand man, now pope, that it is an institution rotten at the top. Whether rotten through deliberate wrongheadedness or through ignorance, carelessness and incompetence, it doesn't seem to me to matter. Admittedly there are some wonderful men who are bishops and a lot of very fine priests, but the power structures above them are manipulated to their disadvantage (witness also the case of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson) by men whose motives it is hard to see as informed by Christian, or even decent human values.

Joe Castley 28 March 2012

Bishop William Morris - a truly courageously Gospel driven, Christ-centric priest, crucified by those who saw in him what they should be, but are not capable of being and hated him for it. Woe to you scribes and hypocrites, you nest of vipers, white-washed tombs full of dead mens' bones. I will always be grateful to Bill, who personally listened to my complaints, all the way from the Victorian Diocese of Sandhurst, and ensured as much earthly justice as possible was extracted for me from a viciously misogynist and self-interested institution once my complaints were validated and vindicated. He has now fallen victim to that same monstrosity, and we should never forget this.

Michelle Goldsmith 28 March 2012

Thanks, Frank, for continuing to do what religious are called to do, namely to exercise a prophetic voice, fearlessly challenging unjust structures and practices within the Church as well as in the wider community. You are uniquely equipped to do this with precision and clarity. In this Year of Grace, I pray that this challenge will be heard with great humility and appropriate action. Veronica

Veronica Lawson 28 March 2012

I'm with Brian Haill. Rome's actions are a "complete disavowal of the Lord's teachings".

Stephen 28 March 2012

Dear Aurelius, Not quite sure what you mean. My point has nothing to do with God creating 'maldirected same-sex poor human beings" (I did not refer to them as 'GODLESS"- your word, not mine. I happen to believe God loves all whom he has created. I note that He also created serial killers,rapists and every other human miscreant in the world. Even conservative silly old beggars like me! Don't quite get your link between religious conservatives and conservative homosexuals. A long bow, Aurelius., My latter point in the comment above relates to the Christian sanctity of the creation of life and the role marriage plays in that creation. That is a Christian view, I think, and is not a criticism of homosexuality as such. I could dish up a corker of a criticism of the latter if I tried hard enough but it would not be published, and if it were , I could be in serious danger. Probably already am!!! Happy days, Aurelius.

john frawley 28 March 2012

Thanks for speaking out for us, the voiceless, yet again. It is heartbreaking to be an Aussie Catholic right now. How can we rally the enthusiasm for the Year of Grace whe the "Church leadership" had disgraced itself in our midst? Sad stuff.

Marg 28 March 2012

Frank, thank you for your article. It is refreshing, challenging and troubling; all at the same time. It reflects my serious concerns with the governance of the Catholic Church at this time just before Easter 2012 and almost the first anniversary of that that terrible Sunday morning at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Toowoomba when Bishop Morris’ letter was read out to the incredulous attendees at Mass that morning.

Almost one year latter the inglorious mess created by a mean and unjust Curia continues to fester into an almost incurable, ulcerated sore on the body of the Australian and dare I say it, the Universal Church. Some say; “get over it and move on” however most Catholics in the Toowoomba Diocese are just not willing to do that. Primarily to do that would be to disregard the teachings of Jesus that is the very essence why we are Christians of the Catholic faith. We strive to love our enemies, to seek out and cure injustices where and when they occur and to respect all life even the lowest of the low. Jesus had the easy option of “moving on” and not being nailed to the cross. Fortunately for us he did not “move on”.

As a lawyer who has practiced in the litigation arena for 40 years, God’s law as interpreted and used by the curia has been highlighted to all observers as being unjust, unfair and puerile as compared to the civil law in force in all civilized countries. The lack of process shown to Bishop Morris by the curia is so seriously deficient that I have difficulties in coming up with comparisons. One would have to go back to the communist regimes to come up with such instutitonalised injustices.

What acerbates the procedural unfairness is the ongoing silence by the Australian Bishops, the Roman Curia, the Apostolic Nuncio and the Apostolic Visitor, Archbishop Chaput. Did he really seek out Bishop Holohan and disclose that he had discussed his report with Bishop Morris? Yet he will not discuss the matter with Bishop Morris!

Surely there is an Australian Catholic Bishop who has the Christian fortitude and sincerity to call for a serious and public inquiry as to what has happened to Bishop Morris so that the serious damage to the Catholic Churches governance procedures can be corrected and not become the focus of such public international derision.

Patrick Nunan 28 March 2012

Next week we recall the results of vicious enemies of Jesus that culminated in the events of Good Friday. No one expected a resurrection three days later. Seems as if no one is expecting a possible about face leading to the vindication of Bp Morris. The scene is set!

Ern Azzopardi 28 March 2012

Given my comment to Peter L's "Lifting lay leaders "was submitted prior to Publishing of Father Frank's update on Bishop Bill saga ,would it be arrogant of me to suggest you paste it as a comment to Frank's latest wisdom ?.For it re-enforces why we cannot "move on"

john kersh 28 March 2012

Finally hope breaks through the gloom of injustice, the epitome of anti-gospel modus operandi. Thanks be to God for Fr Frank and for all the fearless voices in the Comments to date. Like Jesus, who knew when to be silent, when to speak and when to confront injustice, you too with the same Spirit name and confront evil. Your courage is as healing oil on deep wounds within the Body of Christ. Thank you!......don't give up!!!

Sr Diana Law 28 March 2012

Good on you, Frank! A calm and forensic examination of the case to date, as the best of detectives and lawyers are called to investigate and prosecute in the service of justice. As we enter the high point of the Christian calendar, the question has therefore to be asked: how can the Faithful possibly participate in the sacred ceremonies that commemorate Christ being put to death if the Bishops don't respond to these new revelations? Without an immediate response from them, and harsh though it may sound, we would be entitled to deduce that Caiphas and Pilate were running the Church, and Dostoevky's Grand Inquisitor still in charge.

Michael Furtado 29 March 2012

Frank puts the case with impeccable logic and most of the rest of you agree with him, but beyond wringing your hands and saying how terrible and unjust it is, you do absolutely nothing. Your protests are all hype and have no substance. So why on earth do you expect, even hope, that something will change?

Ginger Meggs 29 March 2012

JOHN FRAWLEY, this is a discussion about the case of the beloved Bishop Morris, not a chance to throw a cheap punch at minority social groups.

AURELIUS 29 March 2012

Quite coincidentally, I have just read for the first time Peter Hebblethwaite's 1975 book "The Runnaway Church" and am in the throws of churning through his very informative work "In the Vatican" published a decade later in the early years of John Paul II. I could be reading about the Church of today.

The Bishop Bill Morris story is a sad chapter in the life of our Church as was also the treatment of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson a few years earlier.

John A 29 March 2012

I totally agree with you Brian. There wasn't any mention made of Bathersby's disaproval of Bishop Morris setting a precedent in taking responsability for the abuse in one of his parish primary schools, with how many young victims and how many rapes?

L Newington 29 March 2012

Thank you, Frank, for bringing to our attention the unsolicited conversation between Chaput and the Bishop of Bunbury. Methinks Chaput protests too much.

Peter Kenny 29 March 2012

Kate Edwards, I think it was Walter Brueggemanns who said that the first task of prophecy is to cry out against injustice. I think continuing to 'bang this drum' is necessary to renew and reconcile our Church, which is certainly a task directed towards the salvation of the world. Thanks, Frank - and I'm like Ginger Meggs, I'd like to know what action we can take to keep this issue alive and force it to be addressed.We can't just stop at describing the problem, we must do something!

Joan Seymour 29 March 2012

There are many situations in our church today that make me struggle to see anything remotely Christlike or Gospel oriented in the manner in which injustice seems to be metered out to people who are real role models of the Gospel message. Two of these people are Bishop Bill Morris and Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, I am no longer impressed with the power welding individuals who run rough shod over others with no regard for the truth or transparency. I no longer feel comfortable with the internal workings of our Church. Thank God for people like Fr. Frank Brennan who tries to speak the Truth with love. Margaret Coffey

margaret.coffey 29 March 2012

Joan Seymour asks what can we do? One way would be to vote with your feet, as some have already done, but what does that achieve? And why should you be forced to leave the church or deny yourselves access to the sacraments? One of the most effective ways in which the powerless can make their point is through non-cooperation. It is difficult to demonstrate non-cooperation with the Vatican, and non-cooperation with your local priest is self-defeating, but non-cooperation with the Bishops is another thing. They are the people who should be standing up the Vatican but they decline to do so. Imagine what would happen if every time a bishop appeared, the laity got up and walked out.

Ginger Meggs 30 March 2012

Truly, there was nothing just or transparent about the removal of Bishop Morris. A great pity as he was one of the very few just and transparent bishops we had left in the church worldwide. If you believe in Morris' integrity then you know that Bishop Chaput is neither just nor transparent because he lied to Bishop Hart when he told him he had discussed the contents of his report with Morris. And, I suspect, that in his role as visitator, he was far from transparent when he told Fr. Sparksman that he would be 'astounded' if Toowoomba was to lose Morris. Isn't Rome going to base its decision on Chaput's report? Or was the decision to remove Morris made before Chaput ever landed on Australian soil? In which case there is nothing transparent about the entire visitation process. Keep your eye on Philadelphia, this problem is not going to go away soon and certainly not there.
PS Should the Pope be totally or singly free to appoint and remove bishops? Isn't this a recent appropriation of local authority, originating in the imperial mind of Eugenio Pacelli with the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1917(Pius XII)?

Gail Grossman Freyne 31 March 2012

Transparency begins at home. So let's start with Bishop Morris himself.

In his 2006 Letter, he wrote:

"... we may well need to be much more open towards other options for ensuring that Eucharist may
be celebrated. As has been discussed internationally, nationally and locally the ideas of:
ordaining women, married or single; recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders."

Supporters of women's ordination in Australia and beyond hail Bishop Morris as a hero and martyr. But Bishop Morris is now adamant that, despite using language about being "much more open towards other options" he was NOT endorsing women's ordination in his letter to his flock. To claim he was is to "misrepresent" what he wrote, he says.

So, apparently, the supporters of women's ordination and the "Temple Police" are united in misreading and hence misrepresenting him. He's hit out bluntly at the "Temple Police" on this account. Curiously, he's not moved to clarify his position with the much larger body on the left of supporters, who still labour under the (apparent) illusion that he is open to women priests. On the contrary, he's encouraged them further with remarks about "creeping infallibility". Gambolling with the hares, he berates the hounds for hunting him as one.

Will the real Bishop Morris strike a blow for transparency, and reveal himself?

HH 02 April 2012

In a 2003 case in the High Court of Australia, Justice Callinan observed: “The law of natural justice has evolved without the need for recourse to any fiction of ‘legitimate expectation’. As de Smith, Woolf & Jowell point out (Judicial Review of Administrative Action, 5th ed (1995) at 378-379) a duty to accord natural justice by giving a right to be heard has long been the law of many civilised societies: ‘That no man is to be judged unheard was a precept known to the Greeks, inscribed in ancient times upon images in places where justice was administered, proclaimed in Seneca's Medea, enshrined in the scriptures, mentioned by St Augustine, embodied in Germanic as well as African proverbs, ascribed in the Year Books to the law of nature, asserted by Coke to be a principle of divine justice, and traced by an eighteenth-century judge to the events in the Garden of Eden.’” (Re Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs; Ex parte Lam (2003) 214 CLR 1 at pp. 45-6. There was a time when the Church led the way. If we fall too far behind, we do ourselves a great disservice.

Frank Brennan SJ 02 April 2012

Seriously... has the church heirachy completely lost the plot? The age old human delima of having to be right has cost us a much needed pastor in Bishop Morris... as someone who teaches young people it all seems like such a joke. Many young people, despite never setting foot in a church these days, are ofen wiser than the so called right-wing "temple police" and other "vipers" running the show with their legalistic hypocritical power struggles. Give us a break... honestly...

Valery 03 April 2012

HH are you trying to suggest that because you believe that the Bishop has not been fully open, that he is therefore to be denied natural justice? As Frank says, 'there was a time when the Church led the way'. The Church is an advocate for natural justice in secular matters; why not in ecclesiastical matters?

Ginger Meggs 03 April 2012

Fr Brennan ought go slow on ancient Athenian legal justice: "A slave's testimony was only admissible if it was made under physical torture."

Father John Michael George 03 April 2012

So what is your point JMG? Are you an advocate of 'natural justice', or not, or only when it doesn't involve the Vatican?

Ginger Meggs 04 April 2012

Thanks, GM. I think it's a bit rich for people on this blog to be complaining about the lack of transparency in relation to Bishop Morris when, it seems to me, he's been lacking in it himself. He's since described his wording in the Advent letter as "clumsy". Well, how would he have worded the Letter in an "unclumsy" way? If he's genuinely concerned - as he ought to be - that they might be victims of a gross "misrepresentation" of his letter's content, why did he not clarify his real position to his flock, not even in his letter of resignation?

On the issue of natural justice: I believe in it. But given that Bishop Morris twice refused the urgent demand to come to Rome to discuss matters in February 2007 as made by Cardinal Arinze, it's also far from a true account of events to say he was denied - simpliciter - a right to be heard. Happy Easter.

HH 04 April 2012

An interview arising from my Catalyst address is now available at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/religionandethicsreport/extended-interview-frank-brennan-sj/3933116

Frank Brennan 05 April 2012

Natural justice, HH, is more than 'a right to be heard'. It's also a right to confront one's accusers.

Ginger Meggs 05 April 2012

I found this site and the editorial accidentally... I was a devout Catholic mum /wife/professional whose faith gave her great peace and joy / Events in the church both locally and afar created huge dissatisfaction and unrest for not only myself but more importantly my children. I have raised five children to be assured of their Holy Father in Heaven's love for them and to share that love with the world by being tolerant and respectful of others who are not the same as themselves . I did that job too well as I have 5 intelligent children who cannot accept /tolerate the behaviour in the church and are not prepared to listen to grown men whose strength is not found in the Lord but in an outdated / flawed organization no better than the mafia in Naples . Three cheers for Bishop Morris/ three cheers for the author .

Heather Pickmere 06 April 2012

Ginge I'm just opposed to witness torture are you and Fr Brennan?

Father John Michael George 08 April 2012

Bishop Morris's dismissal is a shameful affair that discredits the Catholic Church. Thank God brave Australians, like Fr Frank Brennan SJ, a 'Living Australian Treasure' have spoken out against Vatican high handedness.

Patricia Kane 08 April 2012

Flesh and blood (our desires) shall not inherit the Kingdom of God and the just shall live by Faith. To each his own.

myra 09 April 2012

It is now a year since Bishop William Morris was dismissed from Toowoomba. The people are still waiting for a new bishop; and we are all still waiting for a public credible explanation of the reasons for his dismissal. I am presently in London staying with Fr Jack Mahoney SJ, a former principal of Heythrop College and author of the highly acclaimed "The Making of Moral Theology: A Study of the Roman Catholic Theology". He has just published a new book "Christianity in Evolution" in which he says things like: "Dispensing with the idea that Christian priesthood involves ordaining a man to act 'in the person of Christ' by offering his atoning sacrifice to God removes whatever ground there was for restricting ordination to the priesthood to men and for excluding women." One of the most respected pastoral theologians in the English Church is Professor Nicholas Lash from Cambridge. He writes in this week’s Tablet: “When, for example, Pope John Paul II announced that the Church had no authority to ordain women to the presbyterate, and that the matter was not to be further discussed, two questions immediately came to mind: first, how does he know? (that is to say: what were the warrants, historical and doctrinal, for his assertion?); secondly, what theological note should be attached to his assertion? In view of the fact that, so far as I know, the question has never, in the Church’s history, come up for serious and close consideration, that note cannot be very high up the scale. From which it follows that his further instruction that we must not discuss it lacks good grounds.” All Bishop Morris said in his pastoral letter of 2006 was that people overseas were talking about this sort of thing. They were, they are, and they will be. So why the need to sack not the theological agitators but the occasional pastoral bishop who merely points out that these things are being discussed? Having been travelling overseas for a couple of weeks, I can assure you they are being discussed by people who love the Church and care passionately for its future.

Frank Brennan SJ 03 May 2012

The appointment of a new bishop for Toowoomba was announced on 14 May 2012.

Frank Brennan SJ 15 May 2012

Father Brennan's post enquires re the theological note to be attached to Blessed John Pauls Apostolic Letter 'ordinatio Sacerdotalis? Such a 'dubium' had a 'responsum' from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in October 1995: "Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith. Responsum: Affirmative. This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith."

Father John Michael George 22 May 2012

Be assured the CDF would have fine combed +elect's DNA for orthodox pedigree and 'dissent'ry immunoglobulin antibodies. No more' cowboy shoot outs'-dead bodies everywhere!!

Father John Michael George 23 May 2012

Since around 1987, NSW teachers have had mandatory reporting. This means it is an offence if you do not report suspected instances of child abuse. The case in Toowoomba is much worse. Surely the three who did not report the very serious allegations of child abuse, have broken the Queensland law regarding mandatory reporting. The law demands more than dismissal. It is a very difficult issue, but the Queensland law also has a provision for being aware of or suspecting child abuse. To then have the Catholic Education in Queensland re employ the sacked Principal who did not report, seems to be not what the law intended. That this criminal behaviour was still going on and being covered up in 2008, shows we need the Royal Commission to re investigate this very tragic issue. http://healthcareadmin.org/

Natasha Stephen 21 January 2015

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