Human faces of Toowoomba conflict


Bishop Bill MorrisBishop Bill Morris' (pictured) announcement that he had tendered his early retirement under Roman pressure aroused deep grief in Toowoomba. It will certainly arouse debate in and outside the Catholic Church. It is ironical that action taken to preserve unity in the church should so strain unity of hearts and minds.

In these first days of controversy, it may be helpful first to reflect on the impact that the action has on the people most affected by it.

When feelings run high the persons at the centre always suffer a loss of their individual identity. They become tin soldiers dressed in the livery that military strategists wish to assign them. They become rebels, heroes, authority figures, emperors, inquisitors, and are praised or blamed accordingly.

This is the nature of things. But from a Catholic perspective the process should always be accepted only under protest. At the heart of the Catholic view of the world is the central importance of persons. The approach to work, for example, begins with the assertion that work is for the development of the persons involved in it. They are not to be treated as costs or machines. For the same reason reflection on the economy is always begins with the human relationships involved, not with an abstract consideration of profitability. In the Catholic view, too, the treatment of asylum seekers and prisoners must respect their humanity. They are people with faces. They are not objects, not problems.

So it is right to begin reflection on the events in Toowoomba by focusing, not on the rights and wrongs involved and on the larger issues, but on the people and what these events mean for them. Reflection on the central issues will follow. At the centre, of course, is Bishop Morris. In his years of responsibility for the Toowoomba church he has earned a reputation as a deeply pastoral man with a care for the people of his church and an exceptional ability to listen and respond to them. His informal style and his honesty, which alienated a few in his church, endeared him to most. News of his retirement prompted tears.

In addressing the scandals of sexual abuse and their mishandling that have plagued the Australian Catholic Church, as elsewhere, he was also exemplary. He acted decisively in cases of complaint, and was among the first bishops to accept legal liability for abuse, so sparing the complainants the burden of legal processes. He has been a model for the wider church.

His letter of resignation was of a piece with his leadership of the Toowoomba church. He began with anecdotes of his involvement in the church and gratitude for the people whom he had been able to serve. He narrated the events that led to his early retirement simply and honestly, made it clear that he regarded the process as unsatisfactory, and that he saw his retirement as a way both of preserving communion with the universal church and of preserving his integrity.

Clearly, his retirement under these circumstances will come with a personal cost. He has lost the opportunity to serve people whom he cares for. If other people make him the hero in a sad story, it is insignificant recompense for his loss. Indeed it will only magnify the loss if he becomes the object and not the catalyst of religious conversation.

The personal cost to the Toowoomba Catholic community will also be high. The Bishop is a personal focus of unity in the church. His removal will leave many alienated from the Catholic Church. No doubt there will be passionately held and opposed opinions among Toowoomba Catholics about the matter. They will have to deal with suspicion and resentments without a trusted centre. They will feel their loss, ucomprehending and a sense of powerlessness. Bishop Morris' successor will have a hard road. It is always so.

We should spare a thought for the other Australian Bishops. The forced resignation of Bishop Morris can only deepen the public perception that they are branch managers of a large international corporation. If they break ranks and say anything critical about what has happened in Toowoomba, they will be accused of encouraging and exacerbating division. If they say nothing, they will be seen to abandon one of their own out of timidity and compliance. The affair will make even more difficult the continuing task they have of dealing with sexual abuse and its aftermath, and the immediate task of carrying through the new translation of the liturgy. It is not easy to be a bishop.

And finally, the Pope and his advisers are also persons. They have responsibility for encouraging the unity in faith of the universal Catholic Church. It cannot be a responsibility worn lightly.

 In the Christian tradition prayer for the church has a firm place. It is often criticised as a cop-out, a resigned failure to change what should be changed. But when you focus on the faces of those involved in actions like this, where else would you begin?

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.  

Topic tags: Bill Morris, bishop, resignation, toowoomba, catholic church, rome, vatican, pope, papal authority



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Existing comments

I was deeply saddened by this event, and the lack of transparency in the process.

Some clergy breaking ranks over more major teachings have at a minimum been called before the CDF. Bishop Morris is certainly not the only bishop to question the church's practice surrounding Holy Orders. At a minimum, the questioning of the necessity of married priests should not be seen as controversial when priests were married for centuries, and even now, we have married (ex-Anglican) priests.

More disturbingly, I am aggrieved that bishops presiding over known abuse of children have retained their role, yet a truly pastoral bishop such as Bill Morris is hurried on over such trivial matters.

I think Rome has swatted a fly with a sledgehammer on this issue.

MBG | 03 May 2011  

The one consistent problem we have seen over the last few years is entirely too much emphasis on protecting the interests of the persons of the bishops and clergy over the interests of their flock. That's why we had an abuse crisis in the first place.

And in a church, the spiritual interests of the laity of the diocese are far more important even than physical and pyschological abuses, serious (and interconnected) as these are.

So we should applaud the fact that the Pope has put the interests of the laity of Toowoomba - and particularly their hope of heaven - ahead of the interests of the persons at the centre of this affair as Mr Hamilton advocates.

Yes people will be upset.

The same phenomemenon as we've seen as parishioners disbelieving accusations of immorality on the part of their priests, and continuing to defend them, claiming them to be entirely holy - just as Fr Marciel was!

Taking action can be painful and has costs - but it pays off in the longer term.

Kate | 03 May 2011  

Father Andrew,
Father Hans Kung has some clear information about the role of the Pope and the Bishops.
I am sure you have read this.

Ruth Kapernick | 03 May 2011  

This incident/discussion highlights for me the negative aspects of the focus on institutional unity, especially the tendency to subordinate every other interest, particularly the human ones, to the survival of the institution as institution. This lies behind the disillusionment, dismay and anger felt by many over the hierarchy’s response/strategy to abuse.

The argument - and process - is (1) survival depends on unity; (2) unity depends on rigid group conformity of belief and expression; (3) rigid group conformity of belief depends on the excommunication/marginalisation of dissent or alternative thinking/acting.

It may be argued “a house divided cannot stand” but I think this is facile and in a sense unimportant. The problem is the Church (with a capital “C”) is something of a false idol. The effect of preoccupation with unity means Catholics for all practical purposes have been required to believe in the Church first, Jesus second, or to believe in Jesus because of and through the Church, rather than the other way round. Father Andrew’s characterisation of the human-centred view as Catholic must be qualified for the Protestant model of church - to the extent it emphasises personal/individual conversion rather than ecclesial membership - suggest a direction in which balance might be achieved to the health of all, as individuals and in the collective. What did Jesus (Luke) say about not worrying about the future?

Stephen Kellett | 03 May 2011  

In his Veeech Memorial Lecture some years ago the writer Morris West lamented that he had lived to witness a shift in the Church from the primacy of charity to the primacy of authority. He was right. What has been visited upon Bishop Bill Morris is as much a failure of charity as a failure of justice. It does not serve the mission of Jesus, but rather impedes it.

Br Brian Grenier | 03 May 2011  

Yes, let us pray for the Church and for the lay leaders who may suffer. Thomas Green's Weeds among Wheat and Van Kaam's books on Spiritual life may help this suffering bear fruit.

Louise | 03 May 2011  

And what of the cost to the laity (apart from Toowoomba) who know there are priests and bishops who agree with Bishop Bill Morris, but remain silent? Don't forget us in the debate - we feel let down too.

Glen Avard | 03 May 2011  

Thank you Andrew. With insight you express a truth that many of us, within Church, struggle to articulate.

Anne Nolan | 03 May 2011  

In essentials UNITY
In peripherals TOLERANCE
In all things LOVE
If every community (religious or secular) followed these principles how natural PEACE would dwell among us.
Alas, however, the Pharisaic complex still operates. For the Pharisees there was no distinction made between ESSENTIALS and PERIPHERALS. Jesus did not dispute the orthodoxy of the Pharisees but he did accuse them of getting the service of God out of perspective. LOVE and TOLERANCE had less value than strict ritual observance.
Why should I be surprised, then, that a Bishop who tries to be a Good Shepherd to his flock should suffer the same fate as The Son of Man did.

"Every day Jesus taught in the temple. The chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the leaders of the people wanted to kill him but they could not find a way to do it, because all the people kept listening to him, not wanting to miss a single word." Luke 19: 47-48.

Uncle Pat | 03 May 2011  

Toowoomba has suffered, as has much of Queensland, greatly in recent times. I think the reasons the pope has used to remove him are a best petty. To remove this man from a congregation requiring his compassion and leadership is not only cruel, but extraordinarily arrogant. The holy father should really understand the church is about its people. Not him. I left years ago so I think I will just say how I feel and still sleep well. Shame is the game of the Holy Father. This is just another example.

Brian King | 03 May 2011  

Any organisation that insists on surrounding its leader with sycophants and quells questioners is in for trouble.

hilary | 03 May 2011  

Rome does not need to worry about people like Morris causing disunity. It is doing a good enough job itself, unassisted, in bringing itself undone. Well done Bill Morris and those like you who cannot and will not remain silent.

Mickey Hill | 03 May 2011  

Just checking ... This is the same church that invited/allowed Robert Mugabe to attend the beatification ceremony in Rome last Sunday?

Elizabeth | 03 May 2011  

"The forced resignation of Bishop Morris can only deepen the public perception that they are branch managers of a large international corporation."  Andy, that's a sad observation regarding the church established by Christ which now cares about the preservation of its centralised power more than spreading Christ's message of love; more than listening to God's people. Getting rid of bishops that express loyal dissent consistent with Christ's teaching is however the inevitable corollary to the now established practice of appointing as bishops only those who will tread the party line - yes men! This centralised control to preserve hierarchical power is a common practice of all failing institutions. If we are to save God's church from this abuse of power, the people of the Church need to demand a more inclusive regime. A return to the practice of subsidiarity is essential following the wisdom of Pope Pius XI, the principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralised competent authority. The loss of Bishop Morris from the Church's hierarchy is a substantial self-inflicted wound.

Peter Johnstone | 03 May 2011  

Again another example of Vatican totalitarianism–the ability to marginalise and eliminate difference for the sake of an elusive unity that only serves those who seek power and control!

Tim Collier | 03 May 2011  

I pray that Bishop Thomas, like Cardinal Bernardin will find peace in being a person of integrity -knowing that there will be suffering attached.

Rosemary | 03 May 2011  

It is indeed sad and perplexing that the Church Hierarchy regards Bishop Morris as persona non grata and and makes welcome a cruel tyrant in the person of Robert Mugabe

David | 03 May 2011  

With Peter Johnstone I am amazed that the Bishops here did not simply take care of this matter locally. The CDF apparently threw the 'Hail Mary' pass to the USCBC in the Fordham Uni Dr Elizabeth Johnson doctrinal assessment. Why? I think Peter is right. The Church is being run like a corporation and the the papal mind and will are being interpreted and 'actioned' by the Curial managers. I find it painfully ironic that Abp Chaput ofmcap, the Apostolic Visitor, last year specifically rubbished this idea of Ecclesial corporate structure (CNA 26/25/10 citing remarks from a 'First Things' piece). In the article +Chaput dismisses the charge that the Pope is a corporate CEO and that Bishops are his local employees. Tellingly, +Chaput goes on to say, "I have neither the authority nor the had sense to meddle in the life of a sister local church" and that he won't "intrude on the ministry of a brother bishop." I wonder how his sense of the Communio and the brotherhood of Bishops fared in all of thisIt never ceases to amaze me how 'Unity' is consistently valued more highly than integrity and truth.

David Timbs | 03 May 2011  

Jesus did not ban women from being priests and with women in our armies .... it is only a matter of time.

Jack Kennedy | 03 May 2011  

With this assassination of a good man the slippery slope has become steeper. The Vatican dictatorship has stepped further away from faith, hope and charity and is encouraging many more Catholics to vote with their feet. There are other ways to keep the faith.

The Australian Bishops' courage and lack of leadership is disappointing, if not tragic. It is time to give the Bishop’s Conference the flick, elect our own church leaders and reject the centralist control of Rome. The People, the faithful, are the church; the Vatican is an administrative facility.

He is forever in my prayers.

Dermott Ryder | 03 May 2011  

What are they thinking??? With the example of Bernard Laws treatment; praise for Marcial Maciel from John Paul II what are they thinking to hand such a reward to a real pastoral Bishop?

rb | 03 May 2011  

Prayer, where else would you begin? I think we are constantly challenged to pray at the foot of His cross for our Church and our world.

I am reminded of the words of our dear Pope John XXXIII when he addressed the youth in Rome all those years ago "With our heads we learn and with our hearts we love. I beg you to learn and to love to the upmost of your ability for the people of this world have need of all the love that you and I can give them. Is this not so?" Pope John XXXIII was an inspiration to me then and he remains so.
We need to pray for our Church and our world and wisely be creators of peace.

Lorraine Murphy | 03 May 2011  

The timing of Bishop Morris' resignation is interesting given the statement from former Bishop Toohey only three days ago.

A stark contrast in approach from the ACBC - refusing to discuss the statement of one bishop, which alludes to serious moral concerns, but open with statements about Bishop Morris, whose offenses are, as Uncle Pat says, peripheral.

MBG | 03 May 2011  

I am an Anglican priest but various Australian and American Roman Catholic priests and bishops seek my comments and advice. Because I am an Anglican, they know I am not inhibited or constrained by the power of Roman authority.

For similar reasons, various catholic priests, bishops and laypeople asked the Unitarian theologian and church leader, James Luther Adams, to be their spiritual director.

And I know no one better than the Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder, to give advice to all of us. Just read his essay "the hermeneutics of peoplehood.

When the present Pope endorsed the writings of John Henry, he, perhaps unwittingly, endorsed Newman's views about the views of the laity.

Gerry Costigan | 03 May 2011  

So, to all of you who are appalled by this action by Rome, what are you going to do about it? Wringing your hands, or offering a prayer, won't help. The 'temple police' are no doubt working on their next target. How many more victims will it take before you decide to actually DO something?

Ginger Meggs | 03 May 2011  

This is very disappointing outcome as it appears we are all being gagged. We need to grow up in this faith and realise that we can still discuss issues about the clergy without fear of ultra-conservative reprisal. A great man has been slain by some weak and scared individuals.

Terry Fitzsummons | 03 May 2011  

The real issue is what is meant by "a deeply pastoral man". Perhaps Roman and everyday-Australian views diverge precisely on this.

Leander Gonzaga | 03 May 2011  

I think Anne Nolan has gone straight to the heart of this whole sad saga. What has been done to Bishop Bill is dreadful, but it pales into insignificance beside what his colleagues will do to the people of God if they fail to support him. If they simply close ranks behind the apparatchiks of the Vatican, their credibility will be in tatters, and they will be guilty of leaving us leaderless.

Peter Downie | 03 May 2011  

I am continually reinforced in my conviction that the Roman church has ossified, and increasingly mimics the behaviour of the biblical pharisees in following the letter of the law. It has come full circle; it is the very image of the Jewish religious institution that Jesus condemned.

Remembering that Jesus taught us to love beyond the strictures of the law, and that the Church supposedly has a social justice focus, it was the height of irony to read that the Vatican's excuse for not allowing Bishop Bill natural justice was that there was no provision in canon law for it.

His mistreatment at the hands of the Roman church is just another symptom of its moral malaise, given that so many paedophile clergy were harboured by it at an unfathomable cost to so many appallingly mistreated, suffering victims and that this institution has largely been in denial about the facts for so long. I am faced with the question: Do I want to continue to belong to a failed institution that appears to directly contradict the teachings of its Founder (“upon this rock I will build my Church”)? If I do, it will only be due to the merits of actual community and its pastor that I find myself in/with.

Frank S | 03 May 2011  

The only unity that matters is, that which is the basis of all Eucharistic action, namely put God first and love others as you love yourself.

Patrick Kempton, Numurkah | 03 May 2011  

I'm assuming most of these comments are posted by Australians. Americans can learn a lot from the respectful tone maintained in these opinions. I just finished posting a comment to NCR regarding the upcoming Amercian Catholic Council that will be held in Detroit, Michigan in the USA the weekend of June 10-12. I cited the forced retirement of Bishop Morris as the latest example as to why the laity must take action. We cannot continue to enable and empower the hierarchy. Jesus Christ is our head and always will be. We are the Body and must support Him and the Gospel message.

Judy Lorenz - Bowie, MD | 04 May 2011  

Glen Avard has gone straight to the heart of this matter. What has happened to Bishop Bill is dreadful, but it pales into insignificance beside the damage the other bishops will do to the people of God if they do not stand up against the denial of justice to him.

The National Council of Priests priests has had the courage to issue a statement supporting Bill Morris. If the bishops simply fall into line behind the scribes and pharisees in the Vatican, their remaining credibility will be in tatters, and they will effectively leave their priests and people leaderless. A grave situation indeed.

Peter Downie | 04 May 2011  

Andrew the question goes beyond individuals. The question is not about individual problems but systematic church ills. Individualising the issue fails to engage with the power issues at play here - nice ideals but quite ineffective.

I call for a WHE (we've had enough) day of protest against the way this church is being run. Church authority is supposedly drawn on the principle of 'having consulted widely among the people of God ....". They never consult us; just patronise us and of course - spend out money. They need to know there is a line that can't be crossed; that they are accountable to us - I ask you - where is that line? Who will draw it? Who will stand on it? Who's prepared to stare them down?

Anthony | 04 May 2011  

The article by Andrew Hamilton shows a charitable balance that we all need in these circumstances. However, i feel that he was too soft on Bill Morris' brother bishops. Why is it that they cannot claim their authority to be the local shepherds of their Dioceses in these cases, but simply close ranks to protect the 'all boys club' rather than speak up for the injustice perpetrated on one of their brothers? Perhaps there is no sense of brotherhood amongst our bishops and they are simply another group of independent rulers. Surely they have a sense that what can happen to one of their brothers can happen to them?

Perhaps remaining silent is a better option than what they did to Bede Heather, John Heaps, and Geoff Robinson - turned on one of their own in public. Surely there are other options than these two - silence or condemnation - that would demonstrate a more Christian defence against the unjust treatment of a fellow bishop.

I was disappointed that Brian Finnigan agreed to step in and 'fill the gap'. A refusal to do so might have spoken volumes in terms of his support for his brother bishop.

Shane Wood cfc | 04 May 2011  

Vatican officials formed the view that Bishop Morris’s pastoral leadership was 'flawed' and 'defective'. His fellow Queensland bishop Brian Heenan attests: “Bp Morris has become known as a true shepherd during the past 18 years and is therefore much admired and appreciated by the people he has served so generously.” Archbishop Bathersby, Bishop Morris’s Metropolitan, has told ABC TV: “This is the way that the church operates and it's just sad it's come to this. I just wish it hadn't happened and I don't know why it happened and I would very much like to know.” We’d all like to know, and the Church of Toowoomba has a right to know, the evidence on which officials have acted to form the view that Bishop Morris’s pastoral leadership was flawed and defective. Pleas for loyal silence, trust and submission are no substitute for living in the truth. Natural justice must take firmer hold in the church bureaucracy for the good of us all, including those who exercise ministry in Rome and in Denver.

Frank Brennan SJ | 04 May 2011  

The dismissal of Bishop Bill Morris shows the continuing domination of the local and Roman church by arch conservatives. Why are these people not outed? Why do Catholics continue to accept the current hierarchy. When will ordinary Catholics revolt.

rr | 04 May 2011  

If I were truly humble I would let Andrew's fellow Jesuit, Frank Brennan, have the last, and the very appropriate, say, but I'm not. I want to thank Frank S for pointing out the fatuity of the excuse for not granting Bishop Morris natural justice. There is no provision for it in Canon Law. Is there a provision against it? I should hope not. That would be like saying a judge should not take the natural law into account when assessing the illegal activities of criminals.

Uncle Pat | 04 May 2011  

the reverend professor brennan would know that in common democratic law for a number of serious reasons a judicial process may take place 'in camera' [thus public and media have no access to records obviously this is the process in the case of bishop morris versus holy see-live with it!![as billions have re common law of open democracy]

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 04 May 2011  

No, John George, we will not live with it. It is our Church, and we will not let the scribes and pharisees get away with it this time. We pay, so we will have our say.

Peter Downie | 04 May 2011  

The Vatican has shown how it's medieval stance and nods to historical facts/ actions taken by powerful monarchies and a drive for domination of the known world.Absolute power corrupts absolutely.Christ did not speak of division or ordain men,women and children to be treated so disrespectfully, so callously.
The Pope has shown how imperfect/ignorant he really is.

I'm sure Will and Catherine will have a swelling in the numbers of Anglican members soon.As heads of their church their lives should be examples to their 'subjects',but I feel this monarchy,at least, has opened the windows.

Catherine | 04 May 2011  

Everybody knows why bishop Morris was sacked except bishop Morris

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 04 May 2011  

We all know the Catholic Church is not a democratic institution and so it is irrelevant to compare it to one. We do know it claims love as its First Commandment. Where is the love for Bishop Bill expressed by the Vatican in this, given it has denied him natural justice? Where is the love expressed by a respect for and deference to the laity not only of Toowoomba Diocese but of the whole world, given that it will not explain to them why a beloved Bishop is being mistreated? In all this, where is the obedience to Jesus, who said that in order to lead, one must be a servant? It is blindingly obvious to me that the Vatican has lost the plot on this point.

Frank S | 04 May 2011  

Andrew, I usually enjoy your balanced response and commentary to bothering issues, but this time around I think your wise ways have led you into the swamp of niceties that are not sufficient to the disgusting treatment of Bishop Morris.

This to me is the straw laid on the ecclesiastical camels back in regard to the trust and loyalty our bishops expect of us towards them and the odds and sods further up the hierarchical ladder. The 'common folk' have a good nose for smelling a rat and they are on to this one. Prayer, yes indeed pray,but it might well bring many to say they have had enough and walk away from an institution hell bent on the ways of power and control that sacrifices a good man on the altar of uniformity, not unity.

Bishop John Heaps, Bis.Geoff Robinson, Bis. Bill Morris - one way or another they got them all from the Roman Fort with the help of our own episcopal outriders. The door is quickly closing on the opportunity for the bulk of our Australian bishops to stand up and be counted in defence of human dignity and a fair go for one of their brother bishops. It's getting swampier every day in this territory we call church - the oxygen is running out, the pastures are sour and the shepherds - well, what can you say?

clerical goanna looking for a(bigger)tree to climb | 04 May 2011  

Bishop Morris is one of the most priestly and compassionate people I know, a true pastor in the best sense. Those of my many friends and relations in the Toowoomba diocese who know him bear witness to his outstanding qualities. I have personal reasons to confirm this, having worked with and for him at national level in the social justice area and having experienced his friendship in my own family's most difficult time. When he speaks of justice and its lack, he knows what he is talking about. God bless him.

Michael Costigan | 05 May 2011  

I am grateful to Andrew Hamilton for his article, and for Eureka Street for publishing it. In time of grief, it helps when the situation is so humanly and insightfully described, as Andrew has done. It eases the pain but does not eradicate it. Powerless though I be, I wish within my heart to show support to Bishop Bill Moris: he is a noble man, a true Australian and an admirable bishop.

Jim Fitzgerald - franciscan | 05 May 2011  

mr costigan, i]mrs Milingo thinks former arch Milingo is just the sweetest! [MRS LUTHER THOUGHT MARTIN A TOTAL DARLING] and Eva Braun thought Adolph was straight cute in his BROWN LEATHER shorts ii]the issue is not personable qualities but catholic teaching-get it?[good try] iii+morris is a nice guy i sat opposite him at a jubilee dinner for late brother Mazzorini cfc BUT WE ARE DEALING WITH CHURCH TEACHING ON MALE CELIBATE PRIESTHOOD not popularity contest iv]actually he is the only one who doesn't know why he was sacked-do tell him michael

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 05 May 2011  

Rome 1 - 0 Bush What a shocker!

JK | 05 May 2011  

my suggestion to reverend professor of law fr brennan sj of sub judice/in camera type confidentiality re chaput records is now substantiated by ncr editorial: "When NCR asked Chaput to respond to a series of questions regarding his apostolic visitation to Morris’ diocese, he declined to answer, explaining that “any apostolic visitation is governed by strict confidentiality. This is for the benefit of all parties involved.” [pace rev prof sj i am just a run o the mill bedridden stroke debilitated priest!]

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 05 May 2011  

a]on ABC video archbishop bathersby claims he doesnt know why +Morris was sacked[but to his credit THE ARCH backs the pope]

b]i repeat all Australia knows why +Morris was sacked except bishop Morris and archbishop Bathersby-

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 05 May 2011  

The fate of Bishop Morris reflects failure to deal with a situation in a way in accord with australian traditions.I believe, from a reading of the parts of the 2006 Pastoral letter, that Bishop Morris attempted to reach across the glass wall that separates clergy and laity and speak plainly about the issue of shortage of priests in a way that would engage the laity in dealing with the needs of the church future. Rome did not understand this Australian approach and neither do the conservatives or the radicals. The solution to the priest shortage problem needs to involve the laity and that's what Bishop Morris strove to achieve. Now the opportunity has been lost and that is a another failure of church management. .

Ken Fuller | 06 May 2011  

just for the record not everyone was shocked by + Morris shock retirement. the bishop had known for 14 months [the chronicle] - SO WHY THOSE SHOCK PALLID LOOKS YOUR LORDSHIP?

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 06 May 2011  

I have read the comments by Father John George where he claims we all know why Bishop Morris resigned. I believe it was because Bishop Morris engaged the laity in discussion on how to deal with the shortage of priests and he raised issues the church said must not be raised. If this is not correct I would appreciate Father John George removing the innuendo that there is something more behind the resignation?

Ken Fuller | 06 May 2011  

Thank you for the article and for most of the comments. I do not know any of the main players or the local circumstances but there are aspects of the process which I find repugnant: the lack of natural justice - since when has the catholic church been content to settle for a LOWER standard of natural justice than the secular world? Secondly, the disgusting practice of dobbing, aka 'delating' offends most decent people of all faiths and none. Is it true that lay people started this process, dobbing in the Bishop as they have dobbed in priests? Shame on them. They are cowards if they do this anonymously and plain nasty if they boast about it. Thirdly, who is Chaput and why was he called in to report on a brother bishop? Yes, I know who he is: an ultra conservative US Bishop, one of those who have opposed Obama's health reforms and played into the hands of the Republican Right. I hope he is happy when he gets Palin or Trump as President...or will it be 'Oh Dear, so they condone abortion too - my mistake, forgive me fellow catholics, we got it wrong (again) like we did with Holocaust denier ex-Anglican Williamson.. or the pedophiles we said we didn't know about.. The point is, as so many people have said, we lay Catholics can do nothing about any of this, except perhaps refuse to contribute any money to anything which goes directly to Rome, or anything not directly linked to the overseas missions, or the local S Vincent de Paul etc. And if the other bishops, with the honorable exception of Pat Power - about to side-line himself too - keep stumm and go along with this, then they lose any vestigial respect we poor long suffering laity may have had for them ..I hope they think the vestments, the ring-kissing and the titles are worth it!

Ann | 06 May 2011  

An important observation about church leaders as branch managers of an international corporation. It's interesting to wonder or dream about a future spirituality that dispenses with the corporation(s) and encourages the freeflow of ideas and faith, perhaps connected to but not answerable to any Chief Executive.

spiritedcrone | 06 May 2011  

may i remind ken fuller that 'australian traditions' are far too woolly to constitute sources of episcopal governance as found in canon law or councils of the church [including vat 2[there are many variant 'Australian traditions' including 'two-up' and 'Melbourne cup';anzac day etc-as i say too vague and woolly and i am a dinky di aussie at that!!

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 06 May 2011  

I'm sorry Father John George but the concept of australianess is not wooly at all. Australians working aboad are notable by not tipping their hat to their masters nor are they yes men and therein lies the differnce between australians and the people of the older countries and therein lies the problem in assessing Bishop Morris with the thinking of the old world. The Church administration has made a mistake in not appreciating Australians and their attitudes to thinking and of course they did it at least once before in the case of Saint Mary MacKillop. This has nothing to do with Dogma but has everything to do with administration.

Ken Fuller | 06 May 2011  

talking australian traditions! "The reality is that if Bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba had been working for a commercial organization covered by the Trade Practices Act, he would surely have been liable for prosecution on the grounds of false and misleading advertising. He represented himself as teaching the Catholic faith - but was not in fact doing so! [Kate Edwards ABC rELIGION AND ETHICS]

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 06 May 2011  

There is one more tragedy here. Presumably a few people who may or may not be members of that congregation took it upon themselves to 'report' words or attitudes espoused by the Archbishop and to which they disagreed to the Vatican or it representative. This affects us all. There is no room for debate or disagreement just the threat of being 'reported' and removed from office. Will this result in a 'cookie cutter' church whose priests are afraid to foster debate or step out of line?

Liz Munro | 07 May 2011  

ken fuller ought note that Rome is well aware of the Australian disposition -it noted in 'statement of conclusions' [re Australians, the Statement said things like: "The tolerance characteristic of Australian society naturally affects the Church also. While it has many positive elements, tolerance of and openness to all opinions and perspectives on the truth can lead to indifference ..." The Statement likewise expressed grave concerns about: "indifference to the poor, racial prejudice and violence, abortion, euthanasia, the legitimation of homosexual relationships and other immoral forms of sexual activity."]

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 07 May 2011  

May I remind Mr fuller the Morris issue is not at heart a 'cultural' reductionism of hat etiquette but bishop Morris has rejected an infallible teaching of the church [re male priesthood]

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 09 May 2011  

A] "australianess=" not tipping hats overseas"-i never wore a hat in Philippines or japan [have you anything less wooly?] B] ST Mary McKillop was impeccably obedient to Rome and her excommunicating bishop- C] her utter obedience to centralising Rome resulted in probs at local scene Mr Ken Fuller [she of course never wore a 'hat to tip' here or o/s] D] Rome like aussies loves dialogue too thus bishop Morris had stacks of it with three curial dicasteries and the pope himself over 5 years- E] Europeans deplore yes men too [heard of french revolution!!] and beheading of royalty [King Charles 1 1649 plus peoples uprisings throughout Europe for centuries how about people versus eastern communism?[Hungary November 1956;Berlin wall 1998 etc etc

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 09 May 2011  

a] if it be any consolation I have oft been delated by lefty temple thugs for teaching orthodox doctrine to progressive superiors b] my superiors wasted thousands of dollars in a frantic attempt to re-educate me in neo modernism at an O/S Tertiary locus for conservative recalcitrants c] among other strategies eg ostracisation; character assassination etc d] must say I take perverse delight in seeing a change in state of play

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 09 May 2011  

Dear Andrew,
Thanks for your thoughtful and compassionate comments on a very sad situation.

Jean Sietzema-Dickson | 09 May 2011  


FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 10 May 2011  

The UK Guardian takes up the theme quoting Andy at length at:

Frank Brennan SJ | 11 May 2011  

Women stood at the foot of the cross when the men ran away. Sums it all up really.

Helena Sweeney | 12 May 2011  

God Bless William Morris, for his continuing work, for his good health, for his love of people and their joys and tribulations and most of all for his unwavering ability to not let the turkey's drag him down. God loves you William Morris.

Bill's Friend | 12 May 2011  

helen Sweeney, the next chapter of history is that the men then took over the running of the church!

Pauline Small | 16 May 2011  

It is hard to continue to follow a hierarchy that sacks good bishops, excommunicates those making difficult judgements and among other things promotes the canonization of a man who promoted and protected those accused of protecting bishops and cardinals who allowed the sexual scandal to continue. Rome is truly morally corrupt and bankrupt. They know nothing about justice or Christ's teachings. God will protect Bishop Morris and the people of Toowoomba.

Pat Cummings | 02 June 2011  

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