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Morris affair contains lessons for Church hierarchy


Bishop Bill MorrisThe Toowoomba Diocese has been without a resident bishop now for nine months since Pope Benedict removed Bishop Bill Morris, who refused to submit his resignation when requested by three curial cardinals who formed an adverse view of him.

Morris had offered to retire by August last year provided only that the sexual abuse cases in the diocese had been resolved. This timetable was judged inappropriate by the Vatican cardinals who conducted an ongoing inquiry into Morris' fitness for office. They wanted him out, now. Nine months later, no one is able credibly to defend their methods.

Morris was denied natural justice. No one, including the Australian bishops, quite knows why he was sacked — or at least they cannot tell us; the charges and the evidence remain a moving target, a mystery. Clearly Morris has not been judged a heretic or schismatic. He has maintained his standing as a bishop, being asked to assist with Episcopal tasks in his home diocese of Brisbane.

There have been some suggestions of defective pastoral leadership by Morris — an assessment not shared by most of his fellow Australian bishops, who expressed their appreciation 'that Bishop Morris' human qualities were never in question; nor is there any doubt about the contribution he has made to the life of the Church in Toowoomba and beyond. The Pope's decision was not a denial of the personal and pastoral gifts that Bishop Morris has brought to the episcopal ministry.'

The key resident church leaders of Toowoomba commissioned retired Supreme Court judge and esteemed Catholic layman, Bill Carter QC to review the Vatican's curial process demanding resignation and culminating in papal dismissal.

They also sought a canonical reflection on Carter's report from the respected canon lawyer Fr Ian Waters who stated, 'I presume I have been invited because I am not a Queenslander. I have never met Mr Carter, although I know he is an eminent and highly respected jurist.' Waters concluded:

In accordance with Canon 19, the Holy See, departing from the earlier precedents for the removal of Australian bishops, could have designed a process similar to the process for removal of a parish priest, thereby according procedural fairness and natural justice consistent with the Code of Canon Law. This was not done. I respectfully concur with Mr Carter's conclusion that 'Bishop Morris was denied procedural fairness and natural justice.'

After Morris' dismissal by Pope Benedict, the Australian bishops, preparing for their five-yearly ad limina visit to Rome, announced that they would 'have the opportunity to share with the Holy Father and members of the Roman Curia the fruits of our discussion and to share our questions and concerns with an eye to the future'. On arrival in Rome, they were made aware that there would be no opportunity for such dialogue with the Pope.

Not even our bishops sufficiently understood the Roman ways! One of Morris' fellow Queensland bishops Michael Putney lamented that 'as Bishops we need to have immediate steps in place. When we see a Bishop acting in such a way that could lead to censure, we should have a process of mediation in place to intervene in a spirit of affective collegiality.' But he gave no details of Morris' actions which would warrant censure.

Morris' fellow Queensland bishop Brian Heenan preached at the farewell mass in Toowoomba in August last year suggesting that the Lord would say: 'I cannot be held responsible for all the things that happen in my Church, but I want you to know that I have been delighted with your years as a priest in Brisbane and now these productive years as a pastor in this great Diocese of Toowoomba'.

After the mass, his fellow Queensland bishop James Foley wrote to the Toowoomba church leaders lamenting this 'tragedy in which there are no winners'. He said:

The reasons, the causes and the motivations for what has occurred may be known only unto God, who alone may judge. Consistently and officially it has been stated that neither Bill's own integrity nor his pastoral effectiveness are questioned. The fruits — the proof — of this were palpably evident in Sunday's celebration.

Foley praised 'the solid no-nonsense Catholic faith of the people of the Toowoomba Diocese (which) was un-self-consciously and un-pretentiously on display'.

When natural justice is denied, everyone in the institution suffers. Anyone questioning the present process or decision is placed in the invidious position of being seen as insufficiently trustful of the papacy. One can be a great defender and advocate for the papacy and still be a strong advocate for due process, especially when administrative or judicial type functions by curial officials may result in a pastor being relieved his office without satisfactory explanation to his flock.

Vatican II's dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, describes the Church as the people of God. Many of the people of God anxious to respect human dignity and ensure that the Church be as perfect a human institution as possible think natural justice and due process should be followed within the Church, while maintaining the hierarchical nature of the Church and the papal primacy.

Of course, there are some who question the papal primacy or the need for an ordained hierarchy, but they have little to contribute to this very Catholic debate.

The question for the contemporary Catholic is: can I assent to the teaching of Lumen Gentium without having a commitment to due process, natural justice and transparency in Church processes and structures, thereby maximising the prospect that the exercise of hierarchical power and papal primacy will be for the good of the people of God, rather than a corrosive influence on the faith and trust of the people of God?

Carter was right to state that 'it is idle to suggest that the issue (of Morris' removal) now has any justiciable potential or that specific relief might be sought by means of any canonical or civil process'.

But there are many lessons for the Church (including senior hierarchy) to learn from this affair. It is to the credit of the Toowoomba church leaders that they have decided to forward the Carter and Waters opinions to the curial Cardinals undertaking to publish any corrections or clarifications. Sadly none of their communications to date have been favoured with even an acknowledgment.

Just because there is no legal remedy, that is no reason for the people of God not to reflect acutely on their treatment of each other in God's name. Respectful dialogue with Toowoomba's church leaders would be a good start. 

Frank BrennanFr Frank Brennan SJ is professor of law at the Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University and adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University. 

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, Bill Morris



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Existing comments

The fruits of this week's Eureka Street coverage of Bishop Morris' s dismissal are that the subject is kept alive. It also highlights the irrelevancy of our Catholic press which is forced to ignore the unrest which this publication expresses. I am about to go through an RCIA program with three new candidates. Do I really want to help them join a church that can be so unjust? Well yes I do. Despite Rome's stupidity and insensitivity I still believe the Catholic Church is the authentic continuation of Christ. This despite what our leaders sometimes manage to do to it.

grebo | 25 January 2012  

Surely in matters of authority the Vatican decisions must be accepted. I know nothing of Bishop Morris but I presume he faithfully accepts the decisions of the Holy Father - even if he, and you, think they're unjust. I am sure he does not want to become known as a source of discord and anger amongst Catholics. Better to suffer in silence. Especially when, as the Pope's daily Press Releases painfully show there are so many needs in the Church today. To help the persecuted Catholics in countries worldwide, to evangelise, to strengthen the Faith of the faithful, to teach doctrine when many of us are rusty, to tackle materialism, liberalism, capitalism gone wrong, aggressive atheism, the hostile media, pornography and it's outlets..... Is the treatment of Bishop Morris more important than these issues?

Bernard Keigher | 25 January 2012  

I feel very sad to be part of an organisation that can treat its loyal workers as Bishop Morris has been treated.

Anne Mathas | 25 January 2012  

An excellent article . It demonstrates the need to amend Canon Law so as to provide a proper procedure for the removal of a bishop so as to ensure that what happened procedurally to Bishop Morris is not repeated . The drafting could provide for a standing down in extreme cases , pending the adherence to proper procedure , including natural justice . It should also necessarily provide that the subject be informed of the allegations against him and that he be given the opportunity to respond to them . The forwarding of the report of the Hon Bill Carter QC and Fr Ian Waters is a good start and should provide material indicating the need for Canon Law reform.

Barry O'Keefe | 25 January 2012  

Thanks Frank! Good to have a clear interpretation of the facts. Bishop Bill has been well & truly "Stitched up" by the Holy Farter!!!! What a pathetic situation for Bill Morris, his fellow Australian Bishops and the Toowoomba Diocese. Appalling & Disgraceful treatment that is UNACCEPTABLE!!!! Is it any wonder why so many Catholics throughout the world are speaking with their feet! When one considers the recent appointment of Cardinals by Benedict,how bleak does the future look for future generations of the "People of God"???

Andrew | 25 January 2012  

“When natural justice is denied, everyone in the institution suffers.” Frank your above comment is unfortunately so true! Thank you for your very insightful comments. As a Toowoomba Catholic who has lived and practice my Catholic religion for in excess of 50 years in the Toowoomba Diocese, because of the disgraceful way Bishop Morris has been treated by the Vatican, I am now one who is “insufficiently trustful of the papacy”. I cannot reconcile Benedict XVI’s comments last Saturday when he addressed the dean, judges, promoters of justice, defenders of the bond, officials and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, for the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year by saying inter alia, "But there is another way", said the Holy Father, "in which a correct understanding of canon law leads to its being interpreted as part of a search for the truth about law and justice in the Church. ... Authentic law is inseparable from justice.” Then a week ago today the Holy Father greeted a group of Italian lawyers, encouraging them to practise their profession "in faithfulness to the truth, which is a fundamental premise of justice". All the Catholics of the Toowoomba Diocese want is what Benedict XVI says is inseparable from justice and that is the truth. Is that such an unreasonable request?

Patrick Nunan | 25 January 2012  

Father Frank thank you for this article. My prayers will increase for Christ's Church and for those who govern it.

Doris Nebauer RSJ | 25 January 2012  

Sadly for our Church, your article highlights its deficiencies with regard to due process in dealing with allegations against bishops and others. I agree wholeheartedly with your words: "the question for the contemporary Catholic is: can I assent to the teaching of Lumen Gentium without having a commitment to due process, natural justice and transparency in Church processes and structures, thereby maximising the prospect that the exercise of hierarchical power and papal primacy will be for the good of the people of God, rather than a corrosive influence on the faith and trust of the people of God." Unfortunately the ignoring of due process in the case of Bishop Morris and others in the past does have a corrosive influence on the faith and trust of the people of God, and also turns off others to whom we have been given a sacred mission of being Jesus's witnesses.

Tony Santospirto | 25 January 2012  

Well said, Frank. Not that it will make one iota of difference! Were it not for my Parish Priest and for my Bishop as an individual, I woud gladly leave the Church where Bishops as a group during their ad limina visit to Rome, decided on what I call mutiny within the system and shamedly betrayed their brother Bishop! Such a system belongs to the archives and not into the 21st. Century of the people of God!

Peter M | 25 January 2012  

Jesus wept.

Jim Jones | 25 January 2012  

Thank you for this reflection, Fr Brennan:

" .. a voice that cries in the widerness: Make straight the way of the Lord." (John 1:23)

Peter Ryan | 25 January 2012  

Only those within the church and who are radicaly committed to it have the authority to critique it so roundly. It is a tribute to the strength of their faith that they can so boldly call their church and its leaders to task for what is clearly a musjudged action and one which reflects poorly on the integrity of our church. Congratulations to Father Bill for his integrity. Congratulations to Father Frank for his integrity in supporting Father Bill.

graham patison | 25 January 2012  

Unfortunately, Judge Carter is correct when he says that it would be idle to suggest that the injustice perpetrated on Bill Morris could be rectified. The deafening silence from Rome in response to the Carter and Waters report indicates that the Curia intends to keep its part of the equation. But what can we , the People of God do? What should we do?

Some things come to mind: 1) we should write to Rome and demand a response to the Reports; 2) we should ask our Australian Canon Lawyers to draft proposed amendments to canon Law to obviate the need for such denials of natural justice in future processes defended by the Church; 3) we should express more strongly our commitment to the collegiality of local/ national Bishops Conferences developed at Vat11 , the exercise of which could well have solved the Morris isssue in a completely different way, perhaps for the good of the whole Church universal ; 4) we should write to the Australian Bishops Conference and ask that they revist the issue and develop better procedures for supporting their fellow Bishops; 5) we should all seriousl consider, explore , write and share our views about the notion og "unity" which the Pope used to justify his unjust actions.
I am sure Eureka reader can think of many more ways to future proof ourselves, even if we can't undo the injustice which remains a blight on the face of the Church local and universal. We can do it!!

Garry | 25 January 2012  

Bernard Keigher, I think the issue isn't the Holy Father's decision in the case of Bishop Morris. His authority to make decisions isn't in question either. It's his process, or lack of it, which affects the whole Church, internally and externally. How can we trust our leaders if their processes are so lacking in transparency and accountability? How does our Church appear to others when its most prominent members behave in such a self-satisfied and prideful way to any member, from an ordained Bishop to the lady who cleans the church ? We must challenge our brother the Pope in a spirit of fraternal upbuilding.

Joan Seymour | 25 January 2012  

Thank you Frank! I wonder how the religious leaders feel. They took it up at the Bishops' Conference. Every religious and lay person I know who have followed this agree with everything you say. I would guarantee that every religious leader is disappointed. I hope they continue to rock the boat a bit. I think Peter's barque needs it at these times

leo kane | 25 January 2012  

The treatment of this good man, Bishop Bill Morris, is a tragedy for all those who claim to be Catholic and a symptom of failing leadership and a creeping infallibility of the hierarchy in the Catholic Church. This issue also raises other injustices involving the Church. The Brisbane Archdiocese's refusal to allow my wife's funeral to be conducted by Peter Kennedy and Terry Fitzpatrick at a Catholic school chapel is one such injustice. Peter and Terry were the only two Catholic priests we knew in Brisbane and it was her dying wish that they concelebrate her funeral eucharist at that venue. The Anglican Church was able to accommodate her request at Anglican Church Grammar School chapel - so much for lifelong faithful commitment to the Catholic Church! In seeking future improved pastoral outcomes for the laity I wrote to Archbishop Bathersby who did not respond. Two months later Bishop Finnigan wrote to me stating that 'the venue is of little importance' - what an extraordinary response! My point in relating this is to encourage people not to 'suffer in silence' as Bernard Keigher would have Bill Morris and others do. To do nothing is to accept the perpetration of continued injustices.

Chris Harkin | 25 January 2012  

The Catholic Church constantly preaches justice and integrity and is so ready to condemn civil authorities. There are for example over 400,0000 people still living under plastic with no sanitation, disease is rife in Catholic Haiti, yet the Pope and Curial Cardinals are busy using their power like despots to force the retirement of such a revelant and good pastoral Bishop such as Bishop Bill Morris, with no transparency or justice, even a criminal deserves justice with integrity. If a Bishop or a group of Bishops cannot speak the truth with love and respect and dialogue with the Pope currently Benedict XXVI then what is the use of ad limina visits to the pomp and circumstance of the Vatican? I guess at least a photo opportunity maybe! I no longer have much faith in the manner in which the Vatican conducts their affairs. Especially when their actions ignore the People of God in this case the Toowoomba Diocese and now the wider Australian Church. Thank you Father Brennan for keeping this debate alive. JUSTICE must be done. Canon Law must be brought into line with the norms of justice. Margaret M.Coffey

margaret m. coffey | 25 January 2012  

Thank you Frank for continuing to point out the great injustice done to Bishop Bill Morris

As many people as possible need to read the Carter and Waters reports, and to listen to Judge Carter's interview on ABC radio

All 3 items are lnked at www.v2catholi.com (Jan 20)

John Wotherspoon | 25 January 2012  

I seem to remember that there were a couple of commments on early articles on this matter that were contributed by people who were not pro-Bishop Morris. Why are there not any such comments on this week's articles? Do people feel that it would be uncharitable to say what they have against Bishop Morris?. Would Bishop Morris and his supporters think that the charity of such people is misguided?

Gavan | 25 January 2012  

Congratulations, Father Frank for your article. As Grebo says, the subject is being, and needs to be, kept alive. I share these articles with family and friends so that people are aware of these events.

Dierdre Newton | 25 January 2012  

Thanks wholeheartedly, Frank, for speaking out for so many of us who haven't got the profile you have. I know no Catholic who isn't frustrated and quite heartbroken really, about the future.Pity those of us who, like me, are trying to pass the faith we love onto the next generation in classrooms and families.Our kids today just won't stand for it.The injustices cloud our message, our faith and our teaching.

Marg | 25 January 2012  

Thank you, Bernard Keigher, your comment is very good. When there are so many needs in the Church today, the last thing we want is to create discord and anger amongst Catholics. Thank you.

Ron Cini | 25 January 2012  

For God's sake! Such breast beating is unseemly.

The lesson to be learned, not that anyone in the Catholic Church wants to think it, is that the entire structure is corrupt, from top, to bottom.

Years of sexual abuse, totally ignored, unless someone outside the Church makes a fuss.

Slave labour for yaers, all authorised at the highest levels.

Stamping all over women 'in God's name', par for the course.

It is time for people like Frank Brennan to wake up, speak up, and if he is the least bit serious, condemn the entire structure.

Bishop Bill is catching the heart strings of a few because he was/is preceived to be 'a decent person'.

The hundreds of thousands of 'decent people' who come a cropper as the direct result of abuse, and cover ups, seem to hardly matter, by comparison to the angst around Bill.


janice wallace | 25 January 2012  

Frank, Thanks to yourself and Andrew Hamilton for keeping the Bishop Morris situation in public discussion.

Many Surfers parishioners remain troubled and deeply disturbed by the treatment of Bishop Morris. He remains deeply loved and respected for the vision, leadership, integrity and pastoral concern that he offered so strongly prior to his Toowoomba appointment.

Most priests/Bishops are reluctant to speak out for natural justice if it means they differ with the Roman hierarchy (oligarchy?). The recent treatment of Bishops Morris and Geoff Robinson illustrates this. The silence around their treatment is palpable- and their concerns have been simply dismissed. I appreciate it is hard for a priest in the parish to have to defer to a culture of silence, or solidarity or fear of being pulled into line. Often injustice isn't debated because those who speaks out will carry the stigma of disloyalty. Laity have more freedom to speak, but the lay voice has no formal forum in our Church. On issues given voice by Morris and Robinson, laity don't count and can't do anything thing.

Was Bishop Morris punished for voicing what many laity want - assess to Eucharist even if it means married priests - or maybe women?

Ross Keane | 25 January 2012  

Well put Frank. Yet having new processes in place would not prevent me being 'placed in the invidious position of being seen as insufficiently trustful of the papacy'. Processes cannot cover a multitude of sins: they merely distance the sins from the people involved to the structures they erect to hide behind.

Anna Killigrew | 25 January 2012  

Reflecting on the way Bishop Bill and the Australian Bishops and people were treated by the Pope and Roman officials in this whole affair makes me wonder why we continue to call ourselves Roman Catholics. When no one in the Australian church quite knows the reason Bishop Bill was sacked why do we remain so attached to being Roman Catholic? If they cannot treat The Australian church and in particular the people of the Toowoomba Diocese with the courtesy of giving a reason for sacking their very pastoral leader why should loyalty and courtesy be repaid. When did we suddenly call ourselves Roman Catholics when most of us grew up being just Catholic? May be it is time to be reconsidering our ties to a decaying, out of touch Roman Monarchy.

terry fitz south brisbane | 25 January 2012  

I hope that the conclusions of the canon lawyers will be a salutary lesson to the hierarchy including the Pope. I still believe that most of the priests and bishops cloistered in the Vatican and in non-parish work would better serve the Church by returning to their priestly role and serving the people of God.

Don Humphrey | 25 January 2012  

No one knows why his Lordship was censured? Come off it Father Brennan! His Lordship questions or left open defined infallible teaching on male priests and likewise, suggests sacrificing other church authoritative teaching and discipline to solve his pastoral probs; for him then to intimate later his loyalty to church teaching on those issues is at best disingenuous
I am truly astonished Rome didn't canonically use immediate normal, administrative 'action in emergency' and sack His Lordship at once in aliis verbis using zero tolerance for 'unorthodox suggestion' re church teaching.
Zero tolerance and stepping down are now part of canonical culture for other unacceptable offences [totally unrelated to his lordship], but his scandalous 2006 pastoral, compromising Catholic teaching and praxis called for immediate administrative zero tolerance and removal with due obedience and resignation
Every bishop knows the canonical score regarding prompt dismissal['administrative action'] so why the theater when it is called for?
If he disliked the canonical punitive legislation re bishops, then he should have refused consecration as bishop[as a protest].

Father John Michael George | 25 January 2012  

I echo the thoughts and the thanks expressed by so many here for the clarity with which Frank deals with this issue. There are many outcomes: mine is akin to depression, This year marks my 48th in the classroom -how difficult it will be for me to teach the justice to which we Christians are called in the light of such unjust treatment being meted out to Bp Morris.Thanks too to those with fire in the belly who look to updating canon law in the hope that due process and the process that respects natural law will one day be observed.

Ern Azzopardi | 26 January 2012  

No, the reasons for Bishop Morris' removal isn't "known only to God!" The reasons are CLEARLY known by the Inquisition led by Archbishop Chaput, who is currently the new archbishop of Philadelphia, PA. As the Chief Inquisitor, Chaput didn't need to tell anyone, anything. He gleaned his information concerning Morris from "The Temple Police!" Morris never had a chance to defend himself!

JeannieGuzman | 26 January 2012  

An excellent summary. Thank you.

Fr. Noel Fitzsimons | 26 January 2012  

The behaviour of Rome,though distressing, is sadly unsurprising. The STATEMENT FROM THE AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS IN ROME is heartbreaking.How could they? Which bishops? What are we to think of them? The Carter Memorandum leaves them with no excuse for supporting this injustice.

Julie Mackey | 26 January 2012  

Jeannie Guzman declares the absolute unjust secrecy of the 'Chaput travelling inquisition' , yet she knows the inner happenings viz. His Lordship, and his Grace were set upon by temple police with, of course, biased complaints. She has read the transcripts after all

So in fact we have the whole macabre inside story.


Father John Michael George | 26 January 2012  

Well said, Fr George.

I'm a bit gobsmacked about a couple of things here. In his pastoral letter, Bishop Morris mentioned not only ordination of women, but also recognition of Protestant orders as possible solutions to the shortage of clergy. Why didn't Rome have him disciplined overnight, rather than tolerating years and years of his playing cat and mouse with them (and thereby obstructing procedural justice from his side)? Secondly, the Bishop's pathetic retrospective plea that he was misquoted - that in mentioning women priests and recognition of Protestant orders he wasn't actually advocating them ... now, who was he trying to kid? Only those who believe Julia Gillard's solemn undertakings swallow this sort of stuff.

HH | 26 January 2012  

Thanks Frank. The treatment of Bill Morris defies understanding and acceptance. Why would one believe any church leaders who so mistreat justice and charity in this way. No wonder that people are leaving a church which has lost contact with its founder!

Brian F KENNEDY | 26 January 2012  

How can anyway suggest that it is better to suffer in silence! The case of Bishop Morris highlights a gross breach of natural justice. His treatment by the Pope and Curial cardinals rides roughshod over common human dignity and respect. Christ himself was never afraid to speak out in the face of injustice. I find it very hard to understand how the Australian bishops can hold their head high and preach on justice when this matter remains unresolved

Joe Cauchi | 26 January 2012  

The biggest disgrace was of course not the apparent terrible handling of his removal and what would seem to be a denial of natural justice as Fr Brennan so rightly points out.( I understand that the Australian Bishops Conference said that he was removed do to doctrinal issues on his part. However, even with this it would seem that natural justice was still infringed upon) The biggest disgrace on the part of the holy see was that for the last 20 years they left poor sheep of Toowoomba to their suffering under what many felt was a hireling.

Francis | 26 January 2012  

There is little need for me to applaud your recent comments Frank when so many other readers have done adequate justice to them . Personally I can only hark to my comments here in early days of the issue that we must give due recognition to Bishop Bill's pledge to afford total emotional& financial support to Church based sexual child abuse victims ,within Toowomba Diocese ,having much to do with Rome's actions .After all Bill asserted he would honour that pledge even if it required liquidating Church assets . It is clear that Ratzinger applauds & covets such assets as shown by his personal attendance for the opening of the obnoxious " Domus Australis " Facility in Rome ,reportedly costing $32 M ,including a personal luxury apartment for Prince George .This at exactly the same period when he lacked the time to receive the A C B C who had travelled the globe for such a meeting & were charged to deliver the much signed document re action against Bishop Bill . Is there any Christianity left within Rome or our ACBC ?

John Kersh | 26 January 2012  

The People of God in Towoomba are THE CHURCH. Like the first Christians their priority is the choosing of a leader The man given them without their participation seems to have proved worthy, though his continued leadership if democratically affirmed, should continue because of the mandate given him by the People of God. With luck Rome will discreetly bow out!!!M Seiker, Nebraska, USA

Marilyn Seiker | 27 January 2012  

I think from the discussion here that most would agree that Bishop Bill was given the boot because he raised issues that The Pope had said should not be raised. However they are issues that are constantly being discussed amongst the laity. Bishop Bill was judged as being too close to the laity and too far from the Pope's teachings. It's a pity but open discussion of these issues has been deemed improper. I as a very old faithful catholic person could not explain to anyone why these subjects are deemed improper to be considered.

Ken Fuller | 27 January 2012  

Lesson for church hierarchy? This whole sordid affair shows the church hierarchy is way beyond the point of learning an lessons, and heaven forbid they should learn anything from the reaction of their flock. I feel the hierarchy already feels they are irrelevant and so have now closed ranks, bunkered down.

AURELIUS | 27 January 2012  

If Eureka Street has no other purpose,it is to publish widely unpleasant truths.Adding hyperlinks to relevant documents is an important service so that the reader can be better informed about the issues. Fr Brennan is to be saluted for his courage in putting himself on the line over this issue.

jl trew | 27 January 2012  

As a Toowoomba Catholic it's tragic this issue is kept alive by a few preferring to "stir the pot" rather than accept the ruling of the Vicar of Christ (including FB!). Much about the issues is unknown, except that "disagreement with Rome has been ongoing for 10 years plus". However there are TWO parties who know the issues; - the Pope and the Bishop. Much attention is given to the Pope.. but not to the Bishop's silence on the details.

My view is simple and was articulated well recently by a Toowoomba Priest: - "A number of priests and Bishop Morris are in grave error in the fact that they do not accept the ruling of the Pope and the magisterium. You cannot be Catholic and reject the Pope and the magisterium".

"The one distinguishing mark separating Catholics from all other Christians is belief in the Pope and the magisterium.........many do not reflect on the fact Jesus did not hand his followers a book. He said “he who hears you hears me” and “behold I am with you all days even to the end of the world”....

"I accept the right of Bishop Morris and followers to in conscience differ from Pope and magisterium. I do not accept their right to use the pulpit to condemn the Pope and magisterium and to foster petitions against them. They can do this as private citizens. They have no right to claim to be loyal to the church and do this".

"I condemn Bishop William Morris not so much for what he did before his dismissal but for what he has done since. He has allowed priests to continue attacks against the Pope. He should have publicly asked them to stop. I fear that some will suffer the same fate as himself and they want to be good faithful loyal Catholics and priests".

Hartley | 27 January 2012  

The anti pope sentiment wantonly allowed[encouraged] on ES is totally foreign to the charism of the founder of Jesuits St Ignatius of Loyola and his "Sentire cum Ecclesia".

Indeed ES now resembles vitriolic sectarian rags like "The Rock" of mid last century

Father John Michael George | 27 January 2012  

Can we please stop the use of this silly heretical term "Holy Father"? It would appear to be specifically forbidden by Jesus in the Gospel.

Peter Downie | 27 January 2012  

To Bernard Keigher,

'Surely in matters of authority the Kremlin decisions must be accepted. I know nothing of Comrade Morris but I presume he faithfully accepts the decisions of the Great Leader - even if he, and you, think they're unjust. I am sure he does not want to become known as a source of discord and anger amongst Communists. Better to suffer in silence. Especially when, as the Pravda Press Releases painfully show there are so many needs in the Soviet Union today...'

Sound familiar?

Ginger Meggs | 28 January 2012  

Why then do you keep reading Eureka Street, JM George?

Chris Harkin | 28 January 2012  

After so much investigation and you missed all this related information which has been in the hands of the Vatican since the beginning:- http://alturl.com/9ztru http://alturl.com/ga7ex http://alturl.com/ua22q

Related to the bishop by marriage | 29 January 2012  

To FATHER GEORGE MICHAEL: St Ignatius did not just blindly go along with the Pope, but charitably challenged him in the spirit of doing what he thought was best for the church. And to CHRIS HARKIN: It would be sad if people did not read anything other than publications that challenged their current socialpolitical/religious views.

AURELIUS | 30 January 2012  

His Grace clarifies for His Lordship[LTE:SMH:4/2/12] Pope did not err Your report "Pope broke canon law dismissing bishop, say experts" (February 2) regarding the removal of Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba is unfair and inaccurate. In fact, the Holy See conducted a pastoral process of dialogue with Bishop Morris over 11 years involving senior officials of three offices of the Roman Curia, a number of meetings in Rome and a personal meeting with Pope Benedict. An archbishop of another diocese from overseas appointed by the Holy See to investigate the matter has stated that he did discuss the contents of his report with Bishop Morris while he was in Toowoomba. In the Catholic Church, because the Pope is the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the Universal Church, he has final power throughout the Church and can freely exercise it. This includes the appointment, transfer and removal of bishops. Father Waters is misrepresented by the statement that the Pope has breached Canon Law and exceeded his authority. In the final analysis, the Pope always has freedom to act for the good of the Church in the appointment and removal of bishops. Most Reverend Denis Hart Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne

Father John Michael George | 05 February 2012  

Chris Harkin asks why I read ES. It is important for apologetics to read the opposition.I also read USA rag 'National Catholic Distorter' and have read works of Hans Kung/Rahner/Curran/Haring etc and attended Kung's Sydney lecture in 1970; I have studied at the most liberal Jesuit institute going viz EAPI in Manila[good to hear all angles while unflinchingly loyal to Magisterium and Roman Catholic tradition. My Apologetics interests are wide ranging from Mein Kampf,Mao's Little Red Book,to Henry VIII' Defence of Catholic Priesthood' against Luther [that attracted his title Defensor Fidei in his catholic days] so really what's the issue Mr Harkin in reading Frs Brennan and Hamilton? [I am well familiar with modernism from Alfred Loisy's 'l'Evangile et L'Eglise[Loisy the granddad of modernism]. Not forgetting in passing the Hindu Bhagavata and the Koran studied under a Manila Jesuit Islamic specialist Fr OShaunassy

Father John Michael George | 06 February 2012  

Archbishop Hart claims Archbishop Chaput ‘said he discussed the contents of his report with Bishop Morris in Toowoomba’ (The Age, 4/2). Only Chaput and Morris know whether such a discussion occurred between them. Bishop Morris responds: ‘I categorically deny that Archbishop Chaput ever discussed with me what he was going to put in the report.’ (The Age 8/2) Back on 10 May 2011, the National Catholic Reporter reported: ‘Of the report, done by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, Morris said: “Yes, I would like it published because I think my people deserve the right to – you know, if Archbishop Chaput, who wandered around the diocese for three-and-a-half days … and then made a judgment on the diocese, I think the people have a right to see what judgments he made in his report.” Morris said he knows a written report exists because Chaput sent him an e-mail “telling me that he’d sent an electronic copy as well as a hard copy to the dicastery for bishops, and then he did what he was supposed to do. He destroyed both the electronic copy and the hard copy, so he didn’t have a copy any more.” To date, Morris has not seen what was written about him or the diocese, and the Vatican apparently does not intend to reveal the contents of the report. Chaput, asked by NCR earlier about the report and whether it would be made public would only respond that “any apostolic visitation is governed by strict confidentiality. This is for the benefit of all parties involved.”’ So Morris denies any discussion about the report; and Chaput went to pains not to discuss his report with anyone (presumably including Morris) on the grounds of strict confidentiality. This is why due process and natural justice are important. It is highly unlikely that Chaput would have told anyone that he ‘discussed the contents of his report with Bishop Morris in Toowoomba’ – because he didn’t. And yet someone (presumably not Chaput) misled Archbishop Hart who has now cast doubt on the honesty of Morris. It should not be a matter of who said what to whom who then repeated it to someone else who then interpreted it differently before communicating it to someone like Archbishop Hart. The abuse of due process and the denial of natural justice do nothing to help those like Archbishops Hart and Chaput wanting to defend the standing of the Vatican cardinals as well as the Holy Father.

Frank Brennan SJ | 08 February 2012  

Mt response to Bishop reply to Archbishop Hart in SMH LTE today 1. Bishop Morris, now Emeritus, once had total canonical jurisdiction and governance over his diocese, but sadly, Lordship seemed unaware that the pope has ultimate governance and ‘ordinary’ jurisdiction over every catholic diocese in the world 2. As pope, his jurisdiction is superior to Bishop Morris’s governance, thereby having authority to remove or appoint bishops of any diocese. Bishop Morris owes the Holy Father unqualified obedience. 3. The pope unable to run the ‘nuts and bolts’ of thousands of diocese world wide ,leaves such to the bishop’s plenipotentiary powers over his diocese in a spirit of subsidiarity. 4. No doubt awareness of these jurisdictional nuances might have softened ‘the blow’ for poor bishop

Father John Michael George | 09 February 2012  

Bishop Morris reply to Archbishop Hart in SMH LTE Archbishop Hart (Letters, February 4-5) stated that Archbishop Chaput (of Denver, sent by the Pope to investigate the Toowoomba diocese) discussed with me the contents of his report. I deny that Archbishop Charles Chaput ever discussed with me what he was going to put in the report. He was focused on clarifying the questions he had brought with him from Rome and those that had arisen in his inquisitorial examination. Archbishop Hart's comments concerning the process by the Holy See are also inaccurate. He is correct in stating that the Pope did not act against canon law because he is the legislator and therefore decides what is canonical. However, he omits to acknowledge that while the Pope is the Vicar of Christ for the universal church, Vatican II clearly taught that each diocesan bishop is the Vicar of Christ in and for his Diocese. William Morris Bishop Emeritus of Toowoomba ]

Father John Michael George | 09 February 2012  

A top lay canonist [consultor to Vatican Apostolic Signatura] comments on l'affaire morris http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/

Father John Michael George | 09 February 2012  

Frank, it is amateurish in the extreme that Archbishop Hart should enter into the debate in the public arena as to what Archbishop Chaput allegedly said to Bishop Morris after his investigation and what was in his report. Archbishop Hart knows the Vatican has no truck with open disclosure and will never release the Chaput Report. His only possible objective is to try to darken Bishop Morris’ character; and that objective would be deplorable. Bishop Morris wants the Chaput Report released. Will Archbishop Hart now support that request? Sadly I think not. But let us look at what probably happened at the ad limina visit by the Australian Bishops last October 2011. We can only deal with probabilities as the curtain of secrecy that exists at the Vatican (the “crimson curtain” not unlike the “iron curtain” of a few decades ago) despite all the talk from the Vatican of “truth” and “justice” does not allow us to ascertain the facts “beyond reasonable doubt”. In all probability Archbishop Chaput did not himself tell Archbishop Hart that “he discussed the contents of his report with Bishop Morris in Toowoomba”. We do know that according to the statement by the Australian Bishops in Rome on their discussions with Vatican officials pertaining to the Bishop Bill Morris sacking that; “We had individual meetings with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Subsequently we had a joint meeting with Cardinal Ouellet and Cardinal Levada. As well, we ourselves met several times” We know that Cardinal Levada had been very involved with the sacking of Bishop Morris from the very start back in 2006. Cardinal Ouellet came on to the scene in June 2010 well after his predecessor Cardinal Arinze with Cardinal Levada set in motion the wheels (you cannot call it a process as there no process involved) to sack Bishop Morris. The visitation (investigation) by Archbishop Chaput commenced on 23 April 2007. We can assume that Archbishop Chaput’s report was sent to the Vatican before 28 July 2007. This would have been almost 3 years before Cardinal Ouellet took over as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The probabilities are that Archbishop Hart and the other Australian Bishops were told by Cardinal Levada that “he (Archbishop Chaput) discussed the contents of his report with Bishop Morris in Toowoomba”. Hence the comment in the Australian Bishops’ Rome statement: “These meetings have given us a more adequate understanding of what was done by the Holy See in an attempt to resolve the difficulties with Bishop Morris, which concerned not only matters of Church discipline but also of Church doctrine definitively taught, such as on the ministerial priesthood.”

Patrick Nunan | 10 February 2012  

As you've seen, Mons McGuckin has been appointed our new Bishop for Toowoomba Diocese. As such, many of us will find it hard to accept him as our Bishop, no matter how nice he is. Bishop Bill's removal wasn't Mons McGuckin's fault, but he will be bearing the brunt of the anger and disillusionment that is still felt throughout the Diocese. I've known two Bishops of Toowoomba Diocese - Edward Kelly and Bill Morris. Not only have they been Pastors, to me they have also been friends. More so Bishop Bill, as I was in young adulthood when he became Bishop, and was more able to connect on a deeper level with my own, and his, spirituality through sermons, retreats and Diocesean Gatherings. Mons McGuckin has a monumental task ahead of him to heal the hurts and division which now exist in our Diocese thanks to the unfair processes which removed Bishop Bill. In fairness to Mons McGuckin, and out of respect for Bishop Bill, I personally will try and keep an open mind and heart through this new process and pray that he (and we) will be able to create unity again in Toowoomba Diocese.

Michele | 20 May 2012  

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