Bishop Morris, due process, credibility, and the Reign of God

You probably heard that Pope Benedict removed Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba, Australia from office after he refused to resign. The bishop had called for discussion of ordination of married men and women in light of the severe clergy crisis. He indicated his willingness to ordain married men and women, but only if the Holy See approved it. A small group in his diocese repeatedly complained about him in Rome over the years, to receptive ears. An apostolic visitation was led by Archbishop Chaput of Denver. Bishop Morris notes that he has never seen the Vatican report from the visitation and was not given an opportunity to respond to it.

The executive of the National Council of Priests in Australia issued a media release today stating they are “appalled at the lack of transparency and due process that led to this decision.” They are “embarrassed about the shabby treatment meted out” to the bishop. They state, “Jesus rightly condemned the righteous scribes and Pharisees of his time for adhering to their interpretation of the Mosaic law at the expense of God’s ultimate commandment of love.” They appeal to the Bishop of Rome “in his acknowledged role as first among equals and the source of communio within the Church to listen and build bridges of trust, faith and love with those who have been hurt by this decision.”

This sounds depressingly familiar. The US  bishops’ condemnation of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s book Quest for the Living God also went forward without any opportunity for her to see the charges against her or respond to them. The apostolic visitation of the U.S. sisters, like the visitation of the U.S. seminaries a few years ago, will conclude with a final report which is not shared with those being investigated.

We have a problem in the Roman Catholic Church. Our system of authority all too often employs processes lacking in transparency and due process. People’s human rights are not always respected. People sometimes come away feeling mistreated, disrespected, and hurt.

As one who believes in the episcopate and the office of the papacy, and who prays every day for the Pope and the bishops, I maintain there is a place for condemnation of erring theologians and for removal of negligent bishops. In today’s world, however, it is very important that such drastic actions be carried out with great care for justice and due process. Anything else is highly objectionable to the moral sensitivities of people today.

I really don’t like seeing the credibility of our church authorities go down the tubes, as it presently seems to be doing. How, oh how, can we improve this situation? How can the Church become what it claims to be, a sign to the nations of the inbreaking of the Reign of God? How can all of us in the Church learn to treat each other decently, or even to love one another as Our Lord enjoined upon us?



  1. Going back to my days as an undergrad, as a political science major, one thing has been made sickeningly clear. People that have power use that power, and people in high positions in the Church in many ways are abusing that power. Now, leadership can be good, and can serve the people, but with a lot of things which are reported on this site, it seems to be a continual process of someone dissents on something, hierarchy quashes, all are expected to live by that ruling. The same, however, seems to happen with any organization. Any ideological community runs into the temptation on an idea becoming more important than the people.
    The only real way to fix this problem, is to focus on listening to others ourselves, and hope that our behavior permeates to the people in power, but also not really caring fully whether it does. Sometimes loving another and being like God has no reward, especially when people in power care idolize stability and power over everything else. As Levinas states, “the privileged other is the hungry other”. When engaging people, we have to be seeking to fill their hunger for openness to God’s life. When our leadership isn’t doing this responsibly, our job is to step up and meet people’s needs with God.
    It makes me kind of sad to read more posts like this one. I’m really curious as to what people think we should do about this situation, as issues of power are not going to go away anytime soon, and in our current culture, everyone seems to be grasping for stability through force, rather than through love.

  2. Look at this blog. There is a thread on here that documents a dicastery of the Holy See, the Congregation for Divine Worship, to be lazy, incompetent, and arrogant.

    And nobody cares.

    Who cares if an honest bishop gets treated like a non-person?

    Obviously, it’s the Catholic Way!

  3. We have to model that ourselves. It’s not great when we ourselves resort early on to snark as a reaction. Snark is a species of self-righteousness, a witty version of the sentiment expressed in the forgotten verse from the Lost Gospel of Luke: “The tax collector stood at a distance and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like that Pharisee’. ”

    And we can’t wait for this process to start from above. It starts with us. It is not fair, but our Lord never promised us that following the way of his Cross would be fair.

    This is not a call to ignore what is happening. It is a call to identify and name what is real and true – and the limits of that reality and truth (that is, if we wish our superiors to acknowledge such limitations in what they affirm, we better model that ourselves) and embrace solidarity without yielding to egoistic needs.

    We know yet again that, when Rome really wants a bishop to be gone, Rome can readily get him gone. We knew that already, but so many people forget recent history (Bp Gaillot late of Évreux, now Partenia, anyone?) Rome will reap the consequences of that reinforced knowledge.

  4. If the “church” is that flawed… perhaps its time to jump ship and found a new one?

    1. Should the children abandon their rightful home because the servants have become disorderly?

      1. I’m not sure that this is an accurate analogy.

        My mother, whom I often cite, was performing a service to me in raising me, as did my father. But they still governed the house.

        The pope and bishops serve us, but they still have the authority from Christ to govern the Church. Comparing them to house servants doesn’t seem accurate.

      2. The Gospel according to Luke puts the following words on the lips of Jeus: “I am among you as one who serves.” 22.27

        Gregory the Great referred to himself as “Servus servorum dei.”

        Comparing the leaders of the church to house servants has a long history.

      3. Gerard, I think you missed my point. Our Lord came as one who served but he still governs the Church. St. Gregory was Servus servorum Dei, but he still governed.

        The analogy that Brigid used doesn’t work.

      4. Matthew, in the first place Brigid’s image could be understood as a metaphor or an allegory. The literary distinction between the two is important. If her analogy is a metaphor, which I supsect it is, there is only one point of comparison between the two scenarios. Only if she intended her analogy to be an allegory would she intend to imply that the leaders of the church are house servants.

        In the second place, what would be so wrong about making such a comparison, in light of the references cited?

        You say: “Comparing them to house servants doesn’t seem accurate.”

        I don’t consider that I am missing the point of your argument. This is the very point I am addressing and I’m supporting my line of reasoning by the references to Luke and Gregory I.

      5. Brigid, you sum up my thoughts exactly. I could never leave the Church, even with all of the scandals and arguements, because my faith is in Jesus, not in this man-made institution.

    2. Come on, Chris, make helpful contributions to the conversation, please. Surely you don’t think it’s time to found a new church. Surely you know that no one on this blog thinks it’s time to found a new church. Right? Or are you insinuating such an accusation? If so, that is simply willful misreading of others. Or are you asking those you disagree with to leave the church? If so, state it clearly and we’ll deal with that.

      The church is flawed and you know it. It always has been and always will be, to the extent there is human failure. The church, as you know, is semper reformanda, always in need of reform. We can have a rich discussion here of our various ideas about how to reform it. That will work best if we respect each other and take each other seriously.


      1. Sorry, Father– I meant it more tongue in cheek… there just seem to be quite a few articles coming out as of recent being disappointed with the Church and her leadership (or perhaps from the prevailing opinion here, lack of?)– I was only proposing what seemed like would be the natural inclination if I felt that way.

        I am heartily glad that so many jump to negate my “proposition”– As St. Peter said, “to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life”.

        And… many apologies for being so absent as of late– incredibly busy right now. God bless you all!

    3. Better to transform the one we have now. The bishops are of divine origin. They must decide if they govern not as vassals, but shepherds in their own right. If, as the
      Vatican has argued in several legal arguments fighting off sexual abuse suits that the bishops are “not employees”, what is that relationship to Rome and what do these non-employees owe the bishop of Rome?

      Does the episcopate exist because Rome recognizes it, gives it life, and selects the ordinaries? If so, as long as that thinking persists there is no chance whatsoever of eventual reunion with the Orthodox Churches.

  5. What can we lay people do, aside from publicly discussing the problem and/or leaving the church? Is it true that an ecumenical council can be convoked without the pope’s ok, has the power to make/change law and doctrine, irrespective of the pope/curia?

    1. According to the current Code of Canon Law, an ecumenical council cannot be called by anyone but the pope.

      The Church has taught for quite a while longer that a council is not considered ecumenical without the pope’s acknowledgement of it as such.

      1. Nor can a council be considered ecumenical when the bishop of Rome alone calls it, decides it’s agenda, and alone approves it. If the episcopate need Peter, how much more does Peter need the universal episcopate?

        For that reason, Vatican I and Vatican II are not only not binding in the view of groups such as the Church of Utrecht, the Polish National Catholics, the SSPX and many Catholic traditionalists, they aren’t recognized by the Orthodox either.

  6. Eugene Kennedy’s description of how some American bishops got selected gives clues to the roots of systemic problems in the Church:

    “The true godfather of the 20th century lineage of bishops in the United States was then-Fr. Edward Francis Hoban (1878-1966), who became chancellor of the Chicago archdiocese in 1906. While there and as bishop of nearby Rockford, Ill., he grew close to Archbishop Amleto Cicognani, then apostolic delegate to the United States, who forwarded the Episcopal recommendations to Rome.

    “Cicognani was instrumental in making Hoban the bishop of Cleveland, Ohio, the smoky city that became the unlikely epicenter of clerical power in the United States. From the priests of this diocese Hoban selected Paul Hallinan for the Atlanta archdiocese and sent John Dearden to Pittsburgh on his way to Detroit as cardinal archbishop.

    “Hoban also selected John Krol, the first Polish-American to be elevated for an important ecclesiastical career. He later became the cardinal archbishop of Philadelphia and, like Dearden, a president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    “. . . Cardinal Bernard Law . . . made his way to the lofty eminence of Boston from another surprising center of episcopal power, the tiny diocese of Cape Girardeau- Springfield, Mo., in which he succeeded William Baum, who then succeeded O’Boyle in Washington before going on to a curial post in Rome.

    “Cape Girardeau-Springfield became the Cape Canaveral of American ecclesiastical culture, the launching site for influential careers in the major dioceses of the country. John P. Cody’s measured post-war rise from St. Louis to become a major player in American Catholicism signaled the rise of the Midwest as the source for new leaders in the church.

  7. . . . continued . . .

    “William Wakefield Baum became its third bishop after consecration by John Carberry, the Brooklyn native who had risen, by way of the relatively small dioceses of Lafayette, Ind., and Columbus, Ohio, to become cardinal archbishop of St. Louis. The fussy Carberry, who accused apostolic delegate Jean Jadot of destroying the American church, sat obsessively, worrying that the Eucharist in the hand might lead to hosts stolen for Black Masses, in the middle of a group of bishops who were determined to question Vatican II and the work of Dearden and Bernardin. As Baum set the table for Law to follow him in Missouri so he also arranged his own succession in Washington, D.C. by Archbishop James Hickey, a prelate known, in his dealings with his priests and others, to be as sweetly smiling and controlling as Carberry was with his.

    “Law came to dominate the group by his careful cultivation of Pope John Paul II who viewed him as his loyal emissary and source in the United States. Bernardin himself recognized that, after Law became cardinal archbishop of Boston in 1984, saying, “Bernie has all the say in Rome now. I intend to continue to do my work as well as I can.” Law, who was and remains a member of the council that makes bishops, pleased John Paul II by forwarding only candidates for the bishopric who had never spoken a word on any controversial issue. The resulting crop of generally non-creative but intensely orthodox bishops took their cues from Law on everything, including how to manage, as he thought they could, the already developing scandal of sex abuse by their priests.

    “Law invited Oblate Fr. Francis George to Boston in 1987 as coordinator of what Law conceived of as a conservative think tank, the Circle of Fellows for the Cambridge Studies of Faith and Culture. In 1990, Law had him appointed bishop of Yakima, Wash.”
    . . .

    1. This whole thing was quoted a while back by Bill deHaas. Fascinating history, if accurate.

      What ever happened to Bill anyway? He usually has interesting tidbits and ideas related to discussion topics.

  8. You just don’t get it.
    You can’t “discuss” the fiction of women’s ordination as if it were a possibility. To believe otherwise is heresy.
    And the matter is compounded by the fact that this is a bishop!
    And beware that you are fostering dissent! Many of the comments on this blog show utter disdain and a total lack of charity for those who exercise the apostolic office.

    1. I seem to recall that hundreds of years ago people once “discussed” the then fiction of a global earth, and the other fiction of a world without slavery, and indeed the fiction of vernacular liturgy . . . forever, Jack, is a very long time.

    2. Jack Devlin,
      What is your understanding of the way in which beliefs do and must change to keep pace with the development of knowledge in all of its many spheres?

      How can this happen unless current beliefs are subjected to contemporary critique?

      You are confusing faith and belief. While the first is directed to God who does not change, the second is the result of human activity and has to change to take account of new insights and circumstances.

      What you label ‘dissent’ is nothing more than the emergence of indications that a statement of belief is failing to reflect contemporary understanding of a particular topic. This is one of the ways in which doctrine develops and those who engage in such activity are doing the people of God a service.

    3. “You can’t ‘discuss’ the fiction of women’s ordination as if it were a possibility. To believe otherwise is heresy.”

      Nonsense. I’d suggest you look up the exact details of what qualifies as heresy, and under exactly what circumstances. Make sure to go into it in detail.

      It might be a good exercise before accusing others of not getting it.

  9. Does anyone have access to Bp Morris’ 2006 Advent Pastoral which apparently raised these matters (how to ensure availability of the Eucharist) for discussion and prompted the investigation which has resulted in the forced resignation?

    It would seem to be a primary document in the case, in the absence of the documented text of the charge against Bp Morris, which (up till 1st May) he has not been allowed to see.

    This matter is a major cause for anger and disquiet in Australia. See the outpouring of threads and comment on

    Read and weep.

      1. Thank you – the pastoral had been removed from the diocesan site but they probably thought they’d better restore it

  10. A point of clarification: Elizabeth Johnson’s book was not “condemned” by the bishops in any formal or canonical sense. It was criticized, but there was no censure attached to those criticisms. Also, pace the CTSA board of directors, the Committee on Doctrine was not required by the bishops’ guidelines (the document Doctrinal Responsibilities) to consult with her beforehand. Perhaps the Committee should have, but they were not bound to do so by their own guidelines.

    1. Fritz is correct on both points. It’s a small-C condemnation, not a formal, canonical one. And the bishops are not bound to the guidelines which were written for use between one bishop and a theologian. I think the larger point remains, though, that we’re lacking guidelines (directives, statutes, whatever) binding on the conference which would guarantee due process in such cases.


      1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for bishops’ conferences to get more power/status/whatever before the next conclave.

  11. Now it is clearer than ever who is the boss: the Pope is free to dismiss bishops even against their will.

    This point will not be lost by the lawyers engaged in sexual abuse lawsuits in the US. The more centralized the authority, the more control the Vatican exercises over bishops, the more difficult it will be to argue that bishops are autonomous in their local territory and are not officials of the Holy See.

    1. Indeed, the liability issue has now been stoked. Authority/control and accountability for liability are highly correlated in civil law.

  12. All of this should encourage us to revisit the method whereby bishops are appointed. During the pontificate of Benedict XV (1903-’14), approximately only one-sixth of the world’s bishops were appointed by Rome.

    The current position where Rome appoints a bishop is relatively new.

    In Germany and Switzerland many bishops are elected by the cathedral chapter, from three names submitted by Rome and the election is subsequently confirmed by Rome.

    Many attribute the change to the centralising tendencies adoopted in Rome while Pacelli was Secretary of State.

    Ecclesia semper reformanda. (Snap, Anthony!)

  13. He sounds like a total liability. Good riddance. And now he’s destroying what remained of his dignity by making such a public brouhaha.

    If only this could have happened years ago.

    1. If a Bishop, priest or layperson is required to do nothing more than repeat the official line without thought or comment, robots will fill the bill.

      I think anyone subjected to arbitrary dismissal or suspension these days would risk being rumoured to be suspected of abuse of a child or vulnerable adult. Even an accused has the right to speak in his/her own defence. Bishop Morris made a brief and dignified statement – I am sure he could have said a great deal more, but has remained silent.

    2. By all accounts this “total liability” has many supporters within the diocese, it was the small minority who reported their thoughts to Rome.
      I personally think that it would have been much more productive for them to have spoken directly to Bishop Morris rather than go straight to Rome.
      Also, I don’t agree that he is destroying his dignity; he is making a very public stand on an issue which the Vatican wants to keep shut.
      Are we all to fear speaking on any subject for fear of censure? Promoting heretical thinking is one thing, but engaging in a dialogue should not result in such an action as this.

  14. claire mathieu :

    Now it is clearer than ever who is the boss: the Pope is free to dismiss bishops even against their will.

    Elsewhere I have seen the point made that it is worth noting that merely raising an issue the pope does not want discussed gets this bishop removed, but pedophilia cover up, a crime with actual victims, does not get bishops removed. Those bishops are said to have some sort of right to be in office and the pope is somehow unable to remove them, but this one can be removed for speaking out of turn.

    I may have stated badly what I heard and I am open to correction on my choice of words, but I think the underlying observation is noteworthy. It is interesting what motivates the pope to take extreme action and what does not.

  15. I actually find it refreshing that Rome removed this errant bishop. It seems to me that those who condemn this correct action seem to want to foster dissent. The NCR, in my opinion, ceased to be Catholic many years ago because it has taken positions that are not in line with the Church.

    If anything, to quote Cardinal George in his letter suspending Fr. Pfleger, Bishop Morris has no one to blame but himself. He should not be making himself out to be the victim when he openly took positions that distanced himself from the Church. Sadly, Judas Iscariot is alive and well, even among the successors to the Apostles.

    1. What, according to you, were the “positions” you claim he “openly took” that “distanced himself from the Church?”

      Do you really know?

    2. “Sadly, Judas Iscariot is alive and well, even among the successors to the Apostles.”

      Whatever one believes about what the bishop said and his particular views on the sacrament of holy orders, or about what happened to him as a result, it is altogether irresponsible and wholly uncharitable to liken him to Judas Iscariot. Be careful here.

    3. So for you who is Jesus? Rome? The Church? Jesus? Since the Bishop is Judas, a pretty juvenile connection to make, I wonder by what developed ecclesiology you make such a statement?

      1. Jesus is Jesus… and also Jesus is the Church ( I Corinthians 12). That’s a pretty harsh way of putting things, but then again, that we’re all Judas is part of the story too.

  16. An apostolic visitation was led by Archbishop Chaput of Denver. Bishop Morris notes that he has never seen the Vatican report from the visitation and was not given an opportunity to respond to it.

    I think this misstates the process of an apostolic visitation. The report from a visitation is the end of the process, not the beginning of it. The time for the discussion of the issues is during the vistation, when, surely Bishop Morris was part of the process of the visitation along with everyone else.

    Though the analogy is somewhat misleading, since a visitation is not a penal process, the report of a visitation is like the verdict and sentence in a trial. It comes after the defense puts their case, not before.

    1. But treating the report the present way is like allowing the prosecution to make charges and the defense neither hear not rebut them. It makes the visitor both investigator and prosecutor without allowing the defendant to see the final charges or rebut them. One side decides what goes before the judge and in secret at that. The judgement and penalty are announced based on only what the investigator/prosecutor chooses to present without the accused even knowing what was presented or being able to provide counter arguments. First the judgement then the arguments, which are treated as dissent against the authority of the judge. Heads the judge wins, tails the accused loses.

      Of course, this is all rather pre-determined because the judges appoint for each case the investigator/prosecutor. At least beati get devil’s advocates.

  17. You know I am always a little appalled when only one side’s view is heard. Most of you are appalled at how the Vatican treated the Bishop. How did they treat him? There was a complaint. The complaint was followed up on. The Bishop was in dialogue with the Vatican for five years about it. The Bishop meets with the Pope. Then, he is sacked. I have no clue why he was not given natural justice other than the Bishop says so. The Vatican is treating it as a personnel matter, keeping confidentiality. And so, we only have the Bishops take on it. Do we know what he has said to the Vatican in those five years that obviously did not help his cause?

    I think all managers recognize this behavior. Someone wasn’t towing the corporate line. He is called on the carpet for it. In this case is given five years to clear up any misunderstanding – only to be fired. Then he mouths off to his friends about how unfair his boss is. Worse, this isn’t a job – it is vocation he freely entered into so he has made a solemn promise to God, not his boss to uphold the corporate line – as do his friends who are supporting him. It’s nice to have friends but really is this guy telling them the whole story or the story they so obviously want to hear – the script they have in place.

  18. I think that this is related to a point Fr. Anthony made in a comment a while ago on Humanae Vitae. There he said that Paul VI was quite conflicted and did not act until he thought that a change in practice would be seen as a weakening of the Church’s teaching authority. I fear that we’re in a time where any inquiry of any sort into any topic is seen only as supporting or denying the Church’s teaching authority. The mindset would be that all the answers have already been determined. This is an awfully cramped view of things and leaves hardly any room for inquiry into almost anything lest it all be seen as dissent.

  19. Fr.Ruff,
    Do you seriously not have a problem with the bishop advocating “recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders?”
    The pope is being responsible to his duty…Bishop Morris was NOT!!

    In my opinion, you are being unfair in your criticism and it is your credibility that is being hurt in this case.

    1. I have no problem with him advocating such things, nor with others advocating against them, so long as each give good reasons and speaks respectfully toward the other, each assuming that the other is attempting to be as faithful as oneself while holding a different point of view or alternative interpretation.

      1. The position taken by the bishop consists of the following: “I will ordain married men when Roman permits married men to be ordained. I will ordain women when Rome permits women to be ordained.”

        What is so wrong with that?

  20. That’s fine for you Tom, you are not the Bishop, with the primary responsibility as the teaching authority of his diocese. If he wants to discuss or advocate heresy, he is free to do that, but then he should have resigned. But he refused to do so.
    His arrogance has done him in.

    1. Why choose to call it heresy?
      This not about any defined doctrine.
      The past two popes have stated their opinions, but it has not been ex cathedra or de fide definita. Then they have used their jurisdictional authority to stop the conversation among those over whom they have that direct jurisdiction. It is not the same as heresy. Don’t toss that word around so lightly.

      Note also the enormous difference from advocating discussion of something and teaching that the thing is true. Discussion is open ended. Advocating discussion is even more remote from stating something is so.

      I think the arrogance here is dual.
      Yours to declare someone a heretic.
      The pope’s to attempt to close discussion among the rest of the magisterium, episcopal and theological both.

      I advocate the path of Thomas Aquinas: state the case and argue the assumptions and the logic. I denounce the path of the Bishop of Paris who burned the books of Aquinas because the bishop found them disagreeable dissent.

    2. The bishop holds the primary responsibility for ensuring that the sacraments are offered to the people. If you read the advent letter linked above, you will see that in 2014 his diocese will have only 5 priests younger than 60 years old plus 3 in the 60 to 65 range. That, to serve a population of 65000 Catholics (if I am not mistaken)

      Down the line, one can foresee a not-too-distant time when there will be no priests. It is his primary responsibility to face that problem. He may be grasping at straws by raising all those ideas, but the severity of the situation warrants them: once there are no priests left, the question of whether they are male or female will be moot.

      1. And the diocese is about 15% larger in size than the US State of California, just to put things in perspective. With a population of that sort in an area of that size, supply of celibate men to cover that are will be a problem even in the best of times.

    3. Why would a “heretic” advocate at the heart of his argument the importance of the continued availability of the Most Holy Eucharist and the pastoral care of the People of God? And Claire clearly shows the situation he’s up against in this concern. So if he is mistaken, or altogether wrong in his advocacy of particular points, then fine, say so. But I agree with Tom, don’t toss that word around so casually. Neither Tom nor Claire nor I nor even you have to be a bishop to get that much. All we have to be is a Christian.

      1. Why would a “heretic” advocate at the heart of his argument the importance of the continued availability of the Most Holy Eucharist and the pastoral care of the People of God?

        Holding erroneous opinions about one thing doesn’t mean you can’t hold correct opinions about another thing.

        I don’t know the precise reasons why the Bishop was removed, but it’s obvious that he wasn’t having success at one of the main parts of his job, recruiting men to be the next generation of priests of his diocese. If he holds that Anglican, Lutheran, and uniting orders are valid and that women can be ordained to the priesthood, he is contradicting the teaching of the Church. If he doesn’t hold those positions he’s resorting to idle theological speculation when confronted with his vocations problem. Either way, he’s not doing his job succesfully.

      2. I still think the resort to calling someone a heretic, a very injurious term indeed, is rather harsh.

  21. Claire: the fact that there will be no new priests in his diocese reflects badly on the bishop.
    Tom: Anyone who is familiar with Benedict XVI knows that he operates with tremendous intellectual freedom and has discussed these topics with great frequency over the past 50 years. Bishop Morris wrote the pastoral letter in 2006. I wouldn’t exactly say that Benedict is rushing to judgement here.

    I just think that in this particular discussion it is disappointing to see people instinctively give the benefit of the doubt to a bishop who clearly has dissenting views (many more than are even being talked about on this thread) and are automatically willing to assume arrogance on the part of the pope…the person who is responsible to see that the faith is being taught. B16 has won high praise from people of all idealogical stripes for his thoughtful episcopal appointments. His criteria are leaders who can communicate the faith with intelligence, integrity and joy.
    Give Benedict some credit. He is a humble and brilliant man who quietly radiates with the love of Christ.
    We could all learn from his humility. (myself included!)

    1. I am disappointed that you are throwing around the term heresy and not actually make a logical argument, resorting to an appeal to asserted personal humility and brilliance which have nothing to do with any issue at hand. Just another distraction from the actual content at hand.

    1. Whatever harm the Pope and the Vatican may have done to the bishop or his diocese, they did greater harm to themselves.

      From now on the logic of the NCR editorial will be used against them for their failure to remove bishops in the sexual abuse scandal.

      “First, it turns out it’s really not that difficult for the pope to give a bishop a pink slip. In the course of the quarter-century clergy sexual abuse cover-up, there’s been considerable handwringing over just this question. Bishops don’t “work for” the pope, we have been told. Bishops are “fathers” to their flock – with all the unconditional love and commitment that entails – not employees subject to the whims, well-intentioned or otherwise, of the boss. Canonical procedures must be followed.

      Apparently, that’s just so much hooey.”

      Perhaps the lawyers who want to sue the Vatican in sexual abuse cases may be helped by this.

      1. “The former bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, has pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography.”

        “Although the civil process has run its course, the Holy See will continue to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases, which will result in the imposition of the appropriate disciplinary or penal measures.” from the Vatican Statement

        If I remember correctly childhood sexual pornography was included with sexual abuse in the recent update of Vatican procedures.

        The Vatican is regularly facing bishops who need to be disciplined in regard to sexual abuse and the Bishop Morris case will regularly be cited when the Vatican fails to discipline bishops.

  22. Four Councils, Nicea, Laodicea, Nimes, and Orange I, rejected the idea/practice of women priests/female altar service. In what sense is it NOT heresy?

    1. The male priesthood is a practice based on tradition and “justified” by analogy with the image of Christ as bridegroom (by definition male) of the Church. While some groups that extended priestly roles to women were also “heretical” in the usual doctrinal sense, I do not know of any condemnation of the women-priests practice in and of itself as “heresy.” Can you give a specific reference?

  23. Here you go (i’m back Mr. Ferguson) – link from NCR editorial today which directly highlights Fr. Ruff’s concerns and questions:

    – “But, and here’s the point, we simply don’t know what Chaput found because no one’s talking. Not even Morris has received a copy of Chaput’s report (assuming something has been reduced to writing).

    We presume, given the public nature of Morris’ offenses, that Chaput’s findings have something to do with the bishop brainstorming some remedies to the priest shortage in the face of the real crisis in his local church.

    Did Chaput find something more dastardly, such as a bishop speaking like an adult to his church? Heaven forbid. We likely will never know. 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.”

    So are we to believe Morris has benefitted from being tossed out without ever having been allowed to defend himself against Chaput’s findings, which were never shared with the Australian prelate? This is the kind of trial and judgement one more often associates with China or Iran. The Catholic church?”

    – ” The real scandal to the faithful in this matter has nothing to do with the way Morris has conducted himself. It has everything to do with priorities and processes within our church today. It has much to do with the trampling of human rights and professed values of decency and charity by our church’s prelates, in this case including, sad to say, Benedict himself.”

    1. So are we to believe Morris has benefitted from being tossed out without ever having been allowed to defend himself against Chaput’s findings, which were never shared with the Australian prelate?

      While Bishop Morris has complained in his resignation letter that he did not see Chaput’s report, he also says in his letter to parishoners, “This led to an Apostolic Visitation and an ongoing dialogue between myself and the Congregations for Bishops, Divine Worship and Doctrine of the Faith and eventually Pope Benedict. The substance of these complaints is of no real import now but the consequences are that is has been determined by Pope Benedict that the diocese would be better served by the leadership of a new bishop.”

      So it’s clear that he knows what the issues were that led to them asking for his departure and that he discussed them with the Vatican, even if he never saw the report itself.

      1. Samuel and crowd: you have raised questions about the process since the bishop’s 2006 Advent letter…….your comment above makes no sense and reveals ignorance about this event.

        From a book by Paul Collins in which he discusses this Advent letter and the ensuing reaction:

        – “this type of realism was not in some quarters. Who reported the bishop remains unknown but within two months he was summoned to Rome to explain himself. He had aleady scheduled a trip to Rome and asked to delay a few weeks because he had a dying priest to attend.
        – there was no response; instead Bishop Chaput was suddenly appointed and came to the diocese a few weeks later. Morris did go to Rome in May, 2007; reached out to three dicastries with no responses;
        – apostolic visistator is appointed as an administrative procedure to deal with scandal or specific problems. (some would suggest that there was neither?)
        – Chaput has what qualifications to “visit” a remote diocese in Australia? (btw – Chaput is native american and it would seem that he would understand being on the outside of an institution, society, church? But, in reality, he has overcompensated)
        – Chaput stayed in a Toowombaa hotel – he interviewed some folks with a priest secretary present. Chaput demanded secrecy from Morris and all others. He also met with Brisbane bishop. Overwhelmingly, most interviews were positive.
        – he ends by stating that a bishop has a responsiblity to care for his diocese – this means providing the eucharist over and above any other issue.

      2. Bill, I know all that (the parts that are factual and not speculative, e.g. Chaput’s psychology) and none of it contradicts what I wrote. How does my comment make no sense? The Bishop says he’s engaged in dialogue with the curia and the pope. Do you deny the truth of his own statements?

        Chaput’s qualification as a visitor is, I would guess, that a) he was previously Bishop of Rapid City, a large and largely rural diocese in North America, a somewhat analogous situation and b) was not from Australia thereby having both critical distance and a certain kind of parallel experience.

  24. cont……

    _ “In 2003, Fred Gluck, a former managing partner of McKinsey & Company who currently serves on the board of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, wrote a memo to church leaders. It’s crafted in managementese, but disregard the jargon for the moment and pay attention to the message.
    Wrote Gluck:

    •“Your organization [the church] has no effective central point of leadership that can energize the necessary program change.
    •“Your leadership is aging and also largely committed to the status quo or even the status ante.
    •“Your tradition of hierarchy dominates most of your thinking about management.”
    •“Coming to grips with this formidable set of challenges in an organization as historically successful as yours will be a daunting challenge, and can only be accomplished by a comprehensive program of change with strong leadership from the top,” he concluded.
    No one in a position of authority paid any discernable attention to Gluck eight years ago. Sadly, we don’t expect that to change.

    The pope has made his priorities all too clear.”

    Calling Jeffrey Anderson – you now have documented proof that bishops are employees of the papacy – this should get interesting in terms of pending legal cases against the Vatican….what some might call “the law of unintended consequences”

  25. Phillip and Bill:
    If you choose to get your talking points from NCR, that’s fine. But I do hope that you are open to getting more information from some additional, perhaps less idealogical sources.

    BTW, the Jeffrey Anderson threat is silly and misguided.

    I’m done here…I have too much work to do.

  26. Good riddance – your obvious fundamentalism is contrary to the statement and guiding goals which this blog professes. It is to learn, try to educate and gain understanding rather than just talking past each other and playing a “gotcha” game. It also is the opposite of just assuming that whatever is said by a Pope or Rome is infallible and any questioning is “dissent” (the use of this term reveals significant miseducation)

    Less ideological (spell it right) sources – such as EWTN, Wanderer, Fr. Z.

    Again, NCR editorial merely asks questions, state concerns, and raises some glaring issues about due process. How is that ideological?

    If you know anything about the current and past legal cases against the Vatican, then you will realize that Anderson is neither silly nor misguided. In fact, he has helped hundreds if not thousands get justice and some amount of peace in the face of episcopal/papal “mental reservations” (nice way of saying lying, complicity, and perhaps criminal behavior). Study all three Philadelphia grand jury reports.

    1. When I was looking forward to information from you, I was not anticipating the bitterness that you’ve been showing as of late. Good riddance? That’s not helpful. And as to stating what is appropriate content for the blog, perhaps Fr Anthony should be doing that instead of you.

      1. Sorry, not bitterness….frustration. It is very tiresome to find folks re-arguing points that were documented and settled years ago…it is tiresome to find folks who constantly repeat memes; use language and terms from pre-VII as if they can build their own alternative catholic universe and justify it. The talking past each other is frustrating. Granted – if my tone has bitterness, I will try to copy Fr. Cody and tone it down to make good arguments.

  27. However, the NCR has not been known as being the bastion of orthodoxy. It is very hard for me to take them seriuosly.

    Regarding the reference to Judas Iscariot, I do believe that it is applicable in this case. As a bishop, Bishop Morris is called to uphold the teachings of the Church, not start spreading the seeds of dissent. Obedience to the Holy Father is also a must. Advocating positions like women’s ordination and recognition of the “validity” of the Anglicans and Lutherans is not something that the Church supports, let alone teaches.

    Bishop Morris is no victim here. You reap what you sow.

    1. The fundamental question is this: do the people of God have a right to the sacraments? Is the Holy Eucharist necessary for salvation? Is it constitutive of the church — remembering the dictum “the Eucharist makes the church; the church makes the Eucharist”?

      By raising the questions he did, Bishop Morris put the good of the people entrusted to his care ahead of anything that would answer those questions with the word “no”.

      From the response by the Holy See, it is quite clear to me that upholding an all male, ostensibly celibate (with a few legitimate exceptions) clergy is more important to the Holy See than the salvation of souls and the celebration of the Eucharist in areas facing a clergy shortage now beyond crisis proportions. Actions speak louder than words, and in this case no amount of pious double-talk can change that clear image. The Status Quo is more important than Sacraments: can Bishop Morris be blamed if he didn’t get that memo?

      It all reminds me vaguely of the “Voluntary Human Extinction Project”. . . yes, you reap what you sow indeed.

      1. This comment is incredibly offensive. Pray Tell wouldn’t allow comments like this about Episcopal Church officials accusing them of engaging in pious double-talk or putting the status quo above the salvation of souls. It’s really quite outrageous.

      2. Samuel, et al.:

        As the timeframe within which I can edit my comment has elapsed, allow me here to retract the third and fourth paragraphs in my comment above with apologies, and offer a more measured response here:

        There is a tension between maintaining the good of the people and maintaining fidelity to received teaching, as the two sometimes do seem to be in conflict. Yet both are for the good of the Church, and neither must be considered ahead of the other, as both are matters of truth: truth contained in doctrine and practice as it has developed to this point; truth as it is lived and experienced in a local church.

        In this present case, we don’t have access to Bishop Morris’ conscience, so I would be hard pressed to judge his motives, or decry his fidelity. At the same time, it does seem as though the real pastoral exigencies faced in his diocese are not being taken seriously by the Holy See. One wishes that there was some middle ground here, in which dialogue could have taken place, and real solutions could have been found — which may have included further development of doctrine or customary practice regarding ordination. “About face” is not unknown in the development of doctrine, and could take place here.

        What is at stake is the vitality of the people of God in a given time and place. Bishop Morris measured that vitality and found it wanting; he proposed solutions to the same. Some of his solutions would not require any change to doctrine, only discipline. Others would have required further doctrinal debate and discussion, something that seems inevitable even if it results in no change in teaching for the Roman Catholic Church. It saddens and, yes, angers me pastorally that the avenue of discourse was closed in favor of disciplinary measures. For the salvation of souls, which is always the highest law (theologically and canonically), there has to be a better way.

        Oh, and Samuel, Episcopal and other Anglican officials regularly put the status quo above the salvation of their people and engage in double talk to do so. Perhaps you’ve noticed the mess the Anglican Communion is currently in? And yet, we live with it, and the Church goes on — God be praised, in spite of us all!

    2. I have read the Bishop’s pastoral letter on the diocesan website. He appears to be doing nothing more than musing about unlikely solutions to a desperate problem. If this is the “smoking gun” something is very wrong here.

      As for the folks who are talking about “dissent” and “heresy”. Time to take “Be not afraid” a little more seriously, isn’t it? Nothing in the pastoral letter came anywhere near heresy and, in my reading, didn’t even constitute dissent. Had he said he was going to get on a plan and urge the Holy Father to re-visit the “inability” of the church to ordain women, that would be over the edge. Had he said he was going to get on the plane and beg the Holy Father to grant permission to ordain a specific maturely married man, I would nominate him for sainthood–santo subito! Surely, it will not be much longer before courageous bishops insist that this discipline be modified in the interest of maintaining the right of the faithful to a Sunday Eucharist which forms their community in the faith of the gospel.

      1. Surely, it will not be much longer before courageous bishops insist that this discipline be modified in the interest of maintaining the right of the faithful to a Sunday Eucharist which forms their community in the faith of the gospel
        Rome’s treatment of bishop Morris may well be designed to send shudders throughout the hierarchy with other
        bishops like him lurking and watching from offstage. I sense, we are rapidly leading to the point where an episcopal revolt resulting in Benedict being sent into exile by the college of Cardinals. Any suggestions for a nominee for anti-pope?

  28. However, Fr. Cody, obedience and fidelity play a major role in all of this. Bishop Morris was his own undoing. To have the Holy Eucharist, you must have validity in Holy Orders. Bishop Morris most certainly did not put the good of the people ahead of anything. He was merely pushing an agenda that r uns contrary to what the Church teaches.

    As a bishop, Bishop Morris knew full well what his responsibilities are. Furthermore, he took a vow of obedience to the Pope and his successors. What he did was to betray that by espousing ideas and fallacies that run contrary to Church teaching.

  29. I thought the point of the post was about transparency and due process for the now fired bishop. We know Bishop Morris’ side and I suspect there was dialogue with him for some time by the Vatican and during the visitation, but we don’t know that from the Vatican side. But I know as a pastor and administrator that when I release someone from their job either in our school or in the parish, I can’t talk about the specifics due to the nature of confidentiality. However, the one released can say whatever they please.
    The other issues of the lack of Catholic clergy have numerous reasons. In more liberal dioceses where the distinction of clergy and laity is blurred, there are fewer vocations to the priesthood as in Bishop Morris former diocese. In other places where there is a positive attitude about Church teaching, both in discipline and reveal truth, there are more vocations. I think one reaps what one sows in this regard. It is a now worn argument that if the Catholic Church would just wise up and ordain anyone that our problems would be solved. This argument was used in the 1970’s again and again and really does seem to me to taste even worse than acid reflux when regurgitated forty years and more later.

    1. Fr. Allan – you have again knee-jerked to two of your favorite memes:
      – lack of vocations in “liberal” dioceses; vocations in “orthodox” dioceses. You spin statistics and facts; yes, a few conservative dioceses have seen an increase in candidates…let’s wait to make judgment once they have had 5 or 10 years as a priest. But, some non-traditional dioceses have also had increases – the reasons are complex; you over generalize – and as you said, this isn’t really the point of the blog, is it? (but, you made it any way)
      – second meme – we know the Bishop’s side (no we don’t; we know what he has publicly stated only) – you make a conclusion from a few facts as usual.
      Both you and Mr. Howard focus on his one work – dialogue – and paint a picture that is not in evidence. Depending upon how you define “dialogue” – it appears to have been a one sided monologue or a two way , long distance conversation in which the bishop does not know his accusers; we really don’t know if he even knows the complaints unless via Chaput (secret); and the firing is based on the secret report of Chaput that the bishop has never seen. Yet, you two call that dialogue because Morris used that word.

      1. Dear Bill,
        Thanks for your comments and interest, but it will take me days to decipher what you’ve written and respond to all the charges. You must have been a prosecutor in another life, plus judge and jury. But I’m glad you’re allowing me due-process. You’ve helped me to understand poor Bishop Morris’ situation. 🙂

  30. Good point on the vocations, Fr. Allen. Fr. Cody, if you recall, in the report, it was noted that Bishop Morris’ diocese did not report any vocations during his time there. Thus, he did not do enough for the good of the people in his diocese so as to ensure that future priests would be ready to serve them.

    1. I would ask whether or not we know what steps Bishop Morris took toward promoting vocations. He may well have done much “to ensure that future priests would be ready to serve them.” He cannot compel a vocation, after all; and without knowing the means and methods of his Vocations Office, we cannot make any judgment about the matter.

  31. However, the fact that he pretty much had nearly “zero” vocations during his time spent there is very telling. Even lackluster ordinaries still manage to get some vocations.

    Fr. Cody, the fact remains that the one to blame for all of this is Bishop Morris, himself. It seems to me that if you substitute Fr. Pfleger’s name for Bishop Morris, it’s the same song, different verse. Both men did this to themselves.

  32. To be a sign to the nations of the inbreaking of the reign of God Rome would have to want to read the signs of the time… But Rome seems to be afraid of looking outide its windows… Poor old Rome…
    I’m joining you in your prayers. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well (J of N). The Spirit cannot be kept out of Herstory for very long.
    Blessings and thank you for the post.

  33. From a talk by Jon Sobrino, SJ on forgiveness – solidarity-reparation:

    “……Archbishop Weisgerber states the question, “What happens when the leader is not inspired by the Council’s vision of the Church as communion?” He says,
    “Communion can hit a brick wall in an authoritarian, autocratic or frightened leader.”
    The traditional answer to this problem has been “fraternal correction.” But evidence of fraternal correction is scant or nonexistent in these times of crisis. This erodes confidence in the system, and ultimately, in the office of bishop.”

    – “The person who thinks of himself or herself as the victim is quick to divide the world into ‘we’ and ‘they.’ In the knowledge of the risen victim there is only a ‘we,’ because we no longer need to define ourselves over against anyone at all.”

    (Note – Ms. Romani, you constantly have to have someone to blame, a victim. Church leadership is sacramental – it is life-giving and merciful. Not sure I see that in this papal decision)

    -“Christ’s resurrection necessarily implies the reconstitution of his community, the gathering together of those disciples who had earlier abandoned him in order, now, to found a community based on forgiveness. Therefore, salvation itself is necessarily relational and communal; there can be no salvation except in and through renewed relationships”

    (yet, this decision divides and shreds relationships)

  34. Would someone please comment on the papal instruction not to discuss the ordination of women, and the authority on which that instruction resides? Does it not have something to do with the difference between a Church “teaching” and a Church practice or policy? (Sorry – I run out of vocabulary pretty quickly. This issue is outside the area of expertise of the parish music director). And further, can we not infer that Bp Morris’s discussion of the ordination of women reflects his (and others’) contention that this is not an official “teaching” however much Blessed John Paul wanted it to be, but a practice. A teaching cannot be changed, anymore than the law of gravity can be changed. But a practice can be changed, just as a civil law can be changed (e.g., the intermarriage of “races” – as though there are multiple races in the human family, absurd idea) . And so discussion of the issue cannot be forbidden.

    Am I on the right track here?

    1. In November 2009, C of E Archbishop Rowan Williams, speaking at Gregorian University in Rome, made the discomforting suggestion that “The question is whether this unfinished business [of female priests and bishops] is quite as fundamental as our Roman Catholic friends believe.” He was speaking after the Vatican announced Anglicanorum Coetibus, the pathway into RC for Anglicans who oppose women in the episcopate. If the question is not going away (and it is obviously not going away), then attempts to censor Bishop Morris, Fr. Bourgeois, and others testify only to a desperation to close down discussion–in the interest, perhaps, of continuing to draw traditional Anglicans to the Ordinariate? Does someone think that the trickle of Anglican priests is a good trade-off for the loss of Fr. Bourgeois and Bishop Morris or that the resulting polarization will facilitate discussion?

      The firing of Bishop Morris looks to me like an attempted act of censorship, and therefore akin to some warnings about “heresy” that I’m reading on this blog. Why the rush to censor? Having read Bishop Morris’ 2006 letter and his letter of departure, I cannot find in either one any resistance even to customary practice, let alone a challenge to doctrine. He wrote in 2006, “We remain committed to actively promoting vocations to the current celibate male priesthood and open to inviting priests from overseas.” My impression is that the bishop considers women’s and non-celibate men’s ordinations open questions that should remain under discussion at least as long as vocations are dwindling and churches lack priests and perhaps as long as advocates associate them with claims of justice.

  35. And now for more of the story from Bishop Morris:

    – Morris acknowledged that Rome decided on his departure last year
    – “He said yesterday that he had been in negotiations with Pope Benedict to stay longer in Toowoomba so he could continue working with victims of recent sexual abuse at a Catholic school.

    “I was hoping to negotiate an early retirement, say, when I was 70,” he said. “I am 67 years, so three more years.

    “But they didn’t want that. I would have liked to continue providing pastoral care to people in the community who have been damaged by sexual abuse.”

    – “Bishop Morris also revealed yesterday that complaints about school-based liturgies and his “pastoral style and leadership” were taken directly to the Vatican.

    “There were complaints in the liturgical area,” he said.

    “Some schools celebrate liturgies sometimes too progressively. But instead of coming to me, there were some who wrote to Rome. Most people don’t realise there is some latitude with liturgical law. You can leave some parts out and put some in, especially with children, to be more inclusive.”

    Bishop Morris said, however, once complaints were re-directed back to the diocese from Rome, he and his liturgical committee worked to rectify the wrongs.

    Reminds me more and more of the Hunthausen affair only that at least was handled in an alternative method and the bishop was later re-instated.

  36. For those who are truly interested about the tensions and questions that Fr. Ruff has posited in this post –

    here is a link to an excellent four part presentation by Anthony Padavano:

    Quote within this presentation from John O’Mally S.J. He gives us a litany about what Vatican II tried to do and what reform seeks to do. It resonates with
    young people as well as with their elders.

    It moves all of us from:
    monologue to dialogue
    command to invitation
    law to ideals
    coercion to conscience
    ruling to serving
    threats to persuasion
    behavior modification to inner conviction
    hostility to friendship
    the static to the ongoing
    rivalry to partnership

    Another quote – from J. Ratzinger in 1967:

    ““Over the pope…there stands…conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.”

    From Padavano:

    “Every key issue passed by Vatican II, all of them by lopsided majorities, would have been resoundingly defeated as late as 1962. A number of the final documents would have been condemned as schismatic
    or heretical. They are now official Church policy.
    At the end of Vatican II in 1965, the Catholic Church had been changed forever.”

    And finally: “Indeed, Catholics disregard Church officials when they no longer have common sense and when what they say violates the sacred core of a believer. The Spirit does not require official Church approval before it creates new life, a new Christianity, and a new world.”

    1. Thank you so much for your robust contributions to this debate and especially for this Padovano document.

  37. @Cody: “…it does seem as though the real pastoral exigencies faced in his diocese are not being taken seriously by the Holy See.”

    The Diocese of Toowoomba covers some 480,000 sq. kms (just slightly smaller than Spain). It has 37 parishes, many quite far-flung, and 18 active priests, nearly all over 60, and some considerably older. This desperate situation, in which provision of the sacraments to Catholic people is becoming seriously imperilled, is echoed around the world. Any discussion of the Morris affair must surely take this reality into account. In the very near future, bishop after bishop will be faced with a similar situation to his, facing the near extinction of eucharistic life for much of their dioceses. Abstract theologizing, ideological bickering, wishful thinking, and exceptions to the rule here and there do nothing to change a reality that is already upon us in very many parts of the Church.

    Perhaps there may be more to Bishop Morris’ dismissal than we know about, but he has dramatised a dire situation. Unfortunately, too many Church leaders are simply in denial about it. How a solution might be reached is not clear, but forbidding discussion of the question, and severely punishing those who dare raise it, surely cannot help. Morris’deposition only puts off the day of reckoning.

  38. Miss Coogan, the removal of Bishop Morris is not censorship. The bishop is supposed to uphold and teach the Catholic Faith handed down to us from the Apostles, not support his own dissenting ideas.

    The fact that not a few of you continue to play the “poor Bishop Morris card” and accuse Pope Benedict XVI of legitmately using his authority makes me wonder if there is some hidden agenda here. Quoting the Archbishop of Cantebury is not necessarily helpful here since, first of all, he is neither Catholic, and second, part of the mass exodus of Anglicans lies in the fact that women are being ordained in that ecclesial community.

    1. “Michelle Marie Romani” again, I ask you:

      What, according to you, were the “positions” you claim Bishop Morris “openly took” that “distanced himself from the Church?”

      Do you really know? Because everything you write makes it looks like you’re coming at this from an ideological standpoint and not reflecting what actually happened.

    2. Michelle, The Bishop’s letters and reputation indicate that he has consistently taught the Catholic Faith. Even if the celibate-male-only restriction on ordination were a “matter of Faith,” he has taught nothing inconsistent with this. As I read his letters, I find no “dissent” in them. He did, however, treat as an open question the possibility of welcoming non-traditional priests into his diocese. To be sacked for his openness to such discussion is to be a victim of censorship indeed.

      I quoted the Anglican primate in order to underscore the point that the question is not at all a closed one even after Pope Benedict’s saying that the Church lacks “authority” to ordain women. A just assertion of authority is exactly what is at issue here, I believe. As the philosophers say, “Ought entails can,” and it seems unlikely that anyone can shut down discussion of the non-traditional ordination possibility, so the question whether anyone “ought” to attempt to enforce silence on the issue does not arise.

      My impression of councils that decide questions of “heresy” and “doctrine” is that their members engage in much talking, debate, and dialogue as they try to reach agreement on what constitutes either heresy or doctrine. Does anyone think that bishops or the pope has instant access to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit? That ability to sort out the truth, it seems to me, arises from attentive dialogue. “[Q]ui locutus est per prophetas”: the Spirit speaks through prophets, not through decrees or management theory; dialogue is the opposite of enforced silence. Who are the prophets? All the faithful! “The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity. . . . The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief” (Lumen Gentium). The “mass exodus,” BTW, is Roman Catholic, not Anglican.

      1. Mary – you asked for canon law documentation. I am no canon lawyer (and hated my classes in canon law). But here is an article by Peters, an orthodox canon lawyer on some distinction and clarifications that you were asking about:

        (Note – his comments are about another situation but relate to the dismissal of Bishop Morris)

        – Third, and, I think, most conclusively, if also most subtly, Ordinatio asserts only the obligation to hold (tenendam) that the Church has no power to confer presbyteral orders on women; it does not require one to believe (credendae, let alone to believe “with divine and Catholic faith”) that the Church has no power to confer sacerdotal orders on women. But for heresy, recall, one must obstinately doubt or deny an assertion that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith. In other words, Coon can’t have committed heresy by “denying” Ordinatio.

        This is no mere canonist’s quibble.

        The difference between believing something (with divine and Catholic faith, no less) and holding something (even if “definitively”) is quite significant — so significant, in fact, that the failure of the 1983 Code to sanction those who rejected Church teachings which required mere (if I may put it that way) definitive acceptance (as opposed to requiring belief) was corrected in 1998 by John Paul II when he added a second paragraph to Canon 750 and additional text to Canon 1371. See JP2, m.p. Ad tuendam fidem (1998).

        – In everyday conversation, of course, the terms “believe” XYZ and “hold” XYZ are used interchangeably. Those not trained in canon law could easily overlook the difference between the two expressions. But, to borrow a famous phrase, while the world must construe according to its wits, a tribunal must construe according to the law, and in canon law and theology, the obligation of believing something and, the obligation of holding something, are not the same things.

  39. Ms. Romani – you are repeating yourself without understanding or replying to other, clarifying posts. Your meme on apostolic succession indicates no nuance; your use of “dissent” shows a diminished understanding of how the church uses that term; your regurgitating the same old, same old unfortunately only underlies a simplistic approach to this event.

    From the Jesuit weekly in Australia:

    Key parts:

    – “The analogy between the Pope and Peter suggests that the powers of the Pope are personal to him, and do not depend on the consent of the other bishops.”

    – “Pope Benedict’s statement that he may name and remove bishops without judicial process reflects this long defence of papal primacy in the Western Church. The personal character of Peter’s powers means the Pope is not subject to church law when exercising them. This view is adamantine. Such is the volume of water that has gone under this bridge that we are unlikely to see it flowing back again.

    But even if the right of the Pope to remove bishops in extraordinary circumstances is conceded, it remains in both his interests and those of the Church he serves that this be done in ways which encourage unity in faith. Such encouragement will increase or diminish according to the extent to which Catholics are confident that the Pope exercises his powers wisely and responsibly.”

    – “Modern societies rightly put much weight on transparency. Its absence is taken to discredit the institutions in which it is lacking. After the forced resignation of Bishop Morris it will be even harder for Catholics to win a hearing on issues that affect the public order.”

  40. “They appeal to the Bishop of Rome “in his acknowledged role as first among equals..”

    I must have missed the news about the mass conversion of the National Council of Priests in Australia to Eastern Orthodoxy, LOL.

    1. But primus inter pares is a hallowed western Latin descriptor of the Pope. Not only Eastern Orthodox believe that.

    2. I know many of the members of the National Council of Priests of Australia, and I can assure you the Pope is not their equal.

  41. Another “ideological” NCR article:

    Key points:
    – “The U.S. bishops have set the tone with their continued denial of the wholesale rejection of church teaching on contraception; their clumsy, heavy-handed, ineffective attempt to influence national health care legislation; their opposition to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians; and their condemnation of the work of theologian St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson without even meeting with her.” (and yet, no US bishop was fired)

    – “Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia is the latest U.S. poster boy for our church’s continued failure to confront the molestation scandal.” (As Tom and others have commented, no bishops fired for sexual abuse or cover-ups; why Martin of Dublin wanted a number of bishops to leave office but Rome refused…guess criminal behavior is minor compared to an indirect reference to female ordination)

    – “Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington referred to a Vatican pronouncement that equated child molestation and women’s ordination as a “welcome statement.” (He of the Hunthausen infamous episode)

    – “Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix excommunicated a dedicated Mercy nun for making an impossible decision in a tragic, ambiguous medical crisis.” (even other US bishops questionned this but Rome thought it was wonderful)

    – “Bishop Robert Vasa, newly arrived in Santa Rosa, Calif., had forced a loyalty oath on all church employees in his former diocese.” (promoted even though he failed the last two Child Safety USCCB audits – again, guess this pales in the face of mentioning female ordination)

    What part of the Vatican II documents Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes, which placed the concerns of the church into the modern world, don’t they get? When did they decide that harsh political partisanship was part of their…

  42. Side note in reference to the ideological NCR which celebrates its first edition 48 years ago:

    Interesting history and comments:

    – Charles Helmsing, the Kansas City bishop who initially authorized NCR’s existence (in the days when such things were necessary), soon regretted his decision. Yup, Helmsing later lamented that was one he wished he could pull back. You see, our reporting on the pope’s birth control commission — we published the findings of the lay-led panel, which supported married couples’ right to use “artificial means” of birth control — did not, shall we say, please Helmsing. He played hardball.

    The bishop moved to have the word “Catholic” removed from our banner. He tried to shut us down. Emergency board meetings were held, compromises considered (I know because I’ve read the minutes). But it soon became clear that NCR had moved beyond the need for an episcopal imprimatur. We kept publishing, Catholics kept subscribing, and we’re still here.

    – So it came as little surprise when Jack Smith, editor of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan paper, The Catholic Key, and its often entertaining electronic offshoot, The Catholic Key Blog (couldn’t he have come up with a less pedestrian name for the electronic rag?), took some potshots at his Kansas City neighbors. Smith, you see, doesn’t like the idea that, for 12 years running, NCR has been the winner of the Catholic Press Association’s General Excellence Award for a national newspaper.

    – The KC bishop rag made this complaint: “In contrast, the citation accompanying National Catholic Register’s third-place finish in 2008 seems to indicate the publication was disfavored for its lack of dissent: ‘The Register is largely unquestioning in its loyalty to church teachings and policies, but it carries out its apparent mission of supporting the church in a big way…

  43. cont….

    – “Smith simply doesn’t get it. During the time he recalls, the The Register was owned by the Legionaries of Christ, the now-disgraced religious order founded by child rapist Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a favorite of Pope John Paul II. During this time, the ‘The Register spilled countless gallons of ink defending the indefensible Maciel. It was, objectively speaking, a genuinely shabby performance.

    Meanwhile, the National Catholic Reporter devoted resources, financial and otherwise, to uncovering Maciel’s many misdeeds. Through the work of award-winning journalist Jason Berry and our Kansas City-based editorial team, we ferreted out the facts, dug for the truth, reported the story.

    In other words, we practiced journalism, not triumphalistic Catholicism.

    Are those who objected to Maciel’s cult-like influence in the church “dissenters”? Hardly. Many of those folks remain as “conservative” or “orthodox” as they were prior to the reporting of the serial rapist’s felonious assaults. Their love for the church, their respect for the Holy Father, did not run so deep that their theology trumped their decency. They, like the judges at the Catholic Press Association, possess the integrity that leads to appreciation when the press does its job in revealing such a “scandal.”

    The CPA award (granted by a committee of “real” journalists) was, in other words, based on merit, not crony Catholicism.”

  44. The NCReporter, however, is stil the bastion of dissent, as is America. They seem to want to disparage Pope Benedict XVI and any solid decisions that he has made.

    They are not very credible nor are they faithful to the Church’s magisterium, only their own.

    1. I am taking it from a number of your posts that you define the teaching magisterium of the Church as the Pope and Bishops alone? Correct?

    2. M.M.R. a number of your posts have carped in a querulous and peevish manner about people who and institutions which make certain arguments.

      You would be better advised to critique the arguments that are being advanced, rather than to knock those people and institutions who make them.

      We might all benefit from your contributions then, instead of having to endure ad hominem invective.

  45. You obviously do not read either publication….a quick perusal of either shows repeatedly articles that praise JPII, B16, JXXIII when there is factual, gospel directed, and solid stories that build up the people of God.

    You are back to one of your memes (the dangerous and subversive America and NCR).

    Your statement at best is a gross exaggeration; at worst, an out and out lie, slander, etc. Didn’t Sister Third Grade teach from the catechism that rash judgment, giving false witness, and lying are sins against the Ten Commandments.

    Finally, faith is about integrity and gospel truths; not about loyalty to the magisterium (did you know that the church used “magisterium” in a very different way for hundreds of years – it did not solely refer to the curia/bishops)

  46. It is the worst kind of clericalism to allow a man who has taken very specific oaths to transmit a very specific set of ideas about faith and obey a very specific group of people to promote whatever ideas about faith he desires, even if contradictory to the ideas he took an oath to transmit, and to to disobey the the group of people that he took an oath to obey. To remove a bishop from these constraints is to create a God-like monster among men; to turn a shepherd bound by faith and obedience to God and the Catholic faith into a tyrant bound by nothing but his ability to persuade. Defending this bishop can lead only to pride, an inflated ego and unwarranted adulation. The comparison to Pfleger is spot on.

    1. Don Johnson, it would be helpful for you to distinguish between faith and belief. You claim that the ideas which you say Bishop Morris is transmitting, are about faith. In fact, they are not. They are about belief. Currently, the position of the church is that generally, though not absolutely, priesthood is reserved to celibate males, and absolutely, to males. This is an issue of belief. It is a contemporary articulation of what the church asks us to believe about these issues.

      Beliefs change, when a better articulation of any issue is produced with the passing of time. We may, indeed we are obliged, to use our God-given powers of reason to evaluate regularly the church’s position on any given topic. To do this is to perform a service to the People of God.

      In circumstances where an acute shortage of male, celibate priests means that an increasing number of the People of God in Toowoomba will be deprived of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the diocesan bishop, who, theologically, whatever about canonically in reference to the current CIC, is the principal teacher in his diocese and not a vicar of any other bishop, raised a number of issues, in a non-definitive manner.

      He would ordain married men, when Rome permitted it. He would ordain women, when Rome permitted it.

      At the time of that Advent pastoral letter, there was in operation a canonical route for married men to be ordained as priests in the RCC. Since that pastoral, this route has been reinforced by Anglicanorum coetibus.

      During the socialist era in Czechoslovakia, at least one woman was ordained to the priesthood, by a Roman Catholic Bishop, in order to guarantee the celebration of the sacraments in female prisons and in other milieux where single males could be suspected of being priests. Ecclesia supplet.

      In light of these developments, to echo the words of Jesus placed on his lips by the author of the Gospel according to John, if he has done something wrong, point it out. If not, why do you damn him, and in such damnable and despicable language?

    2. Don Johnson is concerned that Bishop Morris might have become “a tyrant bound by nothing but his ability to persuade”: a tyrant has no need of the ability to persuade. A tyrant acquires the power to command obedience, for example, by stifling questions, discussion, and disagreements.

  47. Last time I looked, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has a video interview posted on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan website. In that interview he says, ” If we are going to only ordain men, we must say why.”
    And goes on to say, that in his opinion, so far, the theological reasons for not ordaining women have been weak. He did not advocate going ahead and changing the practice, but he epxresses a theological view, and suggested that it requires carefull and deep theological reflection in the church to finally answer this quesitons. But the venerable Roman Church ( I say with sincere respect) is in danger of becoming a theological wasteland, because who needs careful and deep theological reflection? All you need then is an authority that tells you the right answer.
    I really don’t think this is the full understanding of the western Catholic tradition, let alone St Thomas (A).

    I react angrily when fellow Episcopalians refer to Catholics as people who just want to be told what to think.

    But sometimes here I read words that seem to applaud being told what to think.

    I surely hope not.

    Mark Miller

  48. How very clever. Your two answers to me involved nothing but semantic games about the meaning of words I used and words I didn’t use. If you’re not amenable to agreeing to what the Church teaches, whether you call it belief or faith, then we have absolutely no common ground and do not share the same faith. You want to create new beliefs for the Church and I want to hold fast to the beliefs handed on as St. Paul says. We are not two sides of the same coin. You are in someone else’s pocket. The arrogance of your modernism is the tyranny of the living over the Catholic faith of the apostles. Like many more before me, I’m done with this site and people who want to subvert the gospel. You can have this site and NCR. I will stand with Blessed John Paul II, the Prince of the Apostles.

    1. “Blessed John Paul II, the Prince of the Apostles

      Wow, what a rapid promotion! And I thought the beatification was hasty!!!

    2. Prince of the Apostles – well, no primary sources but plenty of secondary sources have recorded that this “man” signed an order that would have removed Bishop Oscar Romero from his diocesan post on the same day that Blessed Romero was assassinated while presiding at the eucharist.

      But, given that event, this procedure was secretly squashed. Thus, if events had not caught them up, Bishop Oscar Romero would have suffered the same removal as Bishop Morris.

      Embarrassing, at best.

  49. Since the Vatican has stated that bishops are NOT employees to avoid liability in abuse cases in US and elsewhere. How can Bishop Morris be fired? What happens if Bishop Morris refuses to leave his post?

  50. Bill, how you can compare Archbishop Romero to Bishop Miller is really beyond belief. Archbishop Romery was faithful to Rome; Bishop Miler is not.

    The problem is that there are not a few folks here who have freely drunk the NCR kool-aid instead of listening to the valid reasons that Rome has given for Bishop Miller’s dismissal.

    As far as the alleged “secondary” sources that Bill claims to have recorded the removal of Archbishop Romero, these are merely “secondary” and have no more validiy than the alleged “Xavier Reindflich” who is trying to derail the revised translations.

    1. Michelle, if you are going to interpret everything people say on this blog with a “hermeneutic of suspicion” (a term that, unlike the intellectually flabby “hermeneutic of continuity”, actually means something), then why stay here? There’s a big cheering squad, a true claque, over at Fr Zuhlsdorf’s site. The good folks at the New Liturgical Movement would welcome you.

      In truth I hope that you will stay, but if your only mode here is to oppose without understanding, you won’t convince anyone and you’ll just get frustrated.

  51. MMR states – “Archbishop Romero was faithful to Rome – obviously, you know little about his life.”

    Brief history:

    – read “Oscar Romero and the Communion of Saints” by Scott Wright
    – once made a bishop, strongly impacted by Grande, SJ who was martyred
    – quote: “Just recently, I learned from one of his biographies that Pope John Paul II had decided to remove Romero as Archbishop of San Salvador. In fact, he signed the removal order on the morning of March 24. In some ways, I’m grateful that Romero never lived to hear that dreadful news. His martyrdom became a spiritual explosion that continues to transform the church and the world.”

    Current Romero status:

    At this time, Archbishop Romero is a Servant of God with his Beatification and Canonization progress stalled in the water. Some say this is because there are questions about his connections with liberation theologians, others because of full investigation for Beatification would embarrass certain Salvadoran families and right wing politicians. And still others say his cause is too political and would be used by the wrong kind of Catholics to further their dissension with the “True Church”. In any event, the cause for Romero has come to a dead standstill under Pope Benedict.

    MMR – remind me again, what are the valid reasons that Rome has given for Morris’ dismissal? Others of your ilk in comments above stated that we did not know the Roman side; we have only heard from Bishop Morris? Which is it?

  52. Let me follow Bill’s lead in the last paragraph.

    I hadn’t thought that a “visitation” was a criminal proceeding. But see Samuel’s statement of May 4, 2011 – 9:38 am

    Though the analogy is somewhat misleading, since a visitation is not a penal process, the report of a visitation is like the verdict and sentence in a trial. It comes after the defense puts their case, not before.

    Or Wikipedia:

    …the act of an ecclesiastical superior who in the discharge of his office visits persons or places with a view of maintaining faith and discipline, and of correcting abuses by the application of proper remedies.

    [quoting Trent]

    … the principal object of all the visitations shall be to lead men to sound and orthodox doctrine by banishing heresies, to maintain good morals, and to correct such as are evil; by admonition and exhortation to animate the people to religion, peace, and innocence, and to put in vogue whatever else may be dictated by the prudence of the visitors for the benefit of the faithful …

    Given all this I think it is reasonable for anyone to ask:

    1) Was there any public statement of concerns or charges? Doesn’t common-sense justice indicate that an accused should know these things? Was Bp Morris accused of teaching heresy? Of failing to secure vocations? What?

    2) How were the facts discovered? And what facts were finally determined?

    3) If the Bishop was ‘fired’, what was he found to have done wrong, or to have done so badly that he had to be removed?

    Have any answers – other than guesses – turned up? I haven’t seen them.

    There is some idiotic speculation and posturing in the blogs: the Pope should fire a bishop every now and then pour encourager les autres … Bp Morris’s sacking is proof that he was guilty … he is a heretic because NCR criticises the way his case was handled.

    Like the goofy process that brought us the 2010 translation, this doesn’t show the Church at her best.

  53. I find it curious that there was no hue and cry (either here or at places like the NCR) about “due process” and “credibility” and the “sickening power” of the Vatican back in early March, when the Pope removed Bishop Scanavino from Orvieto-Todi (he officially “resigned”, but it is widely known that he was forced out), nor in late March, when the Holy Father removed Bishop Loemba from Pointe-Noire, Congo (he was “removed” removed).

    Those bishops were removed by an exercise of papal authority every bit as monarchical as that involving Bishop Morris. And from here, and the NCR, etc.? Not a peep, much less a protest. But then again, those bishops weren’t pushing agendas dear to the editors and readership of these publications.

    1. Rob, do you have any proof, on the available evidence, that Bill Morris was “pushing agendas?”

      Or are you the one “pushing agendas” here?

      1. He picked up this allegation from Marie Romani above. It is a rather pathetic talking-point.

    2. I did not even hear of them — perhaps they were not as good at making themselves known in the English speaking world.
      But if even those who know these bishops did not protest, there must not have been much to protest about.

  54. Mixing apples and oranges in these three cases:
    – NCR did post stories about the other two being removed
    – fact: NCR has consistently supported removal of bishops who are found to be incompetent or worse in terms of abuse, financial irregularities, political involvement, etc.
    – Morris’ removal cited “doctrinal” reasons unlike the other two; if for no other reason, this may be why NCR has done what it did (not your alleged agenda)
    – note that neither diocese has really opposed their removal beyond a few outspoken folks unlike Morris

    Here are two very important documents from the Board of Consultors of Toowomba Diocese; signed by all priests (except three), by various diocesan committees, and with the support of many Australian bishops:

    Excellent timeline of actual events and process between Morris and Rome:

    Two summary points:

    Firstly is who has published it. The majority of priests in a diocese have stood up in solidarity with their bishop and taken an almighty personal risk.

    Secondly is the transparency. The people can now see what has taken place and make judgments for themselves in ways they have never been able to before.

  55. I was surprised by the following from the “History” (Fr. Endean’s second link), and I’d like to know whether it is an accurate reading of the 1998 additions:

    “18 May 1998: Pope John Paul II makes additions to two canons of the Code of Canon Law in a motu proprio: Ad Tuendam Fidem. The additions to canons 750 & 1371 effectively make it an offence punishable in canon law for any of the faithful to discuss the possibility of the ordination of women. In the normal course of events the punishment would be decided by a Tribunal and depending on the severity of the case could range from a censure to removal from office to excommunication; in the case of a cleric other penalties might include suspension or removal from the clerical state.” —From Summary History prepared by Peter Schultz and Peter Dorfield: 29 April 2011.

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