|This is not a group photo of the Australian bishops no matter how closely it resembles their attitude in Rome.|
Given all the news being generated in American Catholicism it's easy to overlook news from elsewhere. One story that I have followed on this blog is from Australia concerning the forced retirement of Toowoomba's Bishop William Morris. The Australian bishops are currently on their Ad Limina visit to Rome where one topic they promised their faithful they would bring up with Vatican officials was the Bishop Morris decision. Since they were pretty much sandbagged by this decision, it only made sense for them to ask for clarification. Read the following excerpt from Catholic News Service and weep. Talk about sycophantic behavior.
......Archbishop Wilson said the Australian bishops fully recognize and accept Pope Benedict's ministry of authority over the whole church and they are not second-guessing his action, but they have an obligation to help Toowoomba Catholics move forward and to demonstrate their care for Bishop Morris.
"What we have to do is look at what the consequences have been, what we need to do now to bring healing and guidance to the Catholic people of Australia, do all we can to maintain a proper collegial relationship with Bishop Morris and find ways in which he can continue his ministry as a bishop in our midst, although he's no longer bishop of Toowoomba," the archbishop said.
While no conclusions have been reached, he said Oct. 17, by continuing the discussions in Rome, a whole new dimension has been added.
"We're all here together, we're in a very spiritual situation, we're right at the center of the life of the church, gathered around the tombs of the Apostles," he said. (Excuse me while I sick up.)
Bishop Michael Putney of Townsville said Cardinals Ouellet and Levada "were very generous with their time," and the Australian bishops continue to discuss the matter among themselves, "gaining greater understanding of why it happened and ideas to ensure it never happens again." (Just how much legitimate understanding can you all gain when Bishop Morris is not part of the discussion?)
Bishop Putney said he personally believes "as bishops we need to have intermediate 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." (Except there is no such thing as collegiality. If there were, Archbishop Chaput wouldn't have been sent in secretly to hang Bishop Morris.)
Cardinal Pell must be real proud of his fellow Australian bishops. They all do seem to marching in lock step, right over the body of Bishop Morris. I love the last line from Bishop Putney about what to do when bishops see a fellow bishop acting in such a way that could lead to censure. Apparently down in the land of OZ, acting realistically to see to the needs of a flock spread out over territory bigger than the State of Montana, with a whopping 18 priests, is enough to get you censured. Bishop Putney oversees a similar size diocese with about the same number of priests if you include him. These poor priests have to be putting hundreds of miles of wear and tear on themselves and their vehicles every single weekend.
I seriously doubt the Vatican really understands these logistics, just as I seriously doubt Cardinals Levada or Oullete really understand these logistics having come from large Metropolitan Sees. It's no wonder that Bishop Morris allowed for liberal use of the third rite of penance because it saves time for priests who have miles to go and people to see before they sleep. It's no wonder Bishop Morris mused publicly about solutions to the priest shortage--if only Rome would consider them. How in conscience does a bishop keep asking his priests to spend this kind of time in travel every single week when he knows changing the rules for the priesthood would produce enough home grown celebrants to take care of his far flung parishes.
It seems to me that the Morris story illustrates how far out of touch Rome actually is with it's far flung global flock. Australia is not Rome. There are not thousands of priests in cassocks swishing around the Outback like there are gracing the streets of Rome. I am at a loss as to why Australian bishops are acting in Rome as if Rome knows anything about the reality on the ground in Australia. What Rome knows is nothing more than Australia's version of the Temple Police tell them. If that's the kind of intelligence gathering Rome chooses to use in it's management decisions, it's no wonder this Vatican is facing clerical and lay dissent in more and more countries. And all this dissent is not about dogma, it's about over worked priests and lack of access to the Sacramental treasure of Roman Catholicism. Putting a monstrance on an altar in an otherwise priestless church is not going to be sufficient. Something has got to give. In this case, once again, it's the Australian bishops and not Rome. Well, at least the bishops got to kowtow gathered around the tombs of the Apostles.