Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More Thoughts About The Under Handed Dealings Down Under

Cardinal Pell is deemed to be the biggest supporter of Australia's Temple Police.  The author of this book is reputed to be a high standing member.

The story of Bishop Morris of Toowoomba AU is important for as much as what it doesn't say, as what it does say.  The Vatican has certainly not come out and said it, but since the time of JPII, bishops are subject to dismissal for making statements against doctrine, but they are not liable to dismissal for events associated with the abuse crisis. I suspect part of this is due to the fact that at least in the States the Vatican is attempting to use the legal defense that bishops are not employees of the Vatican.  I read that to mean when it comes to criminal behavior they are not Vatican employees, but when it comes to doctrinal issues, even just speculation, they are our employees and they will be removed.

I read the following excerpted NCR editorial with a lot of interest, but the bishop in my mind was not Morris.  The bishop in my mind was Oscar Romero who was assassinated on the same day JPII was signing the document mandating Romero's removal from his Archdiocese.  There is something all around twisted about what passes for governance in Rome.  It has very little to do with justice, especially for those who champion such 'heretical causes' as sacramental and Eucharistic access for laity.

......The pope’s priorities are clear.
The pervasive intellectual chill in the church reaches beyond the towers of academia (note the recent chastisement of theologian St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson) or to those who directly challenge the rules – Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois’ open support for women’s ordination a most recent case in point. (Bourgeois is facing excommunication for saying what he thinks on the subject.)  (Fr. Bourgeois said what he thought at an ordination ceremony for women priests. That would seem to take it one step further from mere speech.)

Now even those directly in the line of apostolic succession are forbidden to speak freely.
Note that Morris did not offer answers to the provocatively posed semi-questions on celibacy and ordination he raised that Advent. Instead, employing what one advocacy group terms the “progressive bishop’s style book,” he couched his concerns more obliquely. (No doubt to avoid Rome’s wrath. Lot of good that did him.) (Bishop Morris was quite a bit more circumspect. Saying he would have no issue with ordination of women and married priests IF it were Vatican policy)

Today, it seems, even such carefully couched queries are completely verboten; such so-called “open questions” (non-doctrinal in every sense of the word) such as the ordination of married men are grounds for dismissal. That the overwhelming majority of clergy (not to mention laypeople) think the failure to even consider options like married priests in the midst of a clergy shortage crisis goes beyond Dilbertesque mismanagement. It is, to employ the psychobabble of the era, completely dysfunctional. (Psychobabble aside, it is just plain dysfunctional.)

As we prepare to celebrate the feast of the first pope next month, are we still permitted to remind church fathers that Peter was a married man? That this Holy Father was likely a human father? Or should Mrs. Peter and her progeny, like so many nettlesome Stalin-era apparatchiks, be airbrushed from history?

Because of Morris, we know that the dysfunction flows right from the top. Canon law may be more flexible than previously promoted, but a bishop’s dismissal cannot be shuffled to an underling, buried, as in Bourgeois’ case, in a bureaucratic chain of command. No, the canning of a bishop is a task only a pope can command.
And he has made his priorities quite clear.

While the reasons for Morris’ dismissal are relatively clear, the process remains an unholy mess, shrouded in secrecy.

Soon after Morris’ 2006 Advent pastoral was released, Benedict sent Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput to “investigate” the incident, which is a little like sending the fox to investigate the hens. Given his well-known views on the concerns raised by Morris (Chaput is more Catholic than the pope on these issues), we are skeptical that Toowoomba’s bishop got a fair hearing. There’s a relatively small number of right wing Catholics in the diocese (Morris and others call them the “Temple Police”) who have long been after the bishop. That Chaput gave them undue weight and deference seems more than plausible. (Or it could have been that Chaput was sent to give them a veneer of credibility.)

You know the type. In the U.S., they are the crowd that takes marching orders from The Wanderer, their time at Mass searching for a violation of a rubric rather than receiving whatever wisdom or grace might come their way. Then, having detected an “Alleluia” where an “Amen” was called for, they write letters to Vatican congregations, hoping for a sympathetic ear to their pathetic pleas.

Their Australian equivalents were, it appears, successful in transforming Morris’ molehill into a mountain.
But, we acknowledge, our skepticism is partly emotional, or perhaps ideological. We’re inclined to give Morris a break because we’re inclined to agree with him that the issues he raises require airing.
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.”  (Apparently the confidentiality is so strict is also pertains to at least one of the 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?  (Yes indeed, it's pretty much an unbroken tradition.)

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. (Uhmmm,Cardinal Ratzinger wasn't called God's Rottweiler because he was some sort of nice little Chihuahua. Ask all the theologians who benefited from Cardinal Ratzinger's idea justice.)

This is no way, shall we say, to set a Christian example – or manage the church.
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.  (Or massive rejection from the bottom. See Middle East.)
No one in a position of authority paid any discernible attention to Gluck eight years ago. Sadly, we don’t expect that to change.


I have come to the conclusion that we can't even begin to dialogue on any of the issue separating the Catholic flock until we get rid of the current management paradigm.  This management paradigm is not scriptural and it's not Christian.  It's Imperial Roman.  In this day and age it's not just outdated, it's silly.  Whether any church authorities like it or not, democracy is the way most of us do business, and in countries where that has traditionally not been true, revolutions are in the air and change is happening.  I'm at a loss to see why religious bodies, in how they manage their affairs, should be any different.  There is strong scriptural tradition for democracy in how Christians initially did their business.  Appointing local bishops from the Vatican is neither scriptural nor historically traditional.  That's a very modern addition to papal authority, given most of it's momentum during the reign of Pius IX.  He of redefining papal authority and centralizing a lot of power in the Vatican.  This is a tradition of slightly less than 175 years.  Or for those who prefer percentages, less than 10% of the life of the Church.  Married clergy were around for about 50% of the life of the Church.

Australian Catholics are not happy. (See this article from Catholica.AU for some more background on the NCR editiorial.)  They have had a rocky road for the last twenty or so years and the numbers of  baptized Catholics left participating in the Church is now less than 13%.  Not that different from the rest of the West, and the US would be right around the same numbers except for immigration for Latin American countries---and those immigrants seek the exit doors just as readily as other American Catholics after the first generation.  Temple Police are not going to reverse these trends, and Temple Police don't have anywhere near the numbers to pay for the upkeep of the Church they treasure but are destroying.

Instead of offering disaffected conservative Anglicans their own church within the Church, Benedict should start giving serious consideration to allowing Vatican II Catholics their own church within the Church.  He has absolutely nothing to lose, and a great deal to gain.  This is a functional solution, but then again I have to remember his is a dysfunctional Vatican.  I will leave aside the psychobabble and put it in more spiritual terms:  this is a Vatican that is so dysfunctional and so corrupt, it's literally crucifying the Body of Christ all over again.  We can only hope this Body will also rise from the dead, and in a new but recognizable form.  And somehow it strikes me that women will once again be the first witnesses to it's Resurrection.


  1. Rome will NEVER, repeat NEVER, allow a Vatican II-style communion to exist in the larger community of the Church. Now, if a Morris could be prevailed upon to break with Rome, a la Lefebvre, NOW Rome would listen. A parallel Church would scare the you-know-what out of the boys in Rome.

  2. interview with Bishop Morris, truly a shepherd and servant to his community.

  3. Great ending to a great posting, Colleen, regarding women being the first witnesses to the new resurrection. I also like kevin57's suggestion that Morris create a parallel Church, although he probably won't.

  4. My disillusionment with the hierarchs grows almost hourly now. The scriptures the last few days should make the Vatican take a look at themselves...what a parallel between them and the Sanhedrin.

  5. Jo, Kevin57 is correct. Until there is a parallel Church ala the Lefebvre movement from the left, Rome will not take notice and nothing changes.

    I sometimes wonder if all these bizarre illogical steps being taken by the Vatican aren't the Holy Spirit's way of waking up the rest of us and motivating us to do exactly that.

  6. Australia isn't the first place I'd look to when it comes to progressive thought. But good on ya mate!

    The original comment by Bishop Morris is completely innocuous. What kind of organization would fire a man for this?

    Even in my own little parish the past 4 priests have complained privately, and from the pulpit, about those who seek to destroy them personally by undermining them in every way because they were not "orthodox" enough.

    Here's another small minded group, more loyal to the pope than to Jesus, who have brought down a bishop. There used to be commenter here who suspected Opus Dei was behind all of these things. I'm beginning to wonder.


  7. "Oscar Romero who was assassinated on the same day JPII was signing the document mandating Romero's removal from his Archdiocese."
    Wow! Can anyone corroborate this statement?

  8. Try this link: ----from whence comes this 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."