Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Bishop For All Seasons

Thomas Cromwell, the gentleman to the left of Thomas More,  looks sort of like Cardinal Pell.  Cromwell certainly knew how to climb over the bodies of his betters in order to achieve rank and privilege.

Printed in full is Bishop Morris's response to his fellow Australian Bishops whose official statement of 10/22/11 essentially threw him under a bus. Bishop Morris speaks truth to power and we all know that's a career mistake.  Just to jog your memory, here is the pertinent section of lies from the Australian Bishops Conference in their official statement on the Morris matter while in Rome for their Ad Limina visit:

"These meetings have given us a more adequate understanding of what was done by the Holy See in an attempt to resolve the difficulties with Bishop Morris, which concerned not only matters of Church discipline but also of Church doctrine definitively taught, such as on the ministerial priesthood. What the Holy See did was fraternal and pastoral rather than juridical in character. Although efforts continued over many years, a critical point came when Bishop Morris failed to clarify his position to the satisfaction of the Holy See and then found himself unable to resign as Bishop of the Diocese when the Holy Father made the request."

Response by Bishop William Morris to the Australian Catholic Bishops Statement of 22 October 2011

24 October 2011
The statement of the Australian Catholic Bishops contains inaccuracies and errors of fact evidenced by the documentation relating to the issues concerning myself and a number of Vatican Dicasteries.

The Statement made by the Australian Bishops invites me to tell my
story which I will publish in the foreseeable future. I stand by my original statement which I gave to the Australian Catholic Bishops dated 2 May 2011, which I restate below.

“I had been hoping that I would never have to write this letter to you as it had always
been my desire that the difficulties experienced between myself and the
Congregations for Bishops, Divine Worship and Doctrine of the Faith would be able
to be resolved. Unfortunately without due process it has been impossible to resolve
these matters, denying me natural justice without any possibility of appropriate
defence and advocacy on my behalf. This has been confirmed in a letter from Pope
Benedict stating ‘Canon Law does not make provision for a process regarding
bishops, whom the Successor of Peter nominates and may remove from office’.

(I sure hope certain attorneys pay attention to that statement which in effect states bishops are employees of the Pope.)
“It has been my experience and the experience of others that Rome controls bishops
by fear and if you ask questions or speak openly on subjects that Rome declares
closed or does not wish to be discussed, you are censored very quickly, told your
leadership is defective, that you are being unfaithful to the Magisterium, that you have
broken communio and you are threatened with dismissal.
(I think it's important to note that Bishop Morris is referencing 'Rome' and not the papacy. Makes one wonder who really runs 'Rome'.)

“I have never seen the Report prepared by the Apostolic Visitor, Archbishop Charles
Chaput; I have never been shown any of the “evidence” that was gathered except for
an unsigned memorandum handed to be by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop
Ambrose de Paoli, which was filled with errors. There has been no canonical process
to establish a “Grave Cause” for removal; the accusations that my doctrinal teaching
contains errors and that I have a flawed pastoral leadership has never been backed by
facts except by some broad statements based on my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006
which has been read inaccurately and interpreted incorrectly and used against me.

“In a letter of 12 November 2009, I pointed out to Pope Benedict that such evident
defects in the process, distortion of facts and a lack of care for the truth, which has
characterised this whole process, cannot be of ‘God’ when the truth is not respected
and exactness is not preserved.
Pope Benedict responded by focusing on the matters
raised in my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006 which addressed local pastoral questions
and matters which are in ferment generally across the Church. I quote from his letter;
‘In your Advent Pastoral Letter 2006 – besides containing some very questionable
pastoral choices – there are at least two options presented that are incompatible with
the Catholic faith:

a) Ordaining women in order to overcome the priest shortage. Yet, the late Pope
John Paul II has decided infallibly and irrevocably that the Church has not
the right to ordain women to the priesthood:’

b) “recognizing Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders”. But according
to the doctrine of the Catholic faith, ministers from these communities are not
validly ordained and therefore do not share in the Sacrament of Holy Orders;
and as such their actions are not joined to the ministerial priesthood.’

“How it can be said that my Pastoral Letter teaches these things is beyond me when it
purely refers to the fact that these are among many questions being discussed
internationally, nationally and locally.
To me this shows a total misreading and
misinterpretation of what my Pastoral Letter is saying. Pope Benedict further states
that my leadership of the priests and faithful of the diocese raises serious questions
and that the diocesan bishop must above all be an authentic teacher of the faith, which
is the foundation of all pastoral ministry. This is said without any foundation or

I have also been told that it is the bishops role to support the Pope in whatever
he says without question, to teach from the Catechism and the documents of the
Church and not to ask questions about topics that have been declared definitive or
closed. I ask you, where is the Spirit in this? I was also told by Pope Benedict that I
am too practical and it is the will of God that I resign.
(This is totally obscene unless Benedict is suffering from some grandiose delusion that he is God.)

“The whole process has relied on the presumption that I would be compliant and
resign. However, I cannot do so in conscience because my resignation would be
based on my acceptance of a lie.
My resignation would mean that I accept the
assessment of my being unfaithful to the Magisterium and breaking communio. I
absolutely refute and reject this assessment. I do not accept that there is any grave
reason for me to resign and the conditions of Canon 401 §§ 1,2 not being met, it
would be dishonest of me to suggest that they had.

“To negotiate a way through this stalemate I was offered an extra-diocesan position,
to be artificially created, in which I was told I could continue to serve the Church in
Australia in another ministry more in keeping with my gifts and talents. As I have
been denied natural justice and due process, in conscience I could not accept such an
artificially created position for in Australian culture it would be seen and ridiculed for
what it is – a sinecure.
(It's also standard corporate practice. Shock.)

“Given the circumstances that there is no canonical process regarding bishops, that
there is no separation of powers and the Successor of Peter nominates bishops and
may remove them from office, makes my position as Bishop of Toowoomba
I have never wavered in my conviction that for me to resign is a matter of
conscience and my resignation would mean that I accept the assessment of myself as
breaking communio which I absolutely refute and reject so it is out of my love for the
Church that I cannot do so. I have never written a letter of resignation.

“To find a way through this moral dilemma I asked Archbishop Philip Wilson, when
he met with the Holy Father in January 2010, to affirm my position that I would not
resign and put forward a proposal that I was prepared to negotiate an early retirement.
My proposal was that I would retire at seventy but this was found to be unacceptable.
The other possibility was to retire in eighteen months depending on whether or not the
sexual abuse cases I was dealing with here in the diocese were finalised. It became
evident that more time would be needed to finalise these cases and to pastorally care
for the victims and their families. Unfortunately this extension of time was denied,
the eighteen months was reduced to fifteenth by Pope Benedict and my retirement
would be announced on Monday 2 May 2011.

“I wish to thank you for your friendship and prayerful support over the eighteen years
I have been a member of the Australian Episcopal Conference. I have deeply
appreciated your prayers and support during that time and I will miss you. I am sure
our paths will cross sometime somewhere in the future and as the quote below says,
‘If we should bump into one another, recognize me’.

“A Quote from ‘A Man for All Seasons’ an alternative ending:
“In the London production of this play at the Globe Theatre the play ended as follows:

“Instead of the CROMWELL and CHAPUYS entrance after the HEADSMAN’S line
‘Behold – the head – of a traitor!, the COMMON MAN came to the centre stage,
having taken off his mask as the executioner, and said:
I’m breathing………Are you breathing too?.....It’s nice isn’t it? It isn’t difficult to
keep alive friends…………….just don’t make trouble – or if you must make trouble,
make the sort of trouble that’s expected. Well, I don’t need to tell you that. Good
night. If we should bump into one another, recognise me.’ ”
William M Morris, DD
Bishop Emeritus of Toowoomba


 Yes, I'm sure most of our Catholic bishops know it's not a good idea to make trouble with Rome, or if they have to, to only make the sort of trouble that's expected.  That's the kind of trouble that involves money and career climbing.  The kind of trouble that Cardinal Pell seems quite good at.  Poor Bishop Morris wasn't attempting to make any trouble at all.  It was made for him, and most likely by the kinds of trouble Rome expects and supports from the clerical likes of Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Chaput.  Which again makes me wonder who really runs Rome.

There was one statement in the above letter from Bishop Morris that really sent me into peals of laughter.  It's a quote from Benedict in which Morris is told he is 'too practical' and that it is the 'will of God' that Morris resign.  I don't remember any Gospel passage in which Jesus condemns leadership for being 'too practical' and therefor displeasing to God.  Is being too practical sort of like being too secular or something? Does it mean that if Morris had spent more of his dioceses' money on fiddle back chasubles and purple cassocks and that sort of thing that he might have gotten a fairer hearing from his like accoutered clerical peers?  Is it really the clothes that make the cleric?  I have no idea.  I just know this whole episode is a sad joke and that once again Rome has shown it is not worthy of any of us coming under it's roof.



  1. "Unfortunately without due process it has been impossible to resolve
    these matters, denying me natural justice without any possibility of appropriate defence and advocacy on my behalf." Bishop Morris

    A real shame that Pell, Chaput and Benedict would submit Bishop Morris to their "test" of Roman Catholic purity, while denying him justice of which God will not withhold from anyone.

    I'm glad that Bishop Morris is speaking truth to "power."

    What a rotten example of leadership from the Pope, Chaput and Pell. They are a disgrace. Bishop Morris was truly being pastoral in dealing with sexual abuse and caring for the victims and their families. To not give him the time he needed to do his work, the work that God had fashioned for him to do, truly just says how spiritually bankrupt the Pope, Chaput and Pell truly and disgustingly are.


  2. "If a superior give any order to one who is under him which is against that man's conscience, although he do not obey it yet he shall not be dismissed." - St. Francis of Assisi

    I have read Bishop Morris' statements from the original 'error' up to this and he appears to be operating solely from a position of conscience.

    That the Vatican would send a Capuchin Franciscan (Chaput) to be the hatchetman speaks volumes and adds an amount of irony which I find nearly surreal.

  3. Apparently there is no room for conscience or any scruples in the hierarchy. There is only room for careerism and trampling on anyone who doesn't agree or any lay people who fail to roll over and kiss hierarchical toes. The image of Thomas Cromwell is only too appropriate. Hilary Mantel gave Cromwell a whitewash job in her novel "Wolf Hall" but the truth was that Thomas Cromwell was the willing tool of Henry VIII until Henry tired of Cromwell and had Cromwell beheaded like John Fisher, Thomas More, and two of Henry's six wives.

  4. I really just do not get the whole juridical vs. pastoral vs. fraternal correction thing. It seems to me that here we have a pastoral approach taken by the pope because it is the shortcut to the desired end of ridding the hierarchy of one who it thinks would not toe the desired line.

    But if it is so simple for the pope to simply remove a bishop from his bishopric, then... Just to look even handed enough, the pope should also remove Finn. Per this:

    Not that I think Morris has done anything [or not done something] to merit this unceremonious removal from his post. But at least it would show that the Vatican is just as serious about preventing the actual sexual exploitation of children at the hands of clerics as it is about preventing people from discussing the relative merits of women on the altar. And you are right Colleen. I hope there are certain lawyers that take serious notice of this fact. And judges in the secular courts who do as well.

  5. Bishop Morris was addressing the shortage of priests. He was not advocating any of the options listed above.

    I think he commented on an extremely touchy subject. The church is in the final decades of an end game. From a business point of view the organization must renew itself, transform itself, or die. Clerical renewal is out. There are not enough vocations to replace the aging clerics. The pope seems to be ruling out transformation of the institution. I don't like the third option, but there you have it. The Vatican will never be stronger than it is now. Decay does not happen at a slow steady rate. At some point, probably when a significant number of parishes cannot be served, then the faithful will go somewhere else for their spiritual needs.

    I think the worst aspect of this case is the perception it creates. Make no mistake, perception is reality in our age. The Vatican seems unwilling to accept a bishop listing a discussion point. Contrast that with the rest of the failings of bishops. It makes the Vatican seem more concerned about shutting down an open discussion than some of its bad operators.

    I mentioned in another discussion that a man of Benedict's age cannot be expected to live much more than 5 years. The Vatican through the succession process have only one chance to change the disasterous course of this church. Perhaps a Vatican 3 is in order. I fear it may be too late.


  6. Bishop Morris quotes Pope Benedict as writing to him that "the late Pope John Paul II has decided infallibly and irrevocably that the Church has not the right to ordain women to the priesthood". We note the first of those two adverbs.

  7. @ Eric,

    Did you read the entire original pastoral letter written by Morris in 2006?

    "Given our deeply held belief in the primacy of Eucharist for the identity, continuity and life of each parish
    community, we may well need to be much more open towards other options for ensuring that Eucharist may
    be celebrated. As has been discussed internationally, nationally and locally the ideas of:
    • ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by their local parish
    • welcoming former priests, married or single, back to active ministry;
    • ordaining women, married or single;
    • recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders.
    We remain committed to actively promoting vocations to the current celibate male priesthood and open to
    inviting priests from overseas."

    Now about that "infallibly and irrevocably" declaration, was it really?


  8. I'm still trying to understand why the marital status or genitalia of a priest trumps providing the Eucharist for the laity. Why the opinion of one man, Pope or not, should determine whether Catholics across the globe shall have access to the Sacraments is mind boggling.

    Bishop Morris did not ordain a woman or a married man or turn a parish over to a Lutheran. He said what a lot of us are thinking: "We may well need to be much more open towards other options for ensuring the Eucharist may be celebrated." Of course this is only true if the major spiritual point of Catholicism is providing the Eucharist for the laity. I personally am beginning to think that as far as the Vatican is concerned the major spiritual point of Catholicism is providing the priesthood for single men.

  9. p2p,

    The implosion from inside the leadership continues and the end game will be to see how the pieces are reformatted. We are in a time of change even greater than the first reformation and it will be and already is very different. Many people are just giving up on "old religions." This is as true in Protestantism as it is in Catholicism. I recently heard a Lutheran pastor lament that it could be the end of the age of Christianity as we know it. He is right something else always emerges from authoritarianism. What will that be? Initially it could even be worse than we now have. I am however an optimist and believe that once we rid ourselves of the dark side of authoritarian dictate, things will eventually improve, but that will take some time and some suffering to accomplish. dennis

  10. Colleen, thank you for providing this. I haven't yet read Bishop Morris's response, but am looking forward to doing so very soon, and I appreciate your making it available.

    It strikes me that now is a time when we need these discussions of where the boundaries of papal and curial power begin and end in the church, as we grapple with the new statement on economic justice. That statement raises unresolved questions with which many Catholics continue to struggle--about how church authority is exercised and how to receive its teaching, when the practice of church leaders sometimes belies what's taught.

    And all of this is central to the new study of American Catholics, which shows almost 90% of U.S. Catholics maintaining that one can be a faithful Catholic and disagree with some church teachings.

  11. A clarifying PS to the response of Anonymous above : I certainly wasn't criticising Bishop Morris, and I wasn't, either, cheering on Pope JP2 for his judgment on the ordination of women. What drew my attention was the (shall we call it?) remarkable claim that that ruling had been infallible.

  12. There has been much written about JP2's statement being infallible. Can anyone clarify for me, if, in fact, it is?

    Am I imagining things, but didn't I read a quote from Benedict somewhere that we have the duty to obey our conscience over any church teaching? As I shared on another blog, I am so disillusioned with Rome that I avoid reading anything that comes from it.

  13. @rdp42

    We are in a time of change greater than the first reformation.

    Sixty years ago Marshall McLuhan started publishing his observations on how technology and media profoundly changed human existence. He anticipated the "Global Village" and observed "the medium is the message". The manner in which one communicates is more important than the content of the communication. (Douglas Coupland has a new book on McLuhan:)

    If you visit the above link you will see the reviewer concludes that " our electronic age books cannot continue to be written in the same way they’ve always been written and hope to find a measurable audience."

    McLuhan was a profoundly religious convert to Catholicism. After his death his son Eric and Jacek Szklarek published a collection of his religious writings in their 1999 book "The Medium and the Light". (Let's see if I can provide a link without getting caught in Colleen's little trap. I am omitting the http.)

    John Fraim's review concludes "In this sense, these speculations serve more as a testament to the potential in each one of us rather than as a road map to a particular destination. Will we ever realize the possibility that "truth" has already arrived on earth and that we don't know this because we keep looking for it with our eyes rather than feeling for it with our hearts?"

    That is entirely appropriate because in his final years McLuhan had become fascinated by the different functions of the brain's hemispheres. Perhaps this is a time when the heart will ascend over the mind.

    (The left brain is associated with logic, language and sequential problem solving. Right brain function is associated with relationships, insight or simultaneous problem solving, music, intuition and feelings.)

    McLuhan predicted this would be a time of great danger for religion.

    Hope the Vatican picks up on the vibe.


  14. @ Eric & Jo Lauer

    Who knows? Benedict said in 2005 he was fallible and would not make any infallible statements.

    Here's the text of the declaration in 1995:

    "Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith."

    Canon Lawyers what say ye?


  15. Yes, what is the fixation on genitalia and marital status that Rome clings to in its decisions on providing the Eucharist for the laity?

    Their fixation on the flesh and not in the Spirit of Christ seems the only reason I can think of for their behavior and rotten to the core style of pastoring the faithful into herds of silent sheeple to maintain the Vatican's lifestyle of the rich and famous.


  16. @Jo: the quote you are looking for is not from His Holiness, but from a humble priest and theologian named Joseph Ratzinger.

    "Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism."

    Put more succinctly by a Nazarene who never went to seminary "Why don't you decide for yourselves what is right?!" (Luke 12:57)

  17. Thanks for the quote Tim. Bishop Morris acted to decide for himself what was right, and Papa Ratzinger retired him for it. Joseph Ratzinger's quote is true as far as it goes, but it mentions nothing about the response of authority to a stance of conscience. No question Morris is establishing a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism. Too bed his fellow Ausie bishops are uniformly gutless.

  18. p2p You didn't beat the trap. Left hemispheric logic failed the test. McCluhan was prescient with his observation that this is a dangerous time for religions. The messengers have become the message and they are killing the Good News.

    The one state from NCR's opus on American Catholicism is the one which shows less than 25% of American Catholics, including the same ratio for Hispanics, think the celibate priesthood is important. That's pretty mind boggling since the Church is set up in such a way that all access to the sacraments go through those messengers.

    I keep seeing two stats, priests not very important, sacraments very important. Something has got to give and it won't be all the Sacraments, just one Sacrament.

  19. The United Kingdom has reached an agreement with all 16 British Commonwealth nations regarding succession to the throne. Female members of the Royal Family may inherit the crown, gaining equality with their brothers. The new laws will also eliminate discrimination against Catholics.

    If one of the few remaining monarchies in the world can change, then why not the RC Church?

    It is indisputable that Mary Magdelene was an early church leader. She was one of several women who remained with Jesus at the time of his passion. It was Mary who was honored and entrusted to be the first witness of the resurrection. She probably had a better understanding of the good news message than the rest of the boys too.


  20. p2p,

    Very interesting references, but about the right and left brain we might also keep in mind that there may be as much lack of creativity (or even down right evil) in the feeling parts of the brain as there is good just as occurs in the left brain.

    When I was an anesthesiologist, I ran a cancer pain clinic. There was a fellow with metastatic pancreatic cancer all over the inside of his abdomen. I first tried to help him by inserting a morphine epidural catheter which controlled his pain for a few months.

    I then gave him a lidocaine coeliac plexus block that blocked most of the pain fibers to the abdomen and since it stopped the pain, I proceeded to give him an alcohol coeliac plexus block that killed those pain fibers. When I saw this man in my clinic a few days latter, he told me that he should thank me for the loss of his physical pain but that he really could not because his emotional pain was far greater and he would have preferred to be sedated so that he did not have to think about things. I asked him why and he was reticent to discuss it, but did mention that he had been a member of a naval intelligence unit for over 30 years and did dreadful things. He said that for many years he actually felt good about what he did, as he felt revengeful toward others. But now that he had time to think about it, he wished he would have been able to leave the service and learn to deal with his feelings in an entirely different way. He mentioned how he used reason to plan his work out but that his feelings of superiority to others and just plain revenge is what kept him going.

    Out inability to control some of our feelings often causes as much trouble as our attempt as finite men and women to figure everything out. Perhaps if we were able to work on denial of our own frailty, and combine the use of feelings and intellect, we might do some better. I think after so many years of working in psychoanalysis with the child within that there certainly is difficulties as well as strengths in both sides of the brain. Remember that denial is one of the primary defense mechanisms. Intellectualism as important as it is in our defenses and repression of what we really feel and believe is more a part of an advance stage of development. Primitive mental feelings are some of the more serious personal saboteurs.

    As far as the media pushing things in uncontrollable ways, I very much agree. When young mother speaks to her infant, her tone of voice is so very important even though the baby does not understand language as we do. It is the harmony of her voice that the baby learns to read. He or she feels freight, indifference, love, fear etc just from the tone on mothers voice. dennis

  21. @Rdp
    The scary part of the implosion is that it leaves a right wing cabal in possession of a tremendously powerful religious apparatus. Allied with evangelical Protestants, this motivated 25-30% is quite capable of keeping long-term control of the majority.


  22. Really great post Dennis. "Primitive mental feelings are some of the more serious personal saboteurs." I see this all the time in working with Borderline Personality Disorder. In fact, if I listen very carefully to the tonality of their voices I can predict when the catastrophic events happened which fractured the integrity of their development--and very frequently what those events were.

    All of this is leading me to postulate a different understanding of what Jesus meant by conversion. We tend to view this phenomenon as 'religious' conversion, but I don't think that's what He was after. I think He was after exactly what your Navy Intel guy experienced: a breakthrough in understanding which forced him to reorganize his world view around a higher, more mature and compassionate, understanding of himself and his world. Or to put it differently, it's like finding out you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but you have to start with a different corner piece and you wind up with a very different Humpty Dumpty.

  23. Hi Dennis,

    That is a fascinating story, deep with meaning.

    "Primitive mental feelings are some of the more serious personal saboteurs." Organizations can adopt the mental set of their leaders. What are all Catholics to make of the tone of voice of the church? Bishop Morris makes some observations about the future of his diocese saying the church will not be able to serve all the parishioners in a decade's time. He is smacked down worse than other bishops who harbor pedophile priests. What's the message? Fright, indifference, love, fear etc.?

    I love to visit many varied parts of the internet because I have some eclectic interests and a fascination with the unusual. I read hundreds of comments on dozens of blogs each day. The "Catholic" blogs, with a few exceptions, are the least civil, the most judgmental, and contain the nastiest ad hominems. (A few political blogs come close.) The average nasty commenter seems seriously angry at the world, has a thin veneer covering a hateful heart, doesn't cope well with independent thought and is almost desperate to surrender to church authority. We are all imperfect human beings but it makes me wonder if some of that behavior is pathological?

    I mentioned McLuhan because he and Fr. Pierre Babin, French media scholar discussed the implications of religion in a new media age. They believed we were moving from a "left brain" oriented age to one that would be dominated by the "right brain" In other words "Passion over Reason" in our global village. McLuhan did not think that was a very good thing.

    You might be interested in "Inside McLuhan's head" which discusses his brain tumor, TIA's and strokes. How ironic a man of words lost the ability to speak at the end of his life.