Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Case of Toowoomba

Bishop in the red tie
I am intrigued by the case Bishop William M. Morris of Toowoomba (Australia), especially now Archbishop Bathersby has backed him. He is "open" to the ordination of women, wants the Church to recognise Protestant orders, and that seems to be it.

He is hardly an intellectual heavyweight, and although he is certainly unorthodox I am not sure his position is much different from some Austrian or German Bishops and perhaps even at least half the French bishops. I am sure few of our English bishops would have followed the same line except possibly as theological speculation, maybe a few diocesan employees in the past might have regarded themselves as "thinking Catholics" and bored everyone with this stuff.

People like Bishop Morris are, I hope, a phenomena of the past. In many countries it was only men like these who were put forward after the Council. Some people tend the blame the Blessed John Paul. I suspect it was more the policy of Secretariate of State under Cardinal Casaroli, of ostpolitik fame, never to appoint anyone who might think in terms of a hermeneutic of continuity and to promote those who might favour the propositions of the Bologna School, which has lingered.

It is interesting that there should be tolerance of theological ambiguity in Europe but not in Toowoomba, possibly someome in Australia might be able to explain. In Archbishop Bathersby's own dioces there was the curious case of Fr Peter Kennedy of the St Mary's Community who's parish drifted so far away from Catholic thought and practice that he was eventually excommunicated.

As someone who knows little about the Australian Church, it so often appears to be divided sharply between orthodox and heterodox parishes and diocese in a way that is absent in Europe.


Henri said...

Well, Father, I am sorry, but Bishops like Bp. Morris are not at all characters of the past, but more of the present. I hope not of the future!
Here in France, the new Bishop of Rodez was named last month, and he is totally like Bp. Morris: in tie, for the ordination of women, and he practised huge collective absolutions when he was parish priest...
But the change here is that the laities and the most conservative Bishops are infuriated by this nomination imposed to the nuncio by the "sovietic" leadership of the episcopal conference (the Archbishops of Paris & Clermont), and tons of letters of complaint arrived at the apostolic nunciature.
Maybe, with some chance and involvment of Benedict XVI, the next nominations in the fille ainée de l'Eglise will not be as catastrophic.
+ Pax et Bonum

Ches said...

With respect, Fr Ray, Bishop Morris was nominated as bishop of Toowoomba on 20 Nov 1992 and ordained for that see on 10 Feb 1993. This means his promotion came in the second year of Cardinal Sodano's tenure at the Secretariat of State.

Unknown said...

"Bathersby has backed him."

Actually, reading the link, the only part I see that backs him is, "Bishop Bill is a person I know very well - a person who has done an enormous amount of work in the church,"

And that's about it. Everything else seems in support of Rome or (correctly imho) pleading ignorance: "I feel sad about it all but I'm sure there must be a lot of reason in the decision the Pope has made."

"I don't know all the ins and outs of the situation of what a bishop may have done. I think that's something between the bishop and the Pope."

"The archbishop said he supported the actions Rome had taken."

On the whole, Bp. Barthersby seems a reaonably well-governing bishop. He did sack (after patiently warning) Fr. Kennedy, where his St. Mary's parish featured Buddhist statues, blessings of same-sex relationships, and using a bizarre and invalid form for baptism.

John F H H said...

I am intrigued by the case Bishop William M. Morris of Toowoomba (Australia), especially now Archbishop Bathersby has backed him

The news report seems to say that Archbishop Bathersby backs his sacking! - not quite the same thing :-)
There is obviously more to this than meets the eye.

. . .perhaps even at least half the French bishops.

Why does the name Thiberville instantly cross my mind? :-((

With thnaks for your refreshing blog
John U.K.

Theophilus said...

The present pope and the future ones should be more careful about whom they nominate as bishops.
I don't know exactly what is going on in Benedict's mind, but in spite of having already realised how deep the present crisis is, he keeps nominating progressive bishops around the world.
It is not that traditional priests are lacking. It might be a sort of sympathy for progressivism that is difficult to get rid of.

parepidemos said...

Father Blake, I believe that you have seriously misread the article you cite. No where does it say that the Archbishop of Brisbane backed Bishop Morris or the positions that the bishop advocated should be discussed.

Also, when Bishop Morris was appointed in the early 1990s, Cardinal Casaroli was no longer Secretary of State as he left that position in 1990.

Anagnostis said...


That's a hippopotamus breaking wind underwater, isn't it? Whose idea was that, then?

Fr Ray Blake said...

The Pope knows few priests personally.
Recruitment is by the Sec of State through the Nuncios. There still seems to be the Casaroli culture, I am told that Sodano modified it slightly, but ......

Trad Dad . said...

Go into the Cathedral in Brisbane & look around .The same in where ever the Bishop`s seat is .Then go & look around in the churches in his diocese . Should you see churches that are identifiable as Catholic it will be pretty uniform though there are exceptions. The opposite is also usually the case .
Various seers have said that when Our Lord returns one of the things He will eradicate is Heresy .Should we be more tolerant of It ??

Sharon said...

Well said Fr Denton.

Ex bishop William Morris claims he has been denied natural justice. Natural justice is a common law doctrine that ensures procedural fairness in a legal proceeding.

• Considering that ex bishop William Morris has been in dialogue with three Vatican congregations/cardinals for five years and had a meeting with the pope in 2009 it doesn’t appear to me that he has been denied procedural fairness. He says that he hasn’t seen the report which Abp Chaput wrote and this could be true but it beggars belief that in four years, dialoguing with cardinals from Congregation of Bishops, the Congregation for Worship and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he was left in any doubt as to the contents of Abp Chaput’s report. What would the dialogue have been about if not the contents of the report?


• 2006 Advent Pastoral Letter - now removed from the diocese's website. If it was so innocuous why wasn't it left for all to read and see how wrong Chaput/Rome was?

.• US bishop Charles Chaput visited the diocese and submitted a report to Vatican authorities [2007]

• Long before the pastoral letter, however, concerns had been raised about the material included in sex education programs in diocesan schools and the former practice of general absolution in the diocese despite direct instruction from the Holy See.

• In contrast to some other provincial dioceses, the priest shortage has been exacerbated by Toowoomba's appalling record over recent years in attracting virtually no new vocations.

• Morris has engaged in five years of dialogue with three Vatican cardinals and the Pope.

• “When I had a meeting with the Pope in 2009 he quoted back to me basically what cardinals had quoted back to me - and that was a misinterpretation of my pastoral letter”. It would appear that ex bishop Morris was unable to explain with sufficient clarification to at least three cardinals and Pope Benedict XVI their misinterpretation of his pastoral letter and other matters dealt with in Chaput’s report.

On the whole, Bp. Barthersby seems a reaonably well-governing bishop.

You aren't a Faithful Catholic from Queensland are you?

Bp Bathesby permitted Peter Kennedy to lead his parish astray for 20 years until Rome dragged him, kicking and screaming, to discipline Kennedy. Once again it was Faithful laity who informed Rome what was happening who brought about an excising of the cancer but alas not before metastasis had occurred and most of Kennedy's congreagation followed him out of the Church.

Catholic Voice said...

Thank you Father Denton.

As for Scott's comment that "on the whole, Bp.(sic Archbishop of Brisbane) Barthersby seems a reaonably well-governing bishop", nothing could be farther from the truth.

A long process was conducted which finally resulted in the removal of an inept, but recalcitrant bishop. Bishops throughout Australia may feel a sense of outrage, but I suspect may feel more a sense of insecurity that one of the liberal darlings could be removed.

Let them hate, so long as they fear...

Not that "Bishop Bill" is going quietly, mind you...

reddog said...

I think almost everybody but the locals misread the situation.

Bishop Bill is advocates a "relationist" clerical situation, rather than a "doctrinal" one. As such he would rather see Catholics be led in worship and receive the sacraments from local outback characters, even if they are women and/or married or even Anglican or Lutheran. The only option will soon be African or South Asian import priests, who Bill believes do not interface well with and will not be accepted by local Outback Catholics.

So, this situation should be described as a racist vs nativist struggle.

The Pope may be right in his actions but for completely different reasons than most believe.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Australia is arguably a divided nation anyway between Melbourne (Dame Edna) and Sydney (Sir Les Patterson). Traditionally the
Australian Catholic faith has been a Sir Les religion but has morphed into Dame Edna's. I suspect that this process has confused the generation of Bishop Bill and Bob Maguire who no longer know what's going on? How therefore the Vatican is meant to understand these pastoral subtleties is beyond me.

It proves (yet again) that Vatican II was a disaster and simply had nothing to offer this far flung corner of the Irish empire which is the Australian Catholic Church.

Jacobi said...


I posted a comment on + Morris and ++ Bathersbay on 4/5 which appeared on 5/5 but has disappeared today 6/5, without comment.
I thought it was fairly mainsteam Catholicism such as I was taught in my pre Vat 11 days and am somewhat surprised at this apparent censorship.

I think this is the second time something like this has happened . I assumed the first to be a mistake?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Jacobi, I can't remember why I removed your comment, I think it was because it was just over the top, a bit.

Fr Ray Blake said...

The author I ask me to remove his comment.

Sharon said...

Sadie, you're talking through your hat.

JARay said...

Well, having just had another post disappear into the ether because when I entered the letters and posted. I was informed that my request could not be completed. This time I'll make a copy of my post and if this nonsense continues then I will not have lost everything I wrote.
I observed that there are some fine bishops in Australia.
I call to mind Bishops Peter Ellott, Anthony Fisher O.P.Dennis Hart and Cardinal Pell.
Western Australia is centered around Perth and the Archbishop is due for retirement.
He re-opened St. Charles' Seminary and opened a second Seminary Redemptoris Mater for the Neo-Catechumenate.
Numbers in both Seminaries have shown steady growth and I think that Perth has outstripped the rest of Australia in this regard.
I do believe that I am not alone in hoping that one of the bishops from the surrounding dioceses is not chosen to fill the vacancy when Archbishop Hickey comes to retire.

Sadie Vacantist said...


If only I could learn to cut'n paste like you!

Richard said...

I did some counting on an online list of episcopal appointments, and just in 2011 I found 12 resignations as well as two 'removals'. And that's in just over 4 months.

Of course they could have been for entirely innocent reasons, but it does suggest that Rome's been busy.

Also I wonder how many of the 'retirements' are early ones that Rome has suggested might be a good idea?

Jacobi said...

Encourage by J A Ray, I will attempt to re-do my previous comment, which was withdrawn , without going “over the top”

- There have been clear rulings by the Church on the topics of ordaining women and the validity of Protestant orders. Orthodox Catholics are bound by these rulings.
- There are many honourable people who are close to, but do not accept the whole Truth of the Catholic Church. As such they stay separate. High Anglicans would be an example of this.
- Others have waited until they could resolve these reservations, accept the whole Truth and then have entered into The See of Peter. Our honourable and discerning colleagues of the Ordinariate would be an example of this.
- I have no objection to questioning and stretching our understanding of Catholic thinking which has not been firmly ruled on. We all do this,I hope.

The two main problems afflicting the Catholic Church as a result of the post- Vatican 11 debacle are the generations of confused and ignorant Catholic parents. The Second and much worse problem is Heterodoxy, the widespread seepage into the Church of the relativistic thinking, so strongly condemned recently by Benedict XV1, which denies absolute truth, and evil for that matter, and which I suspect is the driving force behind the thinking of + Morris and those who support him such as ++ Bathesby, as well as the Australian and Continental bishops mentioned by Fr Ray and if I may add,some English bishops,(shades of Dominic Scarborough's recent article on the "Magic Circle").

Personally, have little respect for such people

Gavin Dwight said...

The question of the ordination of women into the diaconate is not closed, indeed the Roman commission suggested further study some time ago on this issue - arguably a tactic to kick it indefinately into the long grass. I don't think the Australian bishop specifically mentioned the ordination of women to the priesthood therefore I can't see what the objection to his comments are. On the matter of the validity of some protestant orders, the catholic church tacitly acknowledges this as could be seen in the current pope sharig an eucumenical evensong service with various anglican senior clergy - both sides vested in priestly vestments.

Jacobi said...

Ordination of women
Ref., for example, Jean Paul 11, Mulieris Dignitatem, 1988


General Decree of 4th June 2008 by CDF

End of story!

Protestant Orders
We share services these days with all sorts of separated brethern.

fritz lieber said...

nice to hear a positive discussion
i live in Brisbane, just down the road from Toowoomba. we have lived for years in the shadows of these deluded men and their supporters. People wo have responded to the oportunity of "power", people who have sadly lost sightof thier faith. The effects of their demise in the community has only added weight to the general trend of the world to deny God. The crowded catholic schools disguise the empty pews. Time for people wiht faith to stand up I think.

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