THE Catholic Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, has been effectively sacked by Pope Benedict XVI over doctrinal disobedience for his support for ordaining women priests and other liberal reform.
In a highly unusual move, Bishop Morris complained in a letter to his followers that he was leaving unwillingly and claimed he had been denied natural justice.
The developments have led to an incipient revolt among at least some sections of the church.
In the letter read out to all congregations in the diocese at weekend masses, pre-empting a Vatican announcement tonight, Bishop Morris, 67, said he had taken early retirement because “it has been determined by Pope Benedict that the diocese would be better served by the leadership of a new bishop”.
It is understood that one of Brisbane’s auxiliary bishops will step into the diocese temporarily as administrator until a new bishop is appointed. Bishops normally do not retire until at least 75.
The usual suspects including those in the diocese are shocked at this action, though they didn’t seem that way over the bishops previous letter.
The bishop’s letter shows things had reached a stalemate after he had been talking to the Vatican for five years.”
In his letter, Bishop Morris said the Vatican’s decision was sparked by complaints to Rome about an Advent letter he wrote in 2006. In that letter, he argued that with an ageing clergy the church should be open to all eventualities, including ordaining women, ordaining married men, welcoming back former priests and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church orders.
Yes another bishop with a vocation to the papacy.
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.
The dearth of vocations in a diocese is almost an infallible indicator of a bishop’s orthodoxy. In fact you could almost measure a bishops heterodoxy using a ratio of priests and pastoral associates. It did not take me long to verify that this was a diocese big on pastoral associates and an extreme lack of priests. Of course there are many factors for the priest shortage but it does seem that in heterodox diocese such as Bishop Morris and Bishop Clarke of Rochester that they seem to create a priest shortage to push reasons to use other than celibate men as priests.
Ironically a lay group might have been partly responsible concerning this forced retirement.
This is the third bishop that we know of who was dismissed this year by the Pope. This is a serious action that no doubt was made as a last straw because removing a bishop from a diocese is about as serious as you get. It’s not like replacing a CEO, it’s more like removing a father from a home. Unfortunately that indeed is required at times.