Shocked. Saddened. Angry and appalled at Bishop’s early retirement

Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris announced his early retirement over the weekend, citing pressure from a disaffected group and a decision by Pope Benedict that he should be replaced.

In making the announcement, Morris says he has been targeted over comments he made five years ago, comments that have been deliberately misrepresented.

In a 2006 letter to parishioners Bishop Morris raised the prospect of the Church considering the ordination of married men and women to help counter a looming shortfall in priests.

The letter has been “misread and I believe deliberately misinterpreted by a small group (which has) found my leadership and the direction of the diocese not to their liking”.

Following up the complaint, the Vatican began an investigation which included an apostolic visitation and ongoing discussions with the Vatican-based congregations for Bishops, Divine Worship and Doctrine of the Faith and even the Pope.

“Appalling” is how ousted priest, Fr Peter Kennedy described the situation.

“Bishop Morris is a man of an amazing amount of compassion … people generally in the diocese know the compassion of this man and the goodness of this man,” Fr Kennedy said.

However Kennedy is not surprised by the Vatican’s decision.

“It was John Paul II who said the actual ordination of women could never be discussed even and it was interesting to hear he was beatified yesterday,” he said.

“The absolute authority of the Vatican that is held over bishops – you’ve got to remember that bishops, when they become bishops, promise obedience of mind and will to the Holy Father.”

Catholics in the Toowoomba diocese say they are in shock after their bishop was forced to quit after the dispute with the Pope.

“There is a whole range of reactions – some people are just shocked and saddened, some people were in tears, some people were extremely angry,” Fr Dorfield said.

“Some people were just shaking their heads – just simply couldn’t comprehend how a man who was so well regarded in our diocese, prayerful and pastoral, could be considered as not suitable to be the Bishop.”

The chair of the diocese and pastoral council in Toowoomba, John Elich, says Bishop Morris has done an extraordinary job.

“Bishop Bill Morris has been poorly and unfairly treated and secondly, I guess disappointed on behalf of the church that a decision could be made with no forms of natural justice whatsoever – no access even to a report that was prepared,” Elich said.

Bishop Morris had been among a handful of Queensland bishops considered to contain the frontrunners for the role of archbishop of the Brisbane Archdiocese, to be vacated later this year by the retirement of Archbishop John Bathersby.

A vigil mass will be held outside the Bishop Morris’s house in Toowoomba tomorrow.





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