Vatican wanted rid of Toowoomba bishop since 2006

A new internal report given to the Australian media discloses the Vatican tried to be rid of Toowoomba Bishop, William Morris, since 2006.

According to the Catholic News Agency, the document also confirms that the Vatican removed Morris for abuses in the celebration of the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and for advocating women’s ordination to the priesthood.

The document, “Summary History of Bishop Morris’ dispute with the Roman dicasteries” was prepared by two priests loyal to Bishop Morris, Peter Schultz, the diocese’s judicial vicar, and  Peter Dorfield, former vicar general of the diocese. The two are part of an eight-member body of priests who make up the bishop’s “college of consultors,” and who are protesting at Morris’ removal. The document also outlines the history of the case.

While friction between Morris and the Vatican became evident soon after he was installed in the Toowoomba diocese in 1993, Professor of Public Policy at ACU, Frank Brennan SJ, suggests the turning point in the Morris-Vatican relationship was a report of US bishop Charles Chaput who conducted a formal visitation of the diocese on behalf of the Vatican.

And while after Chaput’s visit, all but three priests of the diocese wrote to Rome in support of Morris’ pastoral leadership and so too did all the Pastoral Leaders and all members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Chaput’s report has never been released.

Brennan is of the view that because not even Morris has seen the report, he has been denied his right to natural justice.

Morris would like the report published. “Yes, I would like it published because I think my people deserve the right to – you know, if Archbishop Chaput, who wandered around the diocese for three-and-a-half days … and then made a judgment on the diocese, I think the people have a right to see what judgments he made in his report.”

Chaput told independent news source, National Catholic Reporter (NCR), that to protect all parties involved the report, like all apostolic visitation reports, would remain confidential.

Morris thinks his forced retirement is intended to “send a message to the bishops of the world: the fact that if you ask questions, if you’re in people’s faces long enough, if you’re kind of a nuisance around the place, well look what happened to Bill Morris.”

Catholic Church needs good leaders

Barney Zwartz, religion writer for The Age, says he has spent considerable energy over the years defending the Catholic Church from some of the extremes of vitriol it attracts, but believes the Church’s worst enemy is its own leadership.

“It wasn’t abuse that sparked the Vatican’s ire and (relatively) swift action against Bishop Morris”, he said. “There are predatory rapists in clerical collars in Australia who have not been forced to resign”.

Brennan says, “This is a tragedy for anyone committed to the Church except for those like the chap who wrote on my Facebook:  “The guy was a cowboy, not a shepherd”.  It’s that sort of chap who probably started it all with complaints to Rome, behind closed doors.  We need more shepherds in the light and fewer cowboys in the dark.  Morris was a good shepherd even to those who acted as cowboys”.

Meanwhile, the Australian Bishops’ Conference have come out in support of the Pope’s decision over Bishop Morris and affirmed the “unique role” of the Pope as head of the College of Bishops.


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News category: World.

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