Australian hierarchy affirm Pope’s decision to remove bishop

The Australian Bishops at the end of their “ad limina” visit to the Vatican have stated their support for the Pope’s decision to remove the Bishop of Toowoomba from his position.

In interviews with Catholic News Service and in their statement, the bishops said they had a special meeting with Cardinals Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to discuss the pope’s decision to remove Bishop Morris from office in May. They also met both cardinals separately.

“Our discussions with them were substantial, serious and candid,” and gave the bishops “a more adequate understanding” of steps taken by the Vatican over a decade to resolve difficulties with the Toowoomba bishop, the statement said.

Bishop Morris was asked to resign six times by three different Vatican congregations, according to news reports. But matters became even more serious in 2006 when he said in a pastoral letter that he would be open to ordaining women and married men if church rules changed to allow such a possibility.

In 2007, the Vatican asked Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who was archbishop of Denver at the time, to conduct an apostolic visitation of Toowoomba.

The Australian bishops’ Oct. 21 statement said, “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 declined to resign when the pope asked him to do so.

The pope removed Bishop Morris as head of the Diocese of Toowoomba but imposed no other sanctions.

“What was at stake was the church’s unity in faith and the ecclesial communion between the pope and the other bishops in the College of Bishops,” the statement said. “Eventually Bishop Morris was unable to agree to what this communion requires and at that point the pope acted as the successor of Peter, who has the task of deciding what constitutes unity and communion in the church.”

The Australian bishops said they accept the pope’s exercise of his ministry and they reaffirm their communion with him.

Source: CNS

Image: Australia InCognito

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