Australian analysis of the Toowoomba Tumult. Fr. Z muses.

It seems that Australia is the ground zero right now for discussions about ecclesiology, that is, the make up of the Church, who the Church is, how the Church is governed, what the Church believes.

The removal of the Bishop of Toowoomba from governance of the diocese, because – it appears – of doctrinal heterodoxy inter alia, has become a point of battle between different sides which, roughly speaking, we can identity as those who are faithful to the Church’s teachings about matters such as the ordination of women, the meaning of Holy Orders, abortion, homosexual marriage, various disciplinary matters such as whether priests can marry, and those who are not committed to the Church’s teachings and who want them abandoned or changed.

Today in the The Australian, which as been a source for the tumult in Toowoomba and which, I am told, is perhaps one of the more Catholic friendly news sources down under, there is a story which I bring to your attention with my usual emphases and comments:

Catholics get tough on doctrinal dissent

Christopher Pearson
From: The Australian
May 07, 2011 12:00AM

LAST Monday the front page of The Australian featured a large photograph of an angry bishop. Some commentators in the blogosphere saw it as yet another media beat-up designed to depict the Catholic Church in an unflattering light.  [Because some people think that the role of bishop is always… always… to be “nice”?]

To my mind, it demonstrated a grasp of the battle lines in the culture wars that has eluded the rest of Australia’s broadsheets.

The bishop in question was the outgoing Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris. He is one of three men who have been relieved of their dioceses by the Vatican in the past few months.

The others were the bishops of Pointe-Noire in Congo-Brazzaville and Orvieto-Todi in Italy. But while they were removed for financial mismanagement in one case and misbehaviour in the other, Morris’s ouster was on doctrinal grounds. [At least.  We don’t know everything about the five year process.  But we know that the Cong. for Divine Worship was involved as well.  That suggests that there were important liturgical deviations which were not being addressed.  But, in the final analysis, liturgy is doctrine.]

Bishops are in some respects akin to sovereigns in their dioceses and, while it has the authority to remove them, the Holy See is usually very slow to do so, preferring discreet solutions such as early retirement.

The three forced departures in seven months have no precedent in recent years and suggest an increasing preparedness to intervene on the part of the Pope and his new prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. The previous prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, was an uber-liberal. [How refreshing to see this.]

The Catholic archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, who will be retiring in 11 weeks, professed himself at a loss to understand the decision. He told the ABC: ” I just wish it hadn’t happened and I don’t know why it happened and I would very much like to know.” [If I am not mistaken, Brisbane is where there were problems at one parish at least for years.  The priest(s) there were using an invalid form of Baptism.  The Bishop had to get involved and there was a nasty squabble.  But Archbp. Bathersby doesn’t understand?]

Perhaps I can enlighten him.

Morris issued an Advent pastoral letter in 2006 that canvassed various options to make up for the lack of priestly vocations in his diocese.

Some were uncontroversial. Others, including the ordination of married or single women and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church clergy, were heretical. [Thank you.  Yes.  They were heresy.]

He has since then maintained what he likes to call a dialogue on these non-options.

As anyone with the rudiments of a theological education would know, the Catholic Church resolved the question of women priests in 1994, with the Pope ruling that it had no power to ordain women in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. [The writer knows his stuff.  This is the right way to put it.  It is not that the Church won’t ordain women because of some policy.  The Church cannot ordain women because, want to or not, she just can’t.] The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1995 described that decision as unchangeably settled and “to be held definitively as belonging to the deposit of faith”.

On the issue of recognising the orders of Protestant clergy, Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican orders “absolutely null and utterly void” back in 1896 in Apostolicae Curae. That decision was reaffirmed by the CDF in 1998 as an infallible pronouncement to which Catholics must give “firm and definitive assent”. The Lutherans in Australia and the Uniting Church don’t have bishops or anything remotely like ordination in the Apostolic Succession, so recognising their orders is, theologically speaking, inconceivable.

As a bishop, Morris was obliged to teach what the church teaches, rather than using his position to sow error and confusion among his flock. His removal must have come as an almighty shock to him and his brother bishops in Queensland because they’ve been getting away with flouting some of Rome’s rulings with impunity since the 1970s.

Given that Morris has had five years of what he again likes to call dialogue with no less than three Vatican congregations and the Pope, with plenty of opportunities to change his tune, why has he persisted in error when he was so clearly in the wrong? There are several schools of thought.

[1] The first argues the bishop just isn’t very bright.

Its spokesman, Frank Brennan SJ, says: “Bill Morris never pretended to be an academic theologian. He was and is a sensible, considerate, pastoral priest and bishop of a country diocese.”  [Could this be the classic liberal dichotomy.  Pastoral v. intellectual?  That is nearly always trotted out when someone who isn’t very bright is being defended for his liberal values: “He’s pastoral, not intellectual.”  On the other hand, when they run down conservatives, conservatives can simultaneously be intellectual but really stupid, too thick to understand what liberals understand.  And – remember – in the liturgical translation debates, which side is always saying that the new translation is going to be toooo haaaard?  But I digress.]

The second, aired on high-profile sites such as Rorate Caeli and Father John Zuhlsdorf’s blog and local sites such as Vexilla Regis, is that Morris may have had health problems. The third view, which most agree is at least a significant element, is stubbornness. Morris is one of those liberal-authoritarians who like to assert that within their own jurisdiction they are as powerful as the Pope. [Does he?  I was unaware.]

The (ultra-liberal) National Council of Priests encouraged this delusion with a press release last week. “We are concerned about an element within the Church whose restorationist ideology [NB: your enemy always holds to an “ideology”.] wants to repress freedom of expression within the Roman Catholic Church [Does error have rights?] and who deny the legitimate magisterial authority of the local bishop within the Church.”  [Pitting the teaching office of a bishop in a local Church against that the Magisterium of the Church.]

However, the fact of the matter is that individual bishops have no authority to make independent decisions about questions of doctrine, but rather a collegial role with the other bishops under the leadership of the Pope.

And, again despite the NCP press release, the Pope is not merely the first among equals. According to Canon 331, “by virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power, which he is always able to exercise freely”.

Morris’s removal sends a clear message to bishops, in Australia and around the world. The Holy See’s patience is not, as it long seemed, limitless.

As with the Orvieto-Todi case, the fact that this intervention happened in a first-world country suggests [NOTA BENE] delinquents in the European and American hierarchies can take a lot less for granted than before. As well, requests from the Vatican for bishops’ resignations are more likely to succeed during the rest of Pope Benedict’s reign because he has just demonstrated that he’s prepared to use his powers.

Morris has become a cause celebre in the US thanks to an editorial in The National Catholic Recorder. [Ooops.  It’s really the National Catholic Distorter…. no… errrr… ummm…what is it again?] More of the same can be expected from The Tablet, the English Catholic journal and other liberal websites. No doubt some members of the Swiss and Dutch bishops’ conferences will be once again canvassing the option of schism, de facto or actual.

[QUAERITUR:] What are the likely repercussions for the Australian Catholic Church?

Morris’s departure will further fortify the position of Cardinal George Pell and the more traditionally minded bishops.

The more realistic, liberal bishops are going to have to kiss goodbye to any lingering fantasies they clung to in the 90s of ordaining nuns, or at least keep them to themselves. [There’s the rub.  You know the old phrase – sorry, but I have to be an intellectual for a mo (“mo”, was the pastoral touch): Si tacuisses, philosophus manisisses… If you had kept your mouth shut, you would have remained a philsopher.  That is, stay quiet and people will think you are smarter than you really are.  However, in this case and with a slightly different twist, keep your mouth shut about certain things and you just might keep your job.]

As well, the next two years will see an unusually high number of empty sees, as a cohort reaches the age of 75 and retirement. [What I have icily called “the biological solution”.]

Three of them are north of the Tweed and it looks increasingly likely that the Vatican will be choosing outsiders rather than locals to fill the vacancies. Mark Coleridge, now Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, will probably be translated to Brisbane.

For years I have defend Pope John Paul II against the accusations of some of the more traditional mindset who thought he was too soft, that he should have wielded the scythe more liberally, so to speak.  Why on earth did he appoint so many liberal bishops?  Tolerate their antics?

If ad extra the late Pope’s greatest accomplishments concerned his geopolitical effectiveness, ad intra I think he hauled the Church back from the brink of real schism.  He slowly shifted the episcopate back from its mostly liberal make up to a mostly conservative.  I am not suggesting that he personally chose the all the bishops for 27 years, but he surely described the broader vision.  Had he simply said only bishops who were traditional everywhere, I think there would have been a split in the Church, even a formal split.  He adopted a strategy to shift the balance over time.  Now it is possible for a Pope more easily to deal with bishops who are heterodox.

Another part of this puzzle involves what I suspect was a long-term strategic decision for the Church in the West: rebuild identity from the grassroots.  I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that at some point in the pontificate of John Paul II, and Card. Ratzinger would have been involved, it was decided to focus on working on the episcopate in the central, midwestern part of the United States and to decrease the number of men chosen who had been at the North American College in Rome.  They started going outside the box with the hope that a solid base in the core of the nation where traditional values were still comprehended, a seedbed for a new type of bishop could be fostered.  Once the numbers shifted enough, and under the effects of the “biological solution”, it would be possible to start a rebuilding in the English speaking Church.

When you think in terms of generations and not just years, you develop long-term strategies.

Perhaps it is now time for Australia?  It doesn’t seem to be England’s turn yet.  But when more the Anglophone Church shifts, the changes will start there as well, though that will be a much harder battle.

Some years ago, I heard the shift in liturgical sensibilities described in terms of weather patterns, climate change.

There are daily changes.  You know the phrase: If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes.  There are seasonal changes: summer isn’t winter.  But there are long-term climate changes which are discerned over long arcs of time.  This analogy can be used to understand how change takes place in the Church.

That’s one way of seeing what is going on.  There are other valid ways as well.

I remind you of our ongoing WDTPRS protest against the National Catholic Fishwrap.  They are raising money.  Protest their manifest and contumacious support of heresy by donating to WDTPRS.  I describe it here.  All readers of this blog could pitch in $5 and then pray for the conversion of the staff of the NCR or, alternatively, for the failure of their paper and site.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. anna 6 says:

    Well at least someone seems to have gotten the story right.
    Here is a quote I left on an earlier thread. It is what Bishop Morris said about Pope Benedict at the time of his election. I wonder if he now regrets his words:

    From the Toowoomba Chronicle in 2005:
    “Bishop Morris had met the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at various times before he became Pope. … “And in May I was in Rome just a couple of weeks after he became Pope and I had the opportunity to meet with him again.” BISHOP MORRIS SAID POPE BENEDICT IS A VERY GENTLE AND INTELLIGENT MAN. ‘I FIND HIM EASY TO CONVERSE WITH. “HE HAS A VERY KEEN MIND AND IS VERY GOOD AT DISCUSSING MATTERS. HE CAN TAKE THE HEART OUT OF A DISCUSSION AND BRING TOGETHER THE IMPORTANT ASPECTS. AND HE IS ALSO A VERY GOOD THEOLOGIAN. THE POPE IS NOT ONE TO BEAT AROUND THE BUSH.WHATEVER HE SAYS IS VERY FOCUSED AND MEANINGFUL AND TO THE POINT. Bishop Morris said he was eagerly awaiting Pope Benedict XVIs first Encyclical, a letter to all bishops of the Catholic Church, which traditionally sets the tone of a popes papacy.”

  2. John UK says:

    Joshua, of Psallite sapienter has an analysis here
    and points to a very thoughtful Australian analysis at

    Would that the BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) was as measured in its coverage of religious affairs as the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation)!

    Kind regards,
    John U.K.

  3. ecclesiae says:

    What happened in Orvieto-Todi?

  4. benedetta says:

    After so many years I do agree that “liturgy is doctrine”.

    How pastoral, how compassionate, how shepherd-like is it, to obfuscate, hide, and disfigure, the fullness of truth? To sow anger, confusion, bitterness, hatred towards the unity of the Church, from within, now, as stated correctly, generations? No matter one’s “ideology”. We’re talking Christianity.

    It isn’t all a bunch of empty legalisms, jargon, rules and political power grabs is it. If you believe this is what it is all about, then the liturgy and the doctrine reflect this, a sad and limited, disabled, view.

    If the sentiment among the ncr-enthusiasts is that we ought to have, no hierarchy, at all. Well. That’s not Vatican II. That’s not even Catholic. Nor is it especially “early Christian”. Nor is it pastoral or overflowing with compassion. Even the most triumphantly liberal parish has its hierarchy, am I right? And it is generally wielded, for decades, with the most arrogant sort of clericalism, the most condescending sort of officiousness. Is there no hierarchy at all in such places? The idea is laughable.

    And if in the “liberal” hotspots, there is genuine tolerance and open-mindedness, compassion and full “all are welcome” with an exclamation point, then, well, they would not be so frightened of a little Latin…the truth about even the basic points (not “the law” but the Law of Love) of the faith…reverence and prayer…one or other homeschooler…a different translation…the Legion of Mary…whatever it may be…

    But that is not how it is. Likely the ones they hate they do not even know personally nor would go out of their way for that sought after “dialogue”. Like I have said, if in these areas one cannot even glimpse a creative minority being permitted to, just live in peace…that is not because everyone is thrilled with the leadership. Or hasn’t tried it, for many many years (generations) and hoped to live it fully. It’s all happened and does happen. It’s not that “they don’t exist” as much as a xenophobia amongst the liberal elite which pretends that no other voice is legitimate and finally if ignored or marginalize will just cease to exist…People are just going about their business trying to live the universal call as best as they possibly can under the circumstances.

    I find it fascinating that in the dioceses and archdioceses where Bishops are demonized by the friends of the ncr, that while they howl and scream in a public and ranting condemnatory way the very moment one of these does, one bold thing (where as in the liberal diocese people quite obediently put up with it all for decades without complaint…like I said I could testify to this under oath if need be) that fact is that in these places the “liberals” are and even “dissenters” have been permitted to live. Live and let live. With generosity and largesse. No one has gone in and dismantled.

    Whereas in other places, it is active deconstruction, people’s lives, actively interfered with. When a few Wandering Wanderers ask, “Um, why?” they get immediately screamed at, in effect, that they wish to roll back Vatican II and are humiliated and condemned…if they hadn’t already been reading The Wanderer, well, they will be forced to wander now, whether they like it, have chosen it, or not. That’s viciousness and it is the opposite of tolerance, compassion and why the paranoia anyway, why the immediate name-calling in lieu of dialogue. It is not as if liberal Bishops do not exercise “authority” in heavy-handed ways. Is it.

    At least what the so-called “right wing” Bishops do when they exercise authority publicly may be verified against the deposit of the faith. Which is not some sort of statutory code and nothing else. Which of course includes the documents of Vatican II. The words of Our Lord are in effect, “codified” in Scripture. Is this, are the commandments, are the beatitudes, the Law of Love, just, silly rules we can disregard upon whim? And if so, whose whim? The pedophiles? Oh, you say, certainly not, but, really? Whose whim? Even though constantly a Church composed of sinful people I would still after all has been said and done and after I have completely considered for years, both sides and have given it a full appreciation, still I would go with a hierarchy and a Holy Father. See, Vatican II. It’s all still good.

    Of course I had the special privilege, gift, and, to some extent, cross, to discover, and realize, at different stages of my life that, the Church, she is bigger than the parish. The parish is important but she is bigger still. She is bigger than the diocese. It’s a fishbowl, sure. But she’s bigger than even that. Perhaps now, post-Vatican II, in the world such as it is, with so much movement across huge ranges, that it is now more essential than ever that the Mass as it is offered everywhere be a universal prayer that everyone can enter into, no matter if they are visiting, travelling through, migrating, temporarily on vacation, relocating. That the liturgy as doctrine be the same and immediately recognizable, apprehended easily by even the littlest, the most feeble, the disabled, the weak, the poorest, without especially needing an introduction or having to know who the important people in the room are. But I well know, this will not be given the slightest thought where I am because people are already so busy with many things that to stop and consider what one fool on a comment board has to say…even a fellow believer. Minds are made up, it seems. Closed.

    And though I certainly could never account for it, God is bigger than we often realize. I am sure God appreciates our prayer circles of love but then I can’t say that God rejects those who wish to pray all facing the direction of our unified hopes, together. I can’t say that. I’m just not prepared to say that these Christians have discovered the grail and that if these other Christians, forgive them, pray in Latin (or whatever language it may be) that they should be ostracized and not permitted to pray in the sanctuary. I’m not taking either side in the “ideologies”. But if a diocese or Bishop is truly tolerant, open-minded, generous, compassionate, pastoral, a true shepherd, then one would think that “all are welcomed”, truly. It should be obvious that they are. If it’s not obvious, then, maybe something is amiss with the ideology…not with the Church, the hierarchy, or especially the people of God. With the triumphant dictating of the ruling rules which may or may not be available to be verified or looked into in codified form but dictate that if you want, something else, or different, or more, or something that reminds of an earlier era (coincidentally) then you must be shoved out the door, angrily, or else and then so many things put into place so that one never dares attempt it again. I’d say that’s pretty rule-bound. Too bad those rules and slavish law dictators are also not transparent…I guess it is only for the elite and entitled.

  5. Thomas G. says:

    ” . . .or at least keep them to themselves. ” Not wishing to sound negative, however, this is what concerns me. Better that a heretical Bishop be open in his heresy than quietly undermine the faith of his flock silently.

    Also, Bishops (and priests) that are quietly heretical are notorious for NOT preaching and teaching the truths they dissent from. The silence from the ambo over the last few decades on such topics as contraception or homosexual behavior are cases in point. Silence becomes a form of dissent and allows error to thrive.

  6. benedetta says:

    You know it’s interesting too because since we jettisoned the “rules” over decades and are no longer hung up on all of that, you know, we don’t care about birth control and we don’t guilt people into going to confession and we celebrate concentrically in the round, that, the whole love, compassion, and tolerance thing would have long prevailed. That there would be an outpouring of acts of mercy and social justice. Schools, parishes, vocations, thriving, numbers, up, in the black everywhere. That there would be no, abortion, no, death penalty, no one would be poor. No one would be condemned as being ignorant or stupid. We are healthy and so we aren’t addicted to drugs or alcohol. All would be entirely and totally welcomed and if not that pains would be taken to go out of our way to welcome a stranger and show love and hospitality. We would be totally diverse, all walks of life equally present. That our schoolchildren would treat each other with the love of Jesus, constantly singing and giving praise to our God, with chaste hearts and lips, wanting only the light of goodness to shine forth on our paths. Because that is what we are all about. Not some rule-obsessed guilt trip that fixates on canon laws, rubrics, and examinations of conscience…

    Since the people who wanted to stay with the Latin are all chased away or successfully contained as internment. Because one can see one who is excessively caught up in the rules of the Law of Love from a mile away and we know how to show them the door, at the first whiff…before they know, why, how, or what hit them…because they are all alike and we know what they are about…

    Far be it from me to take one iota of the glory away from this shining beacon of a city on a hill…I am not holy enough to approach the encircled banquet…I just take my place from far away and hope that Jesus, the Son of the Living God, will have mercy upon me, a lowly sinner…

  7. Joseph says:

    Two things I think ought to be considered. Firstly, of all the possibilities why this bishop persisted in his way, the one wihch I have seen for myself several times in others, they simply have lost their faith, thus their guiding light. Why and how is surely not my place to speculate. But what I still like to know is, why the heck it took 20 years to remove this man? How many souls have been savaged and lost? And that brings me to my second point. Father, you mention JPII geopolitical effectiveness. I do not think that is included in the Holy Father’s job, description. He is foremost oblieged to shepherd his flock and His first charity is to discipline the sheep where needed and keep the wolves out. JPII hauled the church back from real schism? Well there is real schism out there. It may not follow a neat straight line and includes some parishes and or dioceses or not. Anyone who earnestly tries and tried to raise a family in one of those heterodox parishes or dioceses, can tell you heartrendering stories en masse. And unless those Augurian barns are cleaned out, all the nice words in the world by themselves will have little effect.

  8. amulack says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    I’m a daily reader of your blog and have a question. How is it a helpful to respond to those who lament the seemingly terrible administration of the Church under JPII by saying he was thinking “in terms of generations, not just in years” when he tolerated the liberal antics and permitted the assignments of unorthodox bishops? It goes without saying that the present flock is the one entrusted to the Pope to “feed”, guard, and shepherd, not some future flock generations later which may or may not be. See my point? Can you imagine any saint who thought in such terms? Imagine, “I will work for the salvation of souls to come some 5 generations later over and above those souls with whom I presently share my time here on earth.” Would certainly like to hear the point of such an argument.

    Thank you.

  9. benedetta says:

    Here is something which may be thought through and it does reflect to a great extent, what JPII was actually up against which was far greater than this or that Bishop…

    Where there is this “liberal” leadership — and, you know what, it isn’t liberal at all, gives liberalism a bad name…because as we know true liberalism is unafraid of open and vigorous debate in an atmosphere of mutual respect…”You have what we do not yet have a name for” (monty python).

    In places where the alternative universe reigns supreme…whatever can be pointed to, liturgy, catechesis, social justice programs whatever it is, inevitably what will be discovered is that it goes back to, and is entirely premised on, the one, fundamental, cardinal rubric, law and rule which can never be transgressed: the need to have sex (this would be for all generations apparently) without the burden of being with child.

    We pay homage to the excessively rule bound litigious law of the land enshrined in the emanations from the penumbras handed down and promulgated through Roe and its progeny. We do this every step of the way. Indeed one cannot choose something which does not afford due respect and affirmation of Roe, our nation’s guiding light and law. And it’s not just the spirit of Roe but it is a fanaticism, a fixation.

    If you encounter something vaguely prolife you will find that it must always be tempered by, at the service of, the first cardinal legalism for our litigious and excessively marketed to culture which is, to always, first and foremost, recognize ‘choice’, to include this ‘choice’ as something good conscience could envision. No matter what Vatican II says. No matter the civil disobedience of great Christians in history who defied unjust laws. No, the law of Caesar, the letter of the law, is what is totally paramount.

    Probably we can’t not dissent from, just about anything in the Church, because, towards God, we can’t be obedient about the creative life force God has entrusted us with, to begin with. We won’t and we can’t. Everything flows from that. I mean, everything.

    The empowered voices have been empowered, for decades. That now when some speak up to ask after what’s going on is only met with, not the dialogues, not the compassion, but, the instant, knee-jerk, reactionary, pavlovian dog-trained unChristian harshness, which is the longtime standard m.o., just confirms that the tactic has been, historically, successfully employed. It is so ingrained that it requires no foresight, no discernment, is thoughtless as to consequence or logic.

    Look at any case where the voices object most vociferously, are the most strident to what the “conservative” dread Bishops attempt to do, now, with the culture of death fully infiltrating our Church, as with hands tied behind their backs. You can easily locate Roe at work lurking but yet very present and active, in the shadows in every instance…

    Look for yourself. I urge you, do not take my word for it.

  10. yatzer says:

    What if one is a member of this present generation, wanting to do what is right, and not really understanding what that might be because of the conflicting things one hears from one priest of the diocese and then another?

  11. @Joseph: Well, historically the Pope has had a lot of political roles (in the Middle Ages especially), and I think the Pope does have a sort of pastor-to-the-world role too. It’s hard to draw historical parallels on the Pope’s role here, because the modern and postmodern West is a very different Church-world relationship than has existed before.

    For the first 280 years or so, the Roman attitude toward the Church ranged from grudging toleration and discrimination to bloody persecution; then it rather quickly became the religion of the Empire and thus of most of the ‘known world’. Even after Islam arose and ate up a good chunk of the formerly Christian world, there was still a Christian civilization transcending ‘nations’. Religious boundaries, in the world known to the West at that time, defined the cultural boundaries of civilization: you had Christendom, assailed by the hostile Islamic civilization to the south and east, and the pagan raiders (Vikings, etc.) from the north. In that period, the Pope was very important in holding civilization together.

    The Protestant Reformation brought in a series of very nasty religious wars, but when the dust settled the principle of ‘cuius regio eius religio was established, and now religious boundaries followed national boundaries.

    The secularization of the West, where Catholicism, other Christian groups, non-Christian religions, atheism, and fuzzy pseudoreligion coexist side-by-side in the same cultures and nations, is a very dramatic thing, and very new by the standards of the Church’s history.

    So I would argue that there really *is* no precedent on a Pope’s role vis-a-vis the world in the new set-up, and that JPII, by his actions, was essentially taking a stance on that question… and one that makes a lot of sense to me, steering a course between the one extreme of the medieval problems where temporal politics corrupted Church officials and basically turned bishops and Popes into secular nobles and kings, and the other extreme of the Church falling down on being a ‘light to the world’.

    The current situation may be bad … though I really don’t think what we see now is any worse than expected given the crisis in Western culture as a whole… but if we’d gotten the wrong Pope instead of JPII, it could be so much worse.

    Nor do I necessarily think JPII *could* have been all that effective through more ‘hardball’ tactics. One can’t really decree a culture, and most of the unique problems in the modern Western Church (as opposed to those problems common to all ages) are first and foremost cultural. If the Pope had used a heavier hand, he wouldn’t have been as effective in his teaching and preaching, the things he really had a gift for.

  12. benedetta says:

    I purchased a subscription to the Wanderer for the household. Just to say, down with mccarthyism. Down with caricaturing fellow Christians living in the unity of the faith that as the Temple Police.

    It really takes nothing to proclaim one’s anger, dissent status and incite the scold, and being proud of it…Quiet obedience, now, that takes guts.

    It is not uncharitable, or condemnatory, to say simply that a string of strange political ideas, though voiced loudly and by a somewhat coalesced group, is not Catholic. It is just stating objective fact, a fact about which they proudly desire, for some reason. Most would agree further that it is a necessary aspect of the teaching vocation of the Church to clearly delineate. No one gives up on the hope that they can make a change. It’s always a possibility. Why should they scream “never”. Stranger things have happened.

    In the tearing down of the Church, even reading and digesting what is promoted, it is far from clear, what would be put in the place of the Church should their intention be accomplished. Some kind of Episcopalian rendering? Unitarianism? Zen? One guess is as good as another.

    Being a truly Eucharistic people may at some point in America’s future entail a greater understanding of obedience. I am sure they will howl with laughter at this idea. But it’s curious isn’t it, how, a Bishop across the world gets early retirement, and no one knows the full facts, and yet the leading dissident publication for, the U.S., is indignant and is throwing the nuttiest of nutties, enraged. The history is to be the place for the dissent for many years now. But in the places where it has been fully implemented it’s not gone so well for the social justice. But being in lockstep isn’t ever healthy, and it’s always seriously dysfunctional. To define one’s identity as being thoroughly invested in undermining and dissent is just no way to go. I can say this because as I said, no one ever raged at, priests, Bishops, that I know of, and accepted all that was dictated, without question or complaint or joining the Temple Police. That’s how it was. I’m sorry if they want to paint it somehow as something different but that’s just not the true or actual story. And that’s why militant ideologies are not the Church and exploit real people and has no care for the people in its way, whether for or against, it just keeps on going, lockstep.

    So it’s a very big deal, to an American dissident publication, this matter of a single Bishop’s complicated history in another part of the world. This publication isn’t interested in the welfare of Australian Catholics. It is interested in what its lockstep agenda, in a totalitarian way, dictates.

    I’m open to the ncrist social justice agenda, as always have been. I’d even vote for the candidates of their choice if that is so essential. Whatever it might be. But I wonder, if ncr doesn’t owe many good people an apology. Perhaps as well, the Wanderer publication. And Pope Benedict. I’m still waiting for Americans to try out, listening, for a change, to the Holy Father, without screaming or interrupting, and then, reflecting on it, really try to see how America, with its vast freedoms, resources, finances, media, might, see, given the Holy Father’s responsibility towards Christians in so many trying circumstances throughout the entire world, how America can serve.

    Given that there are Christians being slaughtered in parts of the world just for saying publicly that they are Christian, and given that there are Christians who lack for the basic necessities of food and water in the world, maybe it’s not going to always be about everything we want and desire to create the perfect circumstances in which we would deign to pray and serve. Perhaps we will just have to serve with whatever humility we still might have anyway ,in the church, such as she is, flaws and all, Bride of Christ. Instead of leading with the dissent and the we won’t. And that somehow with the not doing and the constant bickering we still are entitled to all that is promised to the Bride nonetheless.

    Many good people have been loyal and obedient to Bishops who didn’t really see it their way. Perhaps now ncr-enthusiasts, likewise, could give it an honest try out as well towards the Bishop of Rome and see where that leads, the benefit of the doubt, as the same has been extended. For, the same, like forty or so years. And then check back in on the great adventure.

    And why not give prolife a clear and unambiguous, open and confident try out. Why not show confidence in what God creates and places in our very midst as good. Some people are fearless about it and are not embarrassed to say it firmly, clearly, and pray for a culture of life openly and honestly. We could too give that a good 40 to 50 year run and see where it leads.

  13. puma19 says:

    A couple of comments related to the above.
    The Australian would not be a great source of correct information on the Church there. It is in the Murdoch stable and he is not that pro-catholic of course. Cardinal Pell writes regularly for The Daily Telegraph and that paper would have better views of the Church.
    I have to say that most Australian media, especially the ABC (comparable to the BBC) is rather anti-religious and sensationalist when it comes to the Church. They reguarly have on their programs a former priest Paul Collins who is not exactly pro-pontifice. Indeed most commentators on the national broadcaster are anti-Catholic and biased in that direction. Much of the radio media is just plain sensationalist and indeed because Australia is 12000 miles from Europe there is a jaundiced and minimalist understanding of the vatica, the pope and anything else related to the Church. I doubt if anyone ever watches the Pope’s weekly audiences to know about his present catechesis. But come a papal death and ensuing conclave all the journos will rush to Rome and open up their book of favourite papabile – men they have never heard of, know nithing of and just appear to look good, liberal who may change the Church’s teaching on abortion, homosexulaity, divorce and any othe related topic that is always at the top of their liberal agenda. Are there any other issues ?
    Finally, re +Mark Coleridge. He will not be translated to Brisbane. That would be step down and besides highly unusual to move him from one archdiocese to another. Mar Benedict has a major see, the capital of Australia, from where the papal Nuncio operates. There are other major sees coming up soon, Perth, Hobart being two besides a gaggle of episcopal dioceses now vacant.
    No, should +Pell drop dead tomorrow, Mark C would be there. But I don’t anticipate Pell vanishing from Sydney until 2016. By the, Mark Benedict will have been called to Rome for a Congregation to lead. Watch this space.

  14. andreat says:

    While I would be very sorry to see Abp Colleridge go, He might just be the man for the job of sorting out Queensland. It will certainly take someone with a bit of gumption.

  15. Norah says:

    In this matter The Australian has provided the least biased reporting.

    “It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. ”
    Pope Benedict XVI

  16. benedetta says:

    Love note to ncr: more rome, less roe…

  17. David2 says:

    “Puma19”, whatever else might be said about The Australian, Christopher Pearson’s weekly Opinion piece is invariably sound, its author being (amongst other things) a knowledgable and practising convert to the faith and an enthusiast for the pre-concilliar liturgy.

  18. jflare says:

    “…it was decided to focus on working on the episcopate in the central, midwestern part of the United States and to decrease the number of men chosen who had been at the North American College in Rome. They started going outside the box with the hope that a solid base in the core of the nation where traditional values were still comprehended, a seedbed for a new type of bishop could be fostered.”

    Careful Father, you might give some of us Midwesterners some big heads.
    (Some of us don’t need much help; our Cornhuskers are starting to come back to life…..)

  19. Peter in Canberra says:

    Poll alert

    a little off topic but there is also a secular ideological war going on in Australia.
    Skipping the constitutional legal argument there is currently a poll at the National Capital’s newspaper ‘The Canberra Times’ about whether legislation for same sex marriage should be supported in the Australian Capital Territory (kind of analagous to the District of Columbia).

  20. Peter in Canberra says:

    @ puma19
    True the Murdoch press isn’t Catholic. However it is more likely to be conservative than the ultra-antichristian Fairfax papers – the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and Melbourne ‘Age’.

    However to their credit, both ‘stables’ do have journos who express a spectrum of opinion.

    Christopher Pearson can I think be relied upon to give an analysis that is very cognisant of the objective nature of Catholic issues and gives a very good hearing to a traditional understanding of the Church.

  21. RichardT says:

    My impression (from the other side of the world) of the Australian press is that it is much more willing and able to tackle technical subjects in a serious way than either the British or Yankee newspapers.

    The British press would have reduced this to a straight political fight between ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ over the token issue of ‘women priests’.

    I can’t imagine that any British newspaper would have printed a proper discussion of the theology such as this, even if it supported the Pope’s actions.

  22. RichardT says:

    Interesting – I was just looking things up, and the Vatican has been busy recently.

    In 2011 so far we have had:
    – Bishop of Toowoomba removed;
    – Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle in Australia resigned (sex abuse scandals in the diocese);
    – Bishop of Pointe-Noire, Congo removed (mismanagement);
    – Bishop of Culiacán, México resigned;
    – Bishop of Vigevano, Italy resigned;
    – Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida resigned;
    – Bishop of Orvieto-Todi, Italy resigned;
    – Bishop of Lodwar, Kenya resigned;
    – Bishop of Grand Falls, Newfoundland resigned;
    – Maronite Patriarch of Antioch resigned;
    – Bishop of Karaganda, Kazakhstan resigned;
    – Archbishop of Maribor, Slovenia resigned;
    – Bishop of Pécs, Hungary resigned;
    – Bishop of Aversa, Italy resigned.

    Of course they could be due to ill-health (or would that be early retirement?) or other entirely innocent reasons, and it might be that none of them have resigned over any improper conduct.

    But that seems like a lot in just over 4 months.

  23. I guess in this analysis we see Pope John Paul II as the starter who did a long and tedious job of setting it up for Pope Benedict, the closer. Or maybe one could say that JP II went in long relief as a mop-up man until the game was far enough along for the Manager to bring in Benedict.

    Seriously, Fr. Z’s analysis is right on target. The Church isn’t all about today or tonight; she moves in decades and centuries, not minutes. Every Pope has to consider what his actions will produce 20, 50, or even 100 years up the road. While sometimes swift, decisive action is the only option, persuasion is usually more effective, though it requires lots of patience. In the classic TV miniseries The Prisoner, the powers that be are not allowed to use the strongest measures against Number 6, because they are told that “he is very valuable,” and “we must win him over.” We need to think that way of every soul. The Pope who starts firing 75% of bishops and excommunicating people left and right will likely become a lonely, ignored, and ultimately ineffective Pope, even if he is right. The biggest act of humility is to recognize that a problem is larger than oneself and will actually take cooperation from one’s successors to solve in the long term. Even Moses did not get to enter the Promised Land; Joshua got the “save” on that one.

  24. Whenever I start to worry that California has begun falling into the ocean, I am calmed as well as disturbed when I remember that Australia is already there. I guess maybe some landbridges are on the process of surfacing over the last years. One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and all the teachings specified therein: if any forget (even a bishop), the reminder is always good enough to follow.

  25. Whenever I used to start worrying that California had begun falling into the ocean, I’ve been troubled further by the consideration that Australia is already there. I guess maybe some land-bridges have been in the process of surfacing over the last years. One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and all the teachings specified therein: if any forget, the reminder is always good enough to follow.

  26. Aussie Cath says:

    Fr Zuhlsdorf,

    Thank you for your lucid analysis of the situation and for drawing an unusually good mass media article to our attention.

    Thank you also for the discussion of JPII. It is a blessing that he didn’t have a myopic attitude and his extravagant gift of social skills also added to the essential mix needed to achieve the fruits we are now seeing. He astutely prioritized shepherding his flock and using an effectual approach to get the wolves out. This was based on his intelligent realization that an apparently hopeless situation could be addressed with a long term strategy. A less intellectually blessed Pope with poor social skills might have tried to take a Pius X approach at a time in history when it would have disemboweled the Church and sent countless souls to hell. It is inspiring that God works through the Church and Peter by blessing us with leadership like JPII who fed us with his warnings about the Culture of Death and guarded and shepherded us optimally with his long term pastoral plan. A generation that could have been totally lost is now being rewarded as Benedict XVI brings JPII’s plan to harvest. Being part of the generation most directly affected I am grateful to him.

    Unfortunately Cafeteria Catholics from both conservative and liberal camps who wanted to follow their ‘freedom of conscience’ and were unwilling to submit to communion with JPII unless it suited their taste will never appreciate what he did for the Church. People can rationalize anything. Otherwise the protestant sect called Sedevacantists wouldn’t believe that they are Catholic nor would CINOs who don’t even accept Jesus as God. Just like Jesus said that people who are unwilling to listen to Moses and the Prophets will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead Cafeteria Catholics will never accept JPII even after his beatification. This is ironic as it was exactly 40 years after the Second Vatican Council that Benedict XVI commenced his Papacy. In that time the Church was wandering in the wilderness unable to see where JPII was leading us. God has the power to design history to teach us. Perhaps the coincidence with Moses is no coincidence at all. JPII was leading us out of the wilderness even if many didn’t trust him as leader under divine guidance due to a personal lack of faith.

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