FLASH: Fr. Z agrees with Bp. Morris and NCR… yes and no.

Bp. MorrisI may be in close agreement with Bp. Morris and NCR on a matter of great importance.

From the National catholic Fishwrap comes another defense of lately-removed Australian Bishop William Morris, quondam of the Diocese of Toowoomba. His Excellency is the pleasant looking fellow in the tie (right).

My emphases and comments.

Forced retirement is message to all bishops, Morris says

If he can find a copy of the Vatican report, he will make it public, he said  

May. 10, 2011
By Tom Roberts

Australian Bishop William Morris, who was forced to retire in part because of a pastoral letter he issued mentioning the possibility of ordaining women as one of several solutions to the growing priest shortage, said he would like to make public a copy of a written report on his diocese.

Morris, in answer to questions from NCR, also said he 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.”  [I believe they may be right about this!  Bp. Morris was the third bishop removed by the Holy See this year.  Surely a message is being sent.  If you bishops bishop in this way, you will be removed from governance of the diocese hitherto entrusted to you.  The problem is, Bp. Morris and Fishwrap think that it is laudable to be a nuisance in the way he was a nuisance.  But wait.. there’s more!]

Morris made the comments on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation show “Sunday Nights with John Cleary” May 8. [Like Fr. Pfleger of Chicago, another Fishwrap Favorite, Bp. Morris took it to the mainstream media.] This writer was a participant in the discussion with Cleary, Morris and church historian Paul Collins, and asked Morris if he would make the report public if he had a copy of it and whether he thought he was meant to be an example to others.


Of the report, done by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, Morris said: “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.” [Think about this.  Chaput is a pretty smart guy.  Perhaps things were so bad in Toowoomba that he didn’t need more than three days.  After that… iam fetet quadriduanus enim est.]

Morris said he knows a written report exists because Chaput sent him an e-mail “telling me that he’d sent an electronic copy as well as a hard copy to the dicastery for bishops, and then he did what he was supposed to do. He destroyed both the electronic copy and the hard copy, so he didn’t have a copy any more.”  To date, Morris has not seen what was written about him or the diocese, and the Vatican apparently does not intend to reveal the contents of the report. [After a five year process, it is like that the bishop doesn’t know why he was removed from governance?  Do you think some of the issues might have come up during a, say, ad limina visit? Correspondence with dicasteries?]

Chaput, asked by NCR earlier about the report and whether it would be made public would only respond that “any apostolic visitation is governed by strict confidentiality. This is for the benefit of all parties involved.”

In answer to a question from Cleary, Morris read from the letter Pope Benedict sent to him. He said the pope appeared to be raising the stakes on discussion of ordaining women with the claim in the letter that Pope John Paul II “has decided, infallibly and irrevocably, that the church has not the right to ordain women to the priesthood.” [Raising the stakes now?  They were already raised at the time of Ordinatio sacerdotalis and then-Card. Ratzinger’s commentary as Prefect of CDF.]

“I’d say it’s part of what a lot of people are calling creeping infallibility. … Now in my knowledge, I had never seen that written before, using the word infallible concerning JPII’s statement, [?!?  He didn’t know of the CDF’s statement about Ordinatio sacerdotalis… ?!?  For that reason alone one could argue he should be removed.  A bishop doesn’t have to know the latest blurb from Cor Unum, but he really ought to know something about what the Holy See has issued about women’s ordination, so that he can teach correctly about the issue.  This is culpable ignorance, then?  That isn’t grounds for removal, of course. I was exaggerating.  But… for pity’s sake!] because he [JPII] never used the word infallible,” Morris said. “If my memory serves me, without looking at the document. I think he said the he didn’t see himself [?!?] having any power or the right to ordain women, something like that language. [What the heck is this?  Nonchalance?] But he [John Paul II] never used the word infallible.”  [Note how he recast the question.  He said that John Paul said that he himself, John Paul, didn’t think he had the authority to ordain women.  John Paul said that THE CHURCH doesn’t have authority to ordain women.  And he made that teaching definitively, at a level that all are bound to accept. The CDF said that the Church teaches this infallibly, not that John Paul in OS taught that infallibly, as if for the first time.  John Paul was definitively stating something that the Church holds infallibly.]
[Tom Roberts is NCR editor at large. His e-mail address is troberts@ncronline.org.]

John Paul II wrote:

4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

Really fuzzy… right?

The CDF put out a response to a dubium, in which we read:


Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

Responsum: Affirmative.

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly [infallibly] by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published.

Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995. [A nice birthday present that year.]

Joseph Card. Ratzinger

Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli

Anything about that hard to understand?

Let the protest continue.

And immediately after you send your DONATION OF PROTEST, visit the blog of the newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, The Catholic Key which drilled into Bp. Morris’s efforts to promote vocations in the Diocese of Toowoomba.


Where is your life going? Are you feeling unsettled, bored, disappointed with your life so far?

Maybe the Catholic Priesthood is for you!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mundabor says:

    It is already astonishing that this chap would need to read “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” in the first place, as if two thousand years of constant Christian tradition weren’t enough; but hat he should act as if OS didn’t exist at all is really beyond belief.

    I hope that the Holy Father will excommunicate and defrock him. If he continues to give scandal and is left both in good standing and with a comfortable pension, his example might well become contagious among the likes of him.


  2. David Homoney says:

    If you feel like making your blood boil a bit, just read the comments to the article.

  3. ncstevem says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf, sorry if this comes across as uncharitable but the phrase I think of when I hear bishops, priests and laymen speak like Bp. Morris is ‘girly men’. Girly men are the ones who approve of girl altar boys, holding hands at Mass, pine for female ‘priests’ and assist enthusiastically at puppet, folk, charismatic or other aberrant ‘Masses’.

    They’re driven by emotions. And no ladies, I’m not claiming that the fairer sex is solely motivated by their emotions.

  4. BaedaBenedictus says:

    What a tragedy that the harried and battered Australian faithful have to PAY to support the lifestyle of this disreputable and disloyal bishop. Why not let him get a job at the local supermarket? Perhaps that will instill in him some humility!

    CS Lewis’s advice to dissenting priests:

    “It is your duty to to fix the lines (of doctrine) clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of the other.”

    –from Christian Apologetics by CS Lewis, Easter 1945.

  5. HyacinthClare says:

    David Homoney, I did, and it most certainly did. Those people are not members of the same Church we are. Will they ever name themselves something else and go away??

  6. Art says:

    So the priesthood and religious life is now an asylum for the unsettled, bored, and disappointed with life? If that is what it really means, having no vocations in that diocese at all is actually a blessing in disguise!

  7. disco says:

    Why isn’t the bishop wearing his cassock? He was removed from his diocese not defrocked…

  8. gracie says:

    Father Z,

    Is there any way in which the pronouncements of a bishop can be considered infallible in matters of faith and morals? In other words, can a bishop (not the bishop of Rome) speak ex cathedra, as he also holds apostolic succession?

    Taking it down a step, does a bishop have the authority to unilaterally change a doctrine of the Church as I presume the Pope does?

    And, finally, if the Holy Spirit has chosen each bishop in the same way that he has chosen each Pope then couldn’t an argument be made that each of the bishops is separately infallible in the same way that the Pope is? If this is not so, what parts of canon law permit the laity to disobey a bishop who is in direct violation of the dogmas and doctrines and laws of the Church?

  9. Joseph-Mary says:

    I wonder if he will go and start his own church now as other disgruntled clergy have done when found out/ removed?

    How deep does it all go? Did/does he believe in what the Church teaches at all?

  10. Norah says:

    The items listed below were issued on Friday, 29 April 2011 from St Patrick’s Cathedral, 123 Neil Street, Toowoomba,
    [1] Reflection on the Early Retirement of Bishop Morris by Fathers John Quinlan, Michael McClure, Jeff Scully, Brian Noonan, Ray Crowley & Peter Dorfield

    [2] Summary History of Bishop Morris’s Dispute with the Roman Dicasteries

    If you Google Catholica you will find a copy of the above.

    Catholica is an Australian website which, until recently, was featured on the website of the Australian Bishops’ Conference. Catholica is anti-Catholic and serves as the mouthpiece for dissident clergy and laity.

  11. Norah says:

    I am sure that when ex Bp Morris’ book, and he will write one, comes out it will be a best seller.

    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

  12. Athelstan says:

    Hello Disco,

    Why isn’t the bishop wearing his cassock? He was removed from his diocese not defrocked…

    Apparently, it has been his usual practice not to wear his collar, but rather a necktie emblazoned with his episcopal coat of arms. For more information, see here for more information on Bishop Morris’s doings: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=10273

    I can’t think that helped his case very much.

  13. Lori Pieper says:

    Athelstan, thanks for that article; it answered quite a few questions I had. It’s clear this bishop was disobedient from the beginning. Let’s hope the Church in Australia soon gets the shepherds it needs.

  14. Athelstan says:

    It’s curious (as it always is) to hear a bishop like Rev. Morris “raise the issue” of ordaining women as a possible solution to the shortage of priests when at the same time his diocese has been almost completely bereft of vocations during his tenure.

    It brings to mind Bishop Eldon Curtiss’s famous comment that the priest shortage is often “artificial and contrived.” It’s hard to say whether this sort of thing is always a conscious plot or design, even while one *does* wonder just how many orthodox and devout young men have been discouraged from vocations in his diocese. But at the very least the highly feminized vision of the Church and the priesthood (alluded to above by ncstevem) that Rev. Morris (and too many other bishops we could name) holds dear is certainly not attractive to most men, and it’s striking that he never seems to have tried to discern why.

  15. Athelstan says:

    Hi Lori,

    Glad to help out!

    Note that even that report by the diocesan College of Consultors – so hostile to this decision – makes clear just how much (and how long) Rome tried to work with Bishop Morris before taking the final step. It was hardly a snap decision.

    As for the report of the Apostolic Visitation…I admit that I am as keen to see it as former Bishop Morris (although I have no right to it, of course). These things are kept confidential by canon law for very good reason. But I wonder if it would not be desirable to amend the code to allow publication – or at least private transmission to the target bishop – when the bishop formally requests it, with redactions of third party identities where necessary.

  16. paulbailes says:

    And which Pope appointed Bp Morris ???

  17. dans0622 says:

    Was this a “forced retirement” or was he removed?

  18. vivaldi says:

    Last saturday, The Australian published a photo of Bp. Morris presiding over a clown Mass (face paint and all). The accompanying article also mentions that Bp. Morris had been asked to retire repeatedly since early 2007, including by the Holy Father himself!

  19. Grabski says:

    3rd Bishop; would that include Bp Martino of Scranton?

  20. MargaretC says:

    From Athelstan: “Apparently, it has been his usual practice not to wear his collar, but rather a necktie emblazoned with his episcopal coat of arms.”

    Yikes! How pretentious can you get?! I’m beginning to think that Bp Morris was removed for a combination of stupidity and bad taste. Unfortunately, the bad taste would disqualify him for a career in the Anglican Church, although his theological views would fit in nicely.

  21. disco says:

    Athelstan, not surprising this jokester would eschew the roman collar which I think is a symbol of obedience if not loyalty.

  22. jesusthroughmary says:

    Norah –

    I Googled Catholica and saw this on the front page, which tells me all I need to know (my emphases, Fr. Z style):

    “The protests continue… The Bishop Morris story continues to generate much discussion in the educated and informed sectors of the Church around the world. National Catholic Reporter — the largest source of news on Catholicism reported from an independent position — is devoting a lot of space to the matter.”

  23. Imrahil says:

    @gracie: So far as I know, there are many ways when a bishop’s voice is *binding* (fallibly binding) in faith and morals: at least when he says so explicitly and doesn’t contradict Church doctrine at World Church level. If he has a mood to (which however would be actively creating a misunderstanding) he could say he is talking “ex cathedra, id est, ex cathedra metropoliana Parisiensi etc.” (“*from the Chair* of the Metropolite of Paris”); but that wouldn’t mean infallible. He is infallible only if in unison with the whole College of Bishops (including its Head – and it seems to me that this “including” is always given only to avoid a misinterpretation, which however would be literal nonsense anyway).

    A bishop can’t be “infallible for a particular Church” because what is infallibly uttered one place is infallibly true everywhere.

    A bishop is chosen by the Holy Spirit the same way as the Pope*, but to a different position. The Pope is the First Bishop. As such, he is the Church’s final instance, which is needed for the Church’s unity. And final, coming to think of it, means final. As final instance, he can exercise the very infallibility that the Church has. This is not true about a bishop.

    [*God causes gravity just as He causes the weather. However, people keep thinking about God rather in the case of the weather than in the case of a stone falling down. It may be some sense such as this that the People of God keeps associating (as it does) the Holy Spirit’s intervention rather with the election of the Pope than with the election of a bishop, without denying the latter.]

  24. RichardT says:

    Norah says (6:38):
    “Catholica is an Australian website which … is anti-Catholic and serves as the mouthpiece for dissident clergy and laity.”

    Ah, I see – they’ve put the extra ‘a’ on the wrong end.

  25. Gail F says:

    I think “Creeping Infallibility” would be a great name for a band.

  26. albizzi says:

    The women in no way can be ordained priests according to the LETTER of council Vatican II (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2)
    But possibly would there be any possibility they might be ordained according to the … hem ….. “spirit of the council” ?

  27. RichardT says:

    I suppose the danger is that he starts consecrating others as bishop (although given his attitude to the Church one might have doubt about his intentions) and we end up with another line of episcopi vagantes causing trouble.

    Worse, if he teams up with other disaffected former bishops we could have an other ‘Old Catholic’ church.

    Presumably paying him a pension gives the Church some leverage to stop that.

  28. Phil_NL says:


    I think that people who are nuts enough to go down the episcopi vagantes route will do so regardless. Moreover, they might have the cash to back it up too, and in any case, I doubt the Church can revoke Morris’ pension – even if he did something as monumentally schismatic as that; the case would have to be argued in a civil court, no doubt.

  29. MichaelJ says:

    Nobody, including the Pope himself, can change a doctrine of the Church.

  30. robtbrown says:

    paulbailes says:

    And which Pope appointed Bp Morris ???

    JPII, and it indicates that in many ways he was a transitional pope, one trying to move the Church away from all the problems that existed or were incubating when he was elected. Part of being the head of that transition was that he didn’t seem to realize that the re-establishment of Latin would vaccinate the Church against these viruses.

    nb: Wm Morris was named Bishop in 1992. In 1997 Fr (now bishop) James Conley was called back to Rome to work at the Congregation of Bishops. Part of his responsibility was Australia.

  31. Scott W. says:

    It brings to mind Bishop Eldon Curtiss’s famous comment that the priest shortage is often “artificial and contrived.”

    For which we have eye-witness testimony from Fr. Longenecker, who was told on several occasions by diocesan officials in England that they wanted priest shortages precisely so that they could end-run around the prohibition of female priests by appointing female lay administrators to force the issue.

  32. Andy Lucy says:

    Where is your life going? Are you feeling unsettled, bored, disappointed with your life so far?

    Might I suggest, should this apply to you, an exciting 5-year stint with la Légion étrangère? It might be more suited to you than the priesthood, if all you are needing is a change of life. La Légion can most assuredly cure that.

  33. JPManning says:

    “My soul is restless till it rests in you.”
    Isn’t the diocesesan website just trying to find a contemporary expression for this restlessness? It is true that those feelings could be a call to change something else in your life, they might be a call to join the foreign legion. But I would expect that if I was called to sacred ministry, to celebrate transcendent mysteries, then I would be a little bored with worldly life. If I was called to strict asceticism I would probably be unsettled in my comfortable surroundings.

  34. The Catholic elementary school in his diocese where they were giving explicit sex education to seven year olds and younger… probably didn’t help his case with the Vatican.

  35. gracie says:

    Imrahil and MichaelJ,

    Thanks for responding to my inquiry. Since the Second Vatican Council, it seems as if a number of bishops believe that the Pope is only one of many bishops and thus claim that their own “inspired” views are just as legitimate as the Holy Father’s. In fact, the unspoken assumption is that the Pope is in error on a number of issues and the Holy Spirit is then forced to speak through the bishops to get His Word out. I was in high school when the Second Vatican Council documents were published. We studied parts of them in class (this was 1967) and one of the things we were told was that there are three types of infallibility: one is when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, the second is when the bishops speak through a council and the third is through the laity. And how do we know when the Holy Spirit speaks through the laity? That’s simple – it’s when a majority of the laity start instituting something new and different (like altar girls). Humanae vitae had just come out and a number of theologians as well as bishops (as well as the mainstream press at the time) were openly derisive of it. Our instructors were in sympathy with those opposed. This caused us to ask whom we should believe and our Catholic teachers (the Mercy nuns) told us that in the rare cases when a Pope is not hearing the will of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit has to sometimes unfortunately “do an end run” around the Pope to get His message out through the bishops and the laity. Added to this was the further news that an informed “freedom of conscience” now trumped everything (the Holy Spirit now speaking through each of us individually to protect us from a Pope and bishops who are in error) and we were soon dropping the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance in droves (after all, Jesus wouldn’t want us at Mass if He knew we didn’t want to be there and in fact we’d be insulting Him by our hypocrisy if we showed up – no sin was worse than hypocrisy in the ’60’s) and why go to individual Confession when the early Church (we were told) got off just fine with general Confession. We carried this nuchurch onto our college campuses and the dye was cast.

  36. Mrs. O says:

    If he truthfully doesn’t know why he was removed, when everyone else seems to know the answer, then maybe he should have been removed long ago….and maybe that meeting he was requested to attend in Rome would have helped clarify things a little….

  37. Imrahil says:

    And of course there’s truth in everything.

    It is the – I don’t know what level of teaching of the Church but at least – most traditional and respectable theological opinion that the Holy Spirit does work through the Sense of the Faithful, and the Sense of the Faithful is, or might be (I think it is), infallible.

    The first problem to be seen might be put to the short form that the Voice of the Faithful is not majority but unison; something much more obvious on the one hand, but much more difficult to prove or define on the other hand. That the Voice of the Faithful cannot counterdict the Church doctrine is, or really really should be, a matter of course. That it cannot utter sublime theology of the kind a study is needed for is another thing; professors are not the People, as the Servant of God G. K. Chesterton has reminded us. And it can’t as such say “well, that might be okay” because then it’s in appropriate terms not speaking at all.

    That conscience stuff also means two legitimate things. First, that nobody is guilty of what his conscience doesn’t forbid. (The rather snobistic demand that this conscience be informed takes away the main essence of what this means.) But conscience, even erring conscience, is one thing and what psychologists call rationalization quite another.
    Second, it is the conscience that has to steer ourselves through the moral life; the commandments are to be not counteracted, but the life is still open afterwards. But why by the way would we think that the Church has handed down a commandment to us and the way to a happier life be not to obey to it?

  38. Imrahil says:

    Of course, if I say I think the Sense of the Faithful is infallible I mean on occasion, on an occasion yet more difficult to grasp than the Sense of the Faithful itself, so it’s much better to stick to the Popes and Councils.

  39. Tony Layne says:

    robtbrown, answering paulbailes:
    “JPII [appointed +Morris], and it indicates that in many ways he was a transitional pope, one trying to move the Church away from all the problems that existed or were incubating when he was elected. Part of being the head of that transition was that he didn’t seem to realize that the re-establishment of Latin would vaccinate the Church against these viruses.

    Sorry, Rob, I can’t agree that re-establishing Latin at that time would have proved to be a “magic bullet” that would somehow have made all the unorthodoxies go away. More likely, it would have precipitated a crisis and possibly fractured the Church worse. Let Latin be reintroduced, by all means, but I’m favoring it over the long term, as the “biological solution” takes care of sources of resistance.

    @ Athelstan: Not only did he wear jacket and tie, he sent ties with his episcopal arms to the priests of his diocese, encouraging them to abandon their priestly identity! With all the other things he did to undermine the priesthood in Toowoomba, reducing them to “sacrament dispensers” of limited utility, it’s really not difficult to understand why young men wouldn’t be attracted to the priesthood.

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