News about Toowoomba, Australian bishops

Remember Toowoomba?  The Holy Father accepted Bishop Wm. Morris’s un-proffered resignation after years of misguidance of the diocese.

From CNA with my emphases and comments:

Australian bishops to issue Toowoomba statement
By David Kerr

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2011 / 06:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Australia will issue a joint statement on the troubled diocese of Toowoomba, and it may be published as early as this weekend.

“I don’t think anybody has a magic wand that is going to immediately heal the wounds of division,” Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra said to CNA. At the same time, he said the bishops “are preparing a statement which I think will be an important moment and we will offer to everyone the fruits of our discussions and reflections here.”

Archbishop Coleridge is currently in Rome along with the majority of his fellow Australian bishops for their regular “ad limina” meeting with the Pope at the Vatican, Oct. 10-22.

In May 2011, Pope Benedict dismissed Bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba for his long track record of dissent from Catholic teaching and practice. The diocese is currently without a bishop.

Over the past week the Australian bishops have held discussions regarding the situation in Toowoomba with both Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Archbishop Coleridge said the talks “went very positively” and “surpassed” their expectations.

Some of the older hands among the bishops said they were the most substantial, serious and candid discussions they can remember in all their years of coming to ad limina visits,” he said. [It is interesting what happens when people stop blowing happy gas around and actually discuss something frankly.  The “crisis” which evolved down under resulted in a constructive meeting.  That, however, can’t be the end of it.]

The subsequent statement, which he hopes can be produced by the end of this week, will now “try to offer the fruits of those discussions” both in words and in “pastoral action” to be implemented upon the bishops’ return to Australia.

He said he did not want give too many details about what the statement will contain but he did confirm that the Vatican discussions focused on “the nature of the communion of the Church, and in particular, the communion that exists between the Pope and a diocesan bishop.”

In recent weeks, several lay Catholics in the Toowoomba have contacted CNA to express surprise that Bishop Morris still seems to have a high profile in the diocese. His activities have included giving a public lecture, in-service talks to teachers and officiating at parish anniversaries.

“I hope that won’t continue,” said Cardinal George Pell of Sydney to CNA. “And if he is a loyal man of the Church he’ll realize that this is totally inappropriate and that won’t continue. That is my hope.”

As for priests in the Toowoomba diocese who are keen to continue dissenting, Cardinal Pell said he hopes “that Bishop Morris will remind them of their duties to get on with life and serve the people” when their next bishop is appointed. No timescale has been given for that appointment.

Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, President of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, said he didn’t want to “comment personally on Bishop Morris in terms of his future,” except to say that “he (Bishop Morris) is still a bishop of the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Wilson said that they would now have to “dialogue about his future” and do so “in terms of love.”

The Australian bishops will meet collectively with Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 20.

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  1. William says:

    ((Archbishop Wilson said that they would now have to “dialogue about his future” and do so “in terms of love.”))

    Tough love and fraternal correction, too, are Gospel imperatives.

  2. jbas says:

    I don’t understand why Pope John Paul II appointed so many problematic bishops. Why did he elevate Cardinal Mahoney to such a high office, for example? I truly do not want to criticize a pope, but I really would like to understand how a theologically solid pope could appoint such bishops. I guess Judas is an example of a choice that went bad, but surely these recent appointments had revealing track records as priests. I find the whole process of episcopal selection very puzzling.

  3. irishgirl says:

    You said it, William!
    Bishops have got to stop pussyfooting around and start wielding that crosier!

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Popes have to go by the recommendation given to them by the local, as in national, bishops’ conferences. Cardinals and bishops make the recommendations and the Pope chooses, somewhat trusting those “on the ground”. In this day and age, sadly, this system is extremely flawed. A recommendation can be merely a favorite of another bishop, or a cardinal, and not competent. In addition, I have been told recently by an excellent priest in England, where there will be five bishoprics opening up, one already because of death, in the next two years, that there is a serious lack of good candidates. This good priest said there is a leadership problem among the priests, so that there is a poor “pool” of candidates. How sad, but the years of liberal seminary training and the lack of leadership training, as well as the clerical old boy system, which still allows less than desirable men to become priests have created a less than ideal group of men from which to choose a bishop. (I would not have dated or even thought of marrying some of these men, so how are they priests and potential bishops?). May I add, how many leaders, how many excellent churchmen were aborted or contracepted out of reality? We are reaping what we have sowed.

  5. Scott W. says:

    Good answer Super. In my over-optimistic view, I gotta think the age of the internet that was not available to JPII might contribute to better appointments due to the fact that it is possible to get information outside of the Matrix of Spirit of Vatican II speak.

  6. puma19 says:

    Well Supertradmum speaks very well in that comment. Indeed the whole process of episcopal appointments is fraught with good intentions but just how well does the Cong in Rome really know about local situations, priests, nominees etc? Interesting to view the short video today on vat news of the Pontiff speaking to the Australian bishops at the end of their ad limina. There was mention by BXVI of correcting ‘errors’ from the past? What was he referring to? Indeed to even mention this to his episcopal brothers is disturbing to say the least. To have a bishop removed by the pope shows something of the major concerns Rome had with Bishop Morris. Indeed for ten years it appears he was asked to go to Rome to dialogue and never went, delaying it. Why did Rome not just order him there and answer the issues.
    The fact is that the Australian Church is bereft of strong episcopal leadership. An older bishopric that has not real dynamic core. There are at least 5 major sees, Three of them archbishoprics coming up for new appointments. Priest numbers are down as are seminary numbers and some new bishops have neen religious, not diocesan.
    The Australian Church needs a real solid spiritual injection. The pope is obviously concerned as the bishops ought be.
    But goodness knows where the new and solid and inspirational bishops will come from. One diocese of small numbers took over 18 months to find a vacancy. Why so long? Not one good priest to consecrate?
    There are soul-searching questions ahead for the Australian Church. Liturgical ‘experimentation’ needs to cease and be thrown out. Toe the line and get wielding that crozier Monsignori!

  7. Nathan says:

    jbas, Supertradmum gives a very good answer. One more piece of the puzzle, though, is in something I read not too long ago that I can’t remember where to ascribe. Apparently one of the changes under Paul VI was to vet the terna (proposed list of bishops for the Holy Father) through the Secretariat of State (diplomatic corps, where both Pius XII and Paul VI spent much of their ecclesiastical careers) instead of the old practice of vetting the list through the CDF (old Holy Office). The implication that I remember taking away was that someone who is a diplomat might look for a different set of skills than a theologian would. I think I also remember that our current Holy Father (ad multos annos!) changed the vetting procedures back to the CDF.

    Anyway, I hope my memory is somewhat correct in the details of the article.

    In Christ,

  8. James Joseph says:

    For a few years I was a parishoner under Msgr. James Maroney. And, while I knew him I got learn the process. For some time, in a nutshell, too much responsibility was being delegated at too low a level. Rather than looking for holy unknowns three popular canidates proposed per diocese for in many circumstances. We should also remember that for what seems like forever appointments were being made by secular governments (i.e. Germany) and it was always a battle. It seems that more attention was paid to the details of those proposed to become antistite in places where there was more of a tug-o-war going on. In this, I wouldn’t be suprised in the slightest to see bishops in the Far East becoming the outstanding bishops over the next few years.

  9. mrose says:


    Perhaps you are referring to a few posts on the topic by Fr. Ray Blake on his blog? He seemed to raise the same concerns you mention about Episcopal selections going through the Secretariat of State rather than the CDF. I do not, however, recall seeing anything to the effect that Benedict XVI had remedied changed that policy.

  10. Joe in Canada says:

    I doubt that too many vocations were aborted or contracepted out of existence. Those mothers probably wouldn’t have encouraged vocations anyways.

  11. Son of Trypho says:

    I suspect the frank discussions revolve around the fear that Morris may lead a breakaway movement of dissidents incl. a number of priests which would effectively cripple the diocese (they are already stretched for priests with less than 50 priests (and virtually no vocations) working in 35 parishes for approx. 250,000 Catholics in a territory covering approx. 500,000 sq kms!)

    They are also probably concerned that Morris’ ongoing high profile is going to compromise/challenge the authority of his replacement especially with a proportion of the clergy unsettled and their V2 acolytes backing them up.

    There is simply no way that they are going to replace him with anything less than a liberal because of these fears – folks should be aware that this area hasn’t seen clergy in clerical dress (incl. the former bishop btw who led the way with the open shirt casual look) for over a decade now….

    Much of the Church in Australia is in a poor way – the conservatives/traditionalists are effectively ghettoized (happily it seems) and have little influence anywhere.

    The only way I can see things improving here are for the traddie religious to start doing both OF and EF masses in communities in an orthodox manner and abolishing the dissident parish councils, EMCH’s etc and re-evangelize the parishes 1 at a time. Traddie laypeople need to cluster together in their local parishes, infiltrate the parish mechanisms and start changing things for the better – small steps at first to avoid civil war though.

  12. kallman says:

    Maybe Morris will connect with Peter Kennedy and form a new group

  13. dominic1955 says:

    I say let the dissidents start their own crazychurch, it will get them out of our hair. Also, I don’t realize why there is this fear of “loosing” people, especially a diocese has few priests. If they are the type that would leave for some uber-liberal schismatic group, why would you want them to stay? Why would we not want to do something akin to an ultimatum of “Get your stuff straight or leave”? I think these people have done way too much damage being “official” and “in good standing” when they preach blatant heresy and things offensive to pious ears, not to mention teaching the wrong lex credendi by teaching a faulty lex orandi.

    I know most of these good men would never want the office (which is exactly why they should have it), but start consecrating traddie priests bishops and let them utterly clean house.

  14. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    Father Z,
    When people are wondering how Bishop Morris came to be appointed , the background set out here: should be borne in mind (MORRIS-END OF THE AFFAIR? 20th October,2011). Most of the other comments about Australia are either dead wrong or too pessimistic. There are problems but, as the same Blog shows, nearly one third of the Episcopate is about to be replaced and one third remaining is solidly orthodox the remaining post Conciliar trendies will soon have trouble handling the Orthodox heat – the ACBC will be in for quite a shake-up.
    Recent Episcopal appointments have been very good and there is much to hope for in generational change as younger Bishops are appointed.

  15. Peter G says:

    Greetings from Melbourne.
    Vexilla Regis is absolutely correct when he says that comments on the state of the church here are either wrong or too pessimistic.
    I am 56 and therefore old enough to remember what a basket case we were 20 years ago.
    Our seminaries were all hopeless with hardly any vocations,children could spend 12 years in the catholic school system and come out knowing zero about the faith.
    Things started to to turn in the early 90’s when the Bishop of Wagga Bill Brennan,decided to open his own seminary because the Sydney seminary was “heresy hill”,attracted few vocations and those priests that were ordained were modernists who indulged in parish tea party liturgies and ditched all traditional catholic practices like saying the rosary,adoration and going to confession.The Wagga seminary offered orthodox priestly formation and quickly began attracting vocations.
    However,the tide really bagan to turn when Bishop George Pell was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth amongst the trendies as they knew the party was over for them.Our seminary was not as bad as Sydney’s but Pell immediately moved to introduce practices such as daily mass,regular prayer and meditation,adoration,benediction and saying the rosary together.The seminary staff were not happy with this and tried to call Pell’s bluff by offering their resignations.Pell did not hesitate to accept their offering,appointed his own people,re-located the seminary to a new premises close to St.Patricks Cathedral and vocations quickly began to increase.Pell did a number of other things which upset the trendies but the end result is that orthodox catholicism whilst not flying,is back in town here.There is not a lot to suggest that regular mass attendance is on the increase here,we can say however that the bleeding has stopped.
    It is disappointing that the debacle in Towoomba appears to be seen by many in the U.S. as a snapshot of the church overall here.It simply is not.There is no shortage of both priests and laity who think Bishop Morris copped his right whack.In fact many of us asked why Rome did not give him a haircut much earlier.As one of the priests in his diocese said”You cannot keep telling the Vatican to get stuffed and think nothing will happen”
    Yes we do need a number of new bishops and the candidates do not appear to be obvious but we continue to pray that the Lord will provide.

  16. robtbrown says:

    If I might make a few comments:

    1. It is not correct that popes have to go by the recommendation of the episcopal conference. It is true that the conference (and Metropolitan and Suffragans) has input, but the process is more complex and flexible. The nuncio summits the ternus, which contains his opinion. So it might have the names of two clunkers recommended by other bishops with one very competent man preferred by the nuncio.

    NB: In certain Euro countries the bishop is elected by the Chapter or episcopal conferences, but the pope always has option to refuse the candidate.

    2. The Cong of Bishops, which has a dossier on the candidates, can recommend someone on the ternus or not. And the pope obviously can name whomever he wants. In 1984 Bernardin, was pushing for his man Kelly of Louisville to succeed Cook in NY. The nuncio Laghi wanted O’Connor. Of course, O’Connor got the job, and it didn’t take long for his influence to dwarf that of Bernardin. In fact, by the time Bernardin died he was all but a persona non grata in Rome.

    3. While in Stockton Mahoney curried favor with Rome by paying for the translation of Ratzinger books. I was told that when he visited the pope or Vatican Prefects that he would sound like Pius X. In the diocese, however, he was a libera.

    4. In the 90’s the Church in Australia was going through the same mess that the US experienced in the 70’s. In 1997 an old dear friend took over the Aussie desk at the Cong of Bishops. From that time there were better men named to the Aussie episcopacy.

  17. Supertradmum says:


    Of course the nuncio has a say, but the recommendations still come from the bishops, who are assumed to know the men of their countries. Perhaps the custom of the individual country makes a difference, but I am certain that the recommendations are rarely challenged. If a Cardinal, for example, makes a suggestion, even an incompetent one, that is not always challenged. As to a leadership crisis, this is obvious. One has to be honest and admit that many of those bishops chosen under Blessed John Paul II have been weak and even disobedient bishops. Some of his men still stall the TLM, for example, and others are very weak, indeed themselves give Communion to those who are publicly for abortion. for example. The system is flawed.

  18. ContraMundum says:

    OK, here’s a “modest proposal”:

    Just like we have a “devil’s advocate” to argue against the canonization of a proposed saint, a similar position should be created to argue against the consecration of any given priest as bishop. This should be someone from outside the candidate’s country, just to make sure that something more than local biases are presented to the Pope. We can’t expect the Pope to Google each candidate, let alone weigh the evidence on the Internet, but he should have someone to let him know what the controversies and downsides may be for each potential choice.

  19. robtbrown says:


    No, you are wrong. As I said before, all the recommendations do not come from bishops. The nuncio adds his own opinion, apart from that of the bishops’ (cf CIC 377.3).

    Do you think that when Justin Rigali moved from Sec in the Cong of Bishops to St Louis, his name was proposed in the US?

    I agree that not all of JPII nominated bishops have been good and that many have resisted BXVI’s liturgical moves, but they were two different men whose papacies reflect different emphasis. And it is no secret that they disagreed on liturgy. Consider: JPII hired Piero Marini, and BXVI replaced him.

    I don’t think the system is flawed. The problem has been what kind of man they want to lead a diocese.

    BTW, do you know that the Vatican keeps a dossier on all candidates for the episcopacy?

  20. Supertradmum says:


    I got my information from someone who knows the system, a priest who is has been upset by the way some choices have been made.

  21. Nicole says:

    While I know that the indelible character on Bishop Morris’ soul cannot be effaced, is he still considered in “good standing” with the Catholic Church? and if so, Does he offer Mass yet? and Do/Would the other Bishops and Archbishops of Australia and the world communicate (receive the Blessed Sacrament from him or give it to him) with him at Mass?

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