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Ousted Australian bishop rips colleagues' support for Vatican decision

Catholic World News - October 25, 2011

Bishop William Morris, who was removed in May from his post as head of Australia’s Toowoomba diocese, has released a statement insisting that he did not resign.

Bishop Morris reacted angrily to a statement released by the Australian bishops at the end of their ad limina visit. The bishops’ statement had expressed support for Pope Benedict’s decision to remove Bishop Morris from his diocese.

The Australian bishops, as they concluded their visit to Rome, said that they had spoken with Vatican officials about the bishop’s removal, fulfilling a promise that they had made to the faithful in Toowoomba. They reported that they had discussed the matter with Cardinals Marc Ouellet and William Levada, the prefects of the Congregation for Bishops and for the Doctrine of the Faith, respectively. Their statement indicated that they understood the reasons for removing Bishop Morris.

“What the Holy See did was fraternal and pastoral rather than juridical in character,” the Australian bishops said. They explained that Pope Benedict had decided to remove Bishop Morris from office not for any misconduct, but because the bishop’s public statements on matters such as the ordination of women, and his pastoral practice regarding questions such as general absolution, compromised the unity within the Catholic hierarchy. “We express our acceptance of the Holy Father’s exercise of his Petrine ministry, and we reaffirm our communion with and under Peter,” the bishops said. The statement did not explicitly say that the Australian bishops agreed with the Pope’s decision.

Bishop Morris, however, took exception to the statement, insisting that he had been removed without adequate cause or explanation. The process leading up to his removal, he said, was one of “denying me natural justice without any possibility of appropriate defence and advocacy on my behalf.”

The deposed bishop complained that he had never see a report submitted by Archbishop Charles Chaput, who was sent by the Vatican to conduct an apostolic visitation of the Toowoomba diocese. He added that the Pope’s complaint about his public advocacy of women’s ordination was based on “a total misreading and misinterpretation of what my pastoral letter is saying.”

The bishop strongly stressed that he had never resigned his office, saying that such a resignation, under the circumstances, would have been incompatible with his principles. His departure was involuntary and unjust, he said.

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  • Posted by: Cornelius - Oct. 25, 2011 2:32 PM ET USA

    Inconsistent with his principles? So, let's see . . . his principles include accepting the power and perks that go with being a leader in an institution, all the while undermining its core tenets. Like a General in the Army who encourages his soldiers to undermine the Constitution or disobey lawful authority (except his own, of course). Some principles.

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