Catholic World News

Australian bishops respond to removal of Bishop Morris

May 13, 2011

Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, expressed “sadness” at the recent removal of Bishop William Morris while “gratefully acknowledg[ing] Pope Benedict’s faithfulness to the Petrine ministry, even when it involves very difficult decisions.”

“On behalf of the Australian Bishops, I write to you–and through you especially to thepriests, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Toowoomba–to express our sadness at the retirement of Bishop Bill Morris,” Archbishop Wilson said in a letter to Bishop Brian Finnigan, the diocese’s apostolic administrator. “The decision came at the end of a complex process which began thirteen years ago and which ended in deadlock. It was then that the Holy Father found it necessary to exercise his Petrine care for the whole Church. This has been difficult and distressing for all concerned, and it is not surprising that the decision has caused varied and intense reactions.”

Archbishop Wilson wrote:

Much of our time at the recent meeting of the Australian Bishops was given to discussion of what has happened–a discussion which at one point included hearing the concerns of forty leaders of Religious Congregations, many of whom have members working in the Diocese of Toowoomba. We sought to understand the events and agree on the best way to respond.

We reflected on our responsibility as Bishops and on what it means for us to serve the communion of the Church and to exercise our ministry collegially as pastors of Christ’s flock, as teachers of the apostolic faith and as moderators of the sacred liturgy.

We also reflected upon the unique role of the Pope as head of the College of Bishops. It is his task to guard and promote the communion of the Church and the integrity of the Church’s faith. We reaffirm our faith in this mission which the Successor of Peter has received from Christ himself, and we gratefully acknowledge Pope Benedict’s faithfulness to the Petrine ministry, even when it involves very difficult decisions. We commit ourselves anew to teaching faithfully what Christ taught as the Church has handed it down.

“Discussion of the process and the decision which it produced will continue during our ad limina visit to Rome later this year,” Archbishop Wilson noted. “There we will have the opportunity to share with the Holy Father and members of the Roman Curia the fruits of our discussion and to share our questions and concerns with an eye to the future.”

Archbishop Wilson added:

We appreciate that Bishop Morris’ human qualities were never in question; nor is there any doubt about the contribution he has made to the life of the Church in Toowoomba and beyond. The Pope’s decision was not a denial of the personal and pastoral gifts that Bishop Morris has brought to the episcopal ministry. Rather, it was judged that there were problems of doctrine and discipline, and we regret that these could not be resolved. We are hopeful that Bishop Morris will continue to serve the Church in other ways in the years ahead.


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Joseph Paul - May. 13, 2011 6:52 PM ET USA

    So Archbishop Wilson and his brother bishops are not in "any doubt about the contribution he has made to the life of the Church in Toowoomba and beyond." His contribution has been to destroy his Diocese with no vocations and leading the sheep badly astray. All problems begin with doctrinal dissent. Those who went to Bishop Morris with concerns were shown the door. Liberals have a high degree of intolerance for any who disagree with their breaking of rules and opposing the Church's teaching.

  • Posted by: Saint Jimbob of the Apokalypse - May. 13, 2011 10:19 AM ET USA

    If anything, the Diocese of Toowoomba should be used as a case study of the end result of Episcopalianization of the Catholic Church. Let all other diocese be warned; Following the 'Spirit of Vatican II' will lead you to illusory spiritual vitality, a dearth of vocations, and eventually empty churches.

  • Posted by: - May. 13, 2011 10:05 AM ET USA

    "We reflected on our responsibility as Bishops . . . ." Indeed, and what is that responsibility when a brother Bishop goes off the rails? Should not the other Australian Bishops have stepped in earlier to admonish an erring brother of their own well before it landed on the Pope's desk?

  • Posted by: adamah - May. 13, 2011 8:45 AM ET USA

    Phew! Thank goodness it wasn't because of the personal qualities of the archbishop. It was "only" an issue of doctrine and discipline....a relatively minor thing.