The significant religious affairs story in Australia today has been the forced retirement of the Bishop of Toowoomba, William (Bill) Morris, in rural Queensland by the actions of the temple police in this country aided by forces in the Vatican. The matter has already been generating significant discussion and moral outrage on the Catholica forum. In this editorial we argue this matter calls for a response from the broad mainstream of Australian priests and bishops on a scale of that exhibited by Jesus Christ himself.
Calling for moral courage from bishops on the scale exhibited by Jesus...
The Courier Mail, the principal daily newspaper in Rupert Murdoch's stable circulating in Queensland, is the one that has broken the story in the mainstream media. You can read their reports by clicking the above image or HERE.
The treatment meted out to Bishop Bill Morris is morally outrageous. It breaks the norms of civilised behaviour that today are the norm in most democratic nations of the world and this is an utter disgrace coming from the institution which ought be "the light on the hill" showing the secular world the way in moral behaviour and natural justice.
In a lengthy letter sent to priest colleagues around the nation, eminent Jesuit priest-lawyer, Fr Frank Brennan SJ, has outlined what is so unjust in the treament meted out to Bishop Morris [LINK]. Fr Brennan does not explicitly name them but responsibility for this outrage has to be sheeted home to the faceless men in the Vatican bureaucracy and supported by Pope Benedict. Our own resident and insightful legal commentator on the Catholica forum, James, has also succinctly summed up the critical moral issue that is "on the table" in this matter as has Bishop Morris himself in the letter from himself that was read out at the conclusion of all the Sunday Masses in his diocese yesterday. [LINK to the feedback being generated in the Catholica Forum]
It is time for ordinary pew-sitting Catholics, and those who have already left the pews in silent protest over recent decades, to start standing up to this moral outrage. This is a deep moral issue calling for courage and intelligence on the part of the ordinary faithful as well as by our spiritual leaders...
The heart of the moral issue that is involved here has two elements to it. The second is the matter of natural justice — which Professor Brennan and Bishop Morris himself have outlined. When any person in any jurisdiction has allegations raised against them they have a right in natural justice to know what the accusations are stated in clear, unambiguous language; they have a right to know who their accusers are; and they have a right to present their counter arguments to their accusers and to an impartial and formally constituted legal process of decision and, if necessary, redress. Preceding all of that though is a larger moral outrage that for decades now we have been slowly watching the entire institution of the Holy Roman Catholic Church effectively taken over by a small unrepresentative minority who believe they alone are "the chosen ones"; they alone the only people with insight into the mind of God. They have become dictators to the entire body of Christ. They have in Australia what we lable "the temple police" — small cadres of self-righteous individuals who wander around the country delating priests, and even bishops to the Vatican, because they believe these priests and bishops are somehow heretical Catholics or not obeying the laws of the Church. Jesus Christ himself went to extraordinary trouble in the Scriptures to condemn this type of behaviour. All his homilies on the behaviours of the Scribes and Pharisees is a scathing indictment of this sort of human behaviour. Jesus was not only condemning the behaviour of a few individuals who gave him curry a couple of millenia ago. These lessons were huge moral lessons that were to be applied to a tendency in a small minority of the population in every epoch of time, including our own.
Click the above image or HERE to read a pdf copy of Bishop Morris's letter to his flock read out at the conclusion of all masses in the Toowoomba Diocese yesterday.
Our bishops, priests and other spiritual leaders need to start standing up and exhibiting moral courage on the scale exhibited by Jesus against these moral outrages that have been going on...
It is time for our bishops, priests and other spiritual leaders in the community to start standing up and expressing their indignation at the moral outrage that has been allowed to unfold here in recent decades. Effectively today we have a situation where a small, totally unrepresentative minority has been "taking over" and effectively stealing — yes, an outrage against the Seventh Commandment — an entire institution from the broad "Body of Christ" and using it for their own, largely emotional (not spiritual) ends.
It is perhaps the supreme irony that this outrage has been allowed to take place under the reigns of two pontiffs who, more than most, should have had a clear understanding of the behaviour of totalitarian dictatorships where small minorities get to dictate to entire nations. In the case of Adolf Hitler he was on his way to attempting to try and dictate an agenda to the whole of humankind before the democratic nations of the world stood up to his thuggery at enormous human cost.
The former Josef Ratzinger, so outraged at his enforced conscription into the Hitler Youth, now Pope Benedict XVI, should have a greatly heightened perception of the moral outrages involved here. He should understand better than most how the entire population of Germany was hoodwinked by the small minority led by Hitler through the "bread and circus rallies" staged at places like Nuremberg for the naive German people who swallowed the whole lie, hook, line, sinker and entire coastline, to their later acute embarrassment and profound apologies to the rest of the world. We in the rest of the world have developed deep admiration for the German people for the way in which they have acknowledged their past error under Hitler and Nazism and become leaders amongst the nations of the democratic world. The same could be applied to Pope John Paul II who was beatified yesterday and who saw the entire Polish nation subjugated to the will of a minority. What an irony that these two leaders today have been the chief sponsors of a similar takeover of Catholicism? It is an irony that we have a similar takeover going on in the Holy Roman Catholic Church today where the entire institution has effectively been turned over to a small unrepresentative element who believe they are "the remnant" or the only "true Catholics" or the only ones who have insight into the mind of Almighty God. This move, promoted by Pope Benedict, to create a "smaller, purer Church" is actually a moral outrage. It is a form of theft dressed up to look as though it is moral!
It is time for every bishop in this nation to start taking serious stock about what they really believe in; who or what they are ultimately "loyal and obedient" to; and what likely assessment is going to be made when they meet their maker and are asked to account for what policy positions they took in relation to what has been going on for decades now. Gentlemen, you are being called upon to exhibit the sort of moral courage that Jesus Christ himself showed in the face of his accusers in the religious establishment of his time. You are being called upon to show the sort of moral courage and leadership that was exhibited by the political leaders of the free world who confronted Hitler and the dictators on the other end of the spectrum who were endeavouring to inflict an atheistic ideology on humanity through Communism and its various offshoots.
What has been done to Bishop William Morris is a moral outrage of the highest order. It needs to be confronted and redressed as a matter of the utmost urgency. The Bishops of Australia need to show moral courage and leadership in this matter on the scale exhibited by St Paul, the other early leaders of Christianity and by Jesus himself. Your "eternal salvation" may well depend on it as much as the "eternal salvation" of the people who you are supposed to be guardians of in your flocks. In blunt, Australian language, pull your fingers out and show us what sort of men you really are. It's time for the "pleasing mummy"-type childish psychological behaviours to end. This is about discerning the moral behaviour called for by none other than the Creator of Life itself!
Brian Coyne, Editor and Publisher, 02May2011
Courier Mail article (which has been updated a number of time) on the situation of Bishop Morris:
The photo of Bishop Morris used in the headline has been sourced from the Courier Mail article which broke this story in the mainstream media. The photo is credited to Bruce Long of the Courier Mail and can be found on the web version of the story: HERE
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