27Oct Response of Bishop William Morris to the Australian Bishops Statement

24 October 2011

Response by Bishop William Morris to the
Australian Catholic Bishops Statement of 22 October 2011.

The statement of the Australian Catholic Bishops contains inaccuracies and errors of fact evidenced by the documentation relating to the issues concerning myself and a number of Vatican Dicasteries. The Statement made by the Australian Bishops invites me to tell my story which I will publish in the foreseeable future. I stand by my original statement which I gave to the Australian Catholic Bishops dated 2 May 2011, which I restate below.

“I had been hoping that I would never have to write this letter to you as it had always been my desire that the difficulties experienced between myself and the Congregations for Bishops, Divine Worship and Doctrine of the Faith would be able to be resolved. Unfortunately without due process it has been impossible to resolve these matters, denying me natural justice without any possibility of appropriate defence and advocacy on my behalf. This has been confirmed in a letter from Pope Benedict stating ‘Canon Law does not make provision for a process regarding bishops, whom the Successor of Peter nominates and may remove from office’.

“It has been my experience and the experience of others that Rome controls bishops by fear and if you ask questions or speak openly on subjects that Rome declares closed or does not wish to be discussed, you are censored very quickly, told your leadership is defective, that you are being unfaithful to the Magisterium, that you have broken communio and you are threatened with dismissal.

“I have never seen the Report prepared by the Apostolic Visitor, Archbishop Charles Chaput; I have never been shown any of the “evidence” that was gathered except for an unsigned memorandum handed to be by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Ambrose de Paoli, which was filled with errors. There has been no canonical process to establish a “Grave Cause” for removal; the accusations that my doctrinal teaching contains errors and that I have a flawed pastoral leadership has never been backed by facts except by some broad statements based on my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006 which has been read inaccurately and interpreted incorrectly and used against me.

“In a letter of 12 November 2009, I pointed out to Pope Benedict that such evident defects in the process, distortion of facts and a lack of care for the truth, which has characterised this whole process, cannot be of ‘God’ when the truth is not respected and exactness is not preserved. Pope Benedict responded by focusing on the matters raised in my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006 which addressed local pastoral questions and matters which are in ferment generally across the Church. I quote from his letter; ‘In your Advent Pastoral Letter 2006 – besides containing some very questionable pastoral choices – there are at least two options presented that are incompatible with the Catholic faith: a) Ordaining women in order to overcome the priest shortage. Yet, the late Pope John Paul II has decided infallibly and irrevocably that the Church has not the right to ordain women to the priesthood:’ b) “recognizing Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders”. But according to the doctrine of the Catholic faith, ministers from these communities are not validly ordained and therefore do not share in the Sacrament of Holy Orders; and as such their actions are not joined to the ministerial priesthood.’

“How it can be said that my Pastoral Letter teaches these things is beyond me when it purely refers to the fact that these are among many questions being discussed internationally, nationally and locally. To me this shows a total misreading and misinterpretation of what my Pastoral Letter is saying. Pope Benedict further states that my leadership of the priests and faithful of the diocese raises serious questions and that the diocesan bishop must above all be an authentic teacher of the faith, which is the foundation of all pastoral ministry. This is said without any foundation or proof. I have also been told that it is the bishops role to support the Pope in whatever he says without question, to teach from the Catechism and the documents of the Church and not to ask questions about topics that have been declared definitive or closed. I ask you, where is the Spirit in this? I was also told by Pope Benedict that I am too practical and it is the will of God that I resign.

“The whole process has relied on the presumption that I would be compliant and resign. However, I cannot do so in conscience because my resignation would be based on my acceptance of a lie. My resignation would mean that I accept the assessment of my being unfaithful to the Magisterium and breaking communio. I absolutely refute and reject this assessment. I do not accept that there is any grave reason for me to resign and the conditions of Canon 401 §§ 1,2 not being met, it would be dishonest of me to suggest that they had.

“To negotiate a way through this stalemate I was offered an extra-diocesan position, to be artificially created, in which I was told I could continue to serve the Church in Australia in another ministry more in keeping with my gifts and talents. As I have been denied natural justice and due process, in conscience I could not accept such an artificially created position for in Australian culture it would be seen and ridiculed for what it is – a sinecure.

“Given the circumstances that there is no canonical process regarding bishops, that there is no separation of powers and the Successor of Peter nominates bishops and may remove them from office, makes my position as Bishop of Toowoomba untenable. I have never wavered in my conviction that for me to resign is a matter of conscience and my resignation would mean that I accept the assessment of myself as breaking communio which I absolutely refute and reject so it is out of my love for the Church that I cannot do so. I have never written a letter of resignation. “To find a way through this moral dilemma I asked Archbishop Philip Wilson, when he met with the Holy Father in January 2010, to affirm my position that I would not resign and put forward a proposal that I was prepared to negotiate an early retirement. My proposal was that I would retire at seventy but this was found to be unacceptable. The other possibility was to retire in eighteen months depending on whether or not the sexual abuse cases I was dealing with here in the diocese were finalised. It became evident that more time would be needed to finalise these cases and to pastorally care for the victims and their families. Unfortunately this extension of time was denied, the eighteen months was reduced to fifteenth by Pope Benedict and my retirement would be announced on Monday 2 May 2011.

“I wish to thank you for your friendship and prayerful support over the eighteen years I have been a member of the Australian Episcopal Conference. I have deeply appreciated your prayers and support during that time and I will miss you. I am sure our paths will cross sometime somewhere in the future and as the quote below says, ‘If we should bump into one another, recognize me’.

William M Morris, DD
Bishop Emeritus of Toowoomba

22 Responses

  1. Fr S

    “God wants you to resign.”

    The ultimate in the ‘appealing to authority’ argument.

    You cant really go much higher than that, can you? God, – who created everything, who revolves the planets around each other, who causes the sun to rise and give life to the earth – wants you to resign!

    I would guess that Bishop Morris will take great heart from this Sunday’s Gospel. Benedict, Levada, Bertone, Sodano, Law – and now Chaput – wont let it bother them in the slightest.

    I wonder if God wants Cardinal Law to resign?

  2. father john michael george

    Jesus said for peter and his succesors “whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” -well your lordship Peter’s successor has loosed you from toowoomba; and heaven champions the decision

  3. Ned Quinn

    On this feast of Saints Simon and Jude, we have just prayed for one of their successors, Bishop Morris, in his courageous isolation.

  4. FATHER john michael George

    Fr S:
    In December 2002, Cardinal Law left Boston. It is often alleged that he left just hours before state troopers arrived with subpoenas seeking his grand jury testimony; however, he had previously given evidence before two grand juries and been fully investigated by the state attorney general and the 5 district attorneys in the counties in which the Archdiocese operates. When the state attorney general issued his report entitled Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston (July 23, 2003) he did not allege that Law had tried to evade investigation and he did state that Law had not broken any laws.

  5. MM

    The statement by Bishop William Morris’ fellow Australian bishops reminded me of the following famous poem:

    “First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for the communists
    and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me –
    and by then there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    Pastor Martin Niemöller (German anti-Nazi activist)

    Who’s next?

  6. Fr S

    FATHER John Michael George.
    It would appear that Cardinal Law himself disagrees with you on the matter of his innocence. He stated:
    “To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and beg from them forgiveness.”
    And while you are defending the indefensible, you might like to explain why the then Head of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, wrote the following to French Bishop Pican after he had received a three month jail sentence for covering up for an abuser priest in his diocese:
    “You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the Episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other Bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son, a priest.” This man was in charge of the world wide clergy. I wouldn’t have let him be in charge of the controls for the telly.
    Then when the disgraceful letter became public, this man tried to squirm out of it by stating that he had shown the letter to JPII and that JPII had urged him to send it!! Either this man told an outrageous lie and therefore should be stripped of office and returned to a lay state, or the fast-tracking of JPII’s sainthood should be halted immediately. We all know neither will happen.
    God wants Benedict, Law, Sodano, Levada, Bertone, Chaput, Hoyos and numerous others to resign, to go off and join their beloved SSPX and stop turning the Catholic Church into a global laughing stock.

  7. Martin

    Fr S, with all due respect, it is your generation who have so discredited the Church. Under your generation’s watch, heresy ran rampant and so much went to pot – discipline and teaching and liturgy – the list goes on. It will take several generations to recover. Liberals seized control of the Church immediately after Vatican II, using various commissions to advance their nefarious goals, but they were ultimately thwarted by God using the Supreme Pontiff. Mark my words: members of the SSPX will be reconciled with Holy Church even as your members leave the Church, having finally realised that they shall not create a Church in their own image.

  8. FATHER john michael George

    Fr S:
    While like as with all of us law had shortcomings in his case serious indeed nonethe less they did not constitute avoiding investigation nor were they judged by civil law to be crimes
    what is your praxis re seal of confession fr s

    A French magistrate has challenged the seal of the confessional by investigating a bishop for failing to advise police that a priest in his is diocese had molested children.
    Archbishop Louis Marie Bille of Lyons, president of the French bishops’ conference, stood behind Bishop Pican, saying the prelate was bound by the seal of the confessional. “I am confident that if Monsignor Pican kept quiet about these things, then he would have done so because he believed that his conscience demanded that he was bound to keep a secret,” he told French Christian Radio.
    Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux was being investigated in connection with ongoing enquiries into Fr Ren� Bisset, who has been accused of the rape of several boys between 1985 and 1996. Bisset has admitted to charges of sexual abuse and is due to stand trial later this year.

  9. FATHER john michael George

    i regret my atrocious typos but i am in a nursing home recovering from a major thalamic stroke plus 3 operations for cancer-i do not apologise for the content of my posts
    being hemiplegic, capital letters and punctuation are a damn nuisance frankly-viva literary anarchy

  10. Fr S

    FR JMG

    Sorry to hear of your ill health. I hope you are being well looked after.


    You couldn’t or wouldn’t answer any of the points I made on another thread, very serious criticisms which, if true, would indicate that our present leadership is corrupt. You will overlook this because their agenda is your agenda – Latin Mass and the demolishing of Vatican II.
    There is a Latin Mass near me, it regularly attracts 20 people. Latin Mass in Glasgow – 25 people, Latin Mass in Edinburgh – 20 people.
    If it wasn’t for Vatican II Council and ‘my generation’ that would be the state of the church world wide – a furniture exhibition! Your claim on another thread that there is a need for the Tridentine Mass is laughable. If they do impose Latin Mass on us further down the line, such Masses will be held in telephone boxes.
    Enjoy this Sunday’s Gospel!

  11. Paddy Ferry

    Thank you for your honesty. Everyhing you say is absolutely true.

  12. Brendan Peters

    If it wasn’t for sane voices like those of Fr S I’d have taken myself and my four children as far away from the Catholic Church as possible. Thank you for your moral courage, Fr S

  13. Paddy Ferry

    Thank you for alerting us to the content of today’s Gospel. I made sure I kept wide awake and missed nothing of it. Mind you, with the extra hour’s sleep I was more alert and refreshed than normal!
    How pertinent was that to our present situation!! Jesus obviously had never heard of the cappa magna or he would have mentioned it too along with the ” broarder phylacteries and longer tassels ” Today’s Gospel must have been an uncomfortable experience for the likes of Martin and Raymond Burke. Or, are people like that so detached from reality that they would not twig the significance.
    I always enjoy and am uplifted by your contributions and by Eddie’s and Wendy’s too.

  14. Martin

    Brendan, we do not remain Catholics because of any particular priest. We remain Catholic because this is the Church Christ established, and this is where we receive the Blessed Eucharist, which is our salvation and our healing. We needn’t pay attention to those who are unfaithful to Christ and His Church – we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. Study the faith – attend Mass, Adoration, read your Catechism and your Bible. Pray the Rosary. If you do these things, you will survive the coming storms.

  15. Spencer

    MM, no-one “came for” Morris, he is not in a concentration camp, he is living in comfort on a pension provided by God’s people, many of whom regard him as a rank heretic. If you think that this is martyrdom, what have you to say about the Chinese priests and bishops suffering for their adherence to the Magisterium?

  16. FATHER john michael George

    fr s moral courage to follow the pc mob with strident voices brendan??

  17. Fr S


    You are on another thread complaining about the ‘guilty’ verdict by some on Finn, before he has even been tried.
    All of this is a far cry from the treatment meted out to an innocent man – Bishop Bill Morris – whom you deride as a heretic. He has been found guilty of nothing. Benedict couldn’t even say in his letter of dismissal what precisely Morris is guilty of. But sacked him anyway.

    You plead for justice and due process for Finn, a man who has very serious charges against him, but then dispense with the need for justice and due process for Morris.

  18. FATHER john michael George


  19. Spencer

    Fr S, The point was “Is he a martyr?” Answer – not by any reasonable measure and especially when compared to some Chinese priests and bishops. Is he a heretic? Well there won’t be a trial in this case but I think that by the Church’s definition of the term, he would probably be happy to be called one, as I suppose, would many here.

  20. Gerard Flynn

    Perhaps you’d be so good as to point out, from what he has said or written, the points which lead you to conclude that Bishop Morris would be happy to be called a heretic. The evidence appears to be conclusive in the other direction.
    If you cannot do so, perhaps you would do the truth a service and revise what you have written.

  21. FATHER john michael George

    + Morris’ advent letter 2006 in proposing priestesses as a pastoral solution demonstrates a dissent from defined infallible dogma on male priesthood; he thinks anglicans and lutheran orders are valid.
    You dont propose heresy as a solution to pastoral probs…..

  22. Gerard Flynn

    Bishop Morris refutes these allegations explicitly: “How it can be said that my Pastoral Letter teaches these things is beyond me when it purely refers to the fact that these are among many questions being discussed internationally, nationally and locally.”
    He is correct. They are being discussed. Discussion is objectionable only to the thought police.

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