March 26, 2012 Fr Frank Brennan SJ
given at Catalyst for Renewal Dinner, Hunters
See below, No. 6, Due Process in the Church
"I would like to take further my reflections on the Morris affair"
(Update March 28: Below, No. 6, now also at Eureka Street, with comments)
modern world into contact
with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel
(John XXIII’s half century challenge)
1962, I moved from the Brigidine Convent at Indooroopilly in
years on, we gather to celebrate as Catholics, confident that the gifts of the
Spirit will assist us in proclaiming the Good News to each other, to our fellow
believers, and to our fellow citizens no matter what their religious beliefs or
none. Let's recall that it was the week of Christian Unity in 1959 when John
XXIII gathered with a small selection of his cardinals in the Benedictine
chapterhouse beside the Basilica of Saint Paul-Outside-the-Walls when he said,
"I am prompted to open my mind and heart to you, because of this feast of
the Conversion of St Paul. I want to tell you frankly about several points of
planned pastoral activity which have emerged in my thoughts because of my brief
three months here within these church circles in
great historian of Vatican II from the “
at St Pauls Outside the Walls, the new Pope said:
am saddened when people forget the place of God in their lives and pursue
earthly goods, as though they were an end in themselves. I think, in fact, that
this blind pursuit of the things of this world emerges from the power of
darkness, not from the light of the Gospels, and it is enabled by modern
technology. All of this weakens the energy of the spirit and generally leads to
divisions, spiritual decline, and moral failure. As a priest, and now as the
shepherd of the Church, I am troubled and aroused by this tendency in modern
life and this makes me determined to recall certain ancient practices of the
church in order to stem the tide of this decline. Throughout the history of the
Church, such renewal has always yielded wonderful results. It produces greater
clarity of thought, solidarity of religious unity, and abundant spiritual riches
in people's lives.
"trembling with a bit of emotion", he announced his intention to hold
a diocesan Synod for
took almost 3 years before he then convoked the council with his apostolic
Constitution Humanae Salutis in which
he said, "Today the church is witnessing a crisis underway within society.
While humanity is on the edge of a new era, tasks of immense gravity and
amplitude await the Church, as in the most tragic periods of its history. It is
a question in fact of bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying
and perennial energies of the Gospel, a world which exults itself with its
conquests in the technical and scientific fields, but which brings also the
consequences of a temporal order which some have wished to reorganise excluding
God." And thus the title for my remarks this evening: John’s half century
challenge of “bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and
perennial energies of the Gospel”.
gather as people of faith. We gather as the people of God, true to the church
and engaged with the world. Coming from the Ignatian tradition, I have long
thought that the greatest challenge to us as people of faith is to tap the
interior freedom to which we are called, freed from all the disordered
affections, so that we might be better able to serve humanity and the whole of
creation, being bridge builders to the frontiers, being at home at the
crossroads between church and world, being the credible mind of the Church, the
soiled hands of the contemporary Jesus, and the heart of Christ large enough to
hold, love and nurture with dignity and respect all our fellow human beings.
challenges are enormous, but invigorating. John O'Malley SJ, the finest
contemporary historian of Vatican II writing in the English language has
provided us with "a simple litany" of the changes in church style
indicated by the council's vocabulary: "from commands to invitations, from
laws to ideals, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from
monologue to conversation, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated,
from vertical and top-down to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from
hostility to friendship, from static to changing, from passive acceptance to
active engagement, from prescriptive to principled, from defiant to open-ended,
from behaviour modification to conversion of heart, from the dictates of law to
the dictates of conscience, from external conformity to the joyful pursuit of
am one who welcomes these changes. I am not one of those Catholics so wedded to
the continuity of the tradition as to think that nothing happened at Vatican II,
and that we should be back to business as usual as we were when those eight year
old boys gathered with the Christian Brother around the portrait of Our Lady of
Perpetual Succour. As you
know, I am quite unapologetic in according primacy to the formed and informed
conscience of the individual. Any
Catholic taking their faith and church membership seriously will be very
attentive to the teaching office of the hierarchy, especially the Pope.
But at the end of the day, all of us, whether Pope or not, are obliged to
form and inform our conscience and to that conscience be true.
I want to indicate six ways in which we the educated and grounded People of God
might respond more passionately to the challenges of the Age.
Most of you who are parents or grandparents wonder how any practice of
the Faith is to be handed on credibly to your children and grandchildren.
You know that the younger generations are more impressed by actions than
by words, and that talk of justice rings hollow with them unless there are
structures in place to ensure justice is done, and that talk of God’s love
rings false unless it is lived through deeds and witnessed by a real sense of
transcendence and respect for every person’s human dignity elevating the
believer above the materialism and power of the world.
If our faith is to be handed on to the coming generations, we need to be
sure that we the Church are not an obstacle but rather a bridge for bringing the
modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the
gospel. I suggest that there are six
matters requiring our attention:
Transcendence and Openness
need to foster our contemporary sense of the transcendent and openness to the
other, the world and culture which are not all bad.
We need to be attentive to the arts and culture, open to ecumenical and
interfaith dialogue and mutual learning. I
was surprised at how uplifting I found Geoffrey Blainey’s A
Short History of Christianity. As
a Catholic, I took delight in the variety of expressions of Christian faith, and
admitted to myself as if for the first time that I would be a little wary of
praying that all Christians come under
modern, secularist culture there are mingled together both the authentic
developments of the Gospel, of an incarnational mode of life, and also a closing
off to God that negates the Gospel. The
notion is that modern culture, in breaking with the structures and beliefs of
Christendom, also carried certain facets of Christian life further than they
were ever taken or could have been taken within Christendom.
In relation to the earlier forms of Christian culture, we have to face
the humbling realisation that the breakout was a necessary condition of the
might think only of the contemporary international concern with human rights and
the suspicion of many Catholic bishops about the invocation of human rights
Primacy of Conscience
need to be true to conscience and to the tradition, respecting the dignity of
all persons who are called to act according to their formed and informed
consciences, and respecting them enough to challenge them in the light of the
tradition when we think their consciences might be insufficiently formed and
informed, conceding that there might be room for improvement in our own
conscience formation and learning which might be infected by too much
group-think and subservience to authority which is exercised with insufficient
transparency and openness.
Justice and Dignity for All
need to be credible in agitating for justice and dignity for all, espousing not
just equality and non-discrimination, but also the common good and the public
interest, with a particular eye to the voiceless and those whose claims on us do
not enjoy fad status. The same sex
marriage debate comes to mind. I
have been greatly assisted by the line of Archbishop Vincent Nichols,
elected President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and
concede that some Catholic commentators might argue for limits on
non-discrimination and compassion on the basis that the very recognition of a
same sex relationship is contrary to the natural law.
For example, the Catechism
states: “The natural law, the
Creator’s very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build
the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the
indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it
provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected,
whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by
additions of a positive and juridical nature.”
But these commentators would then need to establish that the extension of
non-discrimination and compassion to same sex couples would undermine the
indispensable moral foundation for building the human community.
would be a pity if those of us trying to contribute the strength of the Catholic
tradition to the debate were simply characterised as homophobic naysayers.
And it would be helpful if some of the nuances of the experienced
don’t think the public debate in Australia will be much assisted by agitating
the present canonical view of the Catholic Church that “a valid
without its being
by that very fact
We all know many baptized persons who profess no religious faith at all.
It stretches our understanding of a sacrament to propose that two adult
persons without religious faith could be administering a sacrament to each
other; and it offends our sense of natural justice to say that such a couple are
incapable of entering into a marriage contract in good faith.
If we Catholics are told not to accept the reality of non-sacramental
marriage for those who happen to be baptised, we should not expect our official
Church teaching on marriage to assist much with setting the contours on civil
marriage. The distinguished canon
lawyer Ladilas Orsy has said:
are concrete cases when the wise advice to a couple, baptized and unbelieving as
they are, is to tell them to contract a nonsacramental marriage. This is no more
than to respect the state of their mind and heart, to honour their honesty. We
have no right to refuse to recognize the genuine human value of their
commitment. If one day they are given the fullness of faith, become believers,
and ask for the sacrament, it should be given to them in joyful celebration.
will continue to advocate against same sex marriage, while being in favour of
civil unions. Discussion about the
sacramentality of marriage in the Catholic Church is unlikely to provide any
clear answer or direction to those seeking a just law for all couples, including
same sex couples.
young people who marry nowadays have already been cohabiting.
They usually marry because they think it is time to start a family.
The State’s interest in marriage as an institution has arisen because
the State has been concerned with the procreation and nurture of children of the
union. We are just around the corner
from scientists being able to produce a child from the genetic material of two
ova or two sperm. I think the State
still has an interest in preferencing a social institution which maximises the
possibility of children being nurtured by their known biological mother and
their known biological father. Call
me old fashioned if you will. But I
think the State should proceed slowly in this field.
We should have learnt some lessons from the Stolen Generations and those
who were adopted out contrary to their parents’ wishes.
I would support the recognition of civil unions now, but I would want to
reserve consideration of same sex marriage until the majority of those who are
married (and not just the young) favour it, and until we have dealt with the
complex issues of parenting children produced from the genetic material of two
men only or two women only.
Liturgy for Life
need to celebrate liturgy which animates us for life and mission – being
faithful to the routine of life including weekly Eucharist and daily prayer,
being sufficiently educated in our faith and familiar with liturgy to celebrate
the big events and sacramental moments of life, attentive to our local cultural
reality and part of a universal Church which both incorporates and transcends
all cultures. The clunky new
translation provides us all with a real challenge, particularly when celebrating
marriages and funerals when very few in the congregation know the responses.
Institutional Support for a Resourced Laity who are the majority of Christ’s
the shortage of priests and religious in the contemporary Australian church as
compared with the situation 50 years ago, we need to provide more resources and
opportunities to the laity wanting to perform the mission in Christ’s name –
lay organisations, public juridic persons, volunteering, better structured
opportunities for part time commitment to the apostolate, and provision by
religious orders for young people wanting to make a commitment for a few years
before marriage and life and work in civic service.
The greatest challenge is providing a place in the Church for young women
wanting to contribute to the mission. When
I stood at that portrait of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour 50 years ago, there
were almost 15,000 women religious in the
caused alarm with some of my fellow Jesuits last year when I gave an interview
to The Good Weekend saying:
“I wouldn't be a priest if I was 21 today. I am one of the last
generations of Irish Catholics whose families made it professionally and were
comfortable with the church. I love being a Jesuit but I can't honestly say I
would join now. My religious faith
has remained rock solid, but there are times when I feel really cheesed off with
the institutional church, which sometimes treats its lay members and non-members
in a too-patronising fashion.”
I joined the Jesuits, approximately
25 per cent of clerical religious were 60 or over, with very few aged 75 or
over. More than one-third (36.6%) were under the age of 40, with 9.8 per cent
under 25 years. By 2009, only 10 per cent of clerical religious were under 40,
with just 0.7 per cent aged under 25. That’s
an enormous challenge for a 21 year old.
I have said to my superiors, we need to see how a young man might discern that
action of the Spirit in calling him to a group which is aged and diminished,
though armed with a fine founding charism and recent documents which make for
splendid reading in terms of mission and life. For example, if I were
contemplating priesthood or religious life aged 21 today and was attracted to
the Australian Jesuits, I would need to consider some additional factors which
were not relevant in 1975: I will be responsible in fraternal charity for a
disproportionate number of my brothers who are retired and moving towards death;
I will not be accompanied by a significant number of like-minded contemporaries;
I will be expected to oversee corporate enterprises boasting the Ignatian
charism with a reduced expectation that I will have a long working life largely
dedicated just to learning, teaching or direct pastoral involvement; and I will
be part of an apostolic group dedicated to the universal mission of the Church
but with few inspiring demands or expressions of trust from the local hierarchy.
The Spirit may still be calling me but not in the same exciting and challenging
way that the Spirit would have been calling the same young man had he turned
Due Process in the Church
need to reform our church structures to be more aligned with contemporary
notions of justice and due process. Tonight
I would like to take further my reflections on the Morris affair, acknowledging
that some Catholics think it is just a storm in a teacup about a recalcitrant
country bishop and that it is time we all moved on.
I think such an approach is a serious misreading of the signs of the
times. The Toowoomba diocese has
been without a resident bishop now for almost eleven months since Pope Benedict
removed Bishop William Morris, who refused to submit his resignation when
requested by three curial cardinals who formed an adverse view of him.
had offered to retire by August last year provided only that the sexual abuse
cases in the diocese had been resolved. This timetable was judged inappropriate
was denied natural justice. No one, including the Australian bishops, quite
knows why he was sacked — or at least they cannot tell us; the charges and the
evidence remain a moving target, a mystery. Clearly Morris has not been judged a
heretic or schismatic. He has maintained his standing as a bishop, being asked
to assist with Episcopal tasks in his home diocese of
have been some suggestions of defective pastoral leadership by Morris — an
assessment not shared by most of his fellow Australian bishops, who expressed
their appreciation “that Bishop Morris's 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
2004, Bishop Morris had his first meeting with Cardinal Arinze, the Cardinal
Prefect for Divine Worship, to discuss the use of the third rite of
reconciliation in the far flung diocese of Toowoomba.
key resident church leaders of Toowoomba then commissioned retired Supreme Court
judge and esteemed Catholic layman, William Carter QC to review
accordance with Canon 19, the Holy See, departing from the earlier precedents
for the removal of Australian bishops, could have designed a process similar to
the process for removal of a parish priest, thereby according procedural
fairness and natural justice consistent with the Code of Canon Law. This was not
done. I respectfully concur with Mr Carter's conclusion that “Bishop Morris
was denied procedural fairness and natural justice.”
his report of last October, Mr Carter, having access to all Morris’s files and
having heard directly from Morris, scrutinised the
his “Statement of Position” to the three Cardinals gathered in
Denis Hart wrote to The Sydney Morning
Herald and The Age on
World Youth Day in Madrid last year, Archbishop Chaput realising that Gerard
Holohan, Bishop of Bunbury, was from Australia, drew him aside in the cathedral
before mass “to indicate vigorously that he had indeed discussed the contents
of his report with Bishop Morris – except for the names of who he met – at
the end of his Apostolic visit to Toowoomba.”
If the processes were working correctly, there would have been no need
for an Apostolic Visitor to draw aside a bishop he had never met to assure him
of due process in relation to another bishop when the stranger bishop had not
even made an inquiry. When
Archbishop Hart first published his report about Archbishop Chaput’s claim
that he had followed due process, I wrote to Archbishop Chaput seeking
clarification. He replied promptly
though briefly within a day, “I have no comments for you, Father Brennan.
God bless you.”
On 12 March, Bishop Morris wrote seeking
clarification of Chaput’s repeated claim to Australian bishops that he had
shared the contents of his report. We
of Christ’s Faithful who have access only to the public documentation are left
confused. Seeking clarification for
the good of the Church, I have written to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishops
Chaput and Hart and Bishop Holohan and discussed the matter with Bishop Morris
and Fr Sparksman. Neither the Nuncio
nor the Archbishops want to engage in any public dialogue.
That of course is their prerogative which I respect.
If indeed Archbishop Chaput did discuss the content of his report with
Bishop Morris, it would be helpful for Christ’s Faithful to know that.
If he did not, it would be helpful if the Australian bishops could be
duly informed so that they do not mis-state the situation.
Rather than having Vatican cardinals present an accused with an anonymous
list of complaints submitted untested, it would be preferable that the Visitor
present the accused with a list of concerns held in good faith by the Visitor
after due inquiry. Archbishop
Chaput's answer to Bishop Morris's query may provide an opportunity to
clarify the public record.
are left confused as to whether Morris was sacked chiefly for what he wrote in
his 2006 Advent letter, for what was reported by Chaput, or for what was
Given our deeply held belief in the
primacy of Eucharist for the identity, continuity and life of each parish
community, we may well need to be much more open towards other options of
ensuring that Eucharist may be celebrated. Several responses have been discussed
internationally, nationally and locally
ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by
their local parish community
welcoming former priests, married or single back to active ministry
ordaining women, married or single
recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders
While we continue to reflect carefully
on these options we remain committed to actively promoting vocations to the
current celibate male priesthood and open to inviting priests from overseas.
he was sacked for what he wrote in his Advent letter about the possible
ordination of women, married priests, and recognition of other orders “
my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006 I outlined some of the challenges facing the
diocese into the future. In that letter I made reference to various
options about ordination that were and are being talked about in various places,
as part of an exercise in the further investigation of truth in these matters.
Unfortunately some people seem to have interpreted that reference
as suggesting that I was personally initiating
options that are contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.
As a bishop I cannot and would not do that and I indicated this in the local
media at the time.
then again if he was sacked for matters detailed in Chaput’s report, we are
left wondering why Chaput being apprised of the Advent letter and having
completed his visit would have told the Diocesan Chancellor how extraordinarily
surprising it would be if Morris were to be sacked.
The matter is a complete mess reflecting very poorly on a Church which
prides itself on a Code of Canon law which provides for the protection of the
rights of all Christ’s faithful, including priests and bishops.
Morris met with the curial cardinals in January 2008, they spoke specifically to
only six of the issues listed in the unsigned, unsourced and inaccurate
memorandum which had been presented to Morris by the nuncio in September 2007.
The first issue listed was the vague assertion that “Toowoomba is
moving in a different direction than that of the Catholic Church”. The second
issue was the Advent pastoral letter. The
third issue listed was the false statement: “At least in the past eight years
there have been no priestly ordinations in Toowoomba” and that priests in good
health were retiring early and being replaced “by deacons or laity”.
There had been four priests ordained in the last eight years, and
Toowoomba had no deacons. The fourth
issue was the third rite of reconciliation.
The Cardinals said, “With regard to ‘general absolution’, we are
glad to hear of Bishop Morris’s statement that ‘general absolution is no
longer common’.” Morris was able
to assure them that he had given permission for general absolution only twice in
the last three years, and for the most appropriate canonical reasons.
The fifth issue was his general failure to correct liturgical abuses.
Morris assured them: “Reports of aberrations have been addressed
immediately, when referred to me.” The
sixth issue was “the general theological climate of the diocese, and
especially of its priests, need(ing) to move towards a more authentic Catholic
identity, as found in the Catechism”. Morris
rightly told them:
am unable to respond fully to issues raised against me because I have not been
provided with a copy of the material carried by the Apostolic Visitor when he
came to our diocese in April of this year nor have I seen the final Report.
Canon 220 guarantees my right to a good name and Canon
221 provides: “The Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend
the rights which they possess in the Church in the competent ecclesiastical
forum according to the norm of law. If
they are summoned to a trial by a competent authority, the Christian faithful
also have the right to be judged according to the prescripts of the law applied
Archbishop Chaput relying on evidence from his Visitation, rather than the Roman
Cardinals acting on untested allegations from the temple police, had formed the
view that Toowoomba was “moving in a different direction than that of the
Catholic Church” and that the priests of the diocese needed “to move towards
a more authentic Catholic identity”, you would have thought he would have told
Bishop Morris at the end of his visit and that the Diocesan Chancellor would
have had no grounds for feeling relieved as they drove towards Brisbane.
questioning the process or decision in relation to Bishop Morris is placed in
the invidious position of being seen as one insufficiently trustful of the
papacy. One can be a great defender
and advocate for the papacy and still be a strong advocate for due process
especially when administrative or judicial type functions by curial officials
may result in a pastor being relieved his office without satisfactory
explanation to him or his flock.
II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen
Gentium, describes the Church as the people of God.
Many of the people of God anxious to respect the human dignity of all and
to ensure that the Church be as perfect a human institution as possible now
think that natural justice and due process should be followed within the Church,
while always maintaining the hierarchical nature of the Church and the papal
primacy. Of course, there are some
who question the papal primacy or the need for an ordained hierarchy, but that
is definitely not my position and they are not my concern here.
The question for the contemporary Catholic is: can I assent to the
teaching of Lumen Gentium without having a commitment to due process, natural
justice and transparency in Church processes and structures thereby maximizing
the prospect that the exercise of hierarchical power and papal primacy will be
for the good of the people of God, rather than a corrosive influence on the
faith and trust of the people of God?
provides a constellation of biblical images for the Church.
It is “a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ. It is a
flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd, and whose sheep,
although ruled by human shepherds, are nevertheless continuously led and
nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds,
who gave His life for the sheep.”
The Good Shepherd is not arbitrary or capricious with his sheep.
Those commissioned to act for the Shepherd would want to go to great
lengths to ensure that the Shepherd is provided with all necessary information
and appropriate processes to console the sheep that the best interests of all
have been maintained with due regard for each person’s dignity and just
Church is also described as “a piece of land to be cultivated, the tillage of
God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the
Prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought
about and will be brought about. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been
planted by the heavenly Husbandman. The true vine is Christ who gives life and
the power to bear abundant fruit to the branches, that is, to us, who through
the Church remain in Christ without whom we can do nothing.”
The branches of the vine will of course be well cultivated if all
necessary nutrients are provided within the life of the Church including natural
justice, due process and transparency.
Church is also described as “the building of God. The Lord Himself compared
Himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the
The modern foundations of any contemporary building like this include just
structures which ensure the recognition of everyone’s dignity, due process and
Church is also called “our mother”. It is described as “the spotless
spouse of the spotless Lamb.”
of these images is undermined or threatened by church structures and church
personnel committed to due process and natural justice being accorded all
persons before the Holy Father exercises his ultimate jurisdiction and
authority. Nor is it undermined by
church personnel being in a position to inform the faithful about the
transparency and justice of the processes adopted by curial officials preparing
briefs for action by the Holy Father.
is no longer appropriate for Church hierarchs to claim that notions of
transparency, due process and natural justice are antithetical to the
hierarchical nature of the Church or to the primacy of the papacy.
The primacy is not to be exercised arbitrarily or capriciously; and
defenders of the Church will want to go to great lengths to ensure that the
papal office is not perceived to be exercised without sufficient regard to the
circumstances and evidence of a case. For
the Pope to be totally free in the appointment, transfer and removal of bishops,
he and his flock have to be assured that his curial officials exercise their
power to recommend appointment, transfer or removal in a just and transparent
laity, the religious, the presbyterate and the bishops in some nations are sure
to have a heightened twenty first century notion of justice, transparency,
and due process. This heightened
notion is a gift for the contemporary Church.
It is one of the works of the Spirit.
It is not antithetical to the nature of the Church. Lumen Gentium
puts it well:
Church of the twenty first century should be the exemplar of due process,
natural justice and transparency – purifying, strengthening, elevating and
ennobling these riches and customs of contemporary Western societies which are
the homes and social constructs for many of the faithful, including those most
directly impacted by the decision to force the dismissal of Bishop Morris.
there can be little useful reflection and critique of the final decision of Pope
Benedict to force the early retirement of Bishop Morris, there is plenty of
scope to review the processes and the evidence leading to the submission of the
brief for dismissal provided by curial officials to the Holy Father.
Those officials acted primarily on written complaints by a small minority
of the faithful and of only a few priests the diocese, the report of the Visitor
Archbishop Chaput, and the responses provided by Bishop Morris who was unable to
cite the complaints or the report. Even
though the Pope can exercise all power (legislative, executive and judicial),
that is no reason for postulating that persons below him in the hierarchy can
act as if they too could exercise all power without limitations and without
a case had been fairly made out against Morris, there may well have been a grave
reason for him to offer his resignation.
But we just do not know the grounds on which he has been singled out for
forced retirement. For example,
it’s not as if he is the only bishop in the world to have spoken about
women’s ordination. And unlike
some of them, he has not espoused it; he has just said he would do what
majority of the faithful are left in the dark, many of them hurt and confused.
The papal overriding of the usual canonical provisions for the election
of an Administrator has caused offence to the diocesan consultors and rendered
the task of Bishop Finnigan, the nominated Administrator, more difficult.
Due to a lack of due process, natural justice and transparency, the
papacy has been harmed, the standing of the Vatican curia has been harmed, the
public standing of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference further
undermined, and the confidence of the Australian Church in the public square
compromised. The Church cannot
credibly proclaim a message of social justice in a pluralist democracy when its
own processes fall so demonstrably short of ordinary community standards of
it comes to Christian charity and solidarity, the recent cases of bishops
Heather, Heaps, Robinson and now Morris leave many Australian Catholics with the
perception that our bishops are caught between a rock and a hard place – the
rock of Vatican secrecy and the hard place of solidarity with a brother in need.
For example, consider Cardinal Pell’s observations about Morris to the US
Catholic News Agency on
of the more questionable assertions relating to this case has been that there is
no formal Vatican process for determining a grave reason for the forced
retirement of a bishop when there has been no penal offence committed,
especially when it is common ground that the bishop in question is “a
very good man” with “a lot of pastoral strengths”, “a lot of good
points”, having “done of lot of good work” with “quite a strong
following in the diocese”, and when the Vatican accusers themselves say the
bishop “should be given another assignment (as a bishop) with special
duties” so that he can “continue to effectively serve the Church elsewhere
in Australia”. Charity
and truth within the people of God are not dependent only on positive law
enacted in the Code of Canon Law. Where
the Code is silent, due process, natural justice and transparency are to be
expected unless there is some countervailing interest of the common good to be
served by secrecy and the avoidance of due process and natural justice.
we as the People of God rejoicing in the name “Catholic” are to bring the
modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the
gospel, we need to ensure that our Church is an exemplar of the noblest values
espoused by people of all faiths and none. We
need to recommit ourselves to charity, justice and truth both within our own
structures when dealing with each other, and in all our dealings with those
outside the membership of our Church, especially those who differ with us
conscientiously about the moral challenges of the Age.
We need to examine afresh our belief in “a love or compassion which is
unconditional – that is, not based on what you the recipient have made of
yourself – or as one based on what you are most profoundly, a being in the
image of God”. Charles Taylor sums
up the challenge as “a difficult discernment, trying to see what in modern
culture reflects its furthering of the Gospel, and what (in modern culture
reflects) its refusal of the transcendent”.
Thus exercised, we might bring even the young into engagement “with the
vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel”.
 A G Roncalli, My Bishop, A Portrait of Mgr Tadeschi, Geoffrey Chapman, p. 48,
G Alberigo, A Brief History of
 John W O'Malley, "Vatican II: Did Anything Happen?", in Vatican II: Did Anything Happen?, David G Scholthoven, (e.g.), Continuum, 2007, at p. 81
 Canon #1055
 L Orsy, “Faith, Sacrament, Contract, and Christian Marriage: Disputed Questions”, (1982) 43 Theological Studies 379 at p. 394
Letter of Bishop Holohan to
Email from Archbishop Chaput
to Frank Brennan,
 Lumen Gentium, #6
 Lumen Gentium, #13
 Can 401§2: A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office.
 Charles Taylor, A Catholic Modernity?, in Dilemmas and Connections, Belknap Press, 2011, p. 185