The Record, WA's Catholic weekly newspaper, has a strong editorial this week on the dismissal of Bishop Morris, entitled 'A bishop that had to go'.
Good to see, at long last, an official Catholic media outlet in this country actually speaking up!
The basic story line is that this is about the contest between the hermeneutic of continuity and that of discontinuity; between truth and relativism. Do read the whole thing. But I'll give you a few of the best quotes below.
The Record: Australia's best diocesan newspaper by far
I've long regarded the WA archdiocesan website as by far the best of the various diocesan newspapers and the like.
The online version operates from an attractive and well designed site.
It does a great job at digging out local stories of genuine Catholic interest, covering the key international ones, and providing serious depth to its reporting.
It is invariably thoroughly orthodox, which is more than one can say for some of the material that graces the pages (most notably in the book reviews but elsewhere as well) of my own archdiocese's rag, The Voice (prizes and recognition notwithstanding).
But above all, it is often quite bold in its editorial line - as this week. Quite a contrast to the wimpy Catholic Weekly of Sydney, or any of its other equivalents.
Why Bishop Morris had to go
Some key extracts from the editorial:
"While the removal was almost unprecedented in Australia, it not-so-surprisingly illuminated fault lines within the Church which all reasonably well-informed observers have known about for decades. To use somewhat technical language, the fault-line is sometimes described as the one which runs between the hermeneutic of continuity on the one hand and a mentality which can be described, on the other, as a hermeneutic of discontinuity. At the end of the day, however, the issue under debate was the simple fact that in the Catholic Church every Bishop, a successor to the apostles, is obliged by sacred oath to teach what the Catholic Church teaches - period."
The hermeneutic of continuity is an outlook which sees the history of the Church from Christ up until now as an organic and constantly developing unity which takes into account the person and teachings of Christ, Scripture, two millennia of Catholic faith and practice and the defined body of teaching called the magisterium. It accepts as a matter of faith that some things can’t change, no matter what the popular view such as, for example, the belief in Christ’s divinity. Such things are, in effect, the constellations in the night sky by which the ordinary Catholic man or woman can safely navigate because they do not change position.
The hermeneutic of discontinuity, conversely, is more a mentality that tends to regard much of the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council as somehow deficient and which seeks to obscure, change or reverse some or much Church teaching, not excluding the dogmatically defined magisterium, usually in matters to do with the sanctity of human life and gender, but also extending to issues such as ecclesiology, liturgy, and in specific instances such as the ordination of women. It usually seeks to do so in accord with moral relativism and the values predominantly to be found in popular culture. It often confuses the individual sinfulness or failings of members of the Church throughout history with the actual faith of the Church.
One mentality is informed by two millennia of constant belief and practice, often heroically witnessed to by martyrdom, the other by the mass media and the fashionable theories that abound in our culture. On the side of the essential unity of Church belief and teaching from Christ up until the present is Pope Benedict; on the side of changing Church teaching and practice to suit some values of majority opinion, sadly, was Bishop Morris....
The problem for Bishop Morris, in the end, was that given the two positions he had to make a choice - his way or the Catholic Church way. The problem for the Church was how to handle a Bishop well down the road in effectively promoting what might now reasonably be called heresy in his diocese...
...To suppose that such teachings could be dropped or changed by the Church was never anything more than mere fantasy. And whether critics were in a majority or a minority in the diocese of Toowoomba is immaterial. The truth of the Gospel never depends on numbers.
Bishop Morris has been portrayed (not surprisingly) by organisations such as the National Council of Priests of Australia as the innocent and unjustly treated victim of a dogmatic, pharisaical mindset under Pope Benedict and Rome (the usual conspiracy theory in the NCPA world of billabong theology where no fresh water appears to have flowed in since 1968)...
...Catholic spouses and families everywhere face an unprecedented onslaught against their faith, their values and their children from a modern anti-culture predicated on the idea that there are really no more moral rules and no real consequences: one should do whatever one wants. As the simple people of faith do their best to lead the at-times difficult Christian life of fidelity to Jesus and everything He taught, they do not need bishops who will obscure the way or who become obstacles to the heroic vocation of Christian marriage and family. In fact, they are, sadly, better off without them. One might say that they need a Bishop who can be a rock. One of the two Bishops at the heart of this controversy is undoubtedly that.