Monday, 20 June 2011

Maintain the rage on Bishop Morris?! For sheer unmitigated gall this takes the prize...

One of the most fundamental messages of Christianity is the idea that we must take up our crosses in imitation of Our Lord.

It is a message that seems to have gone missing in too many cases recently, most notably in the cases of Bishop Morris of Toowoomba and in the case of Fr John Corapi, a US tele-evangelist who has announced he is leaving the priesthood rather than submit to the process set up to investigate claims against him.

The Corapi case

The US blogs are dominated at the moment by the case of Fr Corapi, who, I gather appeared frequently on EWTN and operated as a televangelist.

I'm not particularly familiar with Fr Corapi (I've seen him briefly on tv once or twice but his style didn't much appeal to me), but the story as far as I can gather is that someone said they would set out destroy him, made some claims about him. He claims that his superiors were pressured into suspending him and set up a process which he considers does not accord him adequate rights to defend himself. He quickly went public to denounce his suspension, and three months in has now announced that he is leaving the priesthood to set up some kind of alternative ministry.

I can certainly empathize with his sense of outrage assuming the claims are false. One would certainly like to see at least some preliminary investigation of the bona fides and motivations of accusers before actions are launched. But in the end, protection of victims and potential victims is a high priority, and processes are there to protect everyone.

Are the current processes fair to priests? Perhaps not, if what he has said about them are true.

There are some real issues that need to be addressed in relation to the problem of false accusations and the right to defend oneself.

But walking away when they have barely even started does seem a very an odd reaction....

Bishop Morris...

One can perhaps see a similar pattern of failure to accept our crosses in the case of Bishop Morris.

Instead of working within the existing processes and, for example, going to Rome when called to discuss his Advent Pastoral Letter, he rejected the opportunity provided for dialogue and yet continues to claim lack of due process.

Instead of resigning as requested when it became clear that he was not going to budge on the key issues at stake in relation to Church teaching, he forced the Pope to dismiss him.

And instead of accepting the situation, he continues to argue the toss, claiming to be 'misrepresented', the latest installment being a letter to the editor of the Record.

Bishop Morris is not Gough!

But for sheer unmitigated gall, it is hard to go past today's reflection on the issue by Andrew Hamilton over at Eureka Street (who I gather is actually a Jesuit priest though there is no indication to that efffect in his article or on that website). Over there at Liberal-Jesuit HQ, Fr Hamilton compares the Morris situation with the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by the Governor-General back in 1975, and wonders whether we should 'maintain the rage'!

Well no!

For starters, Mr Whitlam was elected by the people but dismissed by the unelected Governor-General. Bishop Morris, by contrast, was both appointed and dismissed by the same Office, namely the elected Pope!

Mr Whitlam was dismissed without warning; Bishop Morris knew exactly what was coming.

One could also suggest that in the case of Mr Whitlam, the processes of the Parliament arguably still had some way to go, and might have been able to resolve the situation. In the case of Bishop Morris, the processes had been worked through long since, and the only puzzle is why it took so long to actually sack him.

Moving on!

Fr Hamilton mixes up several quite different issues and puts them all on a par, claiming that the treatment of Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland, asylum seekers and Bishop Morris are all manifestations of the same 'unjust' 'lack of decency', all 'sold into exile'! But really all three cases are quite different - for one thing, whatever the merits of the argument, Mr Overland resigned with good grace when it became clear that he did not have the confidence of the appointing authority!

And Fr Hamilton responds to those who, such as myself, are trying to tell the liberals to get a grip:

"One of the difficulties we may have with moving on is that it's always the victors who counsel us to do so. They suggest we should accept what has happened, and go into the future not only with respect for the humanity of those who have engineered these events, but with admiration for their wisdom, courage, motivation and methods. [This is an over-the-top claim. All those concerned are actually asking is that Bishop Morris and friends stop vilifying them as 'temple police' and the like for the crime of insisting that their rights being respected!] We should leave behind any solidarity with the people who have been injured in these affairs.[No one is suggesting that we shouldn't be praying for and supporting Bishop Morris]

Fr Hamilton ponders but then rejects the idea of 'maintaining the rage', but then makes these truly astonishing comparisons, firstly to the Bible, secondly to fiction placing people in hell (do liberals actually believe anyone is in hell? But perhaps they are prepared to make an exception to the empty hell theory for those they label 'taliban catholics'?), and thirdly claiming a comparison to the Holocaust, a comparison that will surely garner righteous outrage from the Jewish community:

"A more constructive response is to weave abominable and piteous deeds into art. The Bible, which has fed so much of Western literature, is full of stories of good people undone and humiliated by scheming arrogance. The Book of Psalms particularly contains expressive prayers of complaint at the triumph of the unjust. Dante's Inferno, and the novels of Solzhenitzyn fix the protagonists of their era for all time in heaven or hell. The literature of the Holocaust remembers the reality of things done which were suppressed by their perpetrators."

Fighting the good fight?

Fr Hamilton argues that this is a case where we shouldn't move on, where Bishop Morris' name should be kept up in lights in order to advance the fight for church governance based on respect for transparency and due process. He claims:

To focus on what matters and to continue to press for it is a lonely path. It is easier to move back into silence or to move away from engagement in church or public life. Constancy needs to be supported and directed by good conversation. Winners always try to control the story and drown out conversation by censorship or ridicule. So to move on decently demands nurturing convivial conversation among like-minded friends. Ultimately moving on takes place in the imagination. The task is to keep the imagination fresh and decent.

Non serviam

This is truly sad stuff.

Because assuming there are any real issues to fight for in all of this (and personally I think there are some genuine issues of Church governance that need to be looked at, not least how the laity could be cheated of their rights to the Church's teachings and sacraments in accordance with the laws of the Church for nearly twenty years without any action being taken) they will surely be lost in this protestant attitude of disobedience to proper authority.

Man's instinct is of course always to prefer his own will, own way to that of God's which is often hard, often the path of the Cross.

But there are many Luthers out there today, pinning their demands metaphorically to the door of the Church, and demanding that their way prevail. Of course, the Church eventually excommunicated Luther...

***Postscript: Cath News, Eureka Street and the Jesuits. Sigh...

?Mr Michael Mullins, in his guise as the author of Cath News' 'blogwatcher' takes me to task this week for describing Andrew Hamilton as "Mr" instead of  "Father".

Had I known he was a priest I would of course have accorded him his proper title; now that I do I've corrected it accordingly.

Unfortunately his Eureka Street article (which is in fact edited by Mr Mullins) and the short bios on the Jesuit-owned website omit to mention this information...

The article itself didn't didn't include any indication that he was in fact a Jesuit, let alone a priest.

And if one searches the bios under the 'writers' button, while some of the bios do include a title, Fr Hamilton's reads only as follows:

"Andrew Hamilton is the consulting editor for Eureka Street. He also teaches at the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne."

But thank you for the information Mr Mullins. 

Good to know we should be praying for yet another errant Jesuit priest, not just another liberal layperson.

Perhaps Mr Mullins might also consider giving some time in his other guise, as editor of Eureka Street, to updating the bios there, and insisting that priests describe themselves as such when authoring articles on that site....

12 comments:

John Regan said...
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David said...
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PM said...
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A Canberra Observer said...
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Tony said...
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Kate said...

Coments made on dates noted above:

John Regan wrote on June 20:

"I am deeply disturbed at the apparent lack of compassion for any of the people you so generously discredit and condemn. What right do you have to condemn anyone surely that is only the right of God. It is apparent you have no concern for seeking out justice simply condemn and move on. That seems to me to be where this whole matter begins and end; it seems scandal and libel don't have a place in your mind set. My major considerations are compassion with justice and I hope that is the central tenant of any human being created by God.

Kate said...

Comment made by David on June 20:

Justice requires an element of certainty. At some stage, every process, legal, ecclesiastical, whatever, needs to have its final conclusion. It is not spiritually (or indeed, psychologically) healthy to continue to return to past grievances, real or imagined, like a dog returning to its own vomit.

That is part of the wisdom of accpeting one's cross and moving on.

I do not know enough about Fr Corapi to feel comfortable saying much about his case, but Bishop Morris' latest letter has some aspects that seem quite disingenous to me. For example, "At no time was the “Third Rite” of Reconciliation used in the diocese. What was used was a Second Rite [...] and, on occasions, according to the Liturgical and Canonical Guidelines laid down by the diocese, general absolution was given,".

Does His Lordship not understand that it is the imparting of absolution in a general manner without individual and integral confession that is the problem here, not the form of the Rite used? Secondly, it begs the question of who was the source of the "Liturgical and Canonical Guidelines" - cited almost as if they emenated from an authority superior to the Bishop.

For all the superior-sounding obfuscation, that advances His Lordship's cause not an inch.

All of us need to be able to discern right from wrong, faithful teaching from false, orthodoxy from heresy. It is not, to my mind, fair to accuse Kate of "condemning" anyone. But as rational, moral creatures, we do need to discern the qualities of the acts undertaken by our fellow man.

In all of this, it seems to be the rights of the ordinary faithful that are most flagrantly ignored. The rash judgments, the crude perjoratives, such as "Taliban Catholic" and "Temple Police" seem directed almost entirely at the ordinary laity, and from "on high".

Kate said...

Comment made by PM on June 20:

I looked up Bishop Morris's reply to The Record and found it bizarre. He insists his diocese was not using the Third Rite of Reconciliation but the Second with general absolution. In other words, it wasn't the Second Rite at all - the Second Rite (which I know many traddies don't like either) consists of communal Scripture readings, prayers and homily followed by individual confession and absolution for those present. And his comments on the ordination of women (wouldn't do it as long as the church doesn't allow it) make it pretty clear that he doesn't believe the teachings he was supposed to uphold.

Maybe the Brennan theory was right - he just isn't very bright.

Kate said...

Comment made by Canberra Observer on June 20:

While John's comments are a timely reminder of the need for charity, I would say however that the topics which the blog post address are real. There can be no real charity without truth. My own observations of these machinations, including of events in Toowoomba for many years, lead me to the conclusion that Bishop Morris has not acted in the best interests of the Church and in flagrant disregard of the Church's traditions. Now there is an orgy of wailing over his supposed 'rough treatment'.
For me, this blog articulates things that should be said and should have been said probably long ago.
As a lay catholic I ask where is the justice and compassion of these prelates and clergy who rob me of my rights in justice to a full participation in the Catholic Church, not the local church of 'humpty doo' complete with Aussie BBQ praxis and theology, but the Catholic Church?
And who by their pride in determinig that they know better than the Magisterium, than tradition and the teaching office of the Holy Father, also rob my children and family (and those who mistakenly them as actually dispensing what the Church wants them to dispense) of a propoer formation in the faith and a full and orthodox participation in the life of the Church. By their pride they endanger souls.

Maybe that won't be viewed as 'compassion with justice' but that is my view.

Kate said...

Comment made by Tony on June 20:

Instead of working within the existing processes and, for example, going to Rome when called to discuss his Advent Pastoral Letter, he rejected the opportunity provided for dialogue and yet continues to claim lack of due process.

I'm aware that he didn't go to Rome on one occasion because he had pressing matters at home, but do you have other evidence to make the claim that he 'didn't work within existing processes'? I understand, for example, that he facilitated the visit of +Chaput in an appropriate manner.

Instead of resigning as requested when it became clear that he was not going to budge on the key issues at stake in relation to Church teaching, he forced the Pope to dismiss him.

As I understand it, that's because he believed there was no case against him that warranted his voluntary resignation. Surely it's reasonable not to act in a way that implies you are guilty of something when you genuinely believe you're not?

And instead of accepting the situation, he continues to argue the toss, claiming to be 'misrepresented', the latest installment being letter to the editor of the Record.

I assume that's becaue he believes he was misrepresented. If that is the case, doesn't he have a reasonable right to say so when it is claimed otherwise? The version of events depicted in The Record is, afterall, not part of any official process. It represents the opinion of a journalist. Can't Bishops respond to the claims of journalists?

'Taking up our cross' doesn't mean we have to meekly accept what we genuinely believe to be injustice.

PS: By 'emphasize with his sense of outrage ...' I assume you mean empathize or even empathise? :-)

Kate said...

Tony - Thanks for drawing my attention to the typo. On your substantive points, I refer you to my previous posts on ths subject.

And please, one comment at a time, until others respond at least! If you want to post long soliloquies, use your own blog.

Kate said...

John - Of course we are entitled to draw broad conclusions from actions! That is how we learn.

What we are enjoined to avoid is rash judgment, but that is hardly at issue here.

The scandal and libel seems to me to be being created entirely by the bishops' supporters.