Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Two 'teaching moments' on Toowoomba


There are two stories in the media today attempting to draw the lessons from the dismissal of Bishop Morris of Toowoomba.  One gets it; the other doesn't. 

The power to appoint and dismiss bishops

Let's start with the fail!

Over at the Liberal rag National Catholic Reporter, highlighted naturally of course by Cath News today, there is an opinion piece by the infamous Richard McBrien.  Most of it is an argument for bishops being elected rather than appointed by the Pope, on the basis that historically this has been the norm until the last few centuries.  Mostly true enough (if somewhat overstated) and fair enough to argue - in fact it is a view I even have some sympathy with - if it weren't for the utterly erroneous conclusion he draws!

McBrien tries to suggest that history proves that Popes don't have the right to appoint - and more importantly in this case  - to dismiss bishops!  But the fact that things have been done predominantly by one method rather than another in fact proves absolutely nothing!  That successive popes have chosen to allow most bishops to be elected rather than appointed directly by him was a matter of both practicality and policy, not whether or not they had the power to do so.

And when it comes to the dismissal of bishops, there is in fact a long trail of historical precedents going back to the earliest centuries of the Church for the dismissal of bishops by higher authority than the 'electors', including synods of bishops, patriarchs and popes.

Moreover, if  McBrien were right, surely the logical conclusion must surely be that any bishop who hadn't been elected in some way - that is most of them apart from the pope himself and a few Eastern rite bishops - would be invalid appointments...

The dismissal of Bishop Morris was indeed, as McBrien suggests a teaching moment on ecclesiology - but the lesson isn't the one McBrien suggests, but rather about the need for bishops to stay in communion with Peter.

The power of Adoration

But the real teaching moment comes in a story from EWTN about the role that Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament played in the Toowoomba affair.  Strangely, this is one Cath News don't seem to have noticed:

"Mavis Power says the turning point for the troubled Diocese of Toowoomba in Australia was Oct. 13, 2000, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. That was the day that Eucharistic adoration began at the heart of Toowoomba.

Power and others believe that Eucharistic devotion helped eventually lead to the ouster of the diocese’s Bishop Bill Morris. He was removed from office May 2 by Pope Benedict XVI, reportedly for his continued disregard for Catholic Church teaching during his 18 years as bishop.

The power of prayer is the biggest factor in any change that’s occurred, really. I see a lot of power in adoration. It’s the best prayer outside the Mass and, of course, it flows from the Mass,” says Power, a mother of five who works with disabled people.

It is a great story - starting with a novena that surprisingly secured Bishop Morris' agreement to Adoration taking place in the diocese, despite his general opposition to traditional devotions.  The story goes on:
"We always understood the power of prayer because we were a tiny minority in the diocese. So the only power we had was the power of prayer,” adds Powers’ friend. “We had to trust in God. What chance otherwise did we have, up against the powers-that-be and the establishment?”

...The prayers continue for renewal in Toowoomba, which spans more than 188,000 square miles and has a Catholic population of roughly 66,000 served by 35 parishes.

In the meantime, Power and her friends they continue to pray for their departed and for Bishop Morris. As Power’s friend puts it: “We’ve always been praying for the bishop – as people we were always charitable towards him – and so we’re still praying for him. At the end of the day he’s a soul, and nobody wants to see him lost.”

Do go read the whole great story, and join your prayers to theirs for the conversion of Bishop Morris and the renewal of the diocese.

Now that's a real teaching moment!

1 comment:

A Canberra Observer said...

Interestingly, the Blessed Sacrament Fathers used to run 'The Shrine' in downtown Toowoomba. And it was a War Remembrance Shrine.

However the Fathers departed, about the time of Bp Morris arrival, though I think due to their diminishing numbers that was on the cards anyway.

However, there used be VERY frequent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament there, and Mass every day (often more than once a day). Basically The Shrine was open most of the day every day, and there was a fairly frequent flow of people making visits.

It is now a bookshop.

Also interestingly, Toowoomba's St Patrick's Cathedral, not far from the centre of town, is rarely open during business hours on weekdays. of course the unfortunate spectre of vandalism etc makes this almost unavoidable almost everywhere.

Perhaps that reflects a wider issue - the Australia that Julia Gillard "wants for Australia" - somehow a civil society but without any transcendent platform.

Perhaps also incidentally, I understand that the priests of the Cathedral include some very vocal pro-Bp Morris supporters and they are also widely involved in pushing for liberal approaches on ecclesial matters.

As the smal tsunami of anti-papal stories recycled on CathNews over the last 10 days, I think it makes it hard for them to maintain the fiction that they don't have an agenda and, imo, it does not include providing a balance of stories, let alone taking a line in keeping with a Catholic identity.