Monday, 9 May 2011

Bishop Morris and supporters rewriting history?

The Catholic News Agency carries a story suggesting that an attempt is being made to rewrite history in an effort to make Bishop Morris' actions look more open to the Church's teaching than he actually was. 

For some reason it doesn't seem to be getting that much coverage...

Rewriting history

According to the various reports, the ex-Bishop of Toowoomba (and friends) have been busily leaking what appears to be private correspondence between the Bishop and the Pope (incidently rather undermining the bishop's claims of denial of natural justice - it is quite clear from what is on the record now that the Bishop was fully aware of the charges against him, and had numerous opportunities to discuss them with the relevant authorities and recant...).

And amongst these documents, what purports to be the infamous Advent 2006 Pastoral Letter has reappeared.  But it seems that it is a somewhat sanitised version of the original!  CNS notes:

"But a copy of the letter, dated Nov. 17, 2006, was published this week on the website of Australia’s ABC News, which has also published a series of favorable interviews with Bishop Morris.

In his letter, Bishop Morris says that the Church “may well need to be much more open towards other options” for celebrating the Eucharist — including “recognizing Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church orders” and ordaining women and married men “chosen and endorsed by their local parish community.”

There is some question however, whether this newly published copy of Bishop Morris’s letter is complete.

The website AD2000 had previously carried excerpts from Bishop Morris’s Advent 2006 letter. In addition, the letter is quoted favorably in a 2008 book by Paul Collins, “Believers: Does Australian Catholicism Have a Future” (University of New South Wales Press).

But a key section quoted in these earlier excerpts does not appear in the version of the pastoral letter published this week by ABC News.

In these earlier excerpts, Bishop Morris pledges to “continue to reflect carefully” on the options he has proposed. In the version published this week by ABC News, this passage appears to have been excised.

In his original letter as quoted by AD2000, he wrote:

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.”

In the newly published version, this passage reads:

“We remain committed to actively promoting vocations to the current celibate male priesthood and open to inviting priests from overseas.”

In a letter announcing his departure that was read in all parishes May 1, Bishop Morris complained that his pastoral letter had been “deliberately misinterpreted.”

If bishops won't go quietly...

Aside from providing some further insight into the modus operandi of the bishop and his supporters, there are perhaps a few lessons to be drawn from all this for future cases.

Dissent and heresy spring from the secularist/protestant mindset.  One can't expect those infected by it to abide by the Church's traditional norms, and quietly accept that the judgment of those appointed to make these decisions!

So maybe they need to be treated accordingly. 

1.  Before any public announcement, have someone up in the diocese escorting the bishop out and making sure the diocesan website/media etc doesn't get hijacked by the outgoing bishop and supporters, as appears to have happened in the case of Toowoomba's.

2.  Extract an agreement for silence/confidentiality in return for them being allowed to access their financial benefits and whatever courtesy titles they will be accorded.  And if they don't abide by Church law in this regard, take action accordingly.

3.  Appoint a local media spokesperson to at least minimise the damage caused by the fallout.  Even if they can't say anything about the details of the particular causes for dismissal, someone official could be out there providing some background on the canonical provisions involved, the history of investigation and opportunities the bishop was afforded to address the issues, and getting out the messages such as that those who complained are not 'temple police' as the Australian continues to claim, but ordinary Catholics exercising their rights under Church law, as blogger Peter at Qohel points out.

An updated reading list

And for a further selection of commentaries on the affair, try these:
  • Christopher Pearson in the Weekend Oz (hmm, some of those points sound remarkably familiar!).  Despite Mr Pearson's efforts, the News media's  editorial line continues to be remarkably sympathetic to the Morris camp);
  • Fr Ray Blake's excellent piece on the subject; and
  • Fr Z rants on the US National Fishwrap's championing of the Morris cause.

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