BlogWatcher - Civil vs canon law in Bishop Morris case


The Age’s religion writer Barney Zwartz blogs on the forced resignation of Toowoomba’s Bishop Bill Morris, which he says “shows that the Inquisition is alive and well in the Catholic Church - only the rack is missing”.

“The church's leaders know it is losing a generation in the West. They seem not to care how much the ordinary, faithful Catholics in the pews and pulpits, doing the church's works of mercy, are discouraged and distressed, or how cynical it makes those watching.”


A secular priest posts Archbishop Denis Hart’s letter in response to Zwartz, in particular his reliance on the criticisms of Queensland Supreme Court judge W.J. Carter and Melbourne canon lawyer Father Ian Waters, who asserted that Bishop Morris was denied procedural fairness and natural justice. Archbishop Hart Denis Hart argued the case was a matter for church rather than civil law. 

“I understand WJ Carter QC is an eminent civil lawyer. Father Ian Waters’ Canon Law reflection is based solely on the Carter report… Father Waters is misrepresented by the statement that the Pope has breached Canon Law and exceeded his authority… In the final analysis the Pope always has freedom to act for the good of the Church in the appointment and removal of bishops.”


Australia Incognita qualifies her support for Archbishop Hart’s defence of the Vatican in its treatment of Morris. 

“I really think the last sentence of this letter should have been omitted.  I don't think that Fr Waters deserves to be championed in this affair - the reality is that at the very least he has lent considerable aid to the cause of dissent.”


In another blog, Incognita says the “liberal/conservative” categorisation of ideological positions is inadequate. She argues for a third camp – traditionalists – with which she herself identifies.

“Some persist in seeing me as 'conservative' who will necessarily support conservative bishops… [As a traditionalist, I believe] we need a genuine renewal, a genuine rediscovery of the Tradition presented in ways suited to our times… I won't be changing [my] pitch in the interests of values such as perceived 'niceness', tolerance, or appeal to some particular group.”


David Timbs appears to accept this categorisation when he writes in v2catholic about the traditionalist bishops who were hostile to the very idea of Vatican II. 

“When Pope John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council he invited all Catholics to enter a time of deep reflection on and conversation… But when the Bishops of the world, our representatives, gathered in Rome it became clear from the very outset that there was a very determined group of Curial Cardinals and other officials who resented the very idea of the Council. This hostility translated into fierce resistance to anything remotely suggestive of change! It was all about fear of losing centralised power and control over the universal Church.”


The Divine Wedgie goes beyond categories in his blog on Christian Revolution, which he bases on prophecies in the Book of Daniel about Kingdoms of this world being “comprehensively overthrown”, and Paul's declaration in Corinthians (1:22-8) that through Christ, God “has chosen things low and overthrow the existing order”.

Wedgie says the word “revolution” is has been in modern times made synonymous with violent insurgency. But he cites the example of

“Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, the Basque priest who in the 1950s began a program of economic renewal in a Basque region left devastated by the Franco regime, a program that has now evolved to become as one of the biggest and most successful cooperatives in the world… An unavoidable challenge to the powers that be and the beginning of a new set of social alternatives.”


Country Priest, recently ordained and now appointed to Hamilton in western Victoria, blogs on the Illinois priest whose resignation was accepted after he refused to comply with his bishop’s direction that priests should not deviate from any word in the missal.

“It seems rather audacious attempting to improve on what the Church has already invested great time and resources in setting out… Bit like organising a cricket game and sitting down beforehand to discuss how many runs should be awarded for hitting a ball to the boundary… It’s the height of clericalism when a priest starts acting from his own authority and not the Church’s.”


Finally expat Australian Benedictine Father Hugh has quite a sensationalist heading in his latest blog – “A monk tumbles”. It’s not about sexual abuse, but the diversification of his own blogging efforts. Now he has a second blog – for images – using the Tumblr tool that is better suited to photography. He includes images sourced from the web, and also the currently snowy grounds of his Douai Abbey in England (above). 

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins, founding editor of CathNews, compiles this 'Blog Watcher' column every Monday.

Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.

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