It's been very difficult to work out why Bishop Morris was sacked. It's been a moving target, writes Fr Frank Brennan SJ.
At first, the concern seemed to be over the third rite of reconciliation and his failure to drop everything and come to Rome when then-Archbishop Francis Arinze specified.
[Now Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Arinze served as prefect from 2002 to 2008.]
Bill pointed out that he was due in Rome four months after the specified date, so surely things could wait until then. It seems that over time Bill had mended his ways on the third rite to comply with Rome's new strictures.
So then there was his Advent pastoral letter of 2006.
We are left confused as to whether Bishop Morris was sacked chiefly for what he wrote in that letter, or for what was reported by (then-)Archbishop Charles Chaput in 2007, or for what was reported to Rome by those sometimes described as 'the temple police'. The offending section of his pastoral letter was:
'Given our deeply held belief in the primacy of Eucharist for the identity, continuity and life of each parish community, we may well need to be much more open towards other options of ensuring that Eucharist may be celebrated. Several responses have been discussed internationally, nationally and locally
• ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by their local parish community
• welcoming former priests, married or single back to active ministry
• ordaining women, married or single
• recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders
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.'
If he was sacked for what he wrote in his Advent letter about the possible ordination of women, married priests, and recognition of other orders 'Rome willing', there would have been no need for Archbishop Chaput later to make his visit and his report.
But then again, if he was sacked for matters detailed in Cardinal Chaput's report, we are left wondering why Archbishop Chaput being apprised of the Advent letter and having completed his visit would have told the Diocesan Chancellor Brian Sparksman how extraordinarily surprising it would be if Bishop Morris were to be sacked.
As they drove back to Brisbane after the visitation, Archbishop Chaput told Fr Sparksman, 'I would be astonished if you were to lose your Bishop.'
The matter is a complete mess reflecting very poorly on a Church which prides itself on a Code of Canon law which provides for the protection of the rights of all Christ's faithful, including priests and bishops.
- Fr Frank Brennan SJ
Why Bishop Bill Morris was sacked (Eureka Street)