Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Strange Case of Bishop Morris

Yesterday in the Australian Jesuit magazine Eureka Street, Father Frank Brennan contemplated Rome's  decision some 9 months ago now to remove Australian Bishop Bill Morris. No public reason was given at the time, and it's not entirely clear a private one was given, either. Bishop Morris continues to be a priest in good standing and in fact works in the Brisbane diocese. A retired Australian Supreme Court justice (who had no knowledge of the case or Bishop Morris) was asked to evaluate the process by which Bishop Morris was removed. Looking at the Code of Canon Law and its provisos for the removal of a priest, the justice recently found the process lacked not only transparency, but fairness and justice.

Now, there may be very very good reasons why Bishop Morris has been removed. But even his fellow Australian bishops seem unsteady on the matter. Before they left for Rome for the visit they make to the Pope every 5 years, they promised to bring up the matter. But upon arriving they were told they were not allowed to discuss this with the Pope.

How many people get fired without just cause? Quite a few. And yet, one expects better from a faith  community that advocates so strongly for the dignity of every human person. Rome has every right to remove a bishop they find wanting; but to do so without some transparency or due process shakes the faith of the people of God.

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