Senior priests back the Bishop

A GROUP of high-profile Catholic priests from the Toowoomba Diocese have publicly voiced their support for Bishop William Morris in the wake of his forced retirement yesterday.

Spokesman and former Vicar-General Father Peter Dorfield described it as “a day of great sadness, personally for Bishop William Morris, and for the many committed members of our Toowoomba diocese in all of our parishes, schools and agencies”.

Fr Dorfield said Bishop Morris had been removed from office by the Vatican through early retirement.

“He has not resigned,” Fr Dorfield said.

“He remains a Bishop but is no longer the Bishop of Toowoomba.

“His pastoral leadership through his years as our Bishop has been judged by Vatican authorities to be flawed and defective.

“More recently, his doctrinal orthodoxy has been questioned and he has been under sustained pressure from Church authorities for the past four years to resign.

“Bishop Morris is considered to have questioned Church teaching through views expressed in his Advent Letter of 2006 on the widespread discussion of the ordination of women and the recognition of Anglican and other Church Orders.”

Fr Dorfield said for the past 18 years, Bishop Morris had provided the Diocese with “creative and effective pastoral leadership and ministry” and had shown “great faith and trust in lay people’s capacity for prayerful leadership and shared responsibility in local parish communities, always in partnership with their priests”.

He also pointed to Bishop Morris’ energetic visiting of parishes, schools and diocesan agencies, as well as his encouragement of “respectful ecumenism” with other Christian churches.

“For the past 18 years, a small number of disaffected priests and lay people have continually complained to Church bodies in the Vatican about Bishop Morris’ pastoral leadership,” Fr Dorfield said.

“The far greater majority of priests and lay people of the diocese have found the pastoral leadership of Bishop Morris to be constructive, informed and life-giving.

“In our view, Bishop Morris has not been treated fairly or respectfully.

“We find his removal profoundly disheartening and this judgment on his pastoral leadership stands in stark contrast to our lived experience of his ministry.”

The statement was endorsed by Frs Michael McClure, John Quinlan, Jeff Scully, Brian Noonan, Ray Crowley, Brian Sparksman and Peter Schultz.

What do you think? Has Bishop Morris been treated unfairly by the Vatican? Have your say online.

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