A new Vatican instruction calls on local bishops and pastors to respond generously to Catholics who seek celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly known as the Tridentine rite.
Religious orders in Australia weighed in today on the ouster of Bishop William Morris, expressing their members' distress at the loss of a pastor who had a deep connection with his people and asking pointed questions about the process that led to the pope's decision to force him to retire.
The assessment -- which came in a letter signed by Josephite Sr. Ann Derwin, president of Catholic Religious Australia, and sent to the country’s apostolic nuncio -- says that members of religious orders, many of whom work in Morris' diocese of Toowoomba “are especially distressed at the loss of their pastor, a man they believe to be solicitous of all Christ’s faithful entrusted to his care -- especially the needy and marginalized.”
“They and the people with whom they minister are left with an abiding sense of disempowerment and confusion,” the letter continues.
CRA is the public name for the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes. Its membership is representative of more than 180 congregations of sisters, brothers and priests living and working throughout Australia.
The head of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference expressed "our sadness" at the retirement of Bishop William Morris of the Diocese of Toowoomba and said the bishops will continue discussion of the event during their ad limina visits in Rome later this year.
Morris was forced to retire after failing to reach agreement with the Vatican over several issues, including use of general confession and absolution and suggesting that the church should discuss alternatives, including ordination of women, to an all-male celibate clergy that is in serious decline.
The bishops conference statement was delivered in the form of a letter dated May 12 from Archbishop Philip Wilson to Bishop Brian Finnigan, who has been appointed apostolic administrator in Morris's absence. Wilson said that the Australian bishops spent "much of our time" during a recent meeting discussing the recent events among themselves and with 40 leaders of religious congregations, many of whom have members working in the Diocese of Toowoomba.
Australian Bishop William Morris, who was forced to retire in part because of a pastoral letter he issued mentioning the possibility of ordaining women as one of several solutions to the growing priest shortage, said he would like to make public a copy of a written report on his diocese.
Morris, in answer to questions from NCR, also said he thinks his forced retirement is intended to "send a message to the bishops of the world: the fact that if you ask questions, if you're in people's faces long enough, if you're kind of a nuisance around the place, well look what happened to Bill Morris."
Morris made the comments on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation show "Sunday Nights with John Cleary" May 8. This writer was a participant in the discussion with Cleary, Morris and church historian Paul Collins, and asked Morris if he would make the report public if he had a copy of it and whether he thought he was meant to be an example to others.
Rome -- When Pope Benedict XVI used the word "infallible" in reference to the ban on women's ordination in a recent letter informing an Australian bishop he'd been sacked, it marked the latest chapter of a long-simmering debate in Catholicism: Exactly where should the boundaries of infallible teaching be drawn?
VATICAN CITY -- The general assembly of Caritas Internationalis in late May is shaping up as a defining moment for the confederation of 165 national Catholic charities, at a time when the Vatican is insisting on greater control over Caritas operations.
The agenda of the May 22-27 meeting reflects the Vatican's moves toward closer collaboration and supervision: On the assembly's first full working day, four Vatican officials will speak on the crucial topics of Catholic identity and the juridical status of Caritas Internationalis in the universal church.
An NCR editorial
The Australian Catholic diocese of Toowoomba, encompassing more than 300,000 square miles, has just a relative handful of healthy priests to serve the church’s 35 parishes. So it came as no surprise to Toowoomba’s Catholics when the area’s bishop, William M. Morris, addressed the priest shortage in a candid but still cautious Advent 2006 pastoral letter.
The forced retirement of an Australian bishop who raised the possibility of ordaining women as a solution to that country's severe priest shortage was "inappropriate and unjust" according to a statement on the Web site of the Vincentian order in Australia.
The statement in support of Bishop William Morris of the Toowoomba diocese, just west of Brisbane, was signed by Vincentian Fr. Tim Williams and is the latest in a show of strong support from fellow clergy.
The Australia Broadcasting Corporation program "PM" reported that several hundred people gathered May 3 "in the wet weather near St Patrick's, Toowoomba's Catholic cathedral, to show their support for the sacked bishop, Bill Morris."
A national organization of priests in Australia issued a statement May 3 supporting Bishop William Morris of the Toowoomba diocese, while also decrying the influence of those who maintain a “restorationist ideology” and apparently agitated for the bishop’s removal.
According to a letter Morris wrote that was read at all Masses in the diocese May 1, Pope Benedict XVI forced him to retire following complaints by a group of dissidents in his diocese who took issue with a 2006 pastoral letter that dealt with a severe priest shortage facing the Australian church.
The Catholic Church needs active members who blog, but Catholic bloggers also need the church, especially to remind them of the virtue of charity needed in their writing, said participants at a Vatican meeting.
The meeting May 2 was sponsored by the pontifical councils for culture and for social communications.
The councils accepted requests to attend, then drew the names of the 150 participants once the requests were divided according to geography, language and whether the blog was personal or institutional.