The Morris Malignancy
Pope Benedict's recent dismissal of three episcopal "servants of the anti-Christ" (in Australia, Italy and Africa) put a spring in the heel of Catholics everywhere. The fact that this belated flurry of papal activity resembles the excision of three measly tumors from a patient on life support and riddled with cancer, will not dampen spirits unduly. There is always satisfaction in seeing justice done, even if too little too late.
As outlined in the February editorial, this is certainly the case with Queensland, a local Church that pulled the plug on the Magisterial ventilator long before William Morris was consecrated Bishop in 1993. But although he did not start the suicidal process, he finished it with gusto. Which is to say that by the time the papal surgeon finally removed Bishop Morris from the diseased collegial body, with effect from 2 May 2011, his Modernist re-ordering of Toowoomba had long choked the life out of the last Catholic diocese in that State, leaving it beyond resuscitation, humanly speaking.
Of course, the endless Vatican chain-dragging was a scandal in itself. Distracted by the canon of hackneyed liberal demands parroted by Morris (married-priests, priestesses, general absolution, etc.), Rome ignored his liturgical abominations. Yet any bishop who presides at "liturgies" painted as a clown has surely telegraphed his apostasy to the world! Rome should have responded instantly to such colourful sacrilege with a little theatre of its own: subjecting Morris to the dramatic Rite of Degradation of a Bishop (see CO, Nov. 2005). End of "discussion"! End of story! Alas, and per usual, they acted like hallucinating firemen: choosing to "dialogue" with the fire instead of putting it out.
This timorous attitude is reflected in the unanimous statement issued by the Australian bishops' conference in support of Pope Benedict's action. Careful not to side with the predictable and tedious bleating by Morris and his CINO supporters about the injustice of it all, the bishops noted that his removal came "at the end of a complex process which began 13 years ago and ended in deadlock." In other words, more than a dozen years of Vatican argy-bargy with an egregious hireling who dressed like a businessman when he wasn't dressing like a liturgical clown, ended in a stand-off with the Vicar of Christ! The bishops do not appear to find this any more absurd or unacceptable than the fact that it also took six ineffectual Vatican ultimatums before "The holy father found it necessary to exercise his Petrine care for the whole Church."
Hello?! Did they even pause to consider for one solitary minute the number of souls lost or damaged beyond repair as that defiant stalling and nose-thumbing by their episcopal brother was indulged, year after year, by themselves and Rome? In fact, it allowed him ample time to systematically demolish the edifice of rock solid Catholic faith and piety he had inherited in Toowoomba.
Just as telling: the Australian hierarchy canvassed the views of dozens of religious superiors on the controversy and said they found dealing with the events surrounding the Bishop's removal "difficult and distressing." Why? After 18 years of notoriety that dragged down and discredited the entire Church, the matter should have taken up 5 minutes of their time, followed by high-fives and a quick whip-round to fund a one-way airfare to La Grande Chartreuse – where, in Carthusian solitude, their disgraced brother could reflect on his crimes against the Faith and the hapless souls entrusted to his care. Instead, they cooed that "Bishop Morris' human qualities were never in question; nor is there any doubt about the contribution he has made to the life of the Church in Toowoomba and beyond. The pope's decision was not a denial of the personal and pastoral gifts that Bishop Morris has brought to the episcopal ministry. Rather, it was judged that there were problems of doctrine and discipline, and we regret that these could not be resolved."
All weasel words and false charity, they didn't even bother adding that these doctrinal "problems" included the heretical promotion of women priests. For although, very sadly, there was no reference to the hellish "clown liturgies" in the Holy Father's letter of deposition, he did remind Bishop Morris "that Pope John Paul II had said irrevocably and infallibly that women cannot be ordained." (Unlike the Australian episcopate, we like to apprise our readership of papal declarations that kill liberal shibboleths stone dead.)
This is what happens whenever the collegial club closes ranks around its more toxic members: virile charity flies out the window and solidarity becomes wet complicity. That the bishops supported the Holy Father is good. But to then soften the papal blow by massaging the bruised ego of the condemned prelate — even stating: "We are hopeful that Bishop Morris will continue to serve the Church in other ways in the years ahead" — flags their own treacherous colours. As does their failure to acknowledge the real "difficult and distressing" aspect of the saga: the soul-destroying years endured by the faithful under the diabolic Morris. For these long-suffering victims of sacrilege and scandal, not one consoling word.
The human respect that prevents even the best of the Aussie hierarchy from calling out and confronting the worst of their brethren largely accounts for their inability to stem the ongoing Australian decline. There has been a further 10-13% fall in Mass attendance since John Paul II read them the riot act in his 1998 Statement of Conclusions. A blistering summary of the woeful state of the Church Down Under, Archbishop Bathersby said he was "hurt, bothered, distressed, depressed, and above all, angry" over that papal rebuke. But not chastened, ashamed or repentant.
In sum, Toowoomba's "servant of anti-Christ" was bad news and it's good to see the back of him. Yet for every Bill Morris anywhere in the world there is also an entire episcopal conference oozing "collegiality" and ready to excuse and succour him, even while mouthing orthodox platitudes. Nothing is quite what it seems because the neo-Modernist tumors have metastasized into varied clerical types and degrees of "progressive" virulence or lukewarmness. Certainly, the canonical excision of the worst of them remains a papal duty. It would be delusional, however, to think that periodic pontifical surgery alone will heal the Body of Christ thus afflicted from tip to toe. Only the rejuvenating balm of clerical holiness and poverty, involving ecclesial reform of Franciscan proportions, can eradicate the cancer in toto. We confidently entrust that miraculous healing to the infinite Mercy (and perfect timing) of Divine Providence.
For the Catholic remnant in Queensland, meanwhile, at least the Morris malignancy has been cut out. The Toowoomba faithful endured his corrupting tenure as a living purgatory and will bear their myriad wounds in perpetuity, not least because the endemic protestantisation and decay he bequeathed appears irreversible. Nonetheless, unlike most of us and however belatedly, they have lived to see justice finally done. Who would begrudge them a celebratory drink – or two!