Sunday, May 8, 2011


Updated: Catholics, starring Martin Sheen and Trevor Howard, filmed in 1973. Martin Sheen took the name Sheen to honor Bishop Fulton Sheen and thus Charlie Sheen has that name thanks to the good Bishop, but Charlie hasn't honored his memory or name! But I digress, this movie is a bit of a time capsule and shows the Vatican cracking down on traditionalist Catholics in Ireland:

Below is from The Australian Newspaper and comments on the Holy Father's removal from office of Bishop Morris:

(I love it that the article gets the name of the National Catholic Reporter in our country wrong, about the 4th paragraph from the bottom)

Catholics get tough on doctrinal dissent

* Christopher Pearson
* From: The Australian
* May 07, 2011 12:00AM

LAST Monday the front page of The Australian featured a large photograph of an angry bishop. Some commentators in the blogosphere saw it as yet another media beat-up designed to depict the Catholic Church in an unflattering light.

To my mind, it demonstrated a grasp of the battle lines in the culture wars that has eluded the rest of Australia's broadsheets.

The bishop in question was the outgoing Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris. He is one of three men who have been relieved of their dioceses by the Vatican in the past few months.

The others were the bishops of Pointe-Noire in Congo-Brazzaville and Orvieto-Todi in Italy. But while they were removed for financial mismanagement in one case and misbehaviour in the other, Morris's ouster was on doctrinal grounds.

Bishops are in some respects akin to sovereigns in their dioceses and, while it has the authority to remove them, the Holy See is usually very slow to do so, preferring discreet solutions such as early retirement.

The three forced departures in seven months have no precedent in recent years and suggest an increasing preparedness to intervene on the part of the Pope and his new prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. The previous prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, was an uber-liberal.

The Catholic archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, who will be retiring in 11 weeks, professed himself at a loss to understand the decision. He told the ABC: " I just wish it hadn't happened and I don't know why it happened and I would very much like to know."

Perhaps I can enlighten him.

Morris issued an Advent pastoral letter in 2006 that canvassed various options to make up for the lack of priestly vocations in his diocese.

Some were uncontroversial. Others, including the ordination of married or single women and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church clergy, were heretical.

He has since then maintained what he likes to call a dialogue on these non-options.

As anyone with the rudiments of a theological education would know, the Catholic Church resolved the question of women priests in 1994, with the Pope ruling that it had no power to ordain women in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1995 described that decision as unchangeably settled and "to be held definitively as belonging to the deposit of faith".

On the issue of recognising the orders of Protestant clergy, Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void" back in 1896 in Apostolicae Curae. That decision was reaffirmed by the CDF in 1998 as an infallible pronouncement to which Catholics must give "firm and definitive assent". The Lutherans in Australia and the Uniting Church don't have bishops or anything remotely like ordination in the Apostolic Succession, so recognising their orders is, theologically speaking, inconceivable.

As a bishop, Morris was obliged to teach what the church teaches, rather than using his position to sow error and confusion among his flock. His removal must have come as an almighty shock to him and his brother bishops in Queensland because they've been getting away with flouting some of Rome's rulings with impunity since the 1970s.

Given that Morris has had five years of what he again likes to call dialogue with no less than three Vatican congregations and the Pope, with plenty of opportunities to change his tune, why has he persisted in error when he was so clearly in the wrong? There are several schools of thought.

The first argues the bishop just isn't very bright.

Its spokesman, Frank Brennan SJ, says: "Bill Morris never pretended to be an academic theologian. He was and is a sensible, considerate, pastoral priest and bishop of a country diocese."

The second, aired on high-profile sites such as Rorate Caeli and Father John Zuhlsdorf's blog and local sites such as Vexilla Regis, is that Morris may have had health problems. The third view, which most agree is at least a significant element, is stubbornness. Morris is one of those liberal-authoritarians who like to assert that within their own jurisdiction they are as powerful as the Pope.

The (ultra-liberal) National Council of Priests encouraged this delusion with a press release last week. "We are concerned about an element within the Church whose restorationist ideology wants to repress freedom of expression within the Roman Catholic Church and who deny the legitimate magisterial authority of the local bishop within the Church."

However, the fact of the matter is that individual bishops have no authority to make independent decisions about questions of doctrine, but rather a collegial role with the other bishops under the leadership of the Pope.

And, again despite the NCP press release, the Pope is not merely the first among equals. According to Canon 331, "by virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power, which he is always able to exercise freely".

Morris's removal sends a clear message to bishops, in Australia and around the world. The Holy See's patience is not, as it long seemed, limitless.

As with the Orvieto-Todi case, the fact that this intervention happened in a first-world country suggests delinquents in the European and American hierarchies can take a lot less for granted than before. As well, requests from the Vatican for bishops' resignations are more likely to succeed during the rest of Pope Benedict's reign because he has just demonstrated that he's prepared to use his powers.

Morris has become a cause celebre in the US thanks to an editorial in The National Catholic Recorder. More of the same can be expected from The Tablet, the English Catholic journal and other liberal websites. No doubt some members of the Swiss and Dutch bishops' conferences will be once again canvassing the option of schism, de facto or actual.

What are the likely repercussions for the Australian Catholic Church?

Morris's departure will further fortify the position of Cardinal George Pell and the more traditionally minded bishops.

The more realistic, liberal bishops are going to have to kiss goodbye to any lingering fantasies they clung to in the 90s of ordaining nuns, or at least keep them to themselves.


Gene said...

I often wonder how many Priests and Bishops are secretly liberals and progressives, having lost their faith and adopted some kind of neo-prot existential Christology, but who remain in the Church for the job security and safety. My impression is that the number is significant. These are basically "unbelievers" who are living a lie. Once in a while they just can't keep their mouths shut. Formerly, they were just viewed with a shrug of the shoulders. Things may be getting tougher for them now.

Anonymous said...

There was a movie I remember from many years ago called, simply, 'Catholics'. It starred Martin Sheen and Trevor Howard. It basically had Howard as leader of some monk on an island refusing to follow Vatican II and give up the Latin mass. Eventually it is learned that Howard has lost his faith in God, in a manner I was reminded of later in Mother Theresa's book. Yet Howard persists in his fight because the social work he does for the islanders is so important. Except that the positions on Vatican II rolls are reversed I see a lot of similarity with today. It ends with Howard and his acolytes praying and Howard about to have nervous breakdown. I remember watching the entire movie trying to decipher any meaning and coming away thinking a good slap would have cut half an hour from the length.

I imagine that this sort of faith crisis is part of the job for clergy. As life goes on one gets weary and disappointed. This is what piques my compassion for these people and my frustration at the same time.

Now we are back to the manly man as priest issue. Buck up, boy, you were knocked on yer butt. Next time look for help from others ',cause that's what God put them there for. Get up, dust off, laugh at yerself 'cause we sure as hell are laughing at you, and get back in there. There is a glorious battle going on and you don't want to miss it.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I saw that movie too and I think it was a made for tv movie in the early 1970's.

Gene said...

Well, first, I cannot imagine anyone sitting through a movie like that...except maybe you, RCG. I would have had a projectile vomiting fit early in the movie.

Whoa! Is a "faith crisis" in the job description for clergy? RCG, think of the Priests and ministers you have known, laity as well, who have had horrible tragedies in their lives, all kinds of intellectual challenges and attacks from the rabble of Hell-bound unbelievers out there yet who have maintained their faith and been strengthened by it. I just don't buy the 60's/70's induced fad of, "Oh, I'm having a faith crisis," or "Oh, I'm having an existential crisis." (I can't say aything about bovine by-products here, can I Fr.) What they need is a good kick in the fundamentals and no sympathy! BTW, the Exorcist was about the same thing in its sub-plot. How'd that "faith crisis" work out for Fr. Damien...riiiiight!!!

Gene said...

Footnote: I am distinguishing your "faith crisis" from the "faith tested by doubt" of Luther and Augustine. Certainly, there are times of doubt, like waves on a stormy sea, that rock the boat of faith. Problem is, these clergy we are discussing panic and jump overboard, clinging to the flotsam and jetsom of whatever secular saviour happens swim past.

Anonymous said...

Pin, fair enough. I am not making that distinction, per your reference. You can imagine my maternal grandfather and his brother forcing me to watch the movie then debating it with me, Latin and Greek references included. The slap was the contribution from my father's side.


R. E. Ality said...

Pinanv525, after the forty-fifty years of poor Catechetics, the dissing of Humanae vitae and the USCCB’s fawning, knee jerk support of the liberal/socialist doings of the Democratic Party, how can you be wondering about how many priests and Bishops are liberal? How about the 54% Catholic vote for the abortionist/socialist in chief in the 2008 election? How about the phony Faithful Citizenship documents crafted with sufficient ambiguity to permit (encourage?) Catholics to vote liberal?

The above comments remind me of the silly search of those trying to “find out who they are.” The Baltimore Catechism did a great job of answering that question, but our modernist experts don’t want any of that.

In the event of Pope Benedict XVI’s death, I sure hope and pray that Cardinal Raymond Burke or someone of equal orthodoxy and courage gets the Holy Spirit’s blessing.

Templar said...

Reinstating the Vow against Modernity would weed out a goodly percentage of the traitors. Reinstatement of the position of Grand Inquisitor would help those traitors confess and save their eternal souls from the damnation they are courting with their heterodox ways.

I really miss the Good Old Days. I loath the fact that we have pushed right and wrong to the fringes of any discussion, and opened this chasm of "dialog" in between.

Anonymous said...

Rather than "dialogue" with someone of this sort (whenever you find someone who verbs this particular noun it's a sign of a likely dissenter), one would actually do both him and the Church a better service by the following treatment. It may impress upon him the gravity of the situation(I like this one MUCH better than the Martin Sheen clips!)