1993-2005: A group of concerned Catholics, described in the report as “a small but vocal minority,” launched “a growing campaign of letters of complaint” to Vatican offices in Rome. The complaints centered on Bishop Morris’ promotion of “general absolution” as an alternative to personal confession of sins. His promotion of this practice continued, despite several calls from the Vatican to stop it. According to the consultors: “The issue of the use of general absolution led to a dispute between the bishop and Cardinal (Francis) Arinze, prefect of the (Vatican’s) Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship. Some of this dispute took on a personal aspect.”
Nov. 2006: Bishop Morris releases his now infamous Advent pastoral letter. In it, he proposes the need to explore the ordination of married men, women and the recognition of the ordained ministries of other Christian churches. His letter was widely perceived in Church circles as a flagrant rejection of Pope John Paul II’s 1994 official declaration (“Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”) that the Church cannot ordain women and his 1998 decree (“Ad Tuendam Fidem”) that discussion of ordaining women can be punished under canon law.
Dec. 2006: Bishop Morris receives a fax requesting that he come to Rome by Feb. 2007 for meetings with Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, then head of the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops, William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Arinze. Bishop Morris rejected the meeting, citing “pastoral reasons” that he declined to specify. He said he had plans to come to Rome in May 2007 and expressed his willingness to meet with the cardinals at that time.
Jan. 2007: Cardinal Arinze sends a letter insisting that the matter is urgent and that Bishop Morris should present himself in Rome in February. Bishop Morris again dismissed the request, insisting he would be available in May but not before.
March 2007: Bishop Morris receives notification that the Congregation of Bishops had begun an investigation, known as an “apostolic visitation.” The apostolic visitator is said to be American Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, of Denver.
April 2007: Archbishop Chaput arrives in Toowoomba for the apostolic visitation on April 23. The consultors’ report states: “The Visitor arrived in Toowoomba, met informally with Bishop Morris, then met with the Council of Priests. He then began a series of meetings with various diocesan bodies, officials, priests, directors of agencies and people of the diocese. ... There was a cross-section of people and clergy of the diocese representing all levels of support and opposition to the Bishop. On Wed. and Thurs. (April 25-26) he traveled around the diocese and conducted interviews. The interviews resumed in Toowoomba on Fri. and Sat. morning (April 27-28). After a final interview with the Bishop on Saturday midday, the Visitor departed and prepared his report.”
May 2007: Diocesan leaders meet to discuss the Visitation and how they should respond. According to the report, “the clergy and pastoral leaders of the diocese” decided to send a letter to the Vatican in support of Bishop Morris. Three priests refused to sign the letter. Meanwhile Bishop Morris in Rome as he had previously announced. The report states: “No meeting with the cardinals took place.”
Sept. 2007: The Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops sends Bishop Morris a memo dated June 28 requesting him to resign. The bishop responds by indicating he will reply after his October holiday.
Oct. 2007: The bishops’ congregation sends another letter, this time informing Bishop Morris that the request for his resignation is being made in the name of Pope Benedict XVI.
Nov. 2007: Bishop Morris sends a letter to Cardinal Re, head of the bishops’ congregation, offering “collaboration and dialogue.” He requested a meeting in Rome in Jan. 2008. Cardinal Re responds by setting Jan. 19, 2008 as the date for the meeting.
Dec. 2007: Bishop Morris convenes an advisory group to collect suggestions on how to deal with the Vatican. According to the consultors’ report: “The advisory group consulted international canonists.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Jan. 2008: On Jan. 19, as scheduled Bishop Morris meets in Rome with the three cardinals, representing the Vatican’s offices for bishops, doctrine, and worship. They stress that the Pope himself has requested that Bishop Morris resign. On Jan. 24, Bishop Morris writes to the cardinals, telling them that he feels he is unable to resign.
Feb. 2008: Cardinal Re replies to Bishop Morris’ Jan. 24 letter. He again calls on Bishop Morris to resign. Bishop Morris responds by convening his advisory group. They help the bishop to prepare a "Statement of Position" to respond to the Vatican’s criticisms and request for his resignation.
March 2008: Bishop Morris forwards his "Statement of Position" to the Cardinals Re, Arinze and Levada. He sends a letter to the Vatican’s Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest judicial authority apart from the Pope. Bishop Morris requests that the Apostolic Signature give him the right to defend himself on the charges against him. He writes a further letter to the Pontifical Council of Legislative Texts asking for a definition of what constitutes "grave cause" for removing a bishop under Church law (Canon 401, sec. 2).
April 2008: The Apostolic Signatura replies, informing Bishop Morris that his case is not of its competence because no Church legal proceedings had taken place.
Sept. 2008: The Pontifical Council of Legislative Texts replies saying that the interpretation of "grave cause" is left to the determination of the Congregation of Bishops.
Oct. 2008: Cardinal Re sends a letter demanding that Bishop Morris resign by Nov. 2008 or face being removed.