Bishop Morris’s Anglo-Catholic Model for Mass?

(PS – This is NOT Morrris, although he did say a clown mass, according to The Australian)

(PPS Gabrielle Saide (see comments below) says that Morris did NOT say a clown mass; in which case my only sartorial objection to him is the odd tie – Jeeves would no approve)

(PPPS It is odd that people object more to the allegation that he said a clown mass than the allegation that he differed seriously from the Vatican on doctrinal and sacramental issues)

Although Pope Benedict has not done enough, he is tightening Church discipline much more than John Paul ever did.

He has just suppressed the Cistercian monastery in Rome because of financial and moral irregularities.

He has also removed William Morris, the bishop of Toowoomba in Australia. Some the points of disagreement were trivial; on other points something could be said for Morris, and something for the Vatican.

See this, this, this, this, this this, and this.

From The Australian

His sartorial style can be seen in a photograph of him with a clown face, sent to The Weekend Australian by his critics.

Bishop Morris has a certain lack of good taste and common sense: he wore a tie with the archdiocesan coat of arms, and gave similar ones to his priests. If he wants priests to dress as laymen, they should wear regular clothes, not imitation secular clothes – although my wife is much in favor of clerical dress, because bachelors should not be allowed to choose their wardrobes. Morris also celebrated mass while dressed as a clown – that shows that he has a lack of liturgical understanding, common sense, and good taste – lacks common among priests and laity, who too often want to entertain or be entertained at mass. But bishops, for better or worse, are not removed because they lack common sense and good taste.

The sacramental and doctrinal points were:

Morris allowed the rite of general absolution in his diocese. Rome set up this rite and then started having second thoughts about it, and tried to restrict it to only emergency situations like war.

Morris also said that the Church, to deal with the declining number of priests, should discuss: 1. ordaining married men, 2. ordaining women, 3. allowing laicized priests to return to ministry, and 4. “recognizing” Anglican, Lutheran, and Uniting Church ministries.

I have been looking into the abuses of auricular confession and how it has alienated the laity, especially men. The Vatican has decided that auricular confession is necessary; Morris disagreed. I would tend to side with Morris, although I wonder if those who received general absolution performed penances appropriate to their sins – the spirit of penance is not much in evidence these days. It is a debatable point, and it would seem bishops should be given the leeway to decide what is best for their diocese in this disciplinary matter. Or the Vatican should make a compelling case for the importance of auricular confession.

Ordaining married men and allowing laicized and married priests to return to ministry is debatable. These are disciplinary matters; Eastern Catholic Churches already ordain married men; whether the Latin Church should follow their practice is a legitimate point for discussion.

What really got Morris in trouble were his remarks in 2006 about the possibility of ordaining women and “recognizing” Anglican and Protestant orders.

John Paul is issued a document, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, that said that the Church was not authorized to ordain women. He also went further and forbad discussion of it. Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae had declared that Anglican orders were invalid because of defect of form: that is, the Anglican texts made it clear that the intention of Anglicans was not to ordain bishops and priests as the Catholic Church had always understood those offices.

Morris seems to have a voluntaristic concept of church law. That is, laws are not judgments if reason but acts of the will. But Leo XIII and John Paul both made it clear they were not promulgating a disciplinary law but making a judgment, and as they were popes exercising their ordinary magisterium, this judgment was guided by the Holy Spirit. Benedict has called these decisions infallible (others disagree). Morris seems to think that the non-ordination for women and the non-recognition of Anglican orders are acts of the will, which could be reversed.

One if his supporters proposes an Australian Council of laity (mostly women) and priests:

The Council’s mandate will be to review and reform the Church’s ecclesiastical structure, including the present papal positions on papal primacy, selection and infallibility and to restore democratic accountability to the laity. The Council will also review and reform all of the Church’s policies on gender and sexual matters, including on optional celibacy, female ordination, homosexuality, contraception and abortion, and make its decisions solely by majority vote.

This is almost pure voluntarism. Doctrines are reduced to policies, and policies are acts of the will of a majority.

Anyone who had taught in middle school could have told the Vatican that it is always a lot easier to loosen discipline than to tighten it. The Vatican let discipline get very loose and is now trying to restore order without provoking a schism. In developed countries the majority of laity and priests (and some bishops) have a different idea of Catholicism from the one dominant in the Vatican, and see little reason to cede to the Vatican’s judgments. And this situation is itself the result of Vatican policies. Both Vatican II and rapid and extreme changes in liturgy and discipline gave Catholics the idea that the pope had the ability to change anything he wanted, and that if he didn’t change what people wanted to change, he was just being stubborn and power-hungry.

The Vatican also has no sense of PR and how its actions will be perceived. If it wanted to restore discipline it should first have acted against sexual abusers (it did this for priests but not for bishops), secondly, it should have acted against the bishops and religious superiors who enabled sexual abuse and only then acted against those who were involved in liturgical abuse or doctrinal error.

So bishops and religious superiors who have enabled abuse get a free pass, and bishops who deviate in liturgical and doctrinal matters are removed from office. Morris, whatever his faults, took the right actions when dealing with a sexual abuse scandal in his diocese. The same could not be said for Pope Benedict when he was archbishop of Munich.

Bishop Morris with episcopal cravat

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