In the Roman Canon, one of the first prayers is for the Holy Father and the bishops who "hold and teach the Catholic Faith that comes to us from the Apostles". The Pope, asthe successor of St. Peter, and the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, from the Magesterium of the Church. The Holy Father is the Supreme Pontiff who works in collaboration with the bishops. The bishops, for their part, vow obedience to the Holy Father and his successors, much as diocesan clergy take a vow of obedience to their local ordinary and his successors.
But, what happens when one of the bishops takes it upon himself to proclaim a message that runs contrary to what the Catholic Faith that comes to us from the Apostles? Sadly, such is the case with one Australian bishop, the Most Rev. William M. Morris, the Bishop of Toowoomba. Pope Benedict XVI took the rare step of removing Bishop Morris from his post due to several doctrinal matter stemming from a 2006 Advent letter wherein the ordinary wrote that, in order to handle the "vocations crisis" in his diocese, he would consider "ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by their local parish community, welcoming former priests, married or single, back to active ministry; ordaining women, married or single; recognizing Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders.”
The positions that Morris advocated put him on a collision course with Rome. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1577 Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
The "ordination" of women in the Anglican communion is one of the main reasons why many Anglicans (roughly 900, at least) have taken advantage of Pope Benedict's Anglicanorum Coetibus to facilitate their conversion to the Church. As for the possibility of ordaining married men, that is not part of the Church's discipline. Granted, those married Anglican clergy who convert to the Church have the ability of being ordained, this is more along the lines of a special permission than a norm. Concerning the recognition of the clergy from other ecclesial communities, perhaps Morris should have read Dominus Iesus.
As Fr. John Zuhlsdorf reported in his excellent blog, WDTPRS, Morris' letter prompted a five-year investigation involving three different discasteries: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Furthermore, the Holy See also sent Denver Metropolitan Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on an Apostolic Visitation. All of the canonical procedures were followed. In the end, the Holy Father determined that Morris had to go.
Unfortunately, some organizations, such as the National Catholic Reporter, have condemned the actions taken by Pope Benedict XVI. In a scathing editorial, the publication in question wrote that
The real scandal to the faithful in this matter has nothing to do with the way Morris has conducted himself. It has everything to do with priorities and processes within our church today. It has much to do with the trampling of human rights and professed values of decency and charity by our church’s prelates, in this case including, sad to say, Benedict himself.The NCR makes Morris look like the victim here. Excuse me (as I once again channel in my inner Vicky Guerrero)! Morris wrote in support of views that are 180-degrees to the opposite of what the Church holds and teaches. As a successor to the Apostles, he is supposed to hold and teach the Catholic Faith, not advocate dissenting viewpoints. Such advocacy only serves to cause confusion among the faithful. If their own shepherd is advocating this viewpoints, then, what are the faithful supposed to think? With his own pen (or computer keystrorke), Morris has put himself squarely at odds against the Church. And the NCR expects us to join them in their pathetic pity-party? No, thank you. The mere fact that the sheep had to ask Rome to intervene and investigate their own shepherd's actions is sad. The shepherd let his sheep down.
This is no way, shall we say, to set a Christian example – or manage the church.
What makes matters even worse is that this publication, which claims to be Catholic, has taken it upon itself to start hurling unfounded and uncharitable accusations against Pope Benedict XVI in their defense of the indefensible. Unfortunately, this is par for the course as far as the NCR is concerned. They villified Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Their treatment of Pope Benedict XVI is no different.
We should pray for Bishop Morris, asking the Apostles to intercede on his behalf to the Holy Spirit for enlightenment and repentence. Perhaps this period will give him time to reflect and reconcile with Rome.