Bishop William Morris' Retirement from Toowoomba
On 1 May, 2011, the Diocese of Toowoomba learned that Bishop William Morris would commence early retirement. An event surrounded by much controversy and under pressure from Vatican Officials to resign, Bishop Morris instead chose early retirement. Bishop Morris stated "I have never wavered in my conviction that for me to resign is a matter of conscience and my resignation would mean that I accept the assessment of myself as breaking communio which I absolutely refute and reject. . . ".
Bishop Morris' retirement came as a culmination of some 5 years of communication with Vatican Officials after the publication of his 2006 Advent Letter. It seemed to a small group of parishioners, some may call zealots and "the temple police", Bishop Morris' leadership was not satisfactory and so they voiced this displeasure directly to the Vatican. The 2006 Advent Letter became the final straw, and as Bishop Morris believes, deliberately misunderstood and misinterpreted. After an Apostolic Visitation, the results of which have never been published or made available to Bishop Morris, the conclusion was drawn that the Toowoomba Diocese would be better served by new leadership. Many believe that Bishop Morris has been denied justice in this process.
There has been a great outpouring of support for Bishop Morris across the Diocese of Toowoomba as parishioners come to terms with the shocking news. Support has also come from across Australia and from across the globe. There have been thousands of letters, cards, phone calls and emails received to give thanks and support to Bishop Morris. To round off the support and these troubling events, a Thanksgiving Mass was held at St Patrick's Cathedral on Sunday 28 August, 2011. The mass was a chance for the Diocese to give thanks and move on from this chapter in it's story to new growth as the wait for the appointment of a new Bishop begins.
Bishop Morris is also starting a new chapter. He has enjoyed retirement to the family home in Brisbane. However not one to rest on his laurels, Bishop Morris has remained as busy as ever.
Bishop Bill Morris' Statement: (1 May, 2011)
"I came to the diocese from the Gold Coast with little knowledge of this wonderful Local Church, or you the people who are the Local Church. I found welcome, friendship, encouragement, challenge, prayerful support, a home among you and a real sense of belonging. It is with true sadness therefore that I write this letter to you." Read Bishop Morris' full letter to parishioners.
Consultor's Statement: (2 May, 2011)
"This is a day of great sadness, personally for Bishop William Morris, and for the many committed members of our Toowoomba diocese in all of our parishes, schools and agencies. Bishop Morris has been removed from office by the Vatican through early retirement. He has not resigned. He remains a Bishop but is no longer the Bishop of Toowoomba." Read the full press release from the Consultors.
Bishop Brian Finnigan's Statement: (2 May, 2011)
"In recent days I have been asked by Pope Benedict XVI . . .to be the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Toowoomba. I accepted this request to ensure that the Pope's concern for the ongoing pastoral care of the Diocese could be fulfilled. I am grateful for the generous and kind welcome of Bishop Bill Morris who has confidence that the dedication of the priests, religious and other leaders of agencies, etc. will continue and will be supportive of my role." Read Bishop Finnigan's full letter.
Statement from the Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference: (12 May, 2011)
"On behalf of the Australian Bishops, I write to you – and through you especially to the
priests, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Toowoomba – to express our sadness
at the retirement of Bishop Bill Morris. The decision came at the end of a complex
process which began thirteen years ago and which ended in deadlock. It was then that
the Holy Father found it necessary to exercise his Petrine care for the whole Church.
This has been difficult and distressing for all concerned, and it is not surprising that
the decision has caused varied and intense reactions." Read the full letter from Archbishop Philip Wilson, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.