Over the past year, there have been three announcements of Bishops being relieved from the pastoral care of their dioceses. Last August, Bishop Scanavino of Orvieto was removed, and last month, Bishop Jean-Claude Makaya Loemba was removed from the Diocese of Pointe-Noire, Congo. The latest case, earlier this week, was Bishop Morris, relieved of the pastoral care of the Diocese of Toowoomba, Australia.
In a pastoral letter that he wrote for Advent 2006, Bishop Morris argued that the Church should be open to ordaining women and married men, to reinstating priests who had left the active ministry, and to recognise the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church orders. It is thought that such statements were not unrelated to his removal by Pope Benedict.
In the video clip above, Bishop Morris responds to his removal from office by saying "I'm fine within myself; my sadness is for the community..." which more or less indicates that he has no regret for his dissent from the magisterium. He opines that his "treatment" (he alleges lack of process, denial of natural justice etc.) will "open a conversation."
The conversation has in fact begun. Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture takes a sensible look at the question: Can the Pope remove bishops? Yes, but... and answers various questions. He concludes:
Question #4: Who’s next?I was not really expecting to enjoy the video clip of Bishop Morris justifying himself, but it does contain an interesting revelation concerning Pope Benedict's personal decisiveness (0'55" in). Bishop Morris says:
One in early April; one in early May. Should we be waiting for another announcement from the Vatican in early June? Should we be praying for it? And is there any reader who doesn't have his own favorite candidate?
"I came against a brick wall. And then eventually the Pope said to me 'Canon law does not make provision for a process regarding bishops, whom the successor of St Peter nominates and may remove from office.'"He then started negotiating with the Pope, asking to take early retirement in three years' time, pleading that he still needed to offer pastoral care to families of child abuse victims and so on. He was abruptly cut off; as he says of the Pope "he said he was going to make the announcement on the second of May."
Viva il Papa!