We Spleen: The Vatican

No, it isn’t because of religious convictions. We Heart many Christians (like those at Douglass Boulevard Baptist Church). But We Spleen injustice, and the Vatican is guilty of this through its treatment of Australian Bishop William Morris.

Pope Benedict XVI unseated Bishop Morris on May 2nd for “defective pastoral leadership.” And how was he defective? According to the Vatican, in Morris’ 2006 Christmas pastoral letter he addressed the issue of the declining number of priests and suggested the Church openly discuss whether to allow women and married men into the priesthood. Yes, he just suggested an open discussion.

Morris has accepted the decision, but says he was never made aware of the accusation or who made the Church aware of the letter. He also wasn’t allowed to defend himself. When he asked Pope Benedict XVI why he couldn’t challenge his dismissal, the Pope responded,

Canon law does not make provision for a process regarding bishops, whom the successor of Peter nominates and may remove from office.

So, the Vatican can (and apparently will) remove a bishop who challenges the structure of the Church. But what about those priestly pedophiles? For example, in the U.S., BishopAccountability.org keeps tabs on priests who have been accused, convicted or acquitted of sexual abuse within the Church.

The other day, for example, it was reported that a lawsuit had been filed in Chicago against the Vatican in regard to former priest Daniel McCormack, who pleaded guilty to molesting five boys in July of 2007 (and has been accused of molesting as many as 18 more). The suit charges that the Vatican has blocked efforts by the Chicago Archdiocese to comply with a 2008 settlement involving one of the young victims. (But at least, in this case, McCormack is serving jail time.)

As Barney Zwartz, religion editor for The Age, writes,

That is what will most depress rank and file Catholics: the indication, yet again, that sexual abuse is still well down the list of matters that upset the Vatican. As the National Catholic Reporter said, the Morris case shows that any bishop who advocates structural change is seen as more dangerous than one who turns a blind eye to molesting priests. The real scandal, it said, is ”the trampling of human rights and professed values of decency and charity” by the Vatican and the Pope himself.

William Morris was known for his support of abuse victims within the Church, and revered as a “sensitive and pastoral leader.” But it sounds like what the Vatican really wants is sheeplike pastoral followers.

Image from Wikimedia


  1. Open discussion is so rarely seen in organizations such as the Vatican. Of course, I’m not suggesting its impossible for radically conservative religious groups to have an open discussion, but I wouldn’t count on it.

  2. I used to know a lady, who was really so active in church and any religious organizations. But when she had met this priest, everything went so awry. She was impregnated by this priest and bore him children. The sad part is aside from her the priest had another 3 more women, whom he also had impregnated. In fact, a couple of the priest children were both born on the same year.

    I remember this story very well when one of our parishioners went over to the priest’s house – she saw cloth diapers everywhere – she was wondering who they were for. And when she was asked inside the house she saw 3 toddlers and a baby. Wondering who they were but was asked to ask question – when she went back to the parish she told about this story and one of the parishioners who knew the real score – told her the kids were the priest’s.

    Last time I heard, the priest’s license was cancelled – high time after 8 children – at first the catholic church covered up for him but there was a time that they could not anymore because of the 8 children and he was not discreet about it.

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