The Vatican has been known to excommunicate priests for participating in ceremonies attempting to ordain women, but now one Australian bishop has been removed for simply discussing the possibility of allowing women and married men to be priests.
Bishop William Morris of the Toowoomba diocese has been under investigation by the Vatican since he sent a letter to his parish in 2006, in which he discussed whether ordaining women and ministers from other churches would help the Catholic Church cope with the shortage of priests. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Morris says he wasn't advocating this, just saying the church should consider all possible solutions.
Morris said he isn't angry at the church, and understands that the Vatican doesn't like its policies to be questioned, Australia's ABC News reports. He said in an interview:
"I think that once they make a decision on a particular area, where there is an authoritative decision ... they decide they don't want any more discussion ... When you start to ask questions, you're seen as dissenting from their position."
However, he added that it's sad that the Vatican doesn't allow people to ask questions once a decision has been made. "I believe a conversation needs to be had whether it's on the ordination of women — whether it's on birth control," he said.
The way Morris was dismissed was unusually harsh. The Vatican issued a statement yesterday announcing that he had been "removed from pastoral care," according to the Associated Press. Usually the church prefers to fire people more indirectly, by asking church leaders to step down, then announcing that the pope has accepted their resignation. Last night, hundreds of people gathered for a vigil outside of Morris' house to show their support. Mark Copland, a member of the congregation, said, "I think we all know and certainly I appreciate that the church is not a democracy, but surely there can be some degree of openness in communication and some natural justice shown." Apparently if you dare to discuss the idea of women becoming priests, that isn't the case.
Archbishop Backs "Good" Bishop's Sacking [Sydney Morning Herald]
Hundred Praise Ousted Toowoomba Bishop At Vigil [ABC News]
Vatican Sacks Australian Bishop William Morris Who Called For Ordination Of Women, Married Men [AP]
Image via Catholic Diocese Of Toowoomba.