Friday, May 13, 2011
By Bryan Cones
"Though I hesitate to comment on the removal of Toowoomba Bishop William Morris, Megan won't let me get away with it. The newest Catholic News Service story on the drama notes that the Vatican has been trying to get Morris to resign for years. But it's still hard to figure out exactly what Morris was removed for. He didn't ordain a woman, marry a same-sex couple, desecrate the Eucharist or anything else that might have resulted in an immediate action. Most commentators have focused on Morris' 2006 pastoral letter in which Morris proposed some possibilities to the shortage of priests in his diocese, including expressing openness to the ordination of women "if Rome would permit it." The pope's own correspondence with Morris suggests that it was this questioning of what the pope refers to as an infallible teaching as the trigger for Morris' removal.
And there's the rub: When John Paul II ruled out the ordination of women in Ordinatio sacerdotalis, he used the expression "definitive," but did not use the formula that would signal an infallible teaching; in fact the word "infallible" doesn't appear anywhere in the document. (These documents are carefully crafted. "Infallible is missing for a reason.) Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect for the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith, argued in a response to a question about Ordinatio sacerdotalis that the teaching was part of the "deposit of faith" and therefore an infallible teaching of the "ordinary and universal magisterium"--although he knows full well that's not how infalliblility works; something can't be declared infallible by a Vatican office. Canonists and theologians the world over argued that the teaching was not infallible for a variety of reasons. Still, Ratzinger, now as pope, is pushing this kind of back-door infallibility on the question, as John Allen at NCR pointed out in a recent piece on the controversy surrounding what many call "creeping infallibility."