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Bishop accuses Vatican of authoritarianism

SYDNEY, May 3 – An Australian bishop who said he was forced to resign after a dispute with the Vatican on Tuesday accused the Catholic Church of "creeping authoritarianism".

William Morris announced his early retirement on Sunday after being told that Pope Benedict XVI felt that his vast Toowoomba diocese in Queensland state would be better served by another bishop.

Morris, who had been Toowoomba\’s bishop for 18 years, said he was sad but not angry about his resignation but felt the Vatican had not given him a voice.

"If it hasn\’t given me a voice, it means it hasn\’t given the people a voice," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"I think — and I\’m not the only one — that there is a creeping centralism in the church at the moment. There\’s a creeping authoritarianism.

"I think in many ways local bishops have been sidelined," Morris added.

Morris, who was ordained a priest in 1969, had come to the Vatican\’s attention over comments five years ago that women and others should be allowed to become Catholic priests to relieve an acute shortage of priests.

He said Tuesday he had never pushed for women priests, but had mentioned the need for the church to be involved in a broad debate on the subject.

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"I wasn\’t advocating at all," he said. "What I was saying was we need to be open to options so that the Eucharist can be celebrated in our community."

Morris, who has been replaced by Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane Brian Finnigan until a permanent replacement can be appointed, will remain as Emeritus Bishop of Toowoomba.

He has the support of local priests, with eight from the Toowoomba diocese signing a media statement saying they believed "Bishop Morris has not been treated fairly or respectfully".

"We find his removal profoundly disheartening," they said.


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