Bishop William Morris, image from The Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia
The Bishop of Toowoomba in Queensland, William Morris, has stunned parishioners by retiring after falling out with the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI, reports The Courier-Mail.
Bishop Morris distributed a pastoral letter at the weekend in which he claimed he was forced into early retirement after a five-year investigation sparked by a "disaffected" group that disagreed with his views.
Bishop Morris said he was denied natural justice during the investigation, which he claimed had made his position in charge of the Toowoomba diocese "untenable".
The investigation included an apostolic visitation and ongoing discussions with the Vatican-based congregations for Bishops, Divine Worship and Doctrine of the Faith and even the Pope.
The investigation was sparked by a 2006 letter to parishioners in which Bishop Morris raised the prospect of the Church considering the ordination of married men and women to help counter a looming shortfall in priests.
Bishop Morris said the 2006 letter had been "misread and I believe deliberately misinterpreted" by a "small group (which has) found my leadership and the direction of the diocese not to their liking".
He said his resignation would have meant that "I accept the assessment of myself as breaking communio which I absolutely refute and reject and it is out of my love for the Church that I cannot do so".
He said early retirement was then the only option open to him.
A link to Bishop Morris' full letter can be found in the Courier-Mail report.
Brisbane Archbishop Bathersby said that he had not seen an official statement from the Holy See regarding Bishop Morris's termination of employment.
FULL STORY AND RELATED COVERAGE
Toowoomba Bishop William Morris quits Roman Catholic Church church after row with Vatican over ordination of women (The Courier-Mail)
Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, claims unfair dismissal by Pope (The Australian)
Vatican forces outspoken Qld bishop to retire (ABC)
Toowomba bishop in call for ordination dialogue (CathNews)
Image from The Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia