An investigation by a retired Supreme Court judge has found the Catholic Church breached canon and civil law when it asked a bishop on Queensland’s Darling Downs to retire.
The long-serving bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, was asked to retire by the church in May after he made comments about the ordination of women and married priests.
Since then his supporters have been lobbying church leaders in Australia and the Vatican for an explanation of the circumstances leading to his removal.
More than 1,000 people signed a petition over his forced retirement.
The bishop’s supporters hired Bill Carter QC to lead the investigation and he found the church committed a number of legal errors.
Mr Carter found the decision to remove Bishop Morris had been made before he was notified of an investigation and that he was advised of it through an unsigned letter.
Christians Against Poverty have reached a new milestone with the 1,000th church set to take part in their debt-busting money course.
CAP Money was launched three years ago to teach people the basics of budgeting.
The course is run through local churches which are trained up so that they can run it on their premises and pass the wisdom on to their local communities.
Crucially, this includes weening people off the plastic and onto cash, helping them to see just how much they are spending each week and keeping them out of the devastating debt spiral.
Now the 1,000th church is set to learn these life-saving skills at a packed-out training session in London this weekend.
“In CAP Money’s short history, something like 20,000 people – and that’s a low estimate – have been on this free course and overhauled their personal finances,” said CAP’s Chief Executive Matt Barlow.
“That’s 20,000 people who now know how to prioritise their spending; how to budget; save and how to avoid getting into debt. It sounds simple but if no one’s ever taught you, it’s something you need to learn.”
Churches of all denominations have run the course over the last three years as they seek to support people left vulnerable by the economic downturn.
The 1,000th church to get involved is St John’s Church in Greenside, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Margaret Butler is one of the members of the congregation travelling to London for the training day.
She said she was increasingly aware of the local need for people to gain better advice about managing their money and the congregation wanted to learn how to help their community weather the economic downturn.
“We are in the process of restoring the church hall as a community hall and I saw something about CAP Money and thought, ‘this is wonderful! We need to get this underway’,” she said.
“Another lady in our church also heard about it through a meeting she went to in Newcastle and so when we spoke to each other we felt God was in this. We aim to have our first course in the new year.”
Archbishop says cuts are hitting the vulnerable the hardest
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said in a speech to MPs, peers and charity workers that Government cuts are “already being felt disproportionally by the most vulnerable”.
It is the closest a Catholic bishop in England and Wales has come to criticising the Coalition’s austerity measures.
In his speech the archbishop urged the Government to listen to people on the “front line” of the social security, health and criminal justice systems.
Speaking at the Houses of Parliament, he painted a grim picture of the state of Britain.
He said: “None of us can be in any doubt about the severity of the challenges facing us in the coming months and years. The increase in youth unemployment, the pressure on housing provision and support, and the impact of personal debt are bringing hardship and distress to those least able to sustain them. At the same time some aspects of the distribution of wealth cause scandal and dismay. The summer’s disturbances in some parts of the country demonstrated a callous disregard for the common good of our communities, increasing the burden for those whose homes and businesses were affected. And, ever present throughout these developments, are enormous pressures on families and particularly on our young people, most of whom struggle hard to maintain their dignity and self-respect. They need our support.”
Archbishop Nichols was speaking at a parliamentary reception organised by Caritas Social Action Network, an agency of the bishops’ conference.
He urged peers and MPs to “utilise the wealth of knowledge and creativity available in this room”.
He said: “It is only by strengthening relationships between those organisations which work across the social action spectrum, and those parliamentarians who are shaping the legislative response to society’s challenges, that we can together achieve a better future.”
The reception is the first organised by Caritas and comes after the bishops’ conference announced earlier this year that it wanted to give the agency a stronger national voice and
more powers to co-ordinate Catholic social action.
Their resolution followed on from a promise in November last year to try to deepen the Church’s social engagement in the wake of the papal visit.
The reception’s timing coincides with the progress of the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords. Caritas has worked with Baroness Hollins in her tabling of an amendment to protect benefit claimants from being penalised as a result of administration errors.
Kevin Flanagan, director of the St Anthony’s Centre for Church and Industry, said: “If the present [Welfare Reform Bill] proposals go through, I am gravely concerned that a number of people who are receiving benefits could, through no fault of their own, be placed in debt and face other far reaching consequences for matters which are beyond their control.”
Caritas Social Action Network is an umbrella organisation for domestic Catholic charities.
It is separate from Caritas Internationalis, a global confederation of Catholic relief agencies.