Vatican City, May 14, 2012 / 11:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI has named Monsignor Robert McGuckin to lead the Diocese of Toowoomba, Australia – one year after the previous bishop was removed for dissenting from Catholic teaching and practice.
“I’m honored and humbled to be appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Bishop of Toowoomba,” said Msgr. McGuckin, who is presently the vicar general of the Parramatta diocese.
“I would hope to build upon the good work of my predecessors and look forward to working with the clergy, religious and everyone in the diocese. I ask for your prayers as together we strive to fulfill the mission entrusted us in building up the Kingdom of God,” he said on May 14.
In May 2011, Pope Benedict removed Bishop William Morris from his post in Toowoomba after the failure of years of negotiations aimed at correcting the bishop’s abuses of Church doctrine, governance and liturgy.
Msgr. McGuckin was born in in the Marrickville suburb of Sydney in 1944 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1973. An expert in canon law, he has served as a lecturer, judge and president of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand. He has also ministered in numerous parishes.
In 2011 he was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope Benedict XVI. In his spare time, Msgr. McGuckin is an avid fisherman.
Bishop Brian Finnigan, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Toowoomba, said that Msgr. McGukin’s “ministry over the years in Australia and overseas has given him deep insight into the beauty and mystery of human relationships and the struggles which many individuals endure in their journey of life.”
“He is well equipped to lead people to a deeper liturgical and spiritual life. He has had years of involvement in the daily life of parishes.”
Bishop Morris’s dismissal after 18 years at the helm of the diocese was precipitated by comments he made in a 2006 pastoral letter. In it, he called for the ordination of women and married male priests, as well as suggesting that Protestant ministers could offer Mass to compensate for the dearth of priests in Toowoomba. During his 18 years, the diocese had produced only one new priestly vocation.
The incident provoked the Vatican to order an investigation led by the respected Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
Critics of Bishop Morris said the problems in Toowoomba went far beyond the bishop’s public disagreement with Catholic doctrine on the priesthood.
They claimed that Bishop Morris – who preferred a shirt and tie to a priestly collar and bishops’ attire – did much to undermine Catholic identity and teachings during his term of office.
Among the criticisms leveled were “communion services” being co-celebrated by lay people and priests and the widespread use of communal “general absolution” rites as an alternative to personal confession in the diocese.
Following Bishop Morris’ departure in May 2011, a vocal group of both clergy and laity in Toowoomba launched a campaign to support him and advance their agenda.
Despite such a legacy, Bishop Finnigan said he was “confident that the priests, religious and lay faithful” of Toowoomba “will give a warm welcome to Msgr. McGuckin so that his gifts and skills can flourish.”
The Diocese of Toowoomba, which is situated to the west of Brisbane, spans more than 188,000 square miles and has a Catholic population of roughly 77,400, served by 35 parishes.
Msgr. McGuckin’s ordination will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Toowoomba on July 11, the Feast of St. Benedict.