Fr. Z Responds to Attack on Bishop Morlino

View clear copy of letter here

From Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s Blog:

And now for a public attack on a Catholic bishop on the part of dissidents in the Diocese of Madison.


Some members of Call To Action and others took out an ad in the local newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal attacking Bp. Morlino.

If there was ever a case for interdiction, it is membership in Call To Action.

You might remember that H.E. Most Reverend Robert Morlino has made very strong gestures in support of Summorum Pontificum, even changing his own mind about this matter, and also very strong pro-life stands against bad legislation.  He spoke clearly about the Speak Pelosi Sen. Biden gaffs on Meet The Press.

As a matter of fact, I am sure this attack on Bp. Morlino is probably coming mostly from pro-abortion Catholics.  They are probably trying to goad him into some strong statement of rebuttal so that they can whine all the more loudly and sneer at him about how mean and narrow he is.  Boo hoo.

Bishops such as Bp. Morlino are standing up and the lefties are very displeased.

Let’s have a look at the newspaper article with my emphases and comments.

Madison-area Catholics decry Morlino’s leadership in open letter


SAT., OCT 11, 2008 – 10:30 PM

A group of Madison-area Catholics says in an open letter [In a newspaper.  Cowards.] to Bishop Robert Morlino that he is ignoring the input of clergy and lay people, causing some parishioners to stop attending Mass and hurting the morale of priests. [Gratis asseritur gratis negatur.  I just don’t buy that.  If people are not going to Mass because Bp. Morlino has been strongly pro-life (and that is really what this is about, bet on it, then there problems go deeper than the bishop.]

The letter writers point to priests banding together for fear of retribution if they dissent, [Should they be dissenting?  Should they?] pursuit of a new cathedral despite opposition, the firing of an openly gay music director, the hiring of priests who ban female altar servers and the alleged alienation of Catholics who disagree with church doctrine as examples of problems in the diocese.

“We need more compassion not dismissal,” the letter says.  [What a weasle word, “compassion”.  If someone does something you don’t agree with, just say he lacks “compassion”.  What about compassion towards those who want to adhere to the Church’s teachings about the beginning of life? About the authority of the Church to define liturgical laws?  About the traditional expressions of worship?  What about compassion for people who have been shoved to the back of the progressivists bus and forced for decades to go drink at separate liturgical water fountains?]

The letter, which appears as a paid advertisement in the Business section of today’s Wisconsin State Journal, is the latest flare-up in an increasingly vigorous debate over Morlino’s leadership of 270,000 Catholics in the 11-county Madison diocese.

In a statement, the diocese said Morlino is sorry that “certain groups, who claim to be Catholic, would assume postures which clearly are not in accord with the teachings of the church.”

James Green of Madison, one of the organizers of the effort, said the advertisement cost about $3,500 and was paid for by more than 40 people, 36 of whom are listed by name. Seven others are remaining anonymous because they work for the church, Green said.

Many of the contributors are members of the Madison branch of Call to Action (CTA), a national organization of Catholics whose positions on issues such as women’s ordination and priest celibacy are at odds with church hierarchy. The Catholic Media Coalition, a group loyal to church teachings, describes CTA as the leading organization of liberal, dissenting Catholics.

Brent King, spokesman for the Madison Catholic Diocese, said CTA members gave Morlino a copy of the letter Friday.

The diocese statement said Morlino hopes and prays that members of the group “return to full acceptance of the faith” that comes from the apostles.

“It also very much saddens the bishop when groups, such as Call to Action, resort to the use of the mass media to address internal family problems within the church,” the statement said.  [Let’s, however, not think that the “problems” are well-founded on both sides.  One side is wrong (the dissenters) and the other is right.]

Priests start group

Asked for evidence of poor morale among priests, several of the letter signers mentioned the Association of Madison Priests. The group was formed by priests to support each other and to provide a unified voice on issues in which they differ with Morlino, according to people familiar with the group.

“They feel the need to protect each other,” [They wouldn’t if they were on the right side of things.] said Joan Weiss of Prairie du Sac, a CTA leader. [May I wonder out loud what this woman could possibly have to say about what priests think?] “They’re concerned about retaliation if they speak out in opposition in any way.”

Weiss and others said the priest group began shortly after Morlino required all priests to play a taped message prior to the 2006 general election in which he spoke against stem cell research, the death penalty and same-sex marriage. Priests were told they could face serious consequences if they expressed disagreement.  [This is really it, isn’t it?  These priests oppose the Church’s teachings.  Why would there not be consequences for these guys?]

A priest who is a leader of the association confirmed the group’s existence Saturday but said the group did not want to go public at this time[Cowards.]

Another priest who is involved but not a leader said about 50 of the 135 or so active and retired priests in the diocese formed the group “to promote sociality among priests and to formulate a response to some of the diocesan policies as expressed by the bishop.”  [They formed to pressure the bishop not to be true to the Church’s teachings and to justify their own dissent.]

The priest said Morlino has tried to squelch the group. “The bishop right from the beginning said he saw no reason for such a group and has tried to torpedo it without success,” he said.

The State Journal agreed to give both priests anonymity because they said they didn’t want to anger Morlino. A bishop can reassign priests to smaller parishes or take action that affects their pay and pension.  [It is entirely true that a bishop can make a priest’s life very bad indeed.  But the problem comes from… over what issues?  If the priest is demonstrably trying to be loyal to the Church’s teaching and the bishop is not, that is a different siuation.  The issues and the motives have to be explored.  I am not an adherent of “the bishop right or …. right”.  Bishops need to be accountable too.  They are not untouchable.  But for me, dissent is a dealbreaker.]

King, the diocese spokesman, said Morlino has had conversations with the group’s leaders. At this point, Morlino views the group “neither negatively nor positively, but in a more exploratory way,” King said.

King strongly disagrees that priest morale is a problem. “I know a lot of priests, both traditional priests and those who may be a little more progressive, and they all seem to have pretty good morale.”  [Right.  This must be the case.  The other side of the coin has to be examined as well.]

Independent voice

There are 195 archdioceses and dioceses in the U.S., and each one is required to have a priest council. This group advises the bishop on governance, but the group generally is not open to all priests and the agenda usually is set by the bishop, the council’s president[Which would be abhorent to anyone who thinks that the Church should be “democratic”, run like a city council.]

A priest association is much different, said Vic Doucette of the National Federation of Priests Councils in Chicago. Priest associations crop up independently, and their members set the agenda.

“It’s fairly rare,” Doucette said. “I know of not even a dozen or so in the country.”

In Milwaukee, a priest alliance formed about seven years ago to give members brotherly support and an independent voice, said the Rev. Dave Cooper, a founder.

The Milwaukee group’s 126 members have a good relationship with the church’s hierarchy but take opposing stands at times, Cooper said. In 2006, the priest alliance opposed a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage despite the church’s strong support of it. [Again… dissenters.   Wouldn’t you like to see a priest group spring up that wasn’t a dissenting group?  I think the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy might be something like this.  And I believe none of its membership cower in the shadows like frightened little girly men.]

Cooper said he has attended one meeting of the Madison group but declined to comment more specifically.

“Some of the issues they’re dealing with are different than ours,” he said. “I really can’t address that without getting into trouble or making accusations.”

Critics of Morlino’s five-year tenure contend he rules through intimidation and fear and focuses too much on homosexuality and abortion to the detriment of other issues[I have warned about being alert to “code language”.  When you hear Catholics express “concern” that perhaps we don’t have a nuanced enough balance of abortion with, say, “the full spectrum” of other issues, that is when your alarm bells need to sound.]

You don’t hear him talking about the poor. [See?] You don’t hear him saying much about the war,” [Why should he talk about the war?   Let’s have a guess at the age of Sr. Heimann, shall we?  Do you suppose she became a liberated sister around 1968?  ]  said Sister Mary Francis Heimann of Madison, a Catholic nun and one of the letter signers.

Another letter signer, Jim Beyers, who attends St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison, said he wants Morlino to respect priests in the diocese.

“He treats them like children. He’s punitive toward them,” Beyers said.

Others say Morlino inspires them with his approach and his teaching[For every three negative comments, the writer tosses in a handful of dirt from the other side.]

We just love him,” said Ron Faust of Cross Plains. “I like that he tells the truth and doesn’t back away from it. I think there are more Catholics who support him, by far, but the unhappy speak the loudest.”

Morlino has riled some Catholics from the start. [Good.] Early on, he seemed to suggest in a public comment that Madison lacks public morality. [! I wonder…. is he right?  We are talking about a city with one of the most liberal schools in the country.]  (He has since said he was merely pointing out that there are few common starting points for discussions about moral reasoning in such a diverse city.)  [Note the stress on “diversity”, as if the bishop is in favor of a heterogeneous society.]

Other actions, such as his service on an advisory board for a controversial Army training institute, have led some Catholics to question whether Morlino is a good fit for a diocese with many progressive Catholics.  [Oooooo….. ARRRRMMMYYYY……   baaad…   Progressivist Catholics should never have to be challenged with such a shocking idea such as, well, that the military isn’t automatically evil.]

Selection of bishops

[And now the dinosaur liberals are trotted out.]

A larger issue is whether there are any bishops other than “conservative” ones to choose from, said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a [dissenting] theology professor at the University of Notre Dame who often clashes with the Catholic Church.  [Remember his association with Call To Action?  I’ll post the photo again, just to remind you of the stellar example he gives.]

“Under Pope John Paul II, the motive was clear: Replace all progressive bishops who were formed by Vatican II with conservative bishops, and thereby change the face of the U.S. hierarchy,” McBrien said. “The plan has been successful.”  [Not successful enough.  McBrien still has a job at Notre Dame.]

Before 1980, bishops were appointed because they excelled at pastoral care as priests, McBrien said[What a slimey thing to say.  The implication is that men today aren’t chosen because they are “pastoral”.  BTW… many times here I have written about the false dicotomy so dear to the liberals.  They oppose “pastoral” and a whole range of qualities such as “faithful” “liturgically reverent”, etc.  The idea is that if you are faithful to the Church’s teachings and laws… you are unwilling to dissent or bend or break the law of the regula fidei, you are therefore not “pastoral”.   The worst examples of this crap come from people who don’t have a clear sense that the word isn’t really pronounced “pastoreal”.] That pattern was replaced with one in which bishops were appointed “who were uncritically loyal to the Holy See and had absolutely clean records on such issues as contraception, priestly celibacy and the ordination of women. Bishop Morlino fits the pattern.”

This theory — that bishops are no more than “yes men” for the Pope — is “absurd,” said Jimmy Akin, director of apologetics and evangelization for Catholic Answers in El Cajon, Calif., and a leading Catholic author.

“There is no way that the Holy See can make all of the local pastoral decisions affecting the billion-plus Catholics in the world,” he said. “Those decisions are made by the bishops.”  [Also involved with the liberals’ distorted vision is that there should be a radical subsidiarity, that the Holy See shouldn’t have a clear role in any “local Church”, which should have even greater automony.  Bishops should be chosen locally.  Parish leaders who preside should be chosen by the community because they best exemplify the community at that moment.  Blah blah.]

Terms such as “progressive” and “conservative” are drawn from politics and not useful in this discussion, Akin said. [Well… they are… sort of useful.  Especially when so many of the progressivists line up nearly perfectly with certain political parties.] “The question is not whether bishops — or any other Catholics — are progressive or conservative, but whether they are faithful to the teachings passed down from Christ and the apostles.”  [True enough.]

Morlino’s fans are just as passionate as his detractors.  [A final handful of dirt from the newspaper.]

Huan Hoang of Madison said he was “a sleeper” Catholic until two years ago when he heard a Morlino homily.

“He awakened my faith,” Hoang said. “He needs to know that he’s leading us to Jesus Christ, and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that’s important.”

I am of various minds about this article and the ad.

If I were Bishop Morlino, I would be sorely tempted to write back to them, through the paper, a letter something like this:

Dear People of God (as you like to be called),

Forgive me for not taking your counsel to me seriously. Or don’t forgive me. A newspaper ad? And you want to tell me how to act in a financially responsible way? The phone is cheaper. I tend to take counsel more seriously when those offering it are not engaged in a publicity stunt.

For your information, there’s a priest shortage in the Church and in this diocese. If I want to invite priests who are members of Religious Orders or or Institutes of consecrated life to staff parishes in the diocese, I will.  It is my choice to make the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass more available to the faithful in this diocese who want it. Furthermore, females do not traditionally serve at the altar in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass… or in the Ordinary Form if you will recall.

If some Catholics in the diocese feel better off in the Anglican Communion or in Protestant denominations, I would have thought you’d welcome their choice to join them. I certainly do, especially if their sense of Roman Catholic worship is so impoverished that they prefer Protestant worship to it. Perhaps now they and you will understand that many Catholics in this diocese have been forced for four decades to accept the scores of liturgical abuses and just plain bad taste that parish directors of liturgy, along with complicit priests, have heaped upon them.

You appeal to the “positive spirit of the Second Vatican Council.” I wish you would read the Council documents, beginning with the one on the Sacred Liturgy.

Your servant in Christ,


But I am not a bishop and this fantasy letter is a merely one example of why I should never be one… nor will ever be.

Just in case you have forgotten, here is a reminder of what sort of liturgy these Call To Action disserters want.  Remember this video from the May 2008 Call To Action meeting in San Jose, CA?

Yes, the operative word is “said.”  We “presided.”  [The Royal We might surprise at first, but given the source and the spirit of levity, you can make a quick adjustment and embrace it as entirely appropriate.]

Via skype this morning, I had an interesting tale from a priest about an encounter after saying Holy Mass… er um… sorry… presiding at community…

I share it here, with my emphases and comments as a good counterpoint to the lunacy of the ad and article above:

Worse yet, We had a woman assault us after We presided.

She’s not a bad person, a daily communicant in fact.  She taught in the parochial school for 30 years before retiring two years ago.  Her husband has taught at _ for nearly 40 years.  They both are sincere Catholics.

Well, she’s gone to school and is a certified “spiritual director.”  One of her directees is a female bishop.  So, You can already guess what’s coming next.

Just why can’t women be ordained?  Don’t give me all of the answers that  I’ve heard so many times.  Here’s a woman who God has called to the priesthood and to a bishop and she would be wonderful for the Catholic Church.  And, think of all the women who, if they could be ordained, could bring the Eucharist to places where it’s not possible now, given the priest shortage.”

We were in no mood to play that game, so We asked: “If you sincerely believe what you do, why do you remain in the Church?”  [That is the question that must be put to them every time.]

Her answer: “We have the true Eucharist.”  [With its consequences.]

Our retort: “If the Church is so corrupt that its teaching is errant, how could it possibly have the true Eucharist?  Would it not be more honest of you to become an Episcopalian which teaches the truth as you see it and would, ipso facto, have the true Eucharist that the Holy, Roman, Catholic Church has forsaken because its wedded to outdated patriarchy?  Were not the reformers like Luther far more honest than people are today who want to make the Church in their image and likeness?  Think about it: maybe God is calling you to protest…to be a Protestant…by joining the Episcopalian Church where you can have female priests, homosexual and lesbian priests, divorced priests, and lesbian bishops who have children.”

She was not happy with us but We are beyond wasting Our time on this feces.

As you can tell, dear readers, I am in a bit of a mood.

I applaud Bishop Morlino, therefore, all the more loudly for what he has been doing.   If some lefty-dissenters don’t like him …. well… tough.

Wake up and smell the incense.


4 Responses to Fr. Z Responds to Attack on Bishop Morlino

  1. Joe Leone says:

    I am not a fan of the “conservative” vs. “liberal” lingo being bandied about in a discussion regarding theology. The better handles are “orthodox” and “heterodox.” The authors of the Wis. State Journal “advertisement” are clearly heterodox. They implicitly ascribe to the odd belief that God cannot see you if you close the bedroom door. Contrary to Mandeville’s aphorism, private vice does not beget public benefit, and public vice most definitely does not. Public vice left unchecked breeds scandal and apathy. Look, this isn’t brain surgery: Bishop Morlino has a job to do and he has set about it in a straightforward fashion. You don’t have to guess where he stands – just ask him! If that rubs our heterodox brothers the wrong way, perhaps they needed a refresher on what being Catholic really means. God does not expect you to be perfect, but He most certainly expects you to try.

  2. Amy Croft says:

    This..”letter to Bishop Morlino” is so illogical it makes me ill.

    The people who wrote this do not speak for me! Nor any Catholic I know. To those priests who do not feel appreciated, if there are any, Thank You for all you do. We LOVE you and you are in our prayers! And a thanks to those from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, you guys are awesome!

    History has shown us that society is always changing, imperfect, and not something to be formed by, too many know this from experience….

    We should all pray for the people who contributed to this.

    We concerned Catholics of the Madison diocese wish to express our appreciation for all you, Bishop Morlino, do for the Church in this growing secular myopic society.

  3. Mary Fabian says:

    Having grown up in an even more liturgically abusive Diocese than the Diocese of Madison (The Archdiocese of Milwaukee during Rembrandt Weakland’s reign.) I am able to find some empathy for all of the uncatechised, confused, and lost sheep in the Diocese of Madison, including the Priests who are anonymous dissenters. The Holy Spirit has, without a doubt, not given up on these Prodigal Sons and Daughters, and we shouldn’t either. I agree with everything you wrote Fr. Z and I support Bishop Morlino as well, but in so defending him, we must also do so with great charity, and humility, remembering that “but not for the grace of God” we too, could be this heretical. You are certainly a wise apologist and trusted servant of The Holy Catholic Church, and I don’t mean to offer my comments with even an ounce of disrespect…but as a Catholic who was born into the post-Vatican II era under the leadership of one of the most liberal U.S. Archbishop’s of all time, I have learned that another way to evangelize fallen away Catholics is with faithful fervent prayer, humble examples, sincere forgiveness and love. With enough prayer, patience, kindness, and truth spoken out of love, these lost coins can be reclaimed. People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. Remember, these “heterodox” sheep, as another commentator calls them, are only one Confession away from a conversion of heart. Bishop Morlino, in his willingness to continually engage with the local liberal media, is a model for us all.

  4. Preventing Heart Attacks…

    […]Fr. Z Responds to Attack on Bishop Morlino « Mary’s Anawim[…]…

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