Syte Reitz

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world…….

Browsing Posts published in February, 2019

Astonishingly Perceptive Wisconsin State Journal Article Portrays Bishop Morlino in 2004

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Treasures in My Basement
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Not being much of a newspaper clipper, nor information hoarder, I was surprised to unearth several treasures in my basement, including notes I took at a Future Society meeting addressed by Bishop Morlino and a Wisconsin State Journal article which introduced Bishop Morlino to Madison almost exactly fifteen years ago, on February 15th, 2004, about six months after his arrival in Madison.

The front page Sunday article was remarkably positive, surprisingly perceptive, and provides one very elegant bookend to Bishop Morlino’s life here with us in Madison for the past 15 years, so I had to share.

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The Wisconsin State Journal article began with several striking headlines:

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MORLINO: CONFRONTING SECULARISM IN MADISON

DIOCESE HAS NEVER HAD A BISHOP LIKE MORLINO

HE WADES INTO CONTROVERSY, BUT HE IS TOLERANT OF THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH HIM.

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Bishop Morlino’s address to the World Future Society was one of his early encounters with secular Madison and was entitled “The Future of Religion.” It was presented at Fluno Hall on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus.  Bishop Morlino pointed out during that address that Democracy maximizes individual freedom and minimizes restraint by the government.  Thus it requires free self-restraint, which makes sense only in a religious framework.  Government ought to favor authentic religion– when self-restraint under God is promoted, the government has less restraining to do.  Religion, therefore, must have a future if democracy is to have a future.
In hindsight now in 2019 with Antifa type disorder rampant, this prediction by Bishop Morlino made 15 years ago (in 2003) comes across particularly inspired.

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Hoping to share the nostalgic Wisconsin State Journal article with fellow Catholics who are mourning our loss of Bishop Morlino on November 24, 2018, I rushed to Wisconsin State Journal archives to find the link to this old article  — only to find that in order to see anything more detailed than the fuzzy 2×2 inch image of the whole front page, readers had to subscribe to the Wisconsin State Journal($19.99/month).

This inspired me to photograph, transcribe, and share excerpts of my newspaper clipping with my family and friends here below, with some occasional commentary.

The Wisconsin State Journal front page Sunday article from February 15, 2004:

MORLINO: CONFRONTING SECULARISM IN MADISON

DIOCESE HAS NEVER HAD A BISHOP LIKE MORLINO

HE WADES INTO CONTROVERSY, BUT HE IS TOLERANT OF THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH HIM.

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By William R. Wineke
Wisconsin State Journal

Six months after becoming spiritual leader of 265,000 Roman Catholics in southern Wisconsin, Robert Morlino is proving to be a bishop far different from any the Madison Catholic Diocese has seen before.

He is at once more self-assured and, paradoxically, more humble than any of his predecessors, more willing to engage in public controversy on behalf of his church and more tolerant of those who disagree, a man who seems at ease with himself, his values and his abilities.

He also begins his leadership of the diocese at a time when trends in the church that have been occurring for years are reaching crisis proportions. His priests are getting older and there are a few replacements in the pipeline. The result is that each pastor serves an increasing number of parishioners each year, parishes are being merged and ongoing scandals in the church at large are testing the faith of Catholics locally.

Perhaps his biggest challenge, however, is confronting what Morlino sees as a pervasive secularism in Madison.

Morlino said his first six months here have convinced him of the necessity for dialogue with the outside culture.

“Madison has to face all the challenges of secularism,“ he said. “I think the challenge in Madison is to enter into dialogue with the culture that is secular. To strengthen people’s faith requires some flexibility and versatility.“

He says he is somewhat surprised by the extent of the secular culture here and by what he perceives as a split between the culture of Madison and of the rest of the 11-county diocese.

“I knew it theoretically before I came here, but I didn’t realize how strong that culture is,” he said.

He does much of his teaching through his column in the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Herald.

In a recent column dealing with the referendum on expanding gambling at Madison’s DeJope  bingo hall, Morlino put the whole issue into the reference of the cities alleged secularism. He said it is hard to argue against gambling in the city that welcomes abortion and the production of anti-Catholic plays, such as “Corpus Christi,“ a play that portrays Jesus and his disciples as gay. A national organization, America needs Fatima, has organized a protest against its performance, which is scheduled for March 5-27 at the Bartell  Theater.

“The kind of community we are seems to indicate a high comfort level with virtually no public morality,“ he said.

But, he asked, “is that really the kind of community we want to be in the Diocese of Madison and in the state of Wisconsin looking into the future?“

His column reported in the front page story in the Wisconsin State Journal, elicited responses of both support and outrage.

Both the State Journal’s and the Capital Times’ editorial pages criticized Morlino‘s position, and Capital Times columnist (Aside from Syte: calumnist?😂) Doug Moe wrote a piece on the newspaper’s front page taking the Bishop to task. The common thread in the editorial response was that Morlino hasn’t lived here long enough to pass judgment.

Those who argue with him tend to do so from the perspective that in a pluralistic society, secular values of open-mindedness should prevail.

The State Journal’s editorial page, for example, has been barraged with letters supporting and opposing Morlino. Philip Keillor, a Madison activist with a history of working with the poor, noted the city’s hard work in providing shelter for the homeless and suggested “moral minimums in our community seem to be developed on issues when there is enough agreement to ‘make it happen’ and those who remain uninvolved either accept or don’t strongly oppose controversial activities.

And the Rev. E. Ellwood Carey, retired pastor of Parkside Presbyterian Church, suggested there is “nothing in Christian scriptures that reveals Jesus’ sexuality, so a word of caution regarding assumptions is appropriate.“

Many Catholic readers, on the other hand, argue that a Bishop’s letter to the people of his diocese should not be read as an allegation of immorality on the part of non-believers.

Mary Weisensel, Sun Prairie, a Catholic laywoman  long active in church causes, noted that “a closer examination of the bishops column in our diocesan newspaper reveals that he cast no stones, he only sought to help us think through a moral issue. That’s what bishops are supposed to do…”

What the flap demonstrates more than anything is that Morlino does not duck controversy. His recurring theme is that there is an “objective public morality, a moral truth.“

In Thursday’s column, for example, he said “our freedom is accountable to the moral truth and, as I have written so many times, the fact that something is done freely does not make it morally right, that should be obvious.“

He use the column to criticize the Super Bowl performance, in which the singer Janet Jackson’s bodice was ripped off to reveal one of her breasts during the nation’s most watched television event. He also commented on reducing love to its “sensual dimensions,“ adding that the “ongoing effort to assert into the civic life of our country and our culture the right to redefine marriage“ is “certainly not among the inalienable rights conferred upon each human person according to the mind of our nation’s architects from the beginning.“

Morlino, 57, who succeeded Bishop William Bullock last August, is the fourth Bishop to serve the 11-county Madison Catholic Diocese.

He is a native of Pennsylvania, the only child of a Scranton couple. His mother died when he was a teenager.

Morlino was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1974. He holds a bachelors degree in philosophy from Fordham University, a masters degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in moral theology from the Gregorian University in Rome.

He is a large enthusiastic man who appears to enjoy company, love sports and doesn’t like being bound by rigid schedules. He doesn’t talk “down“ to people – which means, also, that he expects people to be able to hold their own when they speak with him.

He had a diocese that was formed in 1946 and was led, successively, by bishops William O’Connor, who served from 1946 to 1967, Cletus O’Donnell, who served from 1967 to 1992 and Bullock, who served until 2003.

If their tenures could be described by a single word – none would wish to be so described — O’Connor was a builder; O’Donnell was a national leader, Bullock was an administrator and Morlino is a teacher.

Audio for many of Bishop Morlino’s homilies is available at the Cathedral Parish Media Archive – click above text for link and search “Morlino.”

He seems perfectly willing to challenge a society he thinks is too secular and seems to have no questions about his ability to do so. However Morlino also insists on respect for those who disagree. He says that, in dialogue with the secular world, he is convinced that “the truth wins out by its own gentle power.“

Morlino writes long pastoral letters each Thursday in the Catholic Herald, on subjects ranging from support for the controversial orders of LaCrosse Bishop Raymond Burke (now Archbishop of St. Louis) on giving Communion to legislators who support abortion, to analysis of the best-selling novel “The DaVinci Code,“ to Marian devotions.

Lorraine Endres of Waunakee, a Catholic laywoman who says she hopes to be considered a good Catholic but who is not known as an activist, says most of what she knows about her new Bishop comes from his pastoral letters.

“I haven’t met him personally, but I think he’s going to be good for the diocese,“ she said. “He’s pro-life and he lets people know it. I read his column in the Herald every week and it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from. He’s down to earth and he lets people know what he thinks.“

Morlino confronted his Priests with a tightly reasoned multi-page letter on changes in Catholic worship having to do with confession and First Communion and, when asked by some priests for a simpler version they could share with their parishioners, he replied that cutting it down to five pages was as far as he could justifiably go.

If Morlino expects his priests to bone up on their theology, however, he has also scored points with those same priests by announcing he won’t even read unsigned letters complaining about them.

“I think he brings a great deal of renewed optimism to the diocese,“ said the Rev. Felix Oehrlein, pastor of Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Wisconsin Dells. “He’s been very affirming. At our recent gathering of priests, he had a town-hall meeting, sat down with us for a couple of hours and just anyone who had something to say to stand up and say it. He wasn’t defensive about anything.”

At the same time, Morlino has spent comparatively little time on administering the diocese, something Bullock prided himself as doing.

During his first six months as Madison‘s bishop, he travel to other states for days and weeks at a time, sometimes to for fill commitments he made before arriving here, sometimes to take a few days off.

In an interview with the state journal, Morlino said it’s all a matter of emphasizing a bishop’s talents.

“There are bishops who hover with their investment officers and develop financial strategies,“ he said. “No one would be more useless at that than me. There are lay people with far more financial skills than I have and I think we ought to let them use those skills for the good of the church.“

Much of the work of actually administering the diocese has fallen to his vicar general, or second in command, Monsignor Paul Swain (Aside from Syte: now Bishop of  Sioux Falls) who, nevertheless, says Morlino has brought a sense of zest to the office.

Morlino may have best explained his concepts of personal strengths in a talk to diocesan young people recently in Wisconsin Dells.

Comparing life to jigsaw puzzle, Morlino said, “I can’t go anywhere I want. Every piece is fitted to occupy a certain spot. I know I have strengths and weaknesses and if I don’t like my strengths and weaknesses, if I don’t accept them, there is no joy.”

Morlino stunned his staff at the Bishop O’Connor Pastoral Center by giving each person two weeks off over the Christmas season. Those who had to work to keep the facility running were told to take extra vacation time later in the year.

Telling his staff to take more time off also has its pastoral side, Morlino suggested.

“Our culture really does need to slow down,“ he said. “What drives it is the materialism of our age. If you’re never satisfied with what you have, there’s only one way to get more and that is to work longer hours and that has its effect on all sorts of other values.“

As for himself, Morlino confessed, “I know I don’t make my best decisions when I’m overtired.“

Morlino raised some eyebrows locally when, shortly after being installed as Bishop, he joined a group of abortion opponents in a march to an abortion clinic, where he recited the rosary.

People weren’t surprised that he opposes abortion – all Catholic bishops do – but his predecessors hadn’t been involved in public marches.

Perhaps more telling than Morlino‘s participation, however, was his admonition to his fellow marchers to love their opponents.

“When someone is promoting error, that error has to be corrected, of course,“ Morlino said then. “But the person promoting the error never loses that dignity and sacredness of the human person.“

Morlino said that’s just basic Catholic teaching.

He applied the same judgment to politicians who may not conform to church teachings.

“I can’t judge the heart of an individual, but, objectively, those who hold public office and are in public positions have to be challenged, not only for the good of their souls and the state of their own faith,“ he said, adding that if politicians “publicly promote things we can’t abide by, that becomes sinful for them and scandalous for the Catholic community.“

The issue, Morlino continued, isn’t that politicians must take orders from the church, but they must live up to their own vocations.

Morlino’s strong stance on social and moral issues seems to be popular with his fellow Catholics, many of whom are writing to the newspapers in support of him.
Within his church, Morlino has been most controversial in Baraboo, where the pastor of Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, the Reverend Gerald Vosen, was accused of sexual improprieties and was removed from office last September.

The man Vosen is accused of abusing denies the allegations (they were made by the man’s sister), but Morlino and the diocesan body charged with investigating sexual abuse charges have neither confirmed the charges nor returned Vosen to his pulpit. Morlino suggested, obliquely, that other allegations may have been made.

At any rate, Saint Joseph parishioners– and even pastors of Protestant congregations in Baraboo – have protested and marched against what they perceive to be Morlino’s inaction.

Morlino scoffs at the one-word descriptions of Bishop’s records cited above.

“I don’t think of myself as coming to leave a mark,“ he said. “I think the bishop should do what the church wants him to do and that is to try to create an environment in which every person, every day, is invited to meet Christ, risen from the dead, in a gentle and kind the way.“ He added: “I am not the Messiah and things may go awry. But, the gifts I have, I will use. If it turns out later that I have left a mark so be it.“

“I am not the Messiah and things may go awry. But, the gifts I have, I will use. If it turns out later that I have left a mark so be it.“ – Bishop Morlino

Bishop Morlino has certainly made a very positive and very remarkable mark in Madison, and his mark includes:

40 new priests
30 seminarians
Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Madison (well know by Faithful Catholics to generate priestly vocations)
New St. Paul’s Campus Catholic Center at UW Madison (preserving the faith of our youth and generating numerous vocations)
Opening discussion of relativism and the importance of moral truth
Courageous defense of life and marriage
Opposition to embryonic stem cell research
Clarification of Church teaching on controversial issues like immigration
Willingness to take strong stands on protecting victims of clerical sexual abuse, both in his own Diocese, and all the way up to supporting Archbishop Vigano’s calls for Papal transparency.

For more of Bishop Morlino’s accomplishments, see Bishop Morlino was Truly a Churchman of His Time 

See also:

Madison Catholic Herald on Bishop Morlino

Madison’s Bishop Celebrates 15 Years!

Rest in Peace, Bishop Morlino

Madison’s Brilliant Bishop

What on Earth is Going on with the Catholic Church? or The Flip Side of Mercy

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