Friday, November 5, 2010

Bishop Morlino Involved In Another Crash On The Catholic Interstate

The following excerpt from the Wisconsin State Journal concerns a parish in the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin.  It involves an American Bishop, Robert Morlino,  whose career crossed paths with my own Catholic path.  I follow his career out of a sort voyeuristic interest to see how many other Catholics will take the same hike I did, and leave the official church.  What's happening in Madison is no surprise.

Donations plummet following appointment of orthodox Catholic priests in Platteville
Doug Erickson - Wisconsin State Journal - 11/05/2010

St. Mary's Catholic Church in Platteville, stung by a plunge in donations following the arrival of three controversial priests, has issued an urgent plea for money to keep its parochial school open.

The 75-year-old St. Mary's Catholic School is subsidized by the church, which has seen weekly donations fall more than 50 percent in four months, said Myron Tranel, chairman of the church's finance council.

The school, with 106 K-8 students, has enough money to operate until at least January but needs an additional $200,000 to keep the facility open through the end of the school year, he said.
The financial crisis coincides with Madison Bishop Robert Morlino's decision in June to bring in three priests from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest to lead the parish. The group is based in Spain and known for traditionalist liturgy and devotion to orthodox Catholic teaching. (Shock, another reactionary/fascist Spanish religious group.  Spain pops these out like McDonald's makes hamburgers.  No wonder Benedict is visiting Spain this week end.)

Changes the priests have made, including barring girls from being altar servers, led to a petition last month signed by 469 of the church's approximately 1,200 members asking Morlino to immediately remove the priests. In a response letter to the parish last week, Morlino said the priests have his full support and will stay. He chastised parishioners for conduct he called "gravely sinful." (Hmmm, well at least it's not a sexual sin he's chastising them for. That's refreshing.)

"It grieves me to acknowledge that the reputation of three happy, holy and hardworking priests has been seriously tarnished by rumor, gossip and calumny — lying with the intent to damage another's good name — by some within the parish community," Morlino wrote in the letter, a copy of which the diocese provided the State Journal......

Brent King, spokesman for the Madison Catholic Diocese, said the diocese has "no intention of allowing the school to fail." He said diocesan officials, if asked by the church, would offer assistance in areas such as fundraising. But he stopped short of saying the diocese would provide money to help run the school, calling that an unusual and possibly unprecedented step.....(The chancery can read the numbers as well as I can.  Besides, Morlino needs to keep diocesan money flowing to the anti gay marriage folks.  Forget children.)

Morlino invited priests from the Spanish society to begin serving in the diocese in 2006, primarily in the Sauk City area. There are now eight society priests serving seven churches.

Their arrival at each church has ushered in similar changes. They reserve the altar server role to boys to encourage more seminarians. They eliminate participation by laypeople in the distribution of communion. And they preach homilies that supporters find refreshingly forthright in stressing Catholic teaching but critics find short on compassion. (I'm sure this last issue is the big issue.  Jesus came to bring the Good News and that involved a great deal about compassion. He did not die for Catholic teaching.)

While opposition to the priests has surfaced in other parishes, it has become particularly loud in Platteville, a city of 10,500 people 75 miles southwest of Madison. Fay Stone, a 25-year St. Mary's member, said the priests' decision-making approach seems heavy handed to her. While the Catholic church is not a democracy, some degree of collaboration with parishioners would be nice, she said.

"I know they probably have church law on their side, but just because you have the right to do something doesn't make it the right thing to do," she said. (But in Morlino's understanding of his role, the two are equated

People are leaving and taking their money with them, she said.

King, the diocesan spokesman, referred all parish-related questions to the Rev. Lope Pascual, one of the three society priests at St. Mary's. He did not return phone calls.

Weekly collections had been running between $10,500 and $11,500 prior to the priests' arrival and now average barely $5,000, Tranel said, adding that the finance council created a segregated fund so that donors can give directly to the school now.


I wrote a friend the other day something to the effect that when a Church is willing to give up 80% of it's laity in order to keep 100% of the clerical structure, that was a Church that deserved to die. Benedict actually seems willing to give up the priesthood as well. It's amazing how many statements Benedict has issued in the last two years which call for individual conversion in the priesthood but totally ignores the conversion or reform of bishops and the College of Cardinals. The NCR is running another one right now. I'm sure we will hear more on these lines while Benedict is in Spain.

The Morlino's of the current Catholic world (and their continual promotion) are no surprise. What is sort of surprising is the silence of our bishops that aren't like the Morlino's of the Church. It makes me wonder what's going on under the surface of the supposed unity of groups like the USCCB. It makes me wonder about the reasons for the silence. Maybe I'm just deluding myself, but I can't believe the maturity level of all of our bishops is that of the Morlino's or the Burke's of the Church world. Not all of our bishops exhibit the kind of personality that thrives on the fantasy implied in the trappings and the pageantry of their position or insists on the kind of authority that's needed to make those theatrical kinds of fantasy come true.

The situation in Madison is a prime example of what happens when theatrical Catholicism-I won't call it traditional- collides with American Catholicism. People take their money and leave. They do not support a Catholic version of the 'theatre of the absurd'. See the comments following the NCR article about Burke.

I can find it easy to believe these three imported Spanish priests are good, and decent, and holy men, at least as defined by Morlino and Benedict. That doesn't change the fact they are also deluded if these men truly think many American Catholics find their Spanish/Trentan version of Catholicism 'Good News'. This is not a Church of Good News when it fixates on all the Bad News, especially the bad news about modern laity and the culture we live in.

In the past the Church was able to get away with force feeding the Bad News kind of theology that theatrical Catholicism needs to survive. Enough laity bought into it and the rest were able to tune it out. For the most part Catholics weren't expecting much depth in their spiritual life. By the age of ten most of us knew what it took to save our soul. People who actually wanted to grow in their relationship with Jesus joined religious orders. Parishes were sort of like full service gas stations. Laity filled up, payed up, and motored on. When they wrecked they could count on pastoral understanding from their spiritual mechanic and then got on the road again.

Vatican II merged with this sort of Catholic interstate at the same time high numbers of Catholics with advanced education merged on the same interstate. For awhile most everyone was traveling in the same direction and at Autobahn speeds. Then the Vatican flipped a U turn, with no turn signals, and insisted on staying in the same lane. Regular crashes have been occurring at frequent intervals. We no longer move at Autobahn speeds--if we move at all. Some one needs to get off this Interstate and according to the Vatican, it won't be them.

Morlino will not give any diocesan funds even if it results in closing the school. He will soothe his conscience by pointing out the Diocese did all that it could. Which in Morlino's mind will be self righteously true because 'doing all that he could' would not include money. Loosening up Diocesan funds would be the equivalent of enabling the grave evil of lay dissent. It isn't going to happen on his watch. Too bad for the kids but it's not his fault. His personal M1 Abrams tank - the one he got from his work 'overseeing' the School of the Americas- will continue it's out of sync travels on the Catholic interstate. If it runs over a few kids, well that's traditional part of the Catholic theatre of the absurd.


  1. Ay, caramba!

    I read on another blog that to greet the Pope the LGBT community of Spain is organizing a sort of "kiss-in" if I can borrow language from the 60's. No protest signs, just kisses. Ironic in light of the fact that when Franco's fascists were in power nobody was allowed to kiss in public. Ahhhh, the good old days. Make public displays of affection illegal again.

    Morlino should not have anything to do with being a priest if he's ministering to the School of the Americas. On Wiki he is quoted by the Wisconsin State Journal as saying: "I know for a fact there is no evidence to connect what the school teaches with any kind of atrocity".

    Well the circumstantial evidence is more than compelling that this is an evil organization judging by the graduates. See:

    "School of the Americas graduates have been proven to be responsible for beatings, blackmail, extortion, torture, assassinations, rape, massacres, arbitrary executions, and genocide.

    In El Salvador, 48 of 69 members of the military who the UN Truth Commission report cited for human rights abuses were SOA graduates.21 The Commission also found that 10 of 12 officers responsible for the El Mozote massacre of 900 villagers were graduates of the School.22

    School the assassins shut down the Catholic school.



    Word: mision

  2. OMG! it sounds like our parish! Three new priests. Commissions disbanded. Greeters are gone. Lay people in positions of authority are fired.Permission of pastor and his appointed council required before being allowed to become a eucharistic minister, or lector, sermons on how to get to heaven. Changes appear and are never explained. Parish office is a gated community. Collections are down by 40%, people are leaving in droves and there is no apparent interest or concern by priests or bishops.
    Those of us in the outer darkness are finding that if we listen, the Lord still speaks. We can no longer look to our priests as mentors or spiritual guides, however. And the good priests we know are cowering in fear. Did they not receive the Spirit?

  3. No, Coolmom,it's not your parish; it's my parish of 37 years where I can no longer bear to attend liturgy!How many parishes are like this? Will God spare us for the sake of 50 parishes where God is still worshipped instead of priests, bishops and popes? For the sake of 20? For the sake of 10?

  4. I can remember when I first moved back to Helena in 2001 and Morlino was the Bishop. First time I went to one of his Masses in the Cathedral I couldn't figure out whay the first six rows of pews were empty. It was pretty obvious why that was so when he got through censing the altar. Quite the cloud of incense wafted over everyone with the first pews there own little cloud bank.

    p2p that's a quite a quote from Morlino. It's a real nice piece of mental reservation. They must offer a class in that technique at the week long bishop school the Vatican holds for new bishops.

    Word verification is wider. Somehow I doubt we'll see the Catholic interstate get any wider.

  5. Same old, same old. My great grandfather was one of the early followers of the Lithuanian National Church. He may have even been one of the founders. They took their money and went away. I think they alsotried to take the property but were ultimately unsuccessful. I believe it involved an Irish bishop flexing his muscles and replacing a popular Lithuanian priest. Someday I'll post on it if I can ferret out the whole story. My only sources are so far are whispered family history and poor Sister Vytell, caught between nationalist pride and obedience to the Church.

  6. Scripto the infrastructure and wealth are the reasons I vacillate on jumping on the emergent church bandwagon, or staying connected and fighting the hierarchy.

    In many very real ways spiritual thinking is manifested in this reality. Leaving the wealth and infrastructure in the hands of the Vatican is giving up on half the battle, and maybe the most important half for this reality. The money and infrastructure fuels and diseminates their message. Which is why Opus Dei has placed themselves very prominently in both Catholic message making and the Vatican Bank.

  7. "The financial crisis coincides with Madison Bishop Robert Morlino's decision in June to bring in three priests from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest to lead the parish. The group is based in Spain and known for traditionalist liturgy and devotion to orthodox Catholic teaching."

    A Church such as this, that honors fascist and the bloody drama of authoritarian dictators, that shows hatred towards females in so many ways, that in its leadership role seeks not to teach the Good News of Jesus but teaches its own cranky old men news of scapegoating others and condemning them is a Church that deserves to die.

    I am evermore only disgusted by what I read from clerics such as Morlino, Burke and Benedict. I've expressed anger in many a commentary over the last two years and now all I can find to say is that I am just disgusted with them. I used to have remorse and grief for such souls, hope that they would reform their ways but now there is just disgust. I turn away from them no longer in anger but just shaking my head in horror and wiping off the dust of them. I certainly do not believe that these men hold any keys to salvation or heaven. If anything they hold the keys to despair and ruin of many lives and souls just as the pharisees did.

    It is really sad to witness these types taking over the Church. The mass Exodus has begun. Jesus leads the way out far from these mad clerics.

    word verification is lutinuti

  8. As a child, I went through a number of schools - some changes because of dad's military orders so our family moved and some of them because the school district I was in was growing and seemed to have trouble building enough new schools to keep up with the growing student population. I also had 1 year in a Catholic school which left me rather unimpressed with the quality of a Catholic school education. The changing of schools was a very normal, natural, POSITIVE thing for me. Just so you know a little of where I'm coming from before you read my next statement.

    I think if priest such as the ones described here were to come take over the parish, I'd be moving my children out of the Catholic school associated with it. And I'd be moving my daughters just a little bit faster. As in, the moment they are told they are no longer good enough to to volunteer to help serve Mass.

    With the money donations falling so hard and fast, I've got to wonder if the number of students has fallen was well due to parents deciding to move their children away. Does anyone know?

  9. Veronica, we're going through that right now. The pastor installed in 2004, actually a peripheral friend of mine from teen years, has instituted the conservative push. Most of my friends and colleagues are gone, some floundering and others thriving in new found and hard won homes. We'd have left as well, but this is my youngest son's only society he's known. We've stayed the last two years in some pain, countering the crap and trying to reveal the ongoing love of Christ.

    Our school is dropping numbers drastically, now 145 kids in 9 grades. Can we merge the school with the parish two (TWO!) miles away? According to my inside source, the bishop says there will be no closings on his watch. I'll bet it's the same there, with the edict from above constraining those who do the actual work of the Lord. God tells the bishop what to say, the faithless disagree, and the faithful suffer by wallet to get to heaven. And on it all goes.

    So many of us tell the same story. I see it all the time. I don't really know how to respond yet, but I now know that my opposition must be specific and ongoing. We'll be leaving after 8th grade graduation and not a moment too soon, but where? Maybe just to feed hungry people. I don't know. I suppose I have a lot more compassion for those who flounder now, for those who raise questions instead of those who give knowing answers. And I may finally believe in the Beatitudes, wisdom beyond my imagination.

  10. The SJCP priests assigned to our parish have ripped the soul out of our parish. Mass is an occasion of sadness and emptiness now. It is all about the gold trinkets and elaborate statuary that our church has been filled with -- without asking the parish. Money has evaporated and a once vibrant community of volunteers for parish activities is now doing duty in neighboring parishes and non-catholic churches. I blame the autocracy of Robt. Morlino for supporting AND encouraging an unchristian like mentality at church. Obey and pay seems to be the mantra today. I want my parish back!