Navigating a new bishop – and a new diocese

It seems that the informal theme of the week is trying to find a new church home in a new community!  I have gone to a few churches in the area since moving to Madison, including the parish I grew up in, a church in downtown Madison currently serving as the Cathedral parish, and the one that I like the most – a newer church on the west side.

I know that it is important to recognize the role and influence that a bishop has in a diocese.  I also know that the bishop cannot be the sole representation of the diocese.  Bishop Robert Morlino was installed about five years ago and has been seen as controversial by many.  In social justice circles, he is seen as controversial for allowing local parishes to not allow young women serve as altar servers.  He has also been seen as controversial for his post in serving on a committee for WHINSEC (formerly the School of the Americas).  There are many priests and bishops who support the work of the School of the Americas Watch group, but as of yet I haven’t found any that support the SOA – aside from Morlino.

The latest controversy stems from Morlino’s column in the Catholic Herald on the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.  He is critical of the average American Catholic’s use of conscience to make decisions that go against church teaching, such as the use of artificial contraception (the pill and condoms included).  You can check it out for yourself, but he basically says that the lax in moral thinking around contraception by most of the American people has also encouraged a lax in moral thinking for priests who have committed acts of sexual abuse.

Bill Wineke, a local blogger at the Wisconsin State Journal, disagreed strongly with the bishop’s analysis.  The Catholic Herald responded to Wineke, saying Wineke isn’t the Bishop of the Diocese of Madison (no kidding – he’s an ordained UCC minister).  And readers, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, have voiced their opinions.

No matter where we are on the issue of birth control, it seems a little absurd to me to equate that with the sexual abuse of children in terms of how sinful and harmful it is.  It sets me back a little in finding a church home here in Madison – but then I have to keep telling myself that the bishop doesn’t [completely] make the diocese.

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6 thoughts on “Navigating a new bishop – and a new diocese

  1. I probably should not have even read Morlino’s column … I got about halfway through before my head was ready to explode. His views on men, women, marriage, conscience, and ESPECIALLY child sexual abuse are so shocking and inappropriate that I’m left utterly speechless. Yikes.

  2. The link between contraception and the sexual abuse of minors is about as ludicrous as the link between homosexuality and pedophilia. Pedophilia is an abuse of power; it’s about one individual engaging in acts with another individual who cannot or did not give consent. Pedophilia is about children, and that makes all the difference. I’m tired of hearing that *consenting adults,* who, as adults, can make their own choices about sexual expression AND contraception, are somehow in the same class as adults who abuse children. It’s damaging to adults making healthy choices about their lives, and it’s damaging to the survivors of sexual abuse to reduce their experience to a “mistake of conscience” rather than the abuse of power and abuse of sexuality and abuse of humanity that it was.

    Bishop Morlino’s appointment to Madison also confirms what many of us have noticed: the most conservative bishops are often appointed to the most liberal areas (to “bring people in line?”) while the most liberal bishops are often appointed to conservative areas where it’s difficult to start a movement or make real headway. I was blessed, growing up, to live in a diocese with a liberal bishop and to attend a parish with a liberal, outspoken priest. Unfortunately, most of their calls to action fell on deaf ears that preferred the safety of following the rules.

  3. No bishop can force a Priest to use Altar Girls, so this Bishop is no different then any other as far as that goes.

    I thought it was a decent article in which the bishop made several good points. It is important to note that Bishop Morlino spoke of “the sexual misconduct of priests” that is too vast to be equated only with pedolphilia. I think he was also speaking of homosexuality and Priests who have hetrosexual affairs.

  4. While there’s no study out there directly linking contraception and priest abuse, there’s plenty of data out there showing the correlations between the rise of nonmarital and extramarital sex (made much more attractive and possible with the advent of the Pill in 1960) in the 1960’s-80’s with the divorce revolution, crime and other social pathologies.

    I agree with Bob. No bishop can force a priest to use women at the altar if they discern this is not proper. The priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest have a special call to promote priestly vocations, and since the Lord never ordained women (my guess is that you would dispute this), it simply makes sense that they would encourage young men only to serve. It’s not discrimination–it’s common sense.

    Further, the priests of Sauk do more to promote the dignity of women and the unity of families by preaching against contraception than Fr. Lukewarm or Fr. Friendly who gives a wink to his contracepting parishioners and let them struggle through life with their souls and bodies in peril. Contraception has sold us a pill of goods, and has endangered the health of not only Catholic families, but all of society, and praise God for priests, clergy and lay people who have the courage to see the signs of the times and teach the hard and beautiful truth of Christ.

  5. Hi NFP–just two things. The Lord never ordained anyone, man or woman. That I’m perfectly confident in saying is a fact and not one of the points of contention in the ordination issue.

    Two, while I understand that modeling to young boys is important for getting more vocations, I can’t stomach ‘using’ any part of our liturgical life for marketing. It is certainly powerful to see someone like myself leading and helps me to picture myself in such a role, yes. But it can’t be a deciding factor on altar servers in my opinion.

    Alright, and three–No bishop can force a priest to do this or that but is it right for a priest to force a congregation to do this or that? Sometimes priests, under the misunderstanding that they are just leading the flock, are actually renegades imposing their own agenda. There is a priest near me who decided to resign from a parish he was assigned to. He just can’t work with their liberal customs. But he sure gave it a try and both the priest and the congregation gave it a good try. And I respect him for putting in the effort to meet them in the middle, and I respect him for leaving when he knew he didn’t fit the community needs.

  6. Hi NFP- I went in search of a reference about ordination, hope this helps—The focus of the Last Supper (Jewish Passover/Seder) was Eucharistic and a family event (I Corinthians 11:23-26). (the 1976 Pontifical Biblical Commission is a good source). Ironically, Jesus was never ordained either. Saying that Jesus did not ordain anyone does not take away from Christ being the foundation of our church or that we are accompanied by the Spirit. It does not mean that Jesus did not name Peter as the rock-it just means that Peter, et al formed the church over many years as a faith response to Christ’s resurrection. You have to remember that people, even Jesus himself, thought that he would be returning again very quickly and so no formalities were put in place for a very long time (sacrament of holy orders was 4th C).

    I found this quote from Sr. Sandra Schneiders, IHM who earned her S.T.D from Gregorian University in Rome “It is important to know that “Apostle” in its New Testament usage meant one who was a commissioned messenger [not priest]. St. Paul was not one of the twelve, yet he clearly was an apostle…Mary Magdalene is named the apostle of the apostles”. (and she cites Fr. Raymond E. Brown’s book Priest and Bishop 1970, André Lemaire, Les ministères aux origines de l’Eglise (Paris: Cerf, 1971), and Luke 8: 1-3).

    Finally, when I spoke of renegade priests in my last post, I wasn’t referring to the Sauk bishops. I was not thinking of any priest (s) in particular.

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