Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bishop Responds to Madness in Madison (Part 1: 2010 Review)

Bishop Robert C. Morlino

I'm going to break this post up into two parts.  In this first part, we are going to revisit what happened in the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin back in 2010.  In part two, we will look closer at what happened last month and, in between those years.

I've been following this case since Bishop Morlino issued a public statement in the fall of 2010. It concerns some priests he brought to the area in 2006 from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, based in Spain.  There's a priest shortage in many dioceses so some bishops are reaching out across the world to fill slots - no surprise here.  Sometimes there will be culture clashes, but did not the Apostles go off to foreign lands to spread the Gospel? These priests are more traditional and celebrate both the old and new forms of the Mass. They are educators and there is a school involved - St. Mary's in Platteville.  They are known to foster vocations.  Some people there didn't like the changes they made, nor did they like the orthodoxy that came with these priests.  Thankfully, the bishop defended their right to act within a certain range of options.

In 2010, some people protested by writing letters to the Apostolic Nuncio demanding the removal of these priests.  Bishop Morlino responded:
I am in receipt of your October 8, 2010 letter and petition. I am grateful that you have approached me with your concern, and I certainly recognize and respect your right to do so (Code of Canon Law, c. 212, §§2-3). By means of this letter I am replying to what you requested, namely, the “immediate removal of the priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest from St. Mary and St. Augustine parishes in Platteville.” A number of you have written to the Apostolic Nuncio about this matter. He has forwarded the letters to me after having read them. He asked that I inform you that he has forwarded these letters to me for my pastoral consideration, since the responsibility for priestly assignments rests with the diocesan bishop.
The faithful have a right to take their concerns to the Sacred Pastors, but they are following canon law which must be in harmony with the Gospel.  Priests have rights.  Too many stories over the years show bishops caving in to the demands of lay people and just shuffling priests around.  In many parishes, this has created spoiled brats who throw temper-tantrums when priests - acting within a range of permitted options on liturgy and other things - are derided.  People confuse these options in such a way as to construe them as immoral or unethical.

After explaining what a serious matter it is to have a priest removed from a parish, Bishop Morlino continues:

I have found that much of what has been said amounts to opinion, misunderstanding, and rumor rather than fact. Nonetheless, after carefully weighing all of your reasons for the proposed removal, I have decided to keep Rev. Lope Pascual, Rev. John Del Priore, and Rev. Miguel Galvez in their current priestly ministry at St. Mary and St. Augustine parishes in Platteville. Their charisms for Catholic education and vocations will serve the people of Platteville very well, and they have my full support. 

He then goes on to explain the respect that is due to the priests of that parish, reminding them that they should always first approach them.  Bishop Morlino next gives his judgment on the concerns he looked at in that 2010 letter.

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. Such conduct is gravely sinful, since some parishioners have been driven by fear, anger, or both, to distance themselves from their priests and even the Sacraments. This situation must cease, and charity must prevail on the part of all. 

Before asking the people to give the priests some time and reassuring them of their good will, he writes:

Furthermore, activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door- to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means) is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign, but not in the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church. Groups such as “Call to Action” and “Voice of the Faithful” regularly employ such tactics against legitimate authority in the Church. Because these groups dissent from basic tenets of Catholic Doctrine and Discipline, they are not recognized as Catholic in the Diocese of Madison, much less are they able to exercise legitimate authority. It is my hope that these clarifications will prove helpful.   
Bishop Morlino then supplies an addendum where he addresses the chief concerns, in detail.  They complained about the priests engaging in pre-Vatican II things, but the bishop responded:
First of all, it is necessary for us to appreciate the eloquent teaching of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI regarding the false dichotomy between the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II Church. 

Bishop Morlino Catechizes on the Finer Points in 2010 in the Addendum

There were several areas he touched on.  I was floored to see that one of the complaints was about priests making visits to the sick with Communion rather than having lay EMHC's do it.  A lay person can bring Holy Communion to someone every day for years but, that person cannot hear Confessions or anoint the sick.  I wonder how many EMHC's even ask those receiving if they would like a confessor to come.   The Sacrament is in disuse within the parish itself; how much less in a nursing home where people are at death's door? The elderly, whose souls are every bit as precious to God as that of babies, are in greater need of pastoral care than anyone. They are isolated, sick and in pain, and it is easy to fall into despair.  

Who in their right mind complains about priests taking the Sacramental visits to the sick upon themselves?  And, what prevents those same lay people from stopping in to visit the sick, and to pray with them?  This can be done daily or weekly. Now, this arrangement may very well result in fewer visits, but those people are getting quality, Sacramental visits.   This is how life is at Assumption Grotto.  We have no EMHC's and lay people do not take Holy Communion to anyone; rather, the priests and deacon do it.  Sick people are dispensed from weekly obligations and there is a regular schedule for the sick and homebound placed on the list, but it is not weekly.  Plus, the priests will go to those who request a Sacramental visit outside of that schedule. I know many parishioners who had priests show up, in the middle of the night if needed, for anointing and Apostolic Pardon when death was imminent. I am deeply grateful that my own mother was among those who received this care from priests willing to be sleep deprived to usher that soul to God as cleanly as possible.

Among other topics that Bishop Morlino catechized the faithful on were complaints about all male altar servers and about what the priests said at funerals.  Using females is optional and no pastor can be forced to use them.  My perception is that younger priests are slowly changing the mix back to all male, just based on a number of stories in recent years.  Here too, I can imagine it being consistent with what we get at Assumption Grotto.  On funerals, they are not celebrations of the life of the departed.  We are praying for their eternal soul.  Most souls, if they died without unrepentant mortal sin, will land in purgatory, where there is great suffering brought on by purgation of all that is not pure.  It is an act of mercy to pray for the dead, to hasten their exit from purgatory and entrance into heaven.  Most people expect a funeral Mass to comfort them as opposed to comforting the dead with heartfelt prayers for them. The use of the 1962 Missal has grown at funerals at Assumption Grotto due to the depth of this clear emphasis in those prayers.  They are beautiful and it is how I wish to be buried, now that I  understand this whole thing better.

Go read the full 2010 statement with addendum.  It is very catechetical.  Also, you will see that Bishop Morlino did was not being heavy handed; he was instructing the faithful in the Catholic faith - something that, out of false charity, had been denied them - probably for decades.  We see with the recent Doctrinal Assessment out of the Holy See on the dissenting Leadership Conference of Women Religious, that teaching a proper orientation on the Catholic faith may be neglected no more.

In part two, we will look closer at what happened in between 2010 and through 2012.  I will supply a link in the combox here when that is done, and the post will have appropriate links to diocesan communications, so there is no need for anyone to drop that in here.

Bishop Morlino with Seminarians

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