Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bishop Responds to Madness in Madison (Part 4: Bishop Morlino Catechizes the Faithful)

Bishop Morlino's Coat of Arms

This post concludes my four part series on Bishop Robert Morlino's response to a dust-up in the Diocese of Madison that has been going on since he brought in some priests from Spain.  I had read the full text document before I saw news accounts of it.  Of course, those sources don't have space and time to cover something in great detail.  I really thought there was some good information in this letter by Bishop Morlino to the faithful in Platteville where a school had to be closed when people protested by withholding donations over a prolonged period of time.  You may want to start at the beginning of my post series and work your way up.  Here they are:

  1. Bishop Responds to Madness in Madison (Part 1: 2010 Review)
  2. Bishop Responds to Madness in Madison (Part 2: School Closing)
  3. Bishop Responds to Madness in Madison (Part 3: Bishop Morlino Holds the High Ground)

Below this line is the full text of the last two pages of his letter to the faithful.  In it, he catechizes the people about the role of bishops and the laity; duty to truth; and, about the sinful nature of of things like calumny and inciting hatred, animosity and disobedience to bishops.  My comments are bracketed in red.

We saw in Part 1 how Bishop Morlino detailed some of the complaints and responded to them. Some things were dismissed as gossip. There were also some obvious misunderstandings about Vatican II on the part of those complaining, which is not uncommon today.  He also talked about the latitude pastors have on matters of prudential judgment.  For example, having female altar servers is not a requirement; it is up to the discretion of the priest.  In fact, use of females was intended only for those situations where there were not sufficient numbers of males.  A bishop cannot force a pastor to use female altar servers.   Some pastors are returning to male-only servers because more boys stick with the program and go on to pursue a priestly vocation.  We can debate this all day long, but at the end of the day, it is up to the discretion of the pastor, not lay people.  This was one of the complaints about the priests from Spain and the bishop upheld the right of the priests.

I think Bishop Morlino could have added one more set of points from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).  I add them here:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

Texts for prayerful reflection, with regard to the letter of Bishop Morlino to the Catholic people of Platteville

Document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 20 - Bishops, therefore, with their helpers, the priests and deacons, have taken up the service of the community, presiding in place of God over the flock, whose shepherds they are, as teachers for doctrine, priests for sacred worship, and ministers for governing...Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ (cf. Lk 10:16).” (LG 20)

Lumen Gentium, 37 - The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their spiritual shepherds the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the word of God and of the sacraments...They are, by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church. When occasions arise, let this be done through the organs erected by the Church for this purpose. Let it always be done in truth, in courage and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ. [It's ok to raise a concern about a priest or a bishop, but it cannot be made in a way that is condescending or derisive.  When writing to a bishop, nuncio or congregation, we should always open ourselves for the possibility that there is something we do not understand, rather than try to force what may be wishful thinking on the Church.  This is the humble approach.  The Holy Spirit sees all and if there is an injustice taking place that is not corrected despite your attempts, then the responsible party will have a higher authority to Whom he must eventually answer.  You, on the other hand, will have to account for your response.  We can never resort to sinful behavior to try to correct a wrong and a desire for a good end may never justify an evil means (Veritatis Splendor 75)]

The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. [This concerns prudential judgments where pastors and bishops have latitude.  On matters of doctrine, dogma and Church teaching, they must be in union with the Church]. Let them follow the example of Christ, who by His obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God. Nor should they omit to pray for those placed over them, for they keep watch as having to render an account of their souls, so that they may do this with joy and not with grief.

Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church. Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action.” [Since Vatican II, this has gone out of control to the point that parish councils have been allowed to walk all over the pastor.  They are there to serve and advise, but the pastor is the final arbiter. Pastors and bishops have also allowed lay people to do things in parishes and dioceses that not in harmony with some Church documents, like those concerning the liturgy.  The pastor or bishop does not have a right to allow people to deliver a homily, for example.  This has largely been corrected, but we still see stories of it leaking out.  Some lay people want to blame the bishop or pastor who corrects such errors.]

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Number 2842 - "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect(Mt 5:48)"; "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful(Lk 6:36)"; "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (Jn 13:34)." It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus (Cf. Gal 5:25; Phil 2:1,5). Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves "forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave" us (Eph 4:32).

CCC 2843 - Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, (Cf Jn 13:1) become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart (Cf. Mt 18:23-35)."

CCC 2104 - "All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it (Dignitatis humanae 1 § 2)." This duty derives from "the very dignity of the human person (DH 2 § 1)." It does not contradict ...the requirement of charity, which urges Christians "to treat with love, prudence and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith (DH 14 § 4)." 

CCC 844 - In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them: Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair (Lumen Gentium 16; cf. Rom 1:21, 25). [We see a lot of this today.  Unfortunately, even though it was mostly well-inentioned, it is the result of allowing laity to run wild.  Newer priests and bishops are trying to gradually fix what is broke in people's understanding.  Some may move too fast and shock the people - causing more harm than good; others who are prudent, will increment the changes for re-alignment and will be vilified nonetheless].

CCC 845 - To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled."

[Next, Bishop Morlino begins to cite Canon Law. This is not a threat, but an attempt to help people to understand that certain behaviors can have canonical consequences.  These are often medicinal - to help the person understand the gravity of their actions.  I'm willing to bet the average comboxer who rips of malicious comments about bishops when they upset are unaware of these things.  Even when a bishop may be wrong about something, it does not justify malicious talk and deeds.  There are appropriate avenues to address these things and, even then, accountability before God is on the shoulders of those in receipt once we have done our best to communicate a problem.  The point is to communicate problems properly, through the right channels, in a manner that is respectful of the office, and avoiding sinful behavior (venially or gravely)]

Code of Canon Law - 392 §1 - Since he must protect the unity of the universal Church, a bishop is bound to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws. §2. He is to exercise vigilance so that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially regarding the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the saints, and the administration of goods. [And "creep" they did! Now, no matter how carefully they try to fix things, some will be very angry.  People need to evaluate whether they are trying make the Church mind them, or whether they are following the mind of the Church]

Can. 528 §2 - The pastor is to see to it that the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful. He is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance. He is also to endeavor that they are led to practice prayer even as families and take part consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy which, under the authority of the diocesan bishop, the pastor must direct in his own parish and is bound to watch over so that no abuses creep in. [Again, and "creep" they did - all over the US and other parts of the world.  These things really got away from the Church and now those who try to fix it are treated as enemies of Vatican II (and chances are the people who make such claims have never read those documents).  Many complaints people in Platteville had with the priests from Spain were of a liturgical nature. ]

Can. 1311 - The Church has the innate and proper right to coerce offending members of the Christian faithful with penal sanctions.  [When a child refuses to cut the grass when told to do so, a parent has the right to take away a key component of the X-Box to prohibit it's use, until the grass is cut.  Similarly, when a child refuses to do her homework, the parent may restrict her to her bedroom until it is done.  Failing to do so, at times, would be a form of neglect.  Adults can behave like children and the Church may use similar methods to bring about proper behavior.  Humility should always be the guide].  

Can. 1369 - A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty. [I can think of a not a few people using all sorts of social media who might want to seriously reflect on this one. It goes back to what I said earlier that we can never use evil means for what we believe to be a good end].

Can. 1373 - A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties. [Here again, everyone who uses social media should pay attention to this, as well.  You cannot incite hatred and animosity against a bishop on prudential judgments].

Can. 1374 - A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict.

Can. 1390 §2 - A person who offers an ecclesiastical superior any other calumnious denunciation of a delict or who otherwise injures the good reputation of another can be punished with a just penalty, not excluding a censure. §3. A calumniator can also be forced to make suitable reparation. 


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