Monday, November 8, 2010

A Parish Divided in Wisconsin

“Canon 212: #2) The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones and their desires. #3) According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”

Going through Deacon Greg Kendra’s blog, “The Deacon’s Bench,” I came across his post concerning a parish in Platteville, WI. The name of it is St. Mary’s Church, and is part of the Diocese of Madison WI. It’s Bishop, Robert Morlino, chose to staff the parish with priests who were members of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest. These priests have been characterized as being very orthodox, very conservative. There has been criticism of their homilies of been strong on orthodox teaching, but lacking in compassion. They also restricted the role of altar servers to boys only, no girls allowed. Whatever other actions they may have taken, it drove close to half of the registered parishioners to sign a petition requesting that Bishop Morlino remove the priests. He responded by voicing his complete support of the priests, and making some very disparaging remarks about the petition signers, claiming that they were members of the radical left, disobedient and disrespectful. After this response, the parishioners used the last effective leverage they had, they began withholding weekly contributions to the parish, and it appears to be biting. Now, not all the parishioners are of one mind on this, some do support the priests. It appears that the parish is becoming polarized.

Now, I will be the first one to admit that the Church is not a democracy. However, the tone of Vatican II concerning the lay faithful is that they are active participants in ministry of the Church. That our leaders should consult with the faithful on matters that can affect the life of the community. And that we have a right to let our Bishops and Pastors know our spiritual needs. If they fail respond to us, do not at least enter into a dialogue to find some resolution; then we have the right to take any legitimate action to get them to respond, including the power of the purse.

Whatever the motives of Bishop Morlino were in assigning these conservative priests, what he now has is a divided parish. And that is a very sorry state of affairs.


  1. In Madison, our first problem is that our families have not provided sons to be priests. We must invite missionary priests, and so we must live under the rules of their order.

    Platteville is a special place: a rather small town, with a campus of the University of Wisconsin. Madison Diocese realizes that young adults are a) under-catechized and b) hungry to learn. Young people need priests who are courageous about the truth, and they respond enthusiastically. Our campus ministry at UW Madison is world-class, and rich in producing vocations.

    Bishop Morlino needs these priests in Platteville, to serve the students at the campus.

    The second problem is that Madison has an active, organized group of dissidents, such as CALL TO ACTION. They went door-to-door, bad-mouthing the new pastors and urging parishioners to withhold donations.

    Unfortunately, there are now enough families in the Platteville parishes who think that fighting over altar girls is worth shutting down their grade school in the middle of the year.

    Bishop Morlino is not going to be blackmailed. He responded with careful teaching to every item on the petitioners' list. He supports the priests, simply because the new priests have done nothing wrong.

    These are good, holy priests. They offer multiple Masses every day. Masses are available in English and Spanish and Latin. Confession is available before every Mass. They visit the shut-ins and offer Mass at the nursing homes... few communities are so well served.

    Calmer heads are working in Platteville. The Parish Council president is urging everyone to work with the new pastors. Let's hope and pray for them.

    Let us remember that Catholic people were not happy when altar rails were removed, santuaries were gutted, tabernacles were hidden, and felt banners appeared in our churches... all in the bogus "spirit of Vatican II." Now that more and more priests are coming to us with a genuine obedience to the Vatican Council, we are going to see more of our sacred worship restored. We need to learn humility and accept this discipline as a gift from the Holy Spirit.

    We need to stop talking about "liberals" v. "conservatives." That's political talk, and our Faith is not political.

  2. And it shouldn't be sexist either, Del.