It takes bravery to follow Christ as priests
By Bishop Robert C. Morlino, Madison Catholic Hearald:
Bishop Robert C. Morlino
Jesus is often called, “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The word the Scriptures use is really not adequately translated in English as simply, “good.” The word really means, “honorable, worthy, noble,” or, “so excellent in every way that its goodness is itself beautiful.”
The Gospel John (Jn 10:11-18) points out that the shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep; he is honorable, worthy, and noble in his bravery — even laying down his own life for the sheep. And toward the end of that Gospel passage, Jesus says, “No one takes my life from me, I lay down my life, and I take it up again.”
The shepherd is indeed a brave shepherd. And so, in some ways, as the years go by, I hope that we start to call this, “Brave Shepherd Sunday,” for the bravery of the shepherd is one of the key virtues focused upon that help us to call him, “good.”
Priest Unifies and Calls Flock to Holiness
The priest must do what is necessary to build unity in the flock and to call the flock to holiness, so that he himself might receive a “good account before the fearsome judgment seat of Christ,” when the time comes. It is only in doing his best for everybody else’s holiness that the priest can do the best for himself. And to do that today it takes bravery.
When we look for candidates to the priesthood and as we pray for vocations, we are looking for men who are brave in their willingness to seek holiness, to speak the truth, to lay down their lives. There is no place in the priesthood today for “wimpish-ness.” There is no place for an attitude that just wants to please people, no matter what they think and no matter what they want. Today the priest has to stand up and be brave, preaching the Truth with love. He has to be willing to be unpopular. And if it comes to it, he has to be open to martyrdom.
That’s what happened to St. Peter. In the first reading from this past Sunday, St. Peter is seen professing, “there is no other name given to men by which they will be saved. Jesus Christ is the only savior of the world (Acts 4:12)!” If someone says that today, they get in trouble. And so it’s more politically expedient not to say things like that. But the Truth is the Truth — Jesus Christ is the only savior of the world; and apart from Jesus Christ, there can be no salvation for anyone. It’s what Peter said, as witnessed in the Acts of the Apostles, and it’s no wonder that he got crucified for it in the end — for to say this is unpopular. But Peter was brave (even to the point of trying to make his crucifixion worse than the Lord’s by choosing to be crucified upside-down).
In John’s Gospel, “what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2).” We will see Him as He is — the only Savior of the world. That’s why it says in the Book of Revelation that in the end, “every eye will see Him — even of those who pierced Him.” This too is part of the bravery of the priest.
The person of the priest is in the person of Jesus and so imbedded in Him, that with Christ and like Christ he lives a life of celibacy. Our world has no use for celibacy and is at the point where it thinks that nobody can live without free access to sex. To take on a life that is a statement to the contrary is bravery.
Our world is in such a state that even the government wants to make sure that everybody — perhaps even little girls — have access, free of charge, to artificial contraception and they call it “preventive services.” Preventive medicine is medicine that protects someone from an illness (like a vaccination against the flu). What disease does artificial contraception protect a woman from? Pregnancy? Our government would have us think that pregnancy is a disease, and that instead of finding fulfillment in her motherhood, a woman must have the absolute freedom to turn against her motherhood — as if the fruits of being a mother were a disease.
Bravery Means Standing Up for Moral Truth
It’s time for all of us to be brave in admitting what the moral truth is about artificial contraception. It’s not a time to by shy, retiring, and politically correct. Sometimes people come up to me and say, “in my parish it’s not permitted to talk about that.” How sad. Where is the sign of the brave shepherd?
It is precisely the gift from God of celibacy that holds the priest so tightly to Christ. The priest is bravely laying down his life, and living completely for the next world, in which there is “no marrying or giving in marriage (Mt 22:30),” no matter what consequences might befall him in this world. The priest is called to stand up in the truth, like a brave shepherd.
I taught college for 11 years, and I still enjoy very much working with young people. And young people want to be challenged to be brave. If they are not challenged to be brave, they say, “well I can think about other things to do with my life. I’m not going to give up my whole life, and even give up marriage in order to be mediocre. I’ll go for excellence someplace else.” They want to reach out for that bravery, and one of the ways we promote vocations is by telling them that we expect bravery in our priests. It takes much bravery to live out joyfully the life of priestly celibacy, the best way to prove to the world that God exists.
Vocations are increasing in number every year, thank God, and thanks to your good prayers, and now is the time for you to demand bravery in the priesthood. Because nothing less than that will bring Christ’s Church through the hard times to come.
Thank you for reading this. Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop. Slight editing.
Bishop Morlino’s Strong Plea to His Flock Concerning the SSPX
Bishop Robert Morlino’s Letter to His Diocese:
Discover SSPX’s Official Standing with the Church
The 50 years since the close of the Second Vatican Council have been tumultuous for the Church. Forces both inside and outside of the Church tried to distort and exploit the council and the post-conciliar liturgical reforms to create a new Church after their own image.
Too many of us endured years of sloppy or irreverent liturgy and mushy or even unorthodox preaching and catechesis. Too often when we voiced our concerns we were ignored.
Most of the faithful Catholics who saw this happening fought hard for a “reform of the reform.” Sadly, others decided that the only way forward was to work outside of — and sometimes against — the hierarchical Church and its structures.
This was the choice made by the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a worldwide society of priests best known for its strong opposition to the post-conciliar reform of the Mass. The Masses that they celebrate in their own chapels according to the 1962 Missal have attracted sizeable communities of the lay faithful, even here in the Diocese of Madison.
I want to be cautious and fair about the SSPX. Many of their concerns are legitimate. Many of their values and aspirations are admirable, and their zeal is impressive. Their priests wish to serve the Lord and His people. The people who attend their chapels are fervent.
We should always be cordial, respectful, and welcoming to them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, their relationship with the Church is complex and developing. Moreover, the situation of SSPX bishops, of SSPX priests, of the faithful who formally align themselves with the SSPX, and of the faithful who occasionally or informally attend Mass with the SSPX, are all different in important ways. It would be inaccurate to call it a schismatic group in a strict sense, and we should all pray that it may someday be fully reconciled with the Church.
Having said that, all is not well with the SSPX, and my advice, my plea to the traditionally-minded faithful of the diocese is to have nothing to do with them. As Pope Benedict XVI made clear, the SSPX “does not possess a canonical status in the Church” and its ministers “do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church” (March 10, 2009, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church).
The priests of the SSPX are validly ordained priests, but because for the most part they were ordained illicitly (i.e., by a bishop who had no jurisdiction over them and no permission to ordain), they are suspended ipso facto from the moment of their ordination (c. 1383); that is to say, even though they are ordained, they have no permission from the Church, which is necessary, to exercise priestly ministry.
Their Masses are valid but are illegitimately celebrated. The same is true, in most cases, with their baptisms, their conferral of the anointing of the sick, and provided it is administered by a bishop, their confirmations. Thus, Catholics should not frequent SSPX chapels or seek sacraments from the priests of the SSPX.
Serious Sacramental Problems
But there are two other, serious, sacramental problems that must be understood by everyone who may wish to attend SSPX chapels. If you take nothing else away from this letter, at least hear this — the SSPX’s marriages and absolutions are invalid because their priests lack the necessary faculties.
The SSPX argues for the validity of their marriages and absolutions based on the canonical principle that the Church supplies the faculty in cases of doubt or common error. In certain rare and exceptional cases that might apply to their situation, especially with regard to confession, but for the most part their arguments are not persuasive.
Part of their argument hinges on the faithful erroneously believing that the SSPX priests have the requisite faculty; well, if you were in error about that up until now, you are not in error anymore.
The SSPX also makes the argument that they have permission because the Church is in a state of “emergency.” However, 1) the Legislator (the Pope) and the bishops with him don’t think there is a state of emergency, and 2) the sacraments offered by the SSPX are already widely available at legitimate parishes and chapels, i.e., no one is being denied the sacraments.
Do You Want to Risk Your Soul?
This is not the place for a discourse on the technical points of canon law, but the point is: do you want to take that kind of a risk with your marriage or even with your soul? Apart from legal and sacramental concerns, there is also the danger that affiliating with the SSPX can gradually cause one to absorb a schismatic mentality.
You might attend your first Mass at an SSPX chapel for good and noble reasons, e.g., such a strong initial desire for a reverently celebrated liturgy that you are willing to tolerate the SSPX’s irregular status. But as you attend more and more, it ceases to become something you tolerate and starts to become a mark of identity, even a badge of pride. You adopt a fixed posture of separation from the Church. That is a perilous position for any soul to be in.
||This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
The larger question is why put yourself in that position in the first place? The Traditional Latin Mass (also called the Tridentine Mass, the Usus Antiquior, or the Extraordinary Form of the Mass) is celebrated regularly in parishes throughout the Diocese of Madison, both on Sundays and on weekdays. These Masses are beautifully and reverently celebrated by vibrant, faithful priests. I myself celebrate it frequently.
As interest in the Traditional Latin Mass grows, these opportunities will increase. Already, there are very few people in the Diocese of Madison who could get to an SSPX chapel on Sunday without passing by a legitimate parish in which the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated. If you’re knowingly doing that, it’s time to take a good hard look at your motives.
In closing, I want to stress that the need for a reform of the reform is real, and it is underway in our diocese. If you see that the Church needs fixing, work with your bishop, your pastors, and your fellow lay faithful to fix it. Share your needs and your concerns. Leaving is the last thing to do; leaving just doesn’t make sense! Communion with the Church is something to be cherished, safeguarded, and nourished.
Always looking at our Blessed Mother’s fidelity to Her Son, let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.
The Art and Science of Admonishing a Sinner: “It must be done.”
A letter by Bishop Robert Morlino to his flock.
Conscience should always drive us toward perfection. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48),” is the parting exhortation from our Lord in this past Sunday’s Gospel. A correctly formed conscience never says to you, “How little can I do and still call myself a Catholic?”
Conscience doesn’t make us minimalistic . . .
Bishop Robert Molina
Conscience does not open the door to be a minimalist. It is not a tool for our saying, “How can I give myself permission to do the minimum?”
Conscience opens the door to perfection, to the heroic, to the maximum, because the well-formed conscience serves as that truth-seeking radar, by which we choose to follow the law of the Lord.
As I said, we very much need to spread the word about conscience, and the readings of this past Sunday really help us with one detail of how to do that.
If we’re going to spread the good word about conscience, that means we’re going to have to correct others, especially our brothers and sisters who are Catholic. We know that this is not easy.
What is easy, when we seek to inform the consciences of others, is to seem as if we are judging the person themselves. We have to avoid that judgment of the individual, but we must not hesitate to help them, by offering the truth about their actions.
Correcting others is a ‘hard thing’ . . .
The first reading of this past Sunday reflects upon just how hard that is, as the Lord says to Moses, “Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
It’s a hard thing to correct others, because you might incur sin. That’s the reason why we have to be delicate and sensitive and careful about correcting others. But in truth, that’s not the reason that there’s so little correction given one to another, today.
The correction is not given because we’re afraid that if we correct them, they may not like us. Or, we’re afraid that if we make a claim that this or that behavior is wrong, we’ll be labeled as “politically incorrect.” (Because, of course, there is no objective good or bad… and we all know that here in the dictatorship of relativism.)
So, that’s why a lot of people don’t do any correcting. They’re afraid of not being liked. They’re afraid of not being politically correct, which costs a great deal in our particular environment. But in the first reading, God makes us aware of the real difficulty with correcting others.
Many difficulties in correcting others . . .
It’s not a matter of being afraid of what others think, nor of being afraid to be politically incorrect. But correcting others is really hard even for true believers, because there is a danger of falling into sin ourselves. In order to correct another, we really have to purify ourselves and our intentions first.
In other words, it’s very easy for a good person to correct another, and at the same time experience a lot of self-satisfaction. “I’m correcting you out of love… and at the same time I’m thanking God that I don’t need to be corrected in that area . . . I’m doing great.” That’s a sin!
Beware of self-righteousness . . .
If I take the occasion of correcting another to enjoy how righteous I am before God, that’s a sin. And because of original sin, falling into that attitude is easy. It’s hard to correct another without thinking, “Thank God nobody has to correct me about that.” If I correct somebody that way, I incur my own sin.
And it’s easy to do this even when we like someone, but we have to be especially careful if we don’t naturally like somebody, because it can turn into a situation of putting someone down at the same time.
“I hope I can correct you in front of other people, so that it’s an unmistakable put-down and I can express my negativity about you…” We may be right with regard to our specific correction, but we’ve just committed our own sin in public and wounded the Body of Christ.
And it’s no wonder that people think that whenever anyone corrects another’s behavior, they are judging the other’s heart, because so often they are.
Correction by true believers is hard to find . . .
Correction by a true believer is not easy to find in the Church. That’s why there’s so much confusion, because really true believers, really good people, are hesitant to correct. And they don’t correct because they’re afraid of falling into sin in the process of correcting.
They’re not superficial, thinking, “somebody might not like me, or I won’t be considered politically correct.” They don’t correct because they fear falling into sin themselves, and so sometimes even among true believers it doesn’t get done.
(The only correction in the diocese that I know of that is done regularly — and it goes on all the time — is that people correct their priest and that priests and people correct the bishop. It seems to be open season for correction on priests and bishops. Not much else, in the way of correction, gets done.)
Genuine, faithful correction ‘must be done’ . . .
But this genuine, heart-felt, faithful correction of others about the right to life, about what marriage really is, about freedom of conscience, has to be done far and wide, and especially in the diocese.
And I do my best, but you have to be the army that goes out and helps me with this. And so, we have to keep in mind Sunday’s first reading; we all have to purify ourselves in order to correct another.
And the second reading from this past Sunday gives us a marvelous thought, a marvelous conviction that will help us to correct another with love and sensitivity, rather than for any other motive (1 Cor 3:16-23). The conviction is this: we all belong to God by virtue of our belonging to Christ.
Keep in mind that ‘all belong to Christ’ . . .
Before we approach someone else, we have to think to ourselves that, in truth — whether they believe it or not, whether they know it or not — it is the desire of Almighty God that they belong to Him. Because of the salvation won for us through Christ, everything we need for that salvation belongs to us and to all people; whether they believe or not or whether they know it, it belongs to all people.
And every one of those people belongs to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. When we approach another, we must keep in mind, “I belong to Christ, you belong to Christ, and we both belong to God.”
How to treat those who must be corrected . . .
With this in mind, how are we going to treat that person as we offer correction? We are going to reorient our correction such that our intention is to remind them that they do belong to God and that, “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord.”
We have to address the fact that he or she needs correction, yes; we can’t run away from it in fear. But, we also have to treat them as one who, like ourselves, belongs to Christ.
The mysticism of seeing the other person through the eyes of Christ, whether they believe they belong to Him or not, whether they know it or not, is the place from which we can enter into the dynamic of fraternal correction that is so needed in today’s Church.
Our obligation to Spiritual Works of Mercy . . .
Let us all remember our obligation to perform those Spiritual Works of Mercy too: to instruct the ignorant, and to counsel the doubtful.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Let us reflect upon our duty to help inform consciences in love — especially as we come quickly upon Lent.
May God bless every one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!
Bishop Robert Morlino: “Catholic Educators Must Act In Accord With What The Church Teaches!”
From: EWTN News
Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wis. sharply criticized Georgetown University’s decision to invite Kathleen Sebelius to speak at a ceremony during commencement weekend.
The bishop said those involved in Catholic education should be “witnesses and not just teachers,” and warned that Georgetown’s actions are “teaching the people by what we do the opposite of what we say.”
He told Raymond Arroyo on EWTN’s “The World Over” in a May 10 broadcast that if he were president of the school, he “would never have moved in a direction like that.”
Georgetown University – the nation’s first Catholic and Jesuit college – ignited controversy on May 4, when it announced that Sebelius, who works as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, had been chosen to address Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute at an award ceremony on May 18.
Sebelius, who is Catholic, has drawn criticism for issuing a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates religious beliefs.
Catholic bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have condemned the mandate, warning that it threatens religious freedom and could force Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies to shut down.
Sebelius has also long supported abortion, both in her current role and as governor of Kansas, where she vetoed pro-life legislation and opposed abortion restrictions.
A Georgetown spokesperson responded to the criticism by saying that while Sebelius is speaking at an awards ceremony during commencement weekend, she is not a commencement speaker.
The university does not have “one main commencement speaker,” the spokesperson said, because each of its undergraduate and professional schools holds a separate graduation ceremony.
Critics argue, however, that the university is still honoring Sebelius with the invitation and granting her an inappropriate platform to voice views that are hostile to the Catholic Church.
In a 2004 document entitled “Catholics in Political Life,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
A petition protesting the university’s decision to invite Sebelius has gained more than 24,000 signatures in one week.
Bishop Morlino said that Catholic educators “have to get involved and act in accord with what we teach.”
“I’m afraid too many of them have strayed from that direction,” he cautioned.
He pointed to Pope Benedict’s recent address to a group of U.S. bishops gathered at the Vatican, explaining that the education of young Catholics in the faith is “the most urgent internal challenge” facing the Catholic Church in America.
“I embrace that wholeheartedly,” Bishop Morlino said.
Our Freedom of Conscience is at Stake
The Vatican Today: The Bishops of the US states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin are in Rome this week for their ad limina visits. Religious liberty continues to be a major focus of attention for the Holy Father and the various curial offices the bishops are visiting during their stay.
The Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, Robert Morlino, told Vatican Radio that the bishops themselves are aware of a growing concern among the broader public for the integrity of conscience rights and liberty generally. “Everybody sees that their freedom of conscience is at stake,” said Bishop Morlino, explaining, “it just depends who is up to be curtailed at any given moment for whatever reason.” The Bishop went on to say, “If they can do it to Catholics, they can do it to anybody.”
Bishop Robert Morlino Greets Pope Benedict
Discussion in the United States of the controversial HHS mandate requiring Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives and abortifacients at no cost to the insured employee, continues. Bishop Morlino expressed his own concern with the aims of the Obama administration, saying, “There seems to be an approach that seeks to divide the Church, even more than She is already divided,” along liberal and conservative lines. “We should not be this way,” said Bishop Morlino. “All the ‘liberal/conservative’ bit is an import from the political sphere, which really does us nothing but damage.” Bishop Morlino went on to say:
[T]o take advantage of the fact that this has already happened in our culture, this division, and then to start to pit the bishops – as if they were merely one group within the Church – [against] what other groups might think, is clearly a straightforward attempt to divide and to deepen division in the Church, and to weaken the Church – the old saying, “Divide and conquer!”
Asked about how the bishops are planning to engage the public debate, and to help the Catholic faithful engage it, Bishop Morlino spoke of the need to safeguard and strengthen, where necessary, the Catholic identity of Catholic institutions. He said a centrepiece of any effort to revive Catholic identity must involve a recovery of authentic Catholic worship. “We can create all kinds of structures, and make them universal, so that we look more like a unity,” he said, “but the beginning of that has to be, it seems to me, with regard to our own liturgy.”
Did You Know? The Privilege, Not the Right, to
Receive Under Both Species Expired in 2005
Father Z writes: “As I understand it, the 1975 edition of the Missale Romanum gave 14 instances when Communion could be distributed under both kinds. Since 1975 in some regions – including the USA – experimental privileges, not rights, were granted for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds. These privileges, not rights, expired in 2005. These privileges, not rights, were not renewed by the Holy See. Therefore the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) for the 3rd edition of the Missale Roman and the 2011 Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds for the Dioceses of the United States of America are now to be applied. However, diocesan bishops can to a certain extent lawfully establish other instances, such as important local feasts, etc., for Communion under both kinds. This is what Bp. Olmsted intends to do. He will implement the Church’s law.
. . .
The conditions for Communion under both kinds were matters for a test period. Communion under both kinds is now assumed, by some, to be an absolute right all of the time. On the other hand, conditions for the use of the Extraordinary Form are not matters of experimentation or a test period. The provisions of Summorum Pontificum, clarified in Universae Ecclesiae, are not temporary trial runs. They are actual laws for the whole Latin Church. Stable groups have the right to make a request and pastors have an obligation personally to respond positively or to find another way to see to their needs.”
This comes from the Phoenix Diocese. Bishop Olmsted has issued a press release and “FAQ.”
Why is this news now? Has something recently changed?
Yes, something has changed: there have been some new changes in the “GIRM” (General Instruction on the Roman Missal), which is the “how to” book for the Mass.
Why is Holy Communion under both forms only permitted at certain times and under certain conditions?
One of the Church’s basic duties is to establish norms or guidelines for her liturgical practice. With respect to Communion under the form of wine for the faithful, she limits the practice for a number of reasons:
- To protect the Sacred Species from profanation (careless treatment, spillage, swilling, etc.);
- The practice is not in any way necessary for salvation — it is a fuller sign of Holy Communion, but not a fuller reality of Christ Himself than what is received under the form of bread alone;
- The practice is used to emphasize special feast days and other special moments in the lives of the faithful;
- The unity of the practice throughout the world is an act of solidarity in the universal Church — rich and poor countries alike; and
- In normal circumstances, only priests and deacons are to distribute Holy Communion; when both forms of Communion are used frequently, “extraordinary” ministers of Holy Communion are disproportionately multiplied.
Bishop Morlino Takes the Strongest Stance.
Bishop Morlino is instructing his priest to re-catechized the faithful.
Please help your people to know and understand the beautiful gift we have in the Eucharist, to know our obligations of preparing for reception of the Sacrament, both in terms of our preparation through the Sacrament of Confession, our observance of the pre-communion fast, our attending to our attire as best we can, and the like.
Please help them to know of Christ’s presence, fully and entirely in the Sacred Host. Our people know well, the aspect of the Mass which is the Sacred banquet, but help them to know the Eucharist at the Memorial of Christ’s loving Sacrifice for them. Help them to understand your role in laying down your own life as the minister of Christ’s Body and Blood, present in the Host.
Here is the official press release.
Here are some of his concerns.
“In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the Priest and the Deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason either for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species…(Norms, 24)”
“The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the Priest to whom a community has been entrusted as its own shepherd, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and that there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite’s becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or for some other cause (Roman Missal, 283).”
However, I have been told of, and have personally experienced, the reality that the provision both that the faithful be well instructed and that there be no danger of profanation of the Sacrament, is not being met.
- The official press release from the Diocese of Phoenix. Here
- Questions and Answers: Norms for Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Forms – Diocese of Phoenix
- Father Z’s commentary here, here and here (I like this one the best)
So what are your thoughts? Do you agree with the bishops? Did this surprise you? Neither comments below. Thank you!
Bishop Robert Morlino Invites Conservative
Spanish Order to His Diocese;
Angry Parishioners Express Concern
DOUG ERICKSON, Wisconsin State Journal– The effort by Madison Bishop Robert Morlino to staff several Catholic churches in the diocese with priests from a conservative Spanish society has met resistance in another community.
About 200 members of St. Mary’s Parish in Platteville met with Morlino at the church Monday night to question his decision to bring in three priests from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest to lead the church.
A diocesan official and parishioners who attended the 90-minute meeting described it as largely civil but occasionally heated, with Morlino apologizing toward the end for having raised his voice earlier in the meeting.
Madison Bishop Robert Morlino with his Seminarians
“It was a tough evening for everyone,” said diocesan spokesman Brent King.
The society, based in Murcia, Spain, is known for a staunch, traditional approach to Catholic practice. There are now eight society priests at seven parishes in the diocese.
At other churches where they serve, the priests have prohibited girls from being altar servers, dispensed with the common Catholic practice of using trained lay people to assist with Communion and added Masses celebrated only in Latin.
Morlino invited members of the society to begin serving in the diocese in 2006, primarily in the Sauk City area. Some parishioners praise the priests for deepening their faith and bringing discipline to wayward Catholics; others have left the church, saying the priests’ approach is regressive and too rigid.
“To me, it seems like a step backward,” said Fay Stone, a St. Mary’s member. The priests’ approach is “quite different than we have become accustomed to,” she said.
The parish has about 700 families.
Monsignor James Bartylla, the diocese’s second in command, said in an interview Monday the priests are a good fit for Platteville because their gifts align with aspects of the parish.
Priests from the society are known as good school administrators, Bartylla said, and St. Mary’s has a K-8 parochial school. The society has a special mission to encourage young men to enter the seminary, and the priests will lead St. Augustine University Parish, the campus ministry at UW-Platteville, in addition to St. Mary’s.
“It’s a great blessing in this time of a priest shortage to have these priests here,” Bartylla said.
The priests are replacing Monsignor Charles Schluter, who has served St. Mary’s and St. Augustine for 11 years. In July, Schluter will become the priest at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Madison’s North Side.
Schluter is “greatly beloved (in Platteville) and has been very effective there, so I know it’s very hard for people to see him move on, and I know that’s part of it,” Bartylla said.
Some parishioners say the timing is bad. The congregation is in the midst of a capital campaign to buy the building it currently rents for its parochial school. The school also is in the process of hiring a new principal.
“With the more conservative priests arriving and a change in the principal, there’s just some unease with the amount of change at one time,” member Lee Eggers said.
Some parishioners also are miffed that the new principal may end up being the father of a society priest. A parish search committee wasn’t aware of that possibility and had verbally offered the position to someone else.
“The entire situation has been handled very poorly,” said member Julie Klein.
King, the diocesan spokesman, said that due to a mix-up, the position had been verbally offered to two people, one of them the father of a society priest. The situation has not been resolved but will be decided by the Rev. Lope Pascual, one of the three society priests who will serve as the primary pastor for the two Platteville parishes.
Diocesan officials apologized Monday for the mix-up.
Member Barb LeGrand said she went into the meeting very worried that trained lay people such as herself would no longer be allowed to offer Communion to the homebound, a ministry the church has offered for 20 years.
After the meeting, LeGrand said she was feeling slightly upbeat because Pascual had agreed to meet with her and others about the ministry’s future. “He seems like a very nice man,” she said of Pascual, whom she met for the first time Monday.
King said he does not anticipate the bishop will change his mind on the new priest appointments. The message from the bishop to parishioners was to get to know the priests and give them a chance to explain why they make the decisions they do, King said.
“It’s our hope that, given the opportunity, the parishioners will grow to love the priests and the priests will love the congregation,” King said.