By John-Henry Westen

Bishop MorlinoMADISON, WI, November 2, 2006 ( – Bishop Robert C. Morlino is a man of courage. The 59-year-old who has been a bishop for seven years, serving the last three in the diocese of Madison, has taken steps to ensure that his teaching on voting in favour of life and family get transmitted to the faithful.Â

After hearing reports of “isolated cases” of priests refusing to convey, or even publicly contradicting, the bishops’ messages on these important topics, he went to the extraordinary step of ordering all of the priests in his diocese to play a recorded message of his own at weekend Masses on November 4-5 in the place of the homily.

In an October 25 letter marked “personal and confidential”, Bishop Morlino apologized for having to resort to such a method of operations. He explained, “I apologize in advance for this second paragraph that I must write, and I would very much prefer otherwise. My office has received reports that in isolated cases, priests have refused to cooperate with my requests in terms of preaching in defense of marriage and have even expressed disagreement with my clear wishes in this matter.”

To demonstrate the gravity of the matter, Bishop Morlino warned of “serious consequences” for priests who would contradict the vital teachings of the church in these matters.”I must make it very clear that any verbal or non-verbal expression of disagreement with this teaching on the part of the priest will have to be considered by myself as an act of disobedience, which could have serious consequences,” he said.

The Bishop assured the priests that his message was “non-partisan” and laid out clearly that all priests in the diocese are expected to give “a simple introductory statement that the bishop has required this message to be played during the homily time at all Masses of obligation on November the 4th or the 5th.” The bishop added, “If you can express some support for the message that I offer that would be appreciated but not expected.”

The 14-minute recorded message from the bishop addresses three issues two of which are coming up for a vote in Wisconsin on November 7 – the marriage amendment, the death penalty and embryonic stem cell research. On both homosexual ‘marriage’ question and embryo research the bishop exposes the “baloney” being used to garner support for the practices which are contrary not only to Church teaching but also to reason. On the death penalty the bishop explains that it is not necessary in the US for protection of citizens, and thus serves only to increase the climate of violence.

The move, according to the newspaper which received copies of the letter presumably from at least one disgruntled priest, has some of the priests in the diocese “furious at what they see as a threat.”

Rather than cower from the public exposure of his letter to his priests which was intended to be “personal and confidential”, Bishop Morlino used its publication as a teachable moment. The Bishop published the full letter to priests on his website, “so that the full truth regarding the content of the letter can be known.”

The letter indicates that the Bishop is very thankful for the holiness of many of his priests.”Make no mistake that I am far more impressed by that holiness, goodness, and inspiration (among the priests), than I am troubled by the difficulties that we may encounter with each other along the way.”

Accompanying the reprint of the letter on the Bishop’s website is an audio link to his full homily.

At the conclusion of the exercise, the score stands at three-nothing for the Bishop. Not only will his message to the faithful get conveyed at all Sunday Masses this weekend, the general public has been alerted to the Bishop’s concerns from the front page (above the fold) in the Wisconsin State Journal, and a second article in the paper has Bishop Morlino defending his actions.

With all the controversy surrounding the upcoming broadcast of his remarks, the pews will likely be filled this weekend in Catholic Churches in Madison.

See Bishop Morlino’s full letter:

Hear the full audio message of Bishop Morlino here:

Related coverage on Bishop Morlino:

Bishop Relates “Dictatorship of Relativism” at U.S. National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Wisconsin Bishop Says Attack on Marriage Teaching an “Intimidation” Attempt