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Beloved US Bishop Robert Morlino unexpectedly dies

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MADISON, Wisconsin, November 25, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) ― Bishop Robert Charles Morlino, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, has died following a “cardiac event”.

According to the Diocese of Madison, Bishop Morlino passed away on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 9:15 PM at St. Mary's Hospital. He was 71.

An all-night prayer vigil was held for Morlino at Madison’s Holy Name Heights seminary as he lay dying, ending this morning at 8 AM.

The bishop was hospitalized for a “cardiac event” he suffered on Wednesday while undergoing a planned medical examination, and the Diocese turned to social media for prayers. Although the prognosis was originally optimistic, the bishop took “a turn for the worse” on Saturday. The Vicar General of the diocese, Monsignor James Bartylla, wrote to Morlino’s priests, asking them to pray for a miracle.    

“I write with an update of heavy news in regards to our beloved Bishop Robert Morlino,” Barylla said.  

“Whereas yesterday morning held a number of good reasons for hope for the recovery of the bishop, today has been filled with a number of disappointments in that regard. Unfortunately, matters have continued to turn for the worst and it is likely that our hope lays in a miracle at this point,” he continued.

“In particular, we are asking for the miraculous intercession of Ven. Samuel Mazzuchelli. I would ask that in addition to prayers for a miracle, you also pray that if and when the time comes, the Bishop would be given the grace of a happy death and may look soon upon the face of our God, The Vision which shall not disappoint.”

Robert C. Morlino was born on December 31, 1946 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. An only child, he suffered the loss of his father as a schoolboy and was raised by his mother and grandmother.

Morlino felt the call to the priesthood as a child, and never lost it.  Upon graduation from the Jesuit Scranton Preparatory School, Morlino joined the Society of Jesus and studied at Jesuit seminary for the Maryland Province and at the Jesuits’ Fordham University in New York. He earned a M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970, and a Masters in Theology from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, MA.

Morlino was ordained to the priesthood on June 1, 1974 and taught at several Catholic universities. He left the Jesuits in 1981 and was incardinated in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, MI. In 1990, he earned a doctorate in moral theology from the Gregorian University in Rome and became a theology professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

His plans to remain a professor were thwarted by St. John Paul II, who appointed Morlino the ninth Bishop of Helena, Montana in 1999. In 2003, he was named Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin by the pontiff.

Robert C. Morlino was an exemplary bishop, firm in his support of orthodox Catholic doctrine and the Gospel of Life. He was a leader in the pro-life movement. In 2011, for example, he led 300 people, including Knights of Columbus in praying the rosary and consecrating a cemetery for babies who died before birth. Morlino gave a homily about chastity and explained how IVF and contraception work against a culture of life.  

Morlino was not afraid to speak out against the politically sensitive issue of the role homosexuality has played in the ongoing clerical sexual abuse crisis. On August 18, 2018, he released a blistering letter demanding that the “depravity of sinners within the Church” be rooted out.

“I am tired of this,” the bishop wrote of the seemingly never ending series of scandals regarding clerical sexual abuse and episcopal cover-up.

“I am tired of people being hurt, gravely hurt! I am tired of the obfuscation of truth. I am tired of sin,” he continued.

“... There must be no room left, no refuge for sin – either within our own lives, or within the lives of our communities. To be a refuge for sinners (which we should be), the Church must be a place where sinners can turn to be reconciled. In this I speak of all sin. But to be clear, in the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual – almost exclusively homosexual – acts by clerics. We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all. To call it anything else would be deceitful and would only ignore the problem further.”

In line with his disgust with clerical sexual abuse and episcopal cover-up, Morlino voiced support for Vatican whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. In his July testimony, Viganò alleged that senior prelates, including Pope Francis, favored then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick fully knowing he was a sexual predator. Morlino was among the few bishop who publicly stated the the allegations should be seriously examined.

“Archbishop Viganò has offered a number of concrete, real allegations in his recent document, giving names, dates, places, and the location of supporting documentation – either at the Secretariat of State or at the Apostolic Nunciature,” Morlino said. “Thus, the criteria for credible allegations are more than fulfilled, and an investigation, according to proper canonical procedures, is certainly in order.”

Morlino similarly showed courage when he spoke out for the truthful definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He was heckled by over 300 homosexual activists while praying the Lord’s Prayer at a rally in support of traditional marriage in the USA despite asking his audience to pray for “our fellow human beings who are gay and lesbian, admitting that as Catholics and as Christians there is no place among us for gay-bashing or gay bashers.”

Bishop Morlino discussed the clergy sex abuse crisis with Raymond Arroyo on a very recent, Oct. 4 segment of Arroyo's The World Over. 

Regarding Amoris Laetitia, Morlino defended marriage as an unbreakable, lifelong union and publicly rejected the possibility of allowing couples in irregular unions to receive communion.

Morlino was a good friend to those Catholics who love the traditional Latin liturgy of the Church. He himself celebrated Mass according to the usus antiquior, or old rite, and he required his seminarians to learn to say the traditional Latin Mass themselves. In a 2011 letter to his diocese, Morlino stated that the Mass “must be nothing less than beautiful, reflecting the perfect beauty, unity, truth, and goodness of … the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

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