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Diocese slams campaign against faithful Bishop: It’s a ‘PR stunt’

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Sign the petition to support Bishop Morlino

MADISON, Wisconsin, October 31, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — An online petition accusing Bishop Robert Morlino of “hatred and discrimination” is a “PR stunt” based on accusations that “are demonstrably false,” the Diocese of Madison said this week.

The petition, started late last week by a Madison woman, asks Pope Francis to remove Bishop Morlino after the diocese’s Vicar General provided guidelines to priests on how to handle funeral rites for individuals who had been living in openly homosexual relationships.

The diocese said the petition was a predictable approach for groups who “use whatever means necessary to besmirch a good bishop’s name,” and that this was not the first time Bishop Morlino had been attacked.

“Because everything he teaches,” a diocesan statement said, “which is the reason for these various petitions over the years, is the consistent and universal truth, taught by the Church, since the time of Christ Himself.”

The petition had more than 4,500 signatures as of Monday morning.

Among its charges is that Morlino is “an open and practicing bigot whose attitudes and opinions about the LGBTQI members of his Diocese (and our beloved families) are nothing short of inhumane,” and further alleges he “does not have the love in his heart nor the strength of character to stop his hate-filled fixation on the intimate lives of consensual and committed adults.”  

The October 21 email to priests had discussed how to address funerals for individuals publicly known to have been involved in a homosexual relationship. It mentioned that pastors could ultimately deny a funeral to someone living in manifest sin. Despite the communication having come from diocesan Vicar General James Bartylla, Bishop Morlino has been the target of pushback in its wake.

The Diocese of Madison responded to the petition on Twitter and in a Facebook post:

Note regarding recent petition to remove Bishop Morlino: It is what it is - a successful PR stunt, because it has gotten altogether too much attention. However, this is certainly not how the Church works, and even the organizers know this. But it becomes the M.O. of such groups to use whatever means necessary to besmirch a good bishop’s name. Sadly, it works in our culture today. Not anything new or surprising about this and the premises for the petition are demonstrably false, for those who have any desire to see the truth of the matter, just as are the claims made in this recent affair. Nor would it be something that faithful Catholics sign, not because of who the bishop is, but because everything he teaches (which is the reason for these various petitions over the years) is the consistent and universal truth, taught by the Church, since the time of Christ Himself.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue defended Morlino as well, saying the attack was “scurrilous.”

“Catholics in the Diocese of Madison are very fortunate to have such a brilliant and courageous leader in Bishop Robert Morlino,” Donohue said in a statement. “He is currently under attack by dissident Catholics, ex-Catholics, and those who never were Catholic, for merely upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“The uproar is wholly unjustified,” he stated, “and is indeed scurrilous.”

Donohue’s statement was picked up by Catholic blogger Father John Zuhlsdorf, an American priest of Diocese of Velletri-Segni in Italy who serves in the Madison diocese.

“Fr. Z kudos to the Catholic League,” Father Zuhlsdorf said, also encouraging financial support for priestly vocations in the Diocese of Madison.

Bartylla had written to priests that they should “think through the issue thoroughly and prudently and likely call the local ordinary early in the process to discuss the situation.”

Bartylla further said the “main issue centers around scandal and confusion (leading others into the occasion of sin or confusing or weakening people regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church in regards to sacred doctrine and the natural law),” encouraging pastors to “minimize the risk of scandal and confusion to others amidst the solicitude for the deceased and family.”

In his communication, Bartylla also said, “If the situation warrants (see canon 1184 – specifically canon 1184.1.3), ecclesiastical funeral rites may be denied for manifest sinners in which public scandal of the faithful can’t be avoided.”

“The vicar general’s comments were entirely measured,” Donohue said in his statement. “To begin with, he was not talking about the burial of homosexuals, per se; rather, he was addressing those instances where a homosexual was involved in a public union with his partner.”

“I know Bishop Morlino as a kind person who holds no animus against any person or group of persons,” he added. “He deserves our support. Shame on those agenda-ridden activists who are out to smear him.”

The diocese clarified in a statement last week that the communication attributed to Bishop Morlino was not official diocesan policy, though it did have his approval.

The communication was the result of pastoral questions asked by the priests themselves, the diocese said, condemning those who had “willfully and flippantly spread gossip, rumor, and sadly even calumny,” on the matter.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, released guidelines for his diocese in June that said those in same-sex "marriages" should not receive Holy Communion or have a Catholic funeral if they died without showing signs of repentance. 

Bishop Paprocki experienced backlash from LGBT advocates after the guidelines were issued, similar to Bishop Morlino is now.

Bishop Morlino is known for his defense of Catholic orthodoxy, whether with Church principles or her liturgy.

Earlier this year, Morlino asked the members of his diocese beginning next fall to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, while kneeling, to “move together towards greater reverence when receiving Holy Communion.”

Bishop Morlino was on board without delay last year when Vatican Liturgy chief Cardinal Robert Sarah asked clergy to adopt the ad orientem posture for Mass beginning last Advent.

The ad orientem posture, which is Latin for facing east, denotes the priest showing due deference to the Lord by facing Him during Mass, as opposed to versus populum – facing the congregation.

He has also asked for tabernacles to be returned to the front and center of the churches in the Madison diocese. And vocations to the priesthood have flourished significantly in the diocese -- nearly six-fold -- since he took over in 2003.

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