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MADISON, Wisconsin, November 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Faithful Catholics throughout the United States are grieving the loss of a champion of orthodoxy, life, marriage, and liturgy.

Scranton-born Bishop Robert Charles Morlino, leader of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, died on Saturday evening at the age of 71. Now Catholics are paying tribute to a man some called “the extraordinary ordinary.”

“Bishop Morlino was a staunch defender of Truth and a genuinely good shepherd to his flock,” Michael Hichborn, director of the Lepanto Institute, told LifeSiteNews via email.

“I remember meeting with Bishop Morlino for the first time in November of 2010. After showing him what I discovered about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, he compared me with Jack Bauer and told me that the information had confirmed him in his decision to no longer give to the national CCHD collection,” Hichborn continued.  

“The last time I saw him was at the USCCB fall assembly in 2014. I spoke briefly with him about my discoveries concerning the CCHD and CRS [Catholic Relief Services]. In response, he put his hand on my shoulder and said to me, ‘Watch your back,’” he recalled.

Carl Olson, editor of Catholic World Report (CWR), told LifeSiteNews via email that the late bishop was both “uncompromising” and “pastoral.”

“Bishop Morlino was direct and uncompromising in his stand for Church teaching, and he was also deeply pastoral in the best sense of that word,” Olson stated.

“I think a central part of his legacy is the understanding that true doctrine and authentic pastoral ministry go hand-in-hand, and must not be separated or pit against one another.”

Olson recalled an interview Morlino gave to the Wisconsin State Journal in which the bishop stated that “what is pastoral has to be true.”

Dr. Edward Peters, professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, praised the late bishop for his expertise in the field.

“Bishop Morlino was not a canon lawyer but I am hard-pressed to name a canonist-bishop who got more canon law issues correct than did Morlino,” Peters told LifeSiteNews via email.

“I am thinking of, for example, his abrogation of out-dated diocesan laws, his provisions for Confirmation candidates who wanted that rite celebrated according to the Missal of 1962, his sound policies in regard to sacraments and sacramentals for those living lives contrary to important Church teachings,” he continued. “I shall miss the example he gave of a bishop respecting and making creative use of the Church's legal system.”   

Beverly Stevens, editor of the Catholic art-loving Regina magazine, praised Morlino for his success at rekindling the Catholic faith in his diocese.

“Bishop Morlino tackled a diocese where heresy and indifferentism had run wild for decades,” she told LifeSiteNews.

“He cultivated reverence, catechism[,] and formation with the result that I have seen with my own eyes [in Madison] strong young homeschooling families, many converts[,] and a bright future for the Faith in a place where once there was only ashes.”

Madison’s Father Robert Heilman told CWR that Morlino was “a saint in our midst” and a “St. Athanasius against the rampart modernism in our times.” The Wisconsin priest said that the bishop was “a dad to me and countless others.”

Heilman praised Morlino’s work towards “returning the sacred to Catholic worship” and celebrated his success in fostering vocations to the priesthood.

“His great mission was vocations to the priesthood,” he told CWR. “He worked very hard at this. When he was named Bishop of Madison, there were six men studying for the priesthood. In the last half of his 15 years, the numbers have hovered around 30 men studying. It’s one of the highest per capita in the country.”

Church insider Rocco Palmo wrote a heartfelt tribute in his “Whispers in the Loggia” blog to the ecclesiastical “provocateur” he described as his “devoted friend.” After cataloguing some of Morlino’s victories as a lionhearted bishop, Palmo revealed the bishop’s home-loving side.

“Ever the son of Scranton – and woe to anyone who forgot it – the bishop once told me that the happiest act of his ministry wasn't any of the scores of ordinations, confirmations or church dedications he performed, no speech he ever gave, but when he was asked to be lead celebrant for the St. Ann's Day Mass at her national shrine in his hometown,” Palmo wrote.

Palmo attributed Morlino’s outspoken episcopate to the marching orders he received from Rome to be a “fighter.”

“A late-life favorite of John Paul II – with whom he bonded over their shared Polish heritage – the bishop once noted privately of how, upon his transfer to Madison in 2003, he was told that ‘Rome wanted a fighter’ in the secularist mecca, and that’s precisely what they got,” Palmo wrote.

“Absolutely no one agreed with everything he said – he would've found that boring – yet whatever one made of it, the tidal waves of reaction only went to prove how he could never be ignored.”