The drama of St Mary’s parish in Platteville has received interest and comment from Catholics all around the country. The polarization within the Church is everywhere and people want to know who’s right or wrong and what happens when it comes to a head. I thought I’d draw attention to some of the most notable blog writing about this. First, basic documents:
St Mary Church in Platteville parish website
Bishop Morlino’s 2010 letter to St Mary’s parishioners, responding to their complaints and petition for removal of their priests.
Bishop Morlino’s April, 2012 letter to St Mary’s parishioners, regarding the closing of their parish school.
Bishop Morlino’s May 3rd Madison Catholic Herald article, “It takes bravery to follow Christ as priests,” is very good and also appropos.
Father John Zuhlsdorf of What Does the Prayer Really Say? is a full-time blogger priest who lives in Wisconsin, and he and Bishop Morlino seem to get along very well. He also knows and is friends with these Society of Jesus Christ the Priest priests. Fr Z has been very much on top of this story. The great comments people make on his blog also always enrich it a lot.
- UPDATE on the tumult in Platteville. Bp. Morlino sends a letter to the community. – This is Fr Z’s most complete commentary on the St Mary’s Platteville situation. Don’t know where to start in sorting this story out? Read this. He offers a good dose of reality: “This sad situation in this small town underscores some important problems and we will be seeing a lot more of this in the future.” and “Frankly, I think ugly food fights must happen from time to time.”
- The Platteville Food Fight: Fishwrap weighs in! (Fr. Z makes a SUGGESTION.) – “Fishwrap” means the dissenting National Catholic Reporter newspaper, which predictably ran a seriously distorted article about the plucky parishioners and the mean bishop, which includes a priceless quote from a savvy diocesan spokesman refusing comment: “We have no hope that assisting NCR with a story will result in a just reporting of the facts regarding the sad situation in Platteville.” In response Fr Z called on people from all over the country to make a small donation to the Diocese of Madison as a sign of support.
- Bp. Morlino: “There is no place in the priesthood today for ‘wimpish-ness.’” – Fr Z’s post about Bishop Morlino’s Madison Catholic Herald article similar to his homily I blogged about recently about Jesus the beautiful, BRAVE and kind shepherd.
Syte Reitz is a fellow Madison Cathedral Parish member and blogger, who wrote an extensive post responding to distortion and imbalance in the Wisconsin State Journal’s article . The diocese also made a statement objecting to the WSJ article that inflamed the tensions by inaccurately depicting Bishop Morlino as actively threatening the parishioners with canonical penalties, and suggesting the paper may be perceived as anti-Catholic.
- Wisconsin State Journal Inflames Parish Conflict with Imbalanced Reporting; or; 100 Minus 40 Equals 60!
Diane Korzeniewski is a Detroit blogger, whom I quite respect. She has been carefully researching and crafting a thoughtful 4 part series at Te Deum Laudamus, “Bishop Responds to Madness in Madison.” I think in some ways this is the best coverage:
- 2010 Review – recounts the background on how and why parishioners wrote to the nuncio and petitioned the bishop for removal of their priests, prompting Bishop Morlino to write them a letter.
- School Closing – how people responded to the 2010 letter and how their choices led to St Mary’s school closing.
- Bishop Morlino Holds the High Ground – explanation and analysis of his most recent letter to St Mary’s parishioners; her post contains the whole text of the letter so you can easily see what he said.
- Part 4, not yet written, will cover the canonical aspects.
Father Anthony Ruff, a Benedictine monk of modernist St John’s Abbey, provides a different perspective at his liturgy blog Pray Tell. He’s much more inclined to sympathize with the dissenting parishioners’ preferences than the above commentators, but ultimately he too affirms that “the parishioners have no right to remove their priests, no matter how insensitive the priests are. The law is clear on this point, and so is the bishop.” What he says about interdict is over the top and inflammatory, but I think he is sort of having some fun with it. Bishop Morlino cited that canonical censure is possible, but has not directly warned of any canonical censure.
Finally, Tancred at The Eponymous Flower, a very traditionalist blogger quite continually critical of liberal bishops, someone I’ve both argued with and have respect for, in just a few words gives high praise to Bishop Morlino and points to the impact of his bravery: “amazing that at least in this Diocese, in contrast to others, that faithful priests are being defended, even in this case where the dissident opposition is so strong that it cut donations in half and possibly resulted in the loss of the parish’s school.”
Eugene Cullen Kennedy, a laicized Catholic priest, psychologist, and retired university professor now in his mid 80s, about whom Wikipedia notes that he is “a noted dissident in the Catholic Church and has argued for a ‘post-clerical, de-centered priesthood, in which the adjustments to celibacy are varied,’” writes in his column for the National Catholic “Fishwrap” decrying Bishop Morlino’s orthodoxy. Funny in a dark way, though sad. Many of Kennedy’s views fall outside of the realm of opinion that can rightly be called Catholic, but he tells an interesting though unverified story about Bishop Morlino before he became a bishop: “One such incident centered on a pastor who told extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist where, in case of emergency, he kept the key to the tabernacle. This was just the kind of situation that the ambitious Morlino relished. He took pictures of the tabernacle and the place in which the pastor hid the key and sent them off to Rome with a critique of this allegedly unorthodox behavior.” There is a document called Redemptionis Sacramentum which will shed a lot of light for those who want to understand why there was a problem with the situation that then-Father Morlino had the courage to intervene in. It sounds like the main problem may have been that the tabernacle key was in an insecure location, exposing the Blessed Sacrament to the possibility of theft and desecration. The relevance of this to the St Mary’s situation is partly that the SJCP priests make all sick calls themselves, not relying on EMHCs. This is uncommon but is unambiguously preferable and ideal according to Redemptionis Sacramentum; EMHCs are actually never supposed to be used without real necessity, and there are some extremely important things only a priest can do, such as hear confessions or administer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Yet the non-use of EMHCs for this purpose was actually one of the things that dissenting parishioners at St Mary’s had complained about. Also worth noting, there is a particularly good comment on that article, by a faithful Catholic challenging the NCR dissenters.
Fr Z had a good idea when he suggested sending a donation to the Madison diocese specifically to protest the “Fishwrap” coverage, which aids Satan’s work of dividing the Church and turning people against the bishops so as to undermine our love for one another and our witness to Christ.
[Another Update:] Someone gave Fr Miguel a link to my post, and he contacted me to point out what I had either missed or not believed my eyes, that The Wall Street J0urnal actually did a story on St Mary’s in Platteville. The good priest says he has no idea why Wall Street would be interested in what happens in Platteville. I like what WSJ tells us about a parishioner: “Gregory Merrick, 62 years old, began driving the 20 miles to St. Mary’s when he heard the new priests were traditionalist. Catholicism ‘is first about the good news that we are saved, but that news is hooked irrevocably to the notion that we’re sinners,’ he said. ‘Do we as Catholics want to conform to the church, or do we want the church to conform to us? I suggest the latter of those two possibilities is a disaster.’” Now that finally sounds familiar to me. People I know here in Madison drive out into the country to go to Mass or Confession at the SJCP priests’ parishes, because they like those priests.
[Another Update:] Bishop Morlino was interviewed on Saturday 5/12 on EWTN’s The World Over with Raymond Arroyo, and was asked about the St Mary’s Platteville situation. His comments are well worth watching, and I think that it would be easier for people to understand accurately what his real attitude is toward the situation by watching him speak about it. The video is online, and I put it up in a different blog post.