Pope Benedict XVI greets Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wis., during a February 2012 visit to the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
The Wisconsin State Journal interviewed Bishop Robert
Morlino at the end of February about the approaching one year
anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. A couple of excerpts:
What I most admire about him -- and it's really God's gift to him -- is
his presence to people. It's not very possible to be present to 40,000
to 70,000 people at a Wednesday audience. Those audiences have grown in
size incredibly since he became pope. It's not that he trained with PR
people. Yet he can relate to that number of people. Pope John Paul was
incredible in this regard. Francis is, you know, every bit as good. And
that's a gift we need, because, as he's always said, he's interested in
people at the peripheries. ...
In December, you gave an interview to the website Real Clear Religion
in which you suggested Pope Francis has actually helped make you a
stronger culture warrior.
Morlino: Yes, Oh, yeah.
State Journal: Can you explain a little more how that is?
Well, in order to meet Christ, we have to stand up for the whole
Christ. Standing up for the whole Christ -- How do you do that? What are
the aspects of Christ and of his work that need work in that vicinity
or this region? That's the judgment the bishop has to make. So I have to
see kind of which aspects of the truth of Christ need work here, and
when I see that, I kind of end up right back where I was. I have to
speak up forcibly about these issues. But I have never failed to teach
also about God's mercy. Never. It's one of my major themes. It always
has been. But God's mercy is always balanced with his judgment, and we
have to think that through and work that out. It is unfortunate that
some people, especially in your profession, have taken the occasion to
widely misinterpret Francis, particularly with that statement, "Who am I
to judge?" I have had to explain away what the mass media have said
about that far more times than I'd like to count.
State Journal: In a recent Catholic Herald column, you said that comment has been "outrageously misinterpreted." Tell us how.
When Francis was telling us about that, he was talking about a
particular bishop whom he had just given a job in the Vatican, and it
was found out that in South America where this bishop had been, he had
been charged with certain misconduct. So the question came to Francis,
"How could you bring him in?" And Francis said, "The man has admitted he
did wrong, he is sorry, and he has changed his life through the grace
of Jesus Christ. Who am I to judge him now?" That is hardly a statement
that somehow justifies homosexual behavior. This is another thing: When
he says, "What do you want from me, I am the son of the church?" From an
Argentinean background, that's a very strong statement. In the United
States of America, that's a very generic statement that could mean
anything, because Nancy Pelosi thinks she's a loyal daughter of the
church, so she doesn't know what church is and she doesn't know what
loyal is. This man knows what loyalty to the church is, he was
surrounded by it, there was a strong cultural Catholicism in Argentina
which we lost in the United States long ago. So that statement has to be
taken very seriously, and it's kind of passed over. The pope made
another statement at Mass this last week. I'm sure it was some kind of a
slip on his part, because again, he's worried about bringing people
closer to Christ. He's not watching every word, and you can't do that
when you're trying to connect with people. He was talking about how the
Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, that he gives us gifts, that he's
present in his gifts. And he was giving all kinds of examples of how the
Holy Spirit works through the gifts of each one of us every day and he
does this for everyone. So he said the Holy Spirit is a real worker, the
Holy Spirit is a hard worker, and then he said, "Not like trade union
workers." I didn't see that in the press anywhere, that he said that.
But he says, "Who am I to judge?" and it's all over the world. The mass
media are trying to create a spirit of Pope Francis, just as they
created a spirit of Vatican II. Many Catholics fell for that the first
time. I hope they won't fall for that again.
Well, I'd say that
ship, alas, has pretty much sailed. The dominant media narrative has been set in
semi-solid stone, and anything that Francis says or does contrary to
said narrative will be ignored. Depend on it. Many people are now comfortable with the narrativeit allows them to categorize and catalog the Holy Father (isn't that what Americans do well?)and won't go any deeper. But thank goodness for
bishops such as Bp. Morlino, who is doing what he can to clarify and set
the record straight.
This is also excellent:
State Journal: Would you say your approach is primarily pastoral?
Yes, because what is pastoral has to be true. In other words, pastoral
is loving. It includes love, and loving always includes respecting. If
you don't respect people enough to tell them the truth, well then you
couldn't be pastoral. There can't be anything pastoral that does not
include inviting people to see the truth. To pretend the truth is not
there or to water it down, that really couldn't be pastoral. That
honestly is a kind of appeasement. It might make the person feel better
right now, but it really does not help in terms of a person's salvation.
We don't use the terminology very often -- and I think it's too bad --
we don't talk about saving souls for Christ. We don't describe ourselves
as doing that. We have all sorts of other ways of describing ourselves.
If I withhold the truth, I'm actually endangering souls, not saving
souls, and endangering souls could never be pastoral.
Exactly right: the notion that "pastoral" is somehow unconcerned with truth is nonsensical, but incredibly widespread. Anyhow, read the entire interivew on the Wisconsin State Journal website.