MADISON, Wis. — Bishop Robert C. Morlino decried the “homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church” in a letter to his flock of more than 280,000 on Aug. 18, suggesting the faithful develop a “perfect hatred” for wickedness and sin, giving them no refuge in the home or society at large.
Morlino’s five-page letter was sent to each of the 104 parishes in the diocese and published in the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Herald. In it, he condemned the homosexual predation by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 victims by priests in six dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, reported last week by a grand jury. Morlino’s plainly spoken diagnosis of the crisis quickly spread across the internet.
“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord,” Morlino wrote. “The Church’s teaching is clear that the homosexual inclination is not in itself sinful, but it is intrinsically disordered in a way that renders any man stably afflicted by it unfit to be a priest. And the decision to act upon this disordered inclination is a sin so grave that it cries out to heaven for vengeance, especially when it involves preying upon the young or the vulnerable.”
Morlino condemned the sexually predatory actions of priests and bishops as evil “that cries out for justice and sin that must be cast out from our Church.” He said the seeming acceptance of sin by some in the Church, and the cover-ups of scandal by others, must be met with just punishments and a clarion call to sanctity.
“We must be done with sin,” Morlino said. “It must be rooted out and again considered unacceptable. Love sinners? Yes. Accept true repentance? Yes. But do not say sin is okay. And do not pretend that grave violations of office and of trust come without grave, lasting consequences.”
Morlino said it is important to describe the crisis for what it is, and not soften or obfuscate. “In the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual — almost exclusively homosexual — acts by clerics,” Morlino wrote. “We’re also taking 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.”
The Church needs more hatred of sin and wickedness, Morlino said, citing Proverbs 8:7, “My mouth shall meditate truth and my lips shall hate wickedness.” The bishop said hatred of sin and calling others to turn from sin are acts of charity. He noted that this must not extend into hatred of sinners, who are called to conversion and penance through Christ and His Church.
Morlino’s admonitions were just the latest statements he has made on the sexual corruption and abuses of power within the Catholic Church in the United States. At a Mass marking the 15th anniversary of his installation as bishop of Madison, he related a letter received from a grandmother who said she would discourage her grandson from pursuing a priestly vocation because of the scandals.
“It’s certainly not a time to tell our grandchildren, ‘don’t dare go to the seminary,’” Morlino said. “Can I say that at no seminary is a seminarian being disgustingly propositioned by a predator? Can I swear to that? No. But I know where I send people and I know for a variety of reasons the people that I send are safe.” He said any seminarian, priest or lay person who is aware of sexual harassment, abuse or molestation should contact his office and the case will be dealt with “swiftly and vigorously.”
Vocations to the priesthood have been a pillar of Morlino’s tenure in the Diocese of Madison. When he arrived in August 2003, there were six diocesan seminarians studying for the priesthood. In the years since, the high was 33. The bishop himself has ordained 39 men to the priesthood, including three in June 2018. Morlino established the “Priests for Our Future” fund, which garnered $44 million in pledges and $30 million in payments to date. The fund covers costs for men from the 11-county diocese to attend the seminary.
Morlino has also called on his parishes to reinforce reverence in the liturgy and restore a sense of the sacred. He asked all parishes to move tabernacles to the sanctuary, so the Eucharistic Lord is again the center of Catholic life. He also encourages Catholics to receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling, which was the longtime practice prior to changes brought since Vatican II. A number of parishes in the diocese have installed the once-familiar altar rails for reception of Holy Communion.
Morlino again stressed sanctity in his Aug. 18 letter to parishioners. “More than anything else, we as a Church must cease our acceptance of sin and evil,” he wrote. “We must cast out sin from our own lives and run toward holiness. We must refuse to be silent in the face of sin and evil in our families and communities and we must demand from our pastors — myself included — that they themselves are striving day in and day out for holiness. We must do this always with loving respect for individuals, but with a clear understanding that true love can never exist without truth.”
Morlino will preside at a public Mass of reparation for “sins of sexual depravity” committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy on Sept. 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. He asked all diocesan priests to join him in observing the autumn Ember Days (Sept. 19-21) as days of fasting and abstinence in reparation for these “sins and outrages.”
• Read the full text of Bishop Morlino’s Letter on the Catholic Herald site.