Interdict: Why Wouldn’t That Play In Cleveland?

I see where Madison’s Bishop Morlino is mightily p***ed off at those Catholic laity in Platteville, Wisconsin who don’t like his rent-a-priests. He sent them a five-page letter with cut-and-paste from canon law, including the mention of the penalty of interdict. Is it a threat? Or a lesson in ecclesiastical governance. We all know bishops can disinvite speakers. Maybe he’s just reminding uppity sheep he has other means at his disposal besides cancelling hotel rooms and microphone power.

Diocesan spokesman Brent King said Morlino’s main message is that this should be  a time of “prayer, serious introspection and forgiveness.” The specific texts  from the church’s code of law were included precisely so that they may never be needed, King said.

Sounds like the manufacture of nuclear weapons to me.

It’s one thing to advocate for a smaller, purer church. And, seemingly, get it. But it’s another to get blamed for the closure of a parish school. That will expand the base of disenchanted quite widely from the liberal Catholics of St Mary’s.

(C)hurch donations fell by more than half, and about 40 percent of the church’s  1,200 members signed a petition seeking the priests’ ouster. The church’s  77-year-old school is set to close June 1, a loss many parishioners tie directly  to the collapse of donations.

Least impressive in this mess is Bishop Morlino’s sense of a hierarchy of truths. It seems he’s of the opinion that you draw a circle. Everything inside is Catholic. Everything outside is

… personal likes and dislikes, along with inflated rumors and gossip, some of  which may even rise to the level of calumnious inciting of hatred of your priests, the faith and myself.

Parishioner Terry Busch:

There’s nothing I’ve ever said  that isn’t true, but it sounds like if you say anything about the priests or the church, they’re coming after you. Now I don’t know exactly what that means. Do they send you to hell or take you to court?

The institution has not fared well lately in court. I’m thinking hell. What about you?

I remember when the priest who baptized me died suddenly. The parish was sent a German priest who, instead of encouraging singing and good liturgy, managed to get the 12:15 Mass accomplished in twenty-two minutes flat. I noticed I didn’t miss the opening kickoff when the NFL aired at 1pm. But the parishioners weren’t all football fans trying to get a quickie Mass in before Sunday afternoon sports. Fr Kuchman was gone in three months, as well as the associate pastor and the school principal. So these things happen: laity can oust clergy. Does it matter that they don’t like the color of his sports car? If the foment is widespread, there’s no stopping it.

And this interdict thing, that’s likely to hurt the faithful remnant more than people who will either head to the Episcopal church in town or to Dubuque over the river.

You may have canon law on your side. You may have the pope. And you may even be right. But sometimes you’re going to lose, even when you’re right.

I can’t imagine that a traditionalist bishop, even one who longs for the 50’s (and I mean the 1550’s) would be willing to let a school implode and a parish tear itself apart. I guess we know why he didn’t bring these order priests to a parish in the see city. It would be like rolling the dice and Madison’s other pastors would be chortling with glee at influx of wool in their pews.

Meanwhile, I wonder if Bishop Lennon isn’t musing, “Dang! Why didn’t I think of interdict before the Signatura came to the rescue of my uppity sheep?!”

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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10 Responses to Interdict: Why Wouldn’t That Play In Cleveland?

  1. Liam says:

    Three reminders to Bp Morlino:

    One place: The Most Serene Republic of St Mark (aka the Republic of Venice)

    One date: 1607.

    One name: Paolo Sarpi.

    * * *
    The imposition of interdict on a place and people who are unlikely to recognize its validity is a classic violation of the supreme Roman virtue of prudence. Rome has been extremely wary of using interdict for the past 400 years, because it learned the *very* hard way: the Venetian experience contributed greatly to the sense among European powers that Rome’s day as a power (seen as recently as the Battle of Lepanto) was fading. By the time of the Treaties of Westphalia-Osnabrück-Münster, this impression was sealed, with it only taking another 150 years for 2 successive Roman pontiffs to be carted off by Napoleon as prisoners. Consequently, Romans learned that seeming muscularity can make you seem even weaker.

  2. Jen says:

    What’s to keep them from going to another parish? Or is that the only one in town?

    • Todd says:

      Pretty sure St Mary’s is the only one in a town of 11,000 residents. Don’t know is UW-Platteville has a Newman Center or not.

      • Todd says:

        They serve members of the “UW-P community.” Some campus parishes have fairly limited resources, and while they would not turn away a non-university-aligned person in town, there is the issue of good relations with the parish. And the rest of the university community. St Augustine’s might not appreciate their parish being inundated with disgruntled St Mary’s people.

      • Liam says:

        Well, there are other regular parishes within a 15 mile radius, too….

      • Jimmy Mac says:

        I was born and raised 9 miles south of Platteville (Cuba City). The Catholics in that part of Wisconsin – Grant County is heavily Catholic – are far from rabid radicals who take to the streets and burn down buildings. “Occupy Anything” they ain’t. They are, however, proud of their history and what they have accomplished personally and within and for their church.

        There was a history of relatively benign bishops of the Diocese of Madison ever since it was carved out of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1946. Morlino has caused more sturm und drang since his ordination in 2011 than all of the rest put together.

        In his October 2010 letter to the parishioners of St. Mary’s and St. Augustine’s ** churches, Morlino gave this example of how he views the rights of the laity to petition their grievances (they shouldn’t):

        “Furthermore, activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door-to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means) is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign, but not in the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church. Groups such as “Call to Action” and “Voice of the Faithful” regularly employ such tactics against legitimate authority in the Church. Because these groups dissent from basic tenets of Catholic Doctrine and Discipline, they are not recognized as Catholic in the Diocese of Madison, much less are they able to exercise legitimate authority. It is my hope that these clarifications will prove helpful.”

        http://www.madisondiocese.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=tg_cSAXqkrg%3d&tabid=81&mid=551

        ** The UWP parish – St. Augustine’s – is the Newman Center.

  3. Average Joe says:

    An interdict is medicinal and has its place. Is it needed here? …maybe so…

  4. Grok says:

    Does anyone understand that GOD is in charge of the church. If you don’t believe Catholic teaching, why are you there. These trouble makers seem to think that THEY make the rules. They don’t, God and his organization do. Sorry, if you don’t like it, take it up with God. My sister lives in a small town near Platteville where I grew up and due to the more ‘liberal’ priests they have had in the last 20 or so years, all you see is gray heads. Young people see the church as meaningless. They see it as a wishy washy place with no message. You sit through a dry mass, listen to a sermon about ‘loving your neighbor’ and giving to the poor, but no personal responsibility. They don’t feel they belong to anything. My sister and I both stopped attending mass out of boredom and apathy. Recently I have seen a growth in true ‘Catholic’ traditions of 2000 years, a message, a mass that praises God rather than entertains us and both of us are going to church again. In the last 60 years we Catholic have come to think of the church like Protestants do. You don’t like the minister, hire a new one. If that is what you want, join a protestant church. You won’t be doing Gods will, but at least you won’t be destroying the faith of the young people watching all this.

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