Monday, October 30, 2006

Democracy, By Order Of The Patriarch

When the Democracy Campaign recently shined light on the efforts of the Madison Catholic Diocese to influence the outcome of the statewide referendum on the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions, Bishop Robert Morlino's first reaction was to brandish the First Amendment in his defense.

Calling for public disclosure of the diocese's political activities was an attack on freedom of religion, Morlino asserted, going as far as to say our defense of the public's right to know is "persecution" and an attempt to "intimidate" the church.

When it later dawned on the bishop that the Democracy Campaign had not challenged the diocese's right to take a position on the marriage amendment or publicly advocate its position or incorporate its position into church teachings, but rather simply wanted the diocese to publicly disclose clear electioneering activities, Morlino quickly took a different tack.

In an interview with a Madison TV station, he acknowledged that printing and distributing 110,000 fliers urging people to vote yes had "political implications" but insisted that it did not amount to electioneering because the materials were merely being offered but not forced on people. "If I had some way of forcing people to do it that would be electioneering," he reasoned.

Now it's becoming obvious that Morlino not only has an other-worldly conception of political campaigning, but also a rather unconventional idea of what constitutes "forcing." In a front-page commentary in today's Wisconsin State Journal, columnist Bill Wineke reports Morlino sent all the priests in the Madison Diocese a "personal and confidential" letter last week ordering them to play a 14-minute recorded sermon detailing his positions on the marriage amendment, the death penalty referendum and the issue of embryonic stem-cell research at all services next weekend.

The bishop warned the priests that "any verbal or non-verbal expression of disagreement with this teaching on the part of the priest will have to be considered by myself as an act of disobedience, which could have serious consequences."


Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed that old Mike M gets all worked up over things like this but seems to totally ignore anything coming from the left? Can anyone say "Organized Labor"?

Just one more piece of evidence that WDC is anything but non-partisan or nuetral. Some watchdog.

Rich Eggleston said...

I love people who say stupid things from behind a cloak of anonymity.

I love people who attack the messenger and allow the message to go unchallenged.

There's a legitimate question of whether religion is getting away with murder, figuratively in this country anyway, in terms of amassing exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, workplace standards and health and safety standards, all the while scooping in tax breaks and other favorable treatment from the government like the winner of a Bingo game in a church basement.

The New York Times did a recent series on the phenomenon. I wouldn't treat a dog the way churches in some states treat their preachers. I wonder whether church-run child care centers in Wisconsin evade the law like some of the church-run centers cited by the Times.

I wonder if Anonymous knows what PAC means. No it's not the first half of the name of a well-known computer game. It's a device that labor unions use to distribute squeaky-clean campaign money from their members.

I know and respect Mike McCabe, and I am certain that he'll come down on any labor union that violates the rules with the wrath of God.

Now, if we can only find a way to come down on those who violate the rules while pretending to serve God with the wrath of organized labor!

Rich Eggleston

Terrence Berres said...

Are you saying Bishop Morlino broke the law by mandating that homily?