Robert C. Morlino

Robert Charles Morlino (December 31, 1946 – November 24, 2018) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who served as the Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, from 2003 until his death in 2018. He was the Bishop of Helena, Montana, from 1999 to 2003. Morlino was widely perceived as a conservative bishop.

Robert Charles Morlino
Bishop of Madison
Bishop Morlino (4834655153) (cropped).jpg
Morlino in 2010
AppointedMay 23, 2003
InstalledAugust 1, 2003
Term endedNovember 24, 2018
PredecessorWilliam Henry Bullock
SuccessorDonald J. Hying
OrdinationJune 1, 1974
ConsecrationSeptember 21, 1999
by Gabriel Montalvo Higuera, John George Vlazny, and Paul Vincent Donovan
Personal details
Born(1946-12-31)December 31, 1946
Scranton, Pennsylvania
DiedNovember 24, 2018(2018-11-24) (aged 71)
St. Mary's Hospital (Madison, Wisconsin)
Previous postBishop of Helena
MottoVisus non mentietur (The vision shall not disappoint)
Styles of
Robert Charles Morlino
Coat of arms of Robert Charles Morlino.svg
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleBishop


Early life and educationEdit

An only child, Robert Morlino was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania,[1] to Charles and Albertina Morlino. He was of part Polish descent.[2] His father died while he was attending Scranton Preparatory School, and he was primarily raised by his mother and grandmother. He then entered the novitiate for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, and studied at Fordham University in New York, from where Morlino obtained his Bachelor's degree in Philosophy in 1969.

He earned a Master's in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970, and a Master's in Theology from Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Ordination and ministryEdit

Morlino was ordained to the priesthood on June 1, 1974, and then taught at Loyola College in Maryland, St. Joseph's University, Boston College, Notre Dame University, and St. Mary's College. He also served as an instructor in continuing education for priests, religious, and laity, as well as director of parish renewal programs. His mother died in 1980.

On October 26, 1983, he was incardinated into the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Morlino there served as Episcopal Vicar for Spiritual Development, Executive Assistant and Theological Consultant to Bishop Alfred Markiewicz, Moderator of the Curia, and Promoter of Justice in the diocesan tribunal.

In 1990, he earned a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and became a theology professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, where he expected to spend his life prior to his promotion to a bishop.[3] He was also named rector of St. Augustine Cathedral in 1991.

Bishop of Helena, MontanaEdit

On July 6, 1999, Morlino was appointed the ninth Bishop of Helena, by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 21 from Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo Higuera, with Archbishop John Vlazny and Bishop Paul Donovan serving as co-consecrators. He selected as his episcopal motto: Visus Non Mentietur, meaning, "The Vision Will Not Disappoint" (Habakkuk 2:3).

Bishop of Madison, WisconsinEdit

Morlino was later named the fourth Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, on May 23, 2003. He was installed on August 1 of that year.[1]

In 2004, he publicly expressed criticism of the city's apparent lack of a moral compass, saying that it existed below a religious "moral minimum" and that the city had "virtually no public morality."[1] He specifically cited the popularity of the city's StageQ community theater company, a gay and lesbian theater troupe, as evidence of this view.[4]

Morlino supported the application of Summorum Pontificum in his diocese, and he celebrated the Tridentine Mass in several parishes. He ordered that the tabernacle in all the churches of the diocese should be moved to a central place of prominence. Morlino encouraged the faithful to receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling, and he encouraged pastors to enlist exclusively male altar servers. One of his main objectives was to increase vocations to the priesthood in his diocese, and he helped raise 44 million dollars for the endowment fund "Priests for Our Future". The number of seminarians studying for the priesthood grew from 6 to 30 during his episcopate, one of the highest increases in the United States.[5] Catholics in his diocese had divided opinions of him.[6]

A fire severely damaged St. Raphael's Cathedral in March 2005. In June 2007, Morlino announced that St. Raphael's would be rebuilt on its current site, reusing the steeple and other items from the previous building.[1]

He was the past chairman of the Bishops' Committee on the Diaconate and Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Issues and the Church, both units of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In May 2009, Morlino announced that the Catholic Multicultural Center – a building that fed, educated and supported many on Madison's south side – would close in two days as part of widespread Diocesan budget cuts.[7] A handoff to local parish administration and fundraising drive was announced one week later.[8]


Morlino had a cardiac event during planned medical testing November 21, 2018.[9] He died on November 24.[1][10]


Pro-choice politiciansEdit

Morlino believed that Canon law should be interpreted as requiring communion be denied to politicians who openly support legal abortion and euthanasia. During the 2008 presidential election, Morlino criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Joe Biden for their remarks regarding abortion on Meet the Press. He said that "because they claim to be Catholic," Pelosi and Biden were "violating the separation of church and state" and "stepping on the pope's turf and mine."[11]


In 2017, Morlino arranged for a memo to be sent by his vicar general to all local priests, informing them that they may deny Catholic funerals to people who had entered into same-sex public civil unions or marriages "to avoid public scandal of the faithful." The memo advised clergy to consider whether the deceased or the living partner was a "promoter of the 'gay' lifestyle." To minimize scandal, the deceased's partner should have no public role in any ecclesiastical funeral rite or service.[12][13] A petition seeking to remove Morlino as bishop generated support from thousands of people.[14]

During the clerical sex abuse scandals in the summer of 2018, Morlino wrote a five-page letter in which he decried the abuse of minors, and described a "homosexual subculture" that facilitates homosexual sexual activities between priests and other adults.[1][15] He criticized the alleged acceptance of behaviors the Church considers sinful by members of the Church hierarchy, writing, "We must be done with sin. It must be rooted out and again considered unacceptable. Love sinners? Yes. Accept true repentance? Yes. But do not say sin is okay."[5]

Morlino wrote, "There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the publically [sic] deplorable acts of pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the Church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia — this despite clear evidence to the contrary. It is time to be honest that the problems are both and they are more."[15] Morlino decried clerical abuse of minors, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's sexual harassment and abuse of adult seminarians, and an alleged network of sexually active gay priests; interpreters of the letter disagreed on whether he was conflating these three matters. Some interpreted Morlino as linking homosexuality with pedophilia, and countered by citing studies showing a lack of correlation between pedophilia and homosexuality. Conservative Catholics cited studies showing that the vast majority of victims were male and that many were not prepubescent. They therefore said that the problem was more closely linked to homosexuality than pedophilia.[16][17] Morlino urged victims to report accusations to the police, and called for reparation as well as prayer and fasting to atone for the offenses.[17]

Ruth KolpackEdit

In March 2009, Morlino dismissed Ruth Kolpack from her post as a pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Beloit, citing breaches of orthodoxy. In a brief meeting with Kolpack, the Bishop asked her for an oath of loyalty and to denounce her 2003 thesis, which advocated women's ordination in the Church and inclusive language relating to God. He dismissed her after she agreed to the oath but refused to denounce her thesis.[18]

Rights of workersEdit

When the Wisconsin Legislature was considering a budget proposal which would curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees (later enacted), the bishop distanced himself from the other Wisconsin bishops, writing "The question to which the dilemma boils down is rather simple on its face: is the sacrifice which union members, including school teachers, are called upon to make, proportionate to the relative sacrifice called for from all in difficult economic times? In other words, is the sacrifice fair in the overall context of our present situation?"[19] Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki had issued a statement calling for Wisconsin legislators to abide by a "moral obligation" to fully consider the "legitimate rights" of public employees.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Morlino's Controversial Tenure". Wisconsin State Journal. November 26, 2018. p. A9. Retrieved October 18, 2019 – via  
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 1, 2014. Retrieved January 26, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Bures, Frank. "Critical Mass". Madison Magazine.
  4. ^ Wineke, William R.; Schuetz, Lisa (February 7, 2004), "MORLINO URGES A `MORAL MINIMUM' MADISON SEEMS TO SHOW `VIRTUALLY NO PUBLIC MORALITY,' CATHOLIC BISHOP WRITES", Wisconsin State Journal, pp. Front page, archived from the original on April 11, 2013
  5. ^ a b Hanneman, Joseph M. (November 24, 2018). "Bishop Robert C. Morlino dead at age 71 (Updated)". The Catholic World Report. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  6. ^ Rickert, Chris; Schultz, Rob (November 26, 2018). "Catholics express mixed feelings as they mourn Bishop Robert Morlino". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  7. ^ Erickson, Doug. "Center that Serves Poor Closing its Doors Today, Budget Cuts Hit Catholic Diocese, and the People it Serves SERVES". Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Erickson, Doug. "A Lifeline for the Catholic Center Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish Gets Permission from Diocese to Lead a Fundraising Drive, But Reopening Could Take Monts". Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  9. ^ "Statement on Bishop Robert C. Morlino's Health". Catholic Herald. Diocese of Madison. November 23, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  10. ^ Rousselle, Christine (November 25, 2018). "Bishop Morlino of Madison dies at age 71". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  11. ^ Duin, Julia (September 10, 2008). "Wisconsin bishop joins critics of Biden, Pelosi". The Washington Times. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  12. ^ Hauer, Annysa Johnson and Sarah. "Petition asks pope to remove Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison for his views on gay Catholics". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  13. ^ "The scandal may be in not holding funerals for gay spouses, theologians say". National Catholic Reporter. January 16, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  14. ^ "Following gay funeral guidance, online petition seeks to oust Catholic bishop". NBC News. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Morlino, Robert C. (August 18, 2018). "Bishop Robert C. Morlino's letter to the faithful regarding the ongoing sexual abuse crisis in the Church". Catholic Herald. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
  16. ^ Roewe, Brian (August 21, 2018). "Bishop Morlino, others charge 'homosexual subculture' for clergy abuse crisis". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  17. ^ a b Novak, Bill; Schultz, Rob (August 21, 2018). "Bishop Robert Morlino blames 'homosexual subculture' for sexual abuse scandal". La Crosse Tribune. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  18. ^ "Madison's Morlino noted for othodoxy, controversy". March 18, 2009.
  19. ^ Morlino, Bishop Robert C. "Clarifying the fairness issue".
  20. ^, MIKE IVEY | The Capital Times |. "Milwaukee archbishop backs unions". Retrieved June 29, 2020.

External linksEdit

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
William Henry Bullock
Bishop of Madison
Succeeded by
Donald J. Hying
Preceded by
Alexander Joseph Brunett
Bishop of Helena
Succeeded by
George Leo Thomas