How do Madison Catholic parishioners not laugh out loud when seeing Bishop Morlino?
The stories abound about his irksome personality, and near perfect ability to embarrass himself and the Catholic Church. If not trying to steer voters to cast ballots to reflect his own bigotry from the pulpit, he is trying to whitewash his involvement in the bloody School of the Americas. The school has different names, but the aim of military training that resulted in deaths in Central America from this school could not be missed by any sane person. Real men of God would call the school a sin, not sit on its board as Morlino did.
But now there is a new story in the Wisconsin State Journal that makes all the tittering and whispering in the pews start anew.
A fundraising firm hired by the Madison Catholic Diocese to gauge support for rebuilding St. Raphael Cathedral says Bishop Robert Morlino insisted the firm turn over confidential information gathered from surveys and interviews, including the names of priests who complained about Morlino.
The firm, Phoenix Fundraising Counsel of Madison, says it refused to disclose the confidential data on priests and parishioners and now can’t get the diocese to pay its bill.
It has sued the diocese in Dane County Circuit Court for payment of at least $350,000, which includes work on a feasibility study and a planned capital campaign.
The ongoing petulant behavior of Morlino does not cast a favorable light on the diocese, and makes one wonder if the light of God made it all the way to the center of this Bishop’s heart. I am sure that many of the local priests have an answer.
According to the lawsuit, Phoenix Fundraising surveyed 6,000 parishioners and interviewed 83 diocesan priests. In a letter last November that is part of the lawsuit, Morlino told parishioners “all responses will be considered confidential.”
Priests also were granted confidentiality, according to the lawsuit. This was especially critical so they “felt free to comment without fear of repercussion,” the lawsuit says. Many of these priests “expressed concerns that were later summarized, without identifying information, in a report” to Morlino.
John Richert, president of Phoenix Fundraising, contends in the lawsuit that when he met with Morlino March 7, the bishop wanted the firm to turn over all 6,000 surveys as well as information from the priest interviews.
“Bishop Morlino insisted on the disclosure of the confidential data, including the names of specific priests who had expressed concerns or registered complaints about Bishop Morlino during the survey process,” the lawsuit says. “Bishop Morlino was visibly agitated when Richert refused to turn over this confidential information.”
One diocesan priest interviewed Thursday by the State Journal said he was relieved the company honored the confidentiality pledge. The priest said he participated in the Phoenix survey.
“I really respect the company for that,” said the priest, who was granted anonymity by the State Journal because he said he feared negative fallout from Morlino. “This just seems unjust on so many levels. Beyond that, it’s just embarrassing.”
He said morale is low among priests and some parishioners are stunned by the lawsuit.
“I think they’re amazed that Morlino would risk this kind of bad publicity,” he said.