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Bishop Morlino Needs To Force Payment Of Property Taxes For Land In Downtown Madison

February 25, 2016

It is so unseemly when those who have the money to pay their fair share in taxes, as stipulated by law, continue to flaunt the law and think themselves above the rest of us who abide by the norms of society.   That is precisely what the Diocese of Madison continues to do regarding the land where St. Raphael Cathedral once stood.

Once again the pie-in-the sky desire for a huge and costly cathedral in downtown Madison runs counter to the places in the world where Catholic congregations are actually growing and where churches more likely will be constructed.  Maybe this diocese will need to think smaller and more pragmatically when it comes to housing Bishop Molino.  I am sure Morlino will not disagree with living more frugally for the good of the Church.

It is quite clear there is no red hat in Morlino’s future so long as Pope Francis has the power to weed out the weak links of the church.    So Morlino needs to adjust his thinking about lofty building plans on this plot of land.   As he comes to grips with that reality about his future in the church he should also come to understand the duty the diocese has to pay their tax bill.

The cathedral on West Main Street, a block from the state Capitol, burned down in 2005 and taxes on the $4 million property have been in dispute for years.

The parcel now contains a park-like display called “Way of the Cross,” commemorating Christ’s path to crucifixion, which the congregation installed to signal that the property still has a religious purpose. 

“That shows continued religious use,” said attorney Matthew Fleming, who’s representing the congregation. “It shows it’s continuing to still be held for the cathedral. But I also still believe that because the property continues to be held and reserved for the purpose of one day constructing a new cathedral for the Madison diocese, that that also provides additional grounds for continuing the exemption.”

The city disagrees.

“The question is, do they really use it for religious purposes, or did they put up some things and say, ‘This is now tax exempt because it has some religious symbols on it,’” said city attorney Mike May. “What do they do with the property as opposed to what they put on it? It’s not as if there’s a church there that they use on a regular basis.”

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