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As he came up the stairs, he immediately saw me in the event reception area.
His heavy breathing at the time didn’t seem as remarkable then as it does now.
He was smiling, as usual, with that characteristic gleam in his eye. It was like he had a great secret that he wanted to share, but couldn’t just yet.
I last saw His Excellency, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, WI, a month ago in Washington D.C. at a conference focused on authentic reform of the Church. He was a friend and mentor, and spiritual father for CV. He clasped my hands and asked how I was doing. “You’re doing important work,” he said. “Keep it up!”
Bishop Morlino died suddenly this past Saturday night after suffering a “cardiac event” the day before Thanksgiving. As his condition worsened late in the week, the Diocese of Madison asked for a miracle. And in the absence of a miracle, prayers for the grace of a happy death. The courageous bishop crossed the threshold of this world into the next Saturday evening, where we hope and pray he celebrated Sunday’s Feast of Christ the King in the presence of all the angels and saints in heaven.
References to a “bishop” these days is often met with frustration and derision. Our Church is suffering, and many of our shepherds have let us down. Bishop Morlino, however, was an exception.
In a powerful five-page letter released this past August to every Catholic in his diocese, he didn’t mince words: “It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord.”
He continued: “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. And do not pretend that grave violations of office and of trust come without grave, lasting consequences.”
And he encouraged us: “We must cast out sin from our own lives and run toward holiness. We must refuse to be silent in the face of sin and evil in our families and communities and we must demand from our pastors — myself included — that they themselves are striving day in and day out for holiness. We must do this always with loving respect for individuals, but with a clear understanding that true love can never exist without truth.”
During his time in Madison, he revived his seminary, marking a steady increase in the number of priestly vocations. He urged his parishes to return the tabernacle to the center of their churches, that Our Lord might be properly adored. And above all, he promoted reverence for the sacred liturgy. The Holy Eucharist was the source and summit of his ministry.
As Catholics in Madison gather this evening for a Requiem Mass, we join them in praying for the repose of his soul.
For his episcopal motto, Bishop Morlino selected the phrase “Visus Non Mentietur” taken from the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk (2:3). The latin phrase translated means "the vision will not disappoint.” In that same confidence, we too press on.