City News

Thousands sign petition to remove Madison bishop for ‘hateful behavior’ toward LGBTQ community

Bishop Robert Morlino came under fire last week after the Madison Catholic Diocese sent an email encouraging priests to think “thoroughly and prudently” about whether gay parishioners are eligible for funeral services.

A petition to remove the leader of Madison’s Catholic community — who last week emailed local priests a list of “considerations” to use when deciding whether or not gay individuals are eligible to receive funeral services — has received thousands of signatures since it started circulating Thursday.

More than 4,000 individuals had signed the petition as of Sunday evening, calling on Pope Francis to remove Bishop Robert Morlino, who heads the Madison Catholic Diocese.

“Bishop Morlino’s 14 year pattern and practice of abusing his power through hateful behavior has no place in Madison, WI let alone the Catholic church,” the petition says.

A progressive religious blog based in Minnesota published last Sunday parts of a leaked email written by James Bartylla — vicar general of the Madison Catholic Diocese — prompting backlash from members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The email urges priests, in underlined text, to think through funeral requests “thoroughly and prudently,” as well as to reach out to officers of the church to discuss it, before reaching a decision about whether to provide funeral services to gay parishioners.

The list of considerations includes:

  • “Was the deceased or the ‘partner’ a promoter of the ‘gay’ lifestyle?”
  • “What is the attitude of the deceased’s family members, especially towards the Church?”
  • “Any surviving ‘partner’ should not have any public or prominent role at any ecclesiastical funeral rite or service.”

“It is apparent that Bishop Morlino does not have the love in his heart nor the strength of character to stop his hate-filled fixation on the intimate lives of consensual and committed adults,” the petition says.

While the guidelines are not an official policy for the local Catholic community, “they conform with the mind” of Morlino and he approves of them, Diocese of Madison spokesperson Brent M. King wrote in a statement to Channel 27 News.

“No such policy could adequately cover every case,” King wrote, adding that the leaked email was sent in response to questions from priests.

King also condemned those who publicized the email.

“Those who place at risk the ability of the bishop to communicate with his priests confidentially do a grave harm to the Church and perform, indeed, what Sacred Scripture calls ‘a work of darkness,’” King wrote. 

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