Bishop Robert C. Morlino
Thursday, February 16 -- Sunday, February 26, 2006
Apostolic Visitation of Seminaries, American College of the Immaculate Conception Catholic University of Louvain, Louvain, Belgium
Cathedral Church: Reflections on meaning, future
First in a series of three.
As I begin a series of three columns wherein I seek to reflect about the meaning of the Cathedral Church of the Diocese and our future, I want to repeat at the beginning of each of these columns that familiar dictum: In what is necessary unity, where there is freedom diversity, and in all things charity.
In the light of the wonderful first encyclical of Pope Benedict, you and I need to rededicate ourselves to a process for discerning what will be the future of our Cathedral Church that is, above all, characterized by charity. We need, as I have previously written, to practice the virtue of forbearance, placing the best possible interpretation on what one another say and do, and certainly avoiding placing the worst possible interpretation upon the words or actions of one other. Above all I want to proceed in charity, and I want to make it abundantly clear that I have not made any final decision with regard to the future of the Cathedral.
What I precisely wish to do in these three columns is to let you know what some of my thoughts are in a very honest way so that you can respond to me and help me to make my final decision. It will become very clear "where I am at" at the moment but I needn't at all stay there, and I want to assure you that I can be persuaded otherwise and that is the reason for this series of columns.
To accompany these columns, I will have other small group consultations, in addition to town hall meetings in the various areas of the diocese, so that everyone has his or her opportunity to speak. The names of the newly formed Diocesan Pastoral Council were recently published and I would encourage you, if that is your bent, or if you are not able to attend a town hall meeting, to communicate your thoughts, ideas, and hopes to any member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. And, of course, the priests in our gatherings of every other month will be given abundant opportunity to speak, and I invite my brother priests also to communicate with me through their Priests' Council.
Interface between faith, culture
In this first of columns I wish to speak about the interface of the City of God and the City of Man. Madison is a unique city (I really do love living downtown) and Madison is very much alive. It is alive with every conceivable diversity of idea, opinion, hope and vision for the future. Very importantly, the city of Madison is alive with the presence of the University of Wisconsin, which is a world-class institution academically, and with the
presence of the state government institutions which exercise a significant influence at the national level. What will Madison be like fifty or a hundred years from now? From my point of view, this is one of the main issues that we all must reflect upon as we think to the future of the Cathedral Church.
Pope Benedict just spoke about the relationship between Church and State, between religion and civil society in his first encyclical. It is clear that faith must purify reason and culture and for that to happen there must be the proper interface between faith and the culture at the local level. It is hard for me to imagine that the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Madison would not be downtown so that the proper interface and dialogue occur, both really and symbolically.
We believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in the tabernacle in a way that he is not present in a beautiful, natural setting by a Wisconsin lake, for example. Sacraments are concrete, physical, and visible. The Church herself, the communion of the People of God, is a "sacrament." The Church is territorial, divided into dioceses. The Diocese of Madison is made visible in a very special and unique way by the Cathedral Church.
The faith of the local Church should interface with the local culture in a very visible and physical way. If faith is to really seek to purify the culture and if the interface between faith and culture is to be concrete, real, physical, and visible, then I honestly cannot imagine that our Cathedral Church of the future would not be located downtown.
Cathedral Church a necessity
Let me go back to a clear presupposition: There must be a Cathedral Church. Whether an existing parish church is designated the Cathedral or whether a new Cathedral is built, it is not optional that there be no Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Madison. It is a very serious responsibility given to me to provide that there be a Cathedral. How I do that depends very much on our further reflection, prayer, and consultation.
I would have to be persuaded, and I am very open to being persuaded, that for very serious reasons the Cathedral Church not be located in downtown Madison. In a recent column in this Catholic Herald, perhaps a misleading interpretation was given unintentionally to something that I had said. As I was dialoguing with my new Diocesan Pastoral Council, I made the observation that some among us think that the Cathedral is just another parish where the Bishop is frequently around.
I want to make it clear that I don't think of any of my parishes as "just another parish." But I know from many conversations that many of our people see the Cathedral in this way. Thus, they conclude if we need a new parish in the area southwest of Madison, or if we need another parish in the area northeast of Madison, then let's put the church there and call it the Cathedral.
This is a well intentioned suggestion and even a reasonable one from certain points of view. But it fails to take account of the necessity of the interface of the City of God with the City of Man through the presence of the Cathedral Church in downtown Madison. So in this first column I offer these observations to you, not as a statement of any conclusion or decision on my part, but as I said, as a statement of "where I'm at" at the moment. I can be
persuaded otherwise. If God's will includes a Cathedral for the Diocese of Madison other than in the downtown area, I surely want to conform to His will and I would need to hear the arguments that would point us in that direction.
Begin prayer and reflection
So please begin your own prayer and reflection about this matter and please communicate with me by mail, through the members of the Priests' Council, through the members of the
Diocesan Pastoral Council, or through your participation in one of the town hall meetings which will be scheduled in the days ahead.
For many reasons we are not going to be able to move quickly in this regard and so we have time to think and to pray. Please join with me, above all, in charity.
Thank you for reading this. God bless you and all of your loved ones. Praised be Jesus Christ!
Bishop Robert C. Morlino has approved the following:
Roman Catholics in the Diocese of Madison are dispensed from the Lenten regulation to abstain from meat on St. Patrick's Day, Friday, March 17, 2006. Those who avail themselves of this dispensation are asked to perform another form of penance such as acts of charity, prayer, or almsgiving on or near the date of March 17.