The decision was not a difficult one for Frank McMahon, although he said it was one he thought he would never have to make.
As a prerecorded message from Bishop Robert Morlino began playing during Saturday’s Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Madison, McMahon, 70, a lifelong Catholic, quietly but purposefully strode to an exit.
"I could have stayed in there and pretended I was soaking it up, but why be a hypocrite?" said McMahon, as he waited out the 14-minute message from Morlino by gazing at a quilt hanging in the church vestibule.
A handful of other parishioners also walked out, unwilling to hear Morlino’s opposition to three controversial issues – same-sex marriage, the death penalty and embryonic stem-cell research. One read the Bible. One prayed. One dabbed at tears.
Join The Forum
It was an odd and difficult weekend, many Catholics said. While they are no strangers to the complexities of church issues, this was a new development in negotiating the tricky intersection of personal faith, religious doctrine and electoral politics, they said.
Morlino, bishop for 270,000 Catholics in the 11-county Madison diocese, had ordered all parishes to play his strongly worded audio message on Nov. 4 and 5, just days before an election in which all three hot-button topics will be on the state ballot, either directly or indirectly.
It is rather sad that they have not heard a previous message before Bishop Morlino’s tape. As if what the Church teaches has been a secret that was just released. Though maybe that is rather accurate in some parishes. Does walking out before the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass fulfill your Sunday obligation? If not what a great way to make a political point by committing a grave sin.
This is how some of the priests introduced the Bishop’s tape.
" As most of you have heard by now, I have been ordered to play this." Another said he was "required" to play it.
At Holy Mother of Consolation Church in Oregon, the Rev. Bill Connell admitted he wasn’t supposed to say anything about the taped message from Morlino but couldn’t help himself. Looking a bit ragged, Connell confessed he hadn’t slept for two nights, worrying about what parishioners might do or say upon hearing the tape.
Loosing sleep over how parishioners would react to Church teaching? Seems to me he should be losing sleep over the bad catechesis at his parish. The article though at least printed the positive reaction from some people.
Jennifer Milas, 54, a member of St. Ignatius, said she fully supports the bishop and was glad that he ordered the tape to be played.
"I think a lot of people hadn’t talked about their beliefs much," she said. "This really brought it to people’s minds."
Milas said she will be voting in favor of the ban on gay marriage and civil unions Tuesday. As for those who walked out of services or protested in other ways, "I just pray that they’ll have a stronger faith," she said. "I don’t condemn them. I pray for them."
The only thing I would quibble with the good bishop on is his statement on "standing against the death penalty." Mixing things that are intrinsically evil with something requiring prudential judgment only muddle what the Church teaches. For the record I believe that the death penalty should be severely limited, but opposition should be framed in what the Church teaches and not on subject that then-Cardinal Ratzinger said could entail a "legitimate diversity of opinion" among Catholics. Though in this case Bishop Morlino is probably referring to voting in support of a non-binding resolution concerning the death penalty and somebody convicted with first degree murder.