These days as we move closer to Christmas, Robert Morlino, former Jesuit and Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, is acting more and more like a theological Ebenezer Scrooge.
Two Madison women religious who lead an interfaith spirituality center, Wisdom’s Well, have been banned by Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino. They and two other women connected with Wisdom’s Well are forbidden to hold workshops or provide spiritual direction at any Catholic church in the 11-county diocese.
According to a memo sent to Madison priests, on behalf of Morlino, Sisters Maureen McDonnell and Lynn Lisbeth, both Sinsinawa Dominicans, have diverged too far from Catholic teaching.
The memo says Bishop Morlino has “grave concerns” about the women’s teachings, specifically that they “espouse certain views” flowing from such movements as “New Ageism” and “indifferentism.” More specifically the memo states that Sisters McDonnell and Lisbeth as well as is Beth O’Brien, a married mother of two and Wisdom’s Well staff member and Paula Hirschboeck, a philosophy professor at Edgewood College in Madison, who helped found Wisdom’s Well: “are not to be invited or allowed to preach, catechize, lead spiritual or prayer instructions or exercises, or to provide spiritual direction or guidance at churches, oratories or chapels within the Diocese of Madison.” No publicity materials from Wisdom’s Well are to be allowed inside parishes.
Wisdom’s Well, founded in Madison in 2006, offers workshops and retreats on topics such as nonviolence, contemplative living and Christian meditation. The center’s website says it “serves to support those who desire to grow spiritually, seek inner wisdom, and yearn for a transformative spirituality.” Its mission statement says the center is “grounded in the Christian tradition, while embracing the wisdom found in other religious traditions.”
The Madison Diocese memo does not give specific examples of things the women may have said that violate church teaching. Rather, the memo references problematic statements on the center’s website, including that the sisters embrace “the wisdom found in other religious traditions.” So much for transparency and justice in the church.
When it comes to diverging from Catholic teaching, I have “grave concerns” about Bishop Morlino. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). For decades SOA has trained military officers from Latin America. Former SOA trained officers have been found guilty of thousands of political killings, including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador.O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.