On Bishops as Culture Warriors. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

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Michael Sean Winters has a piece at Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) in which he attacks both Bp. Robert Morlino of Madison (and the undersigned). MSW doesn’t like clerics who are “culture warriors”, you see. The Fishwrappers claim that “culture warriors” are no longer flavor of the month. Ptui! The fact they are trying to distract you from is that they are fully engaged in the culture wars, but for the Enemy. By railing against conservative culture warriors, they are indulging in bullying.

In any event, NSR thinks that Pope Francis doesn’t want bishops (or priests) to be culture warriors. They are therefore emboldened to declare war.

MSW reacted to a piece at Real Clear Politics on Bp. Morlino, entitled “The Miracle of Madtown” (Madison… 77 square miles surrounded by reality) where we read of His Excellency:

When the good Bishop wakes up in the morning, he enters immediately into prayer “very aware that we’re in a culture war. I want the Lord to stir up the gifts of the Holy Spirit to fight the culture war.” But Pope Francis has encouraged Morlino to first “calmly and peacefully look Jesus in the eye and see what He’ll say. It makes a substantial difference for me.”

Be sure to read the whole Real Clear Politics piece.

Meanwhile, MSW of NSR:

Indeed, the replacement of Cardinal Burke with Cardinal Wuerl on the Congregation for Bishops certainly lays the groundwork for the selection of a different kind of bishop here in the United States. This morning, I read this article about Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, who says the pope’s example inspires him to double down on his efforts to fight the culture wars. Can we expect an exorcism at the cathedral in Madison sometime soon? [I sure hope so!] There was a time when such comments made one more likely to climb the career ladder within the Church. I suspect that time is now past. Wuerl is a true conservative, eschewing culture wars and exhibiting confidence in the gifts of the Spirit to lead the Church, adopting a more pastoral and less canonical and ideological approach to the task of ecclesial leadership. I would imagine he will promote candidates who share his approach. And not a moment too soon!

I have a note for them.

As Bp. Scicluna reported about a recent conversation with Pope Francis:

“We discussed many aspects,” said Bishop Scicluna. “And when I raised the issue that’s worrying me as a bishop [gay adoption], he encouraged me to speak out.”

If anyone is doubling down on his culture war it just might be Pope Francis. Certainly Pope Francis thinks that Malta’s Bishop Charles Scicluna should be a culture warrior, and a bold one.

Think about this. Pope Francis tells Bp. Scicluna of Malta to double-down on the culture wars (which the NSR hasn’t reported yet). If MSW thinks that Pope Francis is looking for bishops that are NOT like Bp. Morlino, they had better click my link and buy some Mystic Monk Coffee!

Pope Francis told Scicluna to be a… wait for it… culture warrior.

It is likely that Francis is looking for men exactly like Bp. Morlino: men with spines who will stand up in their dioceses and teach the truth.

I tried to help NSR understand what Pope Francis is doing, but they just don’t get it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Robert of Rome says:

    Happy New Year, Father! If Michael Sean Winters didn’t exist, you’d have to invent him. How could he not see this post coming when he wrote his long, boring hit piece on Bishop Morlino? Especially the parallel between Bishop Morlino and Bishop Scicluna. Was he unaware of Pope Francis’s comments to Scicluna? Are they totally clueless over at the Fishwrap?

  2. steve jones says:

    One of the problems with the war as fought in the American theatre is that it tends to concentrate exclusively on sexual and reproductive ethics but carefully avoids economics issues. The American Catholic Church has found itself co-opted into all sorts of neo-liberal economic projects of questionable morality scarcely raising its voice as politicans and bankers between them determined who was “too big to fail” and started wars willy nilly.

    It’s not clear that F1’s new approach will work but we needed a change of emphasis. The alliance with ‘conservative’ elements in America is not working and Obama to his credit has at least not launched a war against Iran which is surely to the common good.

  3. vetusta ecclesia says:

    Note the innuendo and guilt by association in the bit about careerism.

  4. jpii_rox says:

    “Can we expect an exorcism at the cathedral in Madison sometime soon? [I sure hope so!]”

    Right, but it would be nice for them to have a physical Cathedral first…

  5. ClavesCoelorum says:

    Happy New Year everyone! :)

    May I note an observation: I have noticed an interesting choice of liturgical vestments among Bishops of different areas, compared to our German Bishops here. The above images are perfect examples. Of course, it’s not a representative study, but here goes: See Bishops Scicluna and Morlino above. I see ornate Roman and Gothic chasubles, mitres and lace.

    Compare that to our German Bishops, of whom I present here a few images: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c5/Karl_kardinal_lehmann-2.jpg

    Again, it’s not representative, and there are exemptions such as Joachim Cardinal Meisner (since the Archdiocese of Cologne… well, it’s Cologne) and Reinhard Cardinal Marx, but those are about the only ones I can think of. When I think of our Episcopacy here, I see modern stoles. ;)

    Has anyone ever thought the same? Am I wrong when I imagine American Bishops in “proper” (sorry for the bias) vestments as the norm, like Cardinal Burke or Bishop Morlino? Might there be reasons?

  6. Legisperitus says:

    We should recall a bit of Catholic “just war” doctrine for a moment and apply it to “culture wars.” One of the criteria for a just war is that it be fought for defense, not in aggression.

    These Bishops are defending their culture against unjust aggressors. They are not the aggressors themselves, as is subtly implied by the media figures who label them “culture warriors” as if they were leading some demented, quixotic crusade against a tranquil and settled social order.

  7. robtbrown says:


    It seems that not a few of their undercover agents are members of our army.

  8. Suzanne Carl says:

    You are definitely correct that the vestments are part of the message. I’ve been helping my nephew who will be ordained in June to choose vestments, mostly so that he is not forced into some of the more depressing options available in liberal parishes. He will wear semi-gothic chasubles with a St. Andew’s cross for the ophrey, and will receive in the mix a black chasuble for funerals. (When his siter commented that she would prefer white for her funeral he said, “So I’ll say something during the homily like, “She was the holiest member of the family, but given our family that’s not saying much!”)

    When you see a bishop or a priest wearing traditional vestments, be sure to thank them. If you want to see what the real horrors created in vestments, go to http://badvestments.blogspot.com/

    May our Blessed Mother guide and protect all culture warriors, especially our priests and bishops. Happy New Year.

  9. Kerry says:

    If asked, what would MSW say is the goal of “the task of ecclesial leadership”? Was “Get behind me Satan!” an example of ecclesial leadership?

  10. Elizabeth D says:

    “National Catholic Reporter” basically does not agree with the Church teaching morality in certain matters. Morality itself, in that way of thinking, must be adjusted to accept what people actually do, without reference to an absolute standard of what is good. Ultimately this way of thinking, carried to its logical conclusions, is simply atheistic. It is not benevolent–though it claims to be the gold standard of compassion. But this modernist and relativist way of thinking denigrates and abandons the greater good of Divine Mercy, which is to say this is detracts from the real worth of the poor and tender Infant Lord, the Crucified Lord, the Risen Lord. Because of the Divine Mercy, Catholic Christians are not afraid to acknowledge themselves as sinners. “O happy fault!”: the progressives who want to hide the moral truth and are antagonistic toward canon law and basically are in a quiet or not-so-quiet rebellion against the guidance God gives through the Church, cannot say this and cannot rejoice in Jesus Christ as do those who accept the Gospel fully and the whole drama and love affair of sinful humanity and the holiness and salvation our Maker wills for us.

    Bishop Morlino is my bishop and nothing is more absurd than to suggest his proclamation of difficult teachings is disproportionate. It is hardly enough. There is always room for a better and more accessible presentation that reaches people where they are at, and I appreciate Pope Francis making that kind of emphasis, but this also has limits because many reject the message even when they hear an adequate presentation of it, which is not a reason for refusing to do the work of mercy of teaching and preaching. The whole truth needs proclamation and the truth about doing good for the poor is utterly integral with what are considered “culture war” matters.

    I am a member of the Cathedral Parish in Madison. I definitely think we should have a diocesan exorcist if the right priest of great prudence and holiness and with enough time for this ministry can be found. There are definitely circumstances that suggest a public exorcism service, such as Bishop Paprocki in IL prayed recently when the demonic “same sex marriage” bill was signed in his state, with support of various prominent officials who claim to be Catholic. That there is a spiritual war raging is clear enough, and that the devil wants people to think this is not so, to roll over and go back to sleep and disbelieve that there is such a thing as evil, that hell is real, is also clear enough.

    What kind of wickedness is it to propose that opposing grave sin is “ideological”?

  11. AA Cunningham says:

    “It seems that not a few of their undercover agents are members of our army.” robtbrown

    AKA sappers in the wire.

    “Wuerl is a true conservative(sic)” MSW

    How fishwrappian to redefine the definition of words.

    The treatment of Father Marcel Guarnizo is a prime example of yet another MSW lie.

  12. Clinton says:

    Silly Fishwrap. Don’t they remember how they complained about Cardinal Wuerl
    being a Culture Warrior?

    Almost thirty years ago, Pope John Paul II appointed Wuerl Coadjutor Bishop to Archbishop
    Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle. The Archbishop had long been the sort of prelate the
    Fishwrap loves, and his –*ahem*– ‘pastoral’ and less canonical approach to ecclesial
    leadership attracted the baleful eye of Sauron. +Hunthausen was relieved of some of his
    episcopal responsibilities, which Rome assigned to his Coadjutor. The Fishwrap threw
    a nutty, claiming the Archbishop had been “Wuerled” by Rome.

    So, with Cardinal Wuerl, the Fishwrap was against him before they were for him, and
    I imagine they’ll be against him again before it’s all over. Really, one needs a scorecard to
    keep up…

  13. Jackie L says:

    I take the replacement of Cardinal Burke with Cardinal Wuerl on the Congregation for Bishops as a signal that we are very likely to get bishops less inclined to engage the culture wars.

  14. Hughie says:

    Yer man says: “the replacement of Cardinal Burke with Cardinal Wuerl on the Congregation for Bishops…” I trust you will not mind my making a wee point here. Cardinal Wuerl was appointed a member of the Congregation for Bishops. He was NOT appointed a member of the Congregation for Bishops as a direct replacement for Cardinal Burke!!!

    Too much is being made of Cardinal Burke’s tenure as a member of the Congregation for Bishops being brought to an end. There is no reason to believe that this anticipates his removal from the Signatura. It is well known that immediately after his election Pope Francis reappointed all superiors of all dicasteries “donec aliter provideatur”, that is pending any future possible arrangements be made, in effect until further notice. What was less well known, until Archbishop Becciu, the sostituto, gave an interview to L’Osservatore Romano at the start of May, was that the operation of the “quinquennium” had been suspended. I can’t remember off the top of my head when Cardinal Burke was appointed (and don’t have an Annuario to hand) but feel sure it must be as near five years as not.

  15. Supertradmum says:

    May I list other culture warriors who were bishops?

    Oliver Plunkett
    John Fisher
    Charles Borromeo
    Robert Bellarmine
    Nicholas of Myrna
    Eugene de Mazenod
    Pope Pius VI, who died imprisoned by the seculars
    Archbishop Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho

    Father Z, you are in good company.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  16. friarpark says:

    I so wish that the good Bishops diocese extended another 20 miles or so to the east. I would love to have those priests serve my local parish!!!

  17. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z., I am such a kid about getting a gold star. “The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

  18. Suburbanbanshee says:

    1. You can’t assume that anybody in the Left’s media is unaware of Pope Francis’ non-leftie doings. They are good at ignoring or respinning any action or quote they don’t like, although of course it’s easier on their consciences if they just remain totally oblivious to anything that doesn’t agree with their take on life. Don’t assume ignorance.

    2. If religion isn’t supposed to talk about personal or cultural behavior, what the heck is it supposed to talk about? Things done by computers for the sake of lifeless asteroids or mindless jungles?

  19. Elizabeth D says:

    I only ever got a gold star one time and I took a screencap of it. LOL. Fortunately for those of us who are not clever, life is not about being clever. The Lord maketh Grace to fall on the clever and the unintelligent alike alike and He giveth gold halos to whom He pleaseth. Rorate coeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum.

  20. e.davison49 says:

    That photo is PERFECT!

    Liberals are sooooo outgunned.

  21. OrthodoxChick says:

    I guess Kumbaya is a one-way street.

  22. Elizabeth D says: I definitely think we should have a diocesan exorcist if the right priest of great prudence and holiness and with enough time for this ministry can be found.

    I thought every diocese did have an exorcist: its bishop. Since faculties to perform a solemn exorcism must come from the local bishop, and since you can’t give what you don’t have, doesn’t it stand to reason that every bishop is an exorcist? Why don’t bishops get out there and start using their authority? And if they don’t believe in the devil, or see the need to go on the offensive, then why don’t they abdicate, so that someone can take their place who does?

    What kind of wickedness is it to propose that opposing grave sin is “ideological”?

    Amen. I couldn’t have put that better myself.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    Anita, only 50% of the dioceses in the United States, and less in Europe have the appointed, trained exorcists who need to be appointed by the Bishop. Bishops do not have the time for weeks of fasting, prayer and penance to do an exorcism. The role of the Bishop is one of shepherding his priests, his laity and spreading the Gospel.

    Exorcism, as you know, use to be part of the minor orders confered on all priests until the dropping of the old minor orders. Even then, certain priests were “set aside” for the rigors of exorcism.

    Only priests can be appointed by the Bishop, who sometimes, rarely, but it is done, appoints certain lay people to aid a priest if there are no other options.

    I talked with the exorcist in the Westminster Diocese several years ago who told me he was so overwhelmed with requests, he could not keep up with them.

    He said people come up to him and beg him for release. We need more priest exorcists.

    I believe there is a trad order of exorcists in the works; rumor only.

  24. Robbie says:

    I stopped reading when that goofball called Wuerl a true conservative. Hah!

  25. lsclerkin says:

    Happy New Year, Father, and all.

    It sure stinks to be stuck perpetually in the’70s.

    And today, having assisted at Holy Mass, claimed the indulgence for the Holy Souls, spent more than an hour in the room with with Christ the King in adoration…
    Even the Fishwrap hysterics don’t phase me today.
    Stay warm folks!

  26. lsclerkin says:


  27. vandalia says:

    I really must wonder why you are giving the Reporter so much free publicity? Do you get a kickback from their online ad revenue?

  28. Bosco says:

    “If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou me?” John 18:23

  29. TNCath says:

    Shall we add a few more “contemporary” culture warriors?

    Pope Leo XIII
    Pope St. Pius X
    Pope Benedict XV
    Venerable Pope Pius XII
    Blessed Pope John XXIII
    Blessed Pope John Paul II
    Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

  30. TNCath says:

    P.S. And do we know if the Holy Father is Internet savvy? Is he appraised of what the press is saying about him, and who is appraising him? Archbishop Ganswein?

  31. lsclerkin says:



  32. Chuck Ludd says:

    The irony is that MSW is probably the most reasonable character at NCR other than John Allen.

    Father: I don’t think NCR is worth your time reading! (even when they criticize you). I think they may have more readers who oppose their views than support them. I wouldn’t be surprised if their sympathetic non-LCWR-member readership is under 100.

  33. benedetta says:

    It’s all very consistent with regime L’Obama that dictates that Catholics must be seen but not heard.

  34. Scott W. says:

    I really must wonder why you are giving the Reporter so much free publicity? Do you get a kickback from their online ad revenue?

    Respectfully, the “free publicity” objection is an old one and something of a red herring (we are our brother’s keeper after all. As far as the question about kickbacks, I’m going to assume you are joshing because no one, let alone Fr. Z should have to answer such a question.

  35. pmullane says:

    Winters mistake, of course, is that he puts the ‘trend’ above the ‘correct’. If his dreamland is a reality, and that the congregation for bishops is going to start churning out rainbow stoled sons of Roger Mahoney who jump on the bus with the nuns and stop saying things that the world doesnt like then….so what? The congregation for bishops has within its remit the power to be wrong. Should Bishop Morlino start changing his tune and doing what he thinks is wrong (or stop doing what he thinks is right) because there is a new captain at the helm? As Pope Francis said ‘It doesnt matter what is right, just do what you need to do to reach the next rung on the ladder, remember being a cleric is a career, not a vocation….’ Oh no wait a minute, the Pope has spoken against clerical careerism more clearly than any Pope in recent history. As any experienced priest can tell you the situation on the ground can change very quickly, either for you or against you. Keep doing what is right, dont worry, and trust God, he will put you where he needs you, whether that place is at the head of a curial dicastory or PP to Siberia (or nuncio to Iran).

    So whats Winters’ point? Faithful Catholics preach the gospel in season and out. Im no journalist, but sheesh, there is an editor at a supposedly Catholic paper who is really letting the side down.

  36. Mike says:

    First I’d like to ask the men who peacefully defended Argentina’s Cathedral of San Juan Bautista from a December 2013 desecration attempt to tell me whether there is a culture war going on.

    Then I’d like to ask MSW (on whose behalf, as well as on behalf of the Cathedral’s attackers and defenders, I offer a prayer to Our Lady) to look those brave men in the eye and justify the sexual and other assaults that were perpetrated on them.

  37. BLB Oregon says:

    Did the author ever read what our dear Holy Father preached when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires? Has this author forgotten about the rifts between the Archbishop and those who were advocating for gay marriage in Argentina? How about when he addressed the volunteers at World Youth Day in Brazil? This is what he said there:

    “…Some are called to holiness through family life in the sacrament of Marriage. Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of “enjoying” the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, “for ever”, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage “to swim against the tide”. And also have the courage to be happy…”

    Our Holy Father preaches the Gospel, and it is in the plain meaning of the Gospel that this will always be counter-cultural, that the world will oppose the teachings of God. Anyone who preaches a “gospel” of “fitting in” must have departed from that, and should not be listened to.

  38. dcs says:

    I can’t remember off the top of my head when Cardinal Burke was appointed (and don’t have an Annuario to hand) but feel sure it must be as near five years as not.

    October 17, 2009. So closer to four years than five.

  39. e.davison49 says:

    Winters of The Fishwrap has obliquely attack you again, while directly attacking Cardinal Burke and Bishop Morlino.

    He is claiming that everything in Evangelii gaudium, the document itself, is intended by Pope Francis to be part of the ordinary magisterium of the Popes.

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