This past Sunday, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, ordered pastors in all his parishes to play a recorded message regarding a “defense of marriage” amendment, embryonic stem-cell research, and the death penalty during Masses on the pain of obedience. The good bishop obviously knows his own priests and anticipated that many of them would not be sympathetic to efforts to prevent the diminution of marriage through the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. (The measure passed on Tuesday.)
Still, the reaction was quite illuminating. Some people got up from their pews and walked out, eschewing the Eucharist and the worship of God in order to hold fast to their flawed convictions. I’m sure there were plenty of others who weren’t even that principled, who stuck around despite thinking the bishop is wrong.
At Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Madison, which seats more than 250 parishioners, 27 people filed out of the 9 a.m. Sunday service as Morlino’s message began. Eleven more stood in silence for the duration of Morlino’s comments, their backs turned to the altar.
Ah yes, the old “back turned” protest. What this does is call more attention to the protester than to the protest. There was a time when such an act would result in the person being denied Communion if for nothing else then disrespect for the Real Presence of Christ. How much do you want to bet those people received Communion at that Mass? Evidently the religious formation of the children at the parish is lacking too: “One of those who walked out was Michael Ennis, 14, an eighth-grader who wore a white T-shirt with a message he had written on it in big, red letters earlier that morning that said, ‘A Fair, Christian Wisconsin Votes No.’” The reference is to the marriage amendment.
I’m curious about one thing. How widespread were the protests in reality? Is the newspaper report indicative of activity at most parishes or were the reporters tipped off to particular parishes where they were assured of seeing some action? If so, then the reporters were part of making the news, not just reporting it.
In any case, God bless Bishop Morlino for showing some episcopal backbone and doing the right thing.
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