On Aug. 18, the day of the Outreach Pride Parade in Madison, Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison released a statement in response to a grand jury report from Pennsylvania that contained detailed reports on over 300 priests who sexually abused children. Morlino responded, “What the church needs now is more hatred.”
In his five-page statement, Bishop Morlino condemns homosexuality, saying, “the decision to act upon this disordered inclination is a sin so grave that it cries out to heaven for vengeance.” Morlino equates homosexuality with pedophilia, citing a “homosexual subculture” within the clergy as responsible for clergy sex crimes. Never once in his statement does Morlino mention the girls and women who were victims of clergy sex abuse. He urges victims to report clergy sex crimes to law enforcement, but he does not offer an apology to the victims of child sex abuse who suffered at the hands of clergy within the Diocese of Madison, an organization he has led since 2003.
According to Bishop Accountability, at least 11 priests within the Diocese of Madison have been accused of child sex abuse. Only one, Father William Nolan, was arrested. Father Gerald Vosen, who was placed on leave after allegations of sex abuse emerged in 2002 and 2003, filed a defamation suit against a victim of abuse. Father Nolan testified for the prosecution in the defamation trial claiming there was “little or no opportunity” for a priest to assault a child because of how busy the church was. Staff and parishioners attended the trial in support of Father Vosen, attempting to characterize him as gentle and friendly. In 2007, the church tribunal found Vosen guilty of two counts of sexual misconduct with children under the age of 16.
Bishop Morlino’s statement is incredibly offensive and dangerous to the LGBTQIA+ community. By condemning homosexuality and ignoring his own role in the coverup of the clergy sex abuse scandal, Morlino attempts to shift the blame on an already-marginalized community and away from himself and countless church officials who, when confronted with abuse allegations, chose not to inform law enforcement, parishioners, and the communities they serve about priests who were sexually abusing children.
Bishop Morlino owes the LGBTQIA+ community an apology. Morlino can add his name to those "calling for real and sustained reform," but victims in Wisconsin have not witnessed behavior within the Diocese of Madison that suggests he is willing to champion this reform within his own organization.
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