And the Meek Shall Inherit

It is difficult to be a Catholic these days.

The sickening revelations of child abuse cases continue. Just last week the Irish government released a study identifying nearly four decades of systematic sexual, physical and emotional tortures of children at the hands of the ill-named Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy.

In Wisconsin, child rights activists renewed their condemnations of former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland and his actions after the rape of young boys at the St. John School for the Deaf by a priest in the '60s and '70s. Weakland's letters from that time show his concern for preserving the priest's "good name."

A priest rapes deaf boys and church management works to preserve his good name! Perfect. (If priests were allowed to marry and father children of their own, these moral issues would be much clearer to them.)

This is the same tortured Archbishop Weakland who later spent $450,000 of church money to buy the silence of his male lover.

Non-Catholics have come to expect these stories and have no problem chiding their Catholic friends about our unrelentingly dysfunctional religion. Former altar boys have to constantly answer their buddies on the golf course when queried if they were buggered.

Yup. It is tough being Catholic. Especially here in Godless Madison.

Our current Bishop makes it even more difficult.

Hardly a day goes by without Big Bob Morlino playing the old school, autocratic hand in dealing with the affairs of the Madison faithful.

This is the same arrogant hand that brought the Catholic Church to where it is today.

Whether it is a woman at St. Thomas the Apostle parish who dares ponder a church leadership that has lost its way, or the closing of a multicultural center that serves the Madison's needy in a manner that illustrates the best of the Catholic Church as a community force, Bob is there to act as the Patron Saint of Windy Bunglers.

One cannot help wonder what Bob is thinking.

Does he really consider the Church's stand on women as enlightened?

Is he not bothered at all by the hypocrisy of an institution that condemns homosexuality, while at the same time sending many, many gay men to the altar every day to say Mass?

Does he not see the efforts to rebuild a cathedral, while closing a multicultural community center, as more tone deaf than the drunk in the midnight choir?

But just when you think the Catholic Church can't possibly trip over itself again, there comes a good story. And one right out of Madison.

After the closing of the multicultural center was announced, Father Ken Fiedler (who is really a monsignor but prefers the more humble moniker of "Fr. Ken") and his social action director Michelle Horton (a woman) announced that Our Lady Queen of Peace parish would take on the expenses of the Catholic Multicultural Center.

This act is profound in its simplicity, courage and beauty.

Simple because it is a small group taking action that needs taking.

Courageous because it is a rebuff of misguided, arrogant leadership.

And beautiful because it will help those who most need it.

It tickles, too, as it is a subtle community rejection of the pompous from those of us raised Catholic who are no longer interested in kissing the ring.

If our current economic crisis illustrates anything, it is the End of the Era of Arrogance of institutions that view themselves as Too Big To Fail.

If the Catholic Church in America wants to avoid the fate of General Motors and be forced to declare a certain moral bankruptcy of its own, it could do worse than take a lesson from Madison's little south-side Parable of the Multicultural Center.

Where does a former altar boy send his check?

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Comments? Questions? Write john@jrpinc.com.

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