The Deacon's Bench

Some interesting developments in Wisconsin are leading to a conflict between parishioners and their bishop — and it’s having a financial impact:

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Platteville, stung by a plunge in donations following the arrival of three controversial priests, has issued an urgent plea for money to keep its parochial school open.

The 75-year-old St. Mary’s Catholic School is subsidized by the church, which has seen weekly donations fall more than 50 percent in four months, said Myron Tranel, chairman of the church’s finance council.

The school, with 106 K-8 students, has enough money to operate until at least January but needs an additional $200,000 to keep the facility open through the end of the school year, he said.

The financial crisis coincides with Madison Bishop Robert Morlino’s decision in June to bring in three priests from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest to lead the parish. The group is based in Spain and known for traditionalist liturgy and devotion to orthodox Catholic teaching.

Changes the priests have made, including barring girls from being altar servers, led to a petition last month signed by 469 of the church’s approximately 1,200 members asking Morlino to immediately remove the priests. In a response letter to the parish last week, Morlino said the priests have his full support and will stay. He chastised parishioners for conduct he called “gravely sinful.”

“It grieves me to acknowledge that the reputation of three happy, holy and hardworking priests has been seriously tarnished by rumor, gossip and calumny — lying with the intent to damage another’s good name — by some within the parish community,” Morlino wrote in the letter, a copy of which the diocese provided the State Journal.

Read more.

UPDATE: A reader has alerted me to this: the letter from the bishop is now online. Take a look.

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