Robert Charles Morlino (born December 31, 1946) is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who currently serves as the Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. Morlino was previously bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Montana.
An only child, Robert Morlino was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Charles and Albertina Morlino. He is of part Polish descent. His father died while he was attending Scranton Preparatory School, and he was primarily raised by his mother and grandmother. He then studied at the seminary for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, and at Fordham University in New York, from where Morlino obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in 1969.
He earned a Master’s in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970, and a Master’s in Theology from Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Morlino was ordained to the priesthood on June 1, 1974, and then taught at Loyola College in Maryland, St. Joseph’s University, Boston College, Notre Dame University, and St. Mary’s College. He also served as an instructor in continuing education for priests, religious, and laity, as well as director of parish renewal programs. His mother died in 1980.
On October 26, 1983, he was incardinated into the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Morlino there served as Episcopal Vicar for Spiritual Development, Executive Assistant and Theological Consultant to Bishop Alfred Markiewicz, Moderator of the Curia, and Promoter of Justice in the diocesan tribunal.
In 1990, he earned a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and became a theology professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, where he expected to spend his life prior to his promotion to a bishop. He was also named rector of St. Augustine Cathedral in 1991.
On July 6, 1999, Morlino was appointed the ninth Bishop of Helena, Montana, by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 21 from Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo Higuera, with Archbishop John Vlazny and Bishop Paul Donovan serving as co-consecrators. He selected as his episcopal motto: Visus Non Mentietur, meaning, “The Vision Will Not Disappoint” ().
Morlino was later named the fourth Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, on May 23, 2003. He was formally installed on August 1 of that year.
In 2004 he publicly expressed a traditional conservative religious criticism of the city’s apparent lack of a moral compass, claiming that it existed below a religious “moral minimum” and that the city had “virtually no public morality.” He specifically cited the popularity of the city’s acclaimed StageQ community theater company, a gay and lesbian theater troupe, as evidence of this view.
One of the larger challenges for Morlino and the Diocese was the loss of the Cathedral parish when a fire severely damaged St. Raphael’s Cathedral in March 2005. Morlino then had to determine whether to rebuild the Cathedral on its current site, or build a new Cathedral elsewhere in Madison. In June 2007 Morlino announced that St. Raphael’s would be rebuilt on its current site, reusing the steeple and other items from the previous building.
He is the past chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Diaconate and Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Issues and the Church meat cuber tenderizer, both within the structure of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In May 2009, Morlino made a sudden announcement that the Catholic Multicultural Center – a building that fed, educated and supported many on Madison’s south side – would close in two days as part of widespread Diocesan budget cuts. The reopening of the Center under direct parish administration was announced one week later.
During the 2008 presidential election, Morlino criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Joe Biden for their remarks regarding abortion on Meet the Press. Rebuking the two pro-choice politicians “because they claim to be Catholic”, the Bishop accused Pelosi and Biden of “violating the separation of church and state” and “stepping on the pope’s turf and mine.”
In March 2009, Morlino dismissed Ruth Kolpack from her post as a pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Beloit, citing breaches of orthodoxy meat mallet substitute. In a brief meeting with Kolpack, the Bishop asked her for an oath of loyalty and to denounce her 2003 thesis, which advocated women’s ordination in the Church and inclusive language relating to God. He dismissed her after she agreed to the oath but refused to denounce her thesis.
When the Wisconsin Legislature was considering a budget proposal which would curtail the rights of public employees (later enacted), the bishop distanced himself from the other Wisconsin bishops, writing “The question to which the dilemma boils down is rather simple on its face: is the sacrifice which union members, including school teachers, are called upon to make, proportionate to the relative sacrifice called for from all in difficult economic times? In other words, is the sacrifice fair in the overall context of our present situation?” Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki had issued a statement calling for Wisconsin legislators to abide by a “moral obligation” to fully consider the “legitimate rights” of public employees.