The highest-ranking Catholic official in Wisconsin has spoken, emphatically. On the recommendation of St. Mary School officials, Bishop Robert C. Morlino has approved the closure of the Platteville school at the end the current school year. Morlino sent a five-page letter to parishioners outlining his thoughts on the matter. He informed Fr. Faustino Ruiz, St. Mary Parish priest of his final decision on Wednesday evening, April 25.
"I deeply lament the closing of St. Mary's Catholic School," wrote Morlino. "There are a good number of parents who, in their responsibility for forming their children, have relied upon the generosity of the parish community and the goodness of their Catholic sisters and brothers, to assist them by way of a Catholic school. These Catholic parents, their children, and those to come after them, suffer tremendously because of this. Your whole community suffers. I suffer with you."
Morlino indicated his assistance to the school throughout the previous months including emergency finances for the school until the close of this school year, as well as weekly prayers and fasting.
As extensively reported, the finances of the school and the parish began to decline, along with school enrollment shortly after the replacement of Fr. Charles Schluter with priests from the conservative Society of Jesus Christ the Priest. "It has been said that the only solution for saving the parish school would be for me to remove Fr. Faustino Ruiz and Fr. John Del Priore," wrote Morlino. "This would, I have been told by many people, ransom the school from those who are protesting and return giving to its previous level. I'll not get into the previous financial condition of the school here, and there is certainly something to be said for the lack of monetary support coming from the parish community. But, as evidenced by the very fact of this situation of protest and refusal to support the needs of the church, the deficit at St. Mary and St. Augustine parishes is of a much greater kind."
Morlino was confident that the Catholic faith is being taught in Platteville according to the proper understanding of the Second Vatican Council, "and that what remains are personal likes and dislikes, along with inflated rumors and gossip, some of which may even rise to the level of calumnious inciting of hatred of your priests, the faith, and myself. For these likes and dislikes, gossip, and hurt feelings, the Catholic faith is rejected and a school is closed."
Morlino noted that if the behavior within the parish continues, Canonical warnings may be issued. In the letter, Morlino included a variety of texts parishioners were asked to reflect on prayerfully.
In conclusion, Morlino explained the priests will not be "fired." "Thus, the priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest will remain in priestly ministry at St. Mary and St. Augustine parishes in Platteville, and they stand to serve you and to seek stability, understanding, and healing."