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Dunmore Native, Wis. Bishop Died From Apparent Heart Attack

November 26, 2018

Dunmore Native, Wis. Bishop Died From Apparent Heart Attack

The last time the Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino visited his Dunmore roots, he put a lot of miles on Chris DiMattio’s car. “I’d always give him my car. … He did a lot of visiting that year,” DiMattio said, remembering the Madison, Wisconsin, bishop’s homecoming in 2017. “He said, ‘Well, you never know when you’re not going to come back.’ ” Morlino died Saturday night from an apparent heart attack while undergoing medical tests at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. He was 71. During a 20-minute phone interview, DiMattio constructed a portrait of a spiritual leader whom he’d known since he was an 8-year-old altar boy. Morlino often returned to celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton during La Festa Italiana, the city’s biggest street festival, held every Labor Day weekend. DiMattio is La Festa’s board president. Morlino officiated DiMattio’s wedding, and the DiMattios named their youngest son after the bishop. “He was just brilliant,” he said. “He would be a blessing to an individual who had absolutely nothing … to the most powerful people in the world.” Morlino was an only child of the late Charles A. and Albertina Dudar Morlino. Both his parents died young. His grandmother, Mary Morlino, who was his last remaining relative, died in 1993 at the age of 96. His parents and grandmother are buried at St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow. He graduated from Scranton Preparatory School in 1964. He was trained as a Jesuit at Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus and ordained to the priesthood in 1974. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Fordham University; a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame; a Master of Divinity degree from Weston School of Theology in Massachusetts; and a doctorate in moral theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. He served as a priest in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan, until Pope John Paul II appointed him to be bishop of Helena, Montana, in 1999. He was appointed as the fourth bishop of Madison in 2003. The Diocese of Madison applauded Morlino’s devotion to bringing up young men as church leaders. He ordained 40 to the priesthood. Morlino vigorously defended the Church’s position against abortion and same-sex marriage, which often put him in the crosshairs of Midwest progressives. For more than a decade, he spoke out against clergy accused of committing sexual abuse, a personal conviction that undoubtedly grew heavier this year as waves of news revealed decades of abuse and cover-up schemes in Pennsylvania — with some of the most sordid incidents happening around his hometown. “I just think he lost his fight,” DiMattio said. “He was well documented as being very critical of his fellow bishops and priests and hierarchy throughout the world. … I think a lot of that just got to him.” The bishop built his ministry in the Midwest as his ties to Dunmore diminished. Still, he reached for them. DiMattio joked that, like him, Morlino spoke with a Dunmore cadence that the untrained ear might mistakenly take for a New Jersey accent. “He would call me quite often, he would say, ‘I just needed to hear your voice. I needed somebody to bring me back to my roots,’ ” DiMattio said. Contact the writer: joconnell@timesshamrock.com 570-348-9131; @jon_oc

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