Bishop Calls Out Fr. Richard Heilman

News: US News
by Kristine Christlieb  •  •  July 23, 2022   

Diocesan statement says 'disciplinary action' confidential

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MADISON, Wis. ( - The bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, is firing a warning shot over the bow of a faithful priest's ministry. 

The diocese of Madison issued a statement Friday saying Bp. Donald Hying "has taken current disciplinary action" regarding popular Catholic author and podcaster Fr. Richard Heilman, pastor of St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church. 

Bp. Donald Hying of the Madison diocese.

The Madison diocese is claiming Heilman "engaged in online social media and other activity involving statements bearing inordinately on controversies stemming from the electoral political realm." The statement goes on to say the details of the disciplinary action are confidential.  

Heilman, who is leading a retreat in southern Illinois this weekend, was not available for comment. But Fr. John Lovell, co-founder of Coalition for Canceled Priests, said he began getting text messages in the middle of the night about the bishop's actions.

He called Fr. Heilman early Saturday morning, offering help as best he could. "He was in good spirits," Lovell said, "and already fielding a lot of phone calls from concerned friends and parishioners."

Father Lovell described the diocesan statement as "really weird," a "real word salad" and said, in his assessment, "It is all just a big warning."

Lovell said the so-called "disciplinary action" was confusing. "What can they do except remove his faculties and they haven't done that," Lovell pointed out.

"We'll know more on Monday," Lovell told Church Militant. "For now, he is still pastor and still has his faculties."

Hying and Heilman's History  

The "disciplinary action" against Fr. Heilman appears to pertain to political statements he has made on social media. 

Hying and Heilman have disagreed on the topic of politics before. In 2021, their disagreement made local headlines. Heilman told the bishop cautioned him about "trailing off into politics." Heilman linked the bishop's warning to remarks Heilman made about executive orders coming out of the Biden administration promoting abortion.

Yesterday's statement from the diocese appears to be taking the disagreement on politics to a new level.

Father James Altman, also from Wisconsin (diocese of LaCrosse), was removed from his parish for saying — among other things — Catholics could not in good conscience vote for Democrats because of the Democratic Party's support for abortion.

News Report: Bp. Callahan Addresses Fr. Altman’s Parishioners

Altman reflected on Heilman's situation in comparison to the progress of events in his case. "If you remember, [Bishop] Callahan publicly rebuked me when he blindsided me with his September 8th 'press release.' Later, he blindsided me again with this demand that I resign. Then he canceled me by FedEx."

Altman also offered this statement: 

It is just another fine example of the utter hypocrisy and corruption of the hierarchy, who say nothing to confront real evils in the country, and worse, within the Church. Consequently, the number of fallen-away Catholics will continue to grow because they will abandon these vipers in miters just like the vipers in miters abandoned them during the fear-demic. THESE vipers are the ACTUALLY divisive and ineffective shepherds. THEY have created the de facto schism in the Catholic Church. Thus, with his public rebuke of the holy Fr. Heilman, Bp. Hying firmly joins the ranks of the 95%+ gutless cowards afraid to speak up and speak out against the evil. Shame on Bp. Hying who, far from rebuking Fr. Heilman, SHOULD have publicly supported Fr. Heilman.

Building up the Faithful  

The bishops' negligence has been an ongoing theme in Fr. Heilman's own ministry. Writing for Church Militant in 2018, Heilman pulled no punches, saying, "You are the ones that guarded your gay, radical priests, while you chastised anyone who dared to actually love the rich treasury of our Catholic faith or challenged our people to strive to become saints."

In a recent homily, Heilman told his flock, "We are in the place we are right now because our shepherds are no shepherds at all. They're hired men. It's a job. They could care less [sic] about their flock, as they hide away when the wolf comes."

A native of Madison, Fr. Heilman has been pastor of St. Mary of Pine Bluff since 2004. In addition to his parish responsibilities, he hosts podcasts, writes books (six so far, including Church Militant Field Manual) and maintains a website for Catholic men. 

Church Militant reached out to the Madison diocese for clarification about both the bishop's concerns and the disciplinary action but by press time had received no response.

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