Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dissidents trying to make Catholicism into a "designer religion"

This past week I was interviewed by Doug Erickson of the Wisconsin State Journal on lay pastoral associate, Ruth Kolpack's firing by Bishop Morlino of Madison.

The article appeared on Friday, March 27th, and I'm just now getting around to posting on it.

I spoke for about 7-10 minutes with the reporter, who had been looking for reaction from other areas of the US when he found my post: Statement from Bishop Morlino to NCR on personnel matters after firing of pastoral associate.

I talked about dissidents in general, much along the lines of what I posted in: Commentary on Catholic dissidence and Bishop Morlino on obedience.

He excerpted one line found at the end of my post on Kolpack's firing, and used one quote from the phone interview. Let's have a look (emphases mine in bold; comments in red):

Martyr or heretic? Bishop Morlino fires church employee over her beliefs

As a girl, Ruth Kolpack said she so loved her Catholic faith she played church with her friends during recess at a parochial school.

Often, she was a member of the congregation. Occasionally, she pretended to be an altar server, a role not available to girls at the time.

Now 64, Kolpack is still grappling with the role of women in the Catholic Church, although the circumstances are much more serious than a playground game.

On March 12, Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino fired Kolpack from her position as the full-time pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Beloit. The termination came after Kolpack said she refused the bishop’s request to renounce [recant] a 2003 college thesis in which she argued for more gender-inclusive language at Masses and harshly criticized the Catholic hierarchy’s doctrine of only ordaining males. [one thing I like to point out is that Jesus was very politically incorrect for his day (eating with tax-collectors, healing on the Sabath, etc.). He could have chose women to be among the apostles, but he did not. Since Jesus is God, and God is all-knowing, he knew that someday there would be controversy created by women who wanted to be priests and could have chosen a woman - such as his own mother! But, he did not. I believe that folks who argue for women's ordination have a vague understanding of the divinity of Christ. And, dissenting on male-only ordinations usually does not come in isolation. It is paired with things that they want changed. They think that things are the way they are in the Church because men just don't understand. As a female liberated from liberal feminists, I can tell you that this is utter nonsense]

Her firing has angered parishioners at St. Thomas and set off a national debate on Catholic blogs as to whether Kolpack is a martyr or a heretic. [If the parishioners are like the vast majority of Catholics, they are not catechized well enough to understand why it is a problem for someone who does not have the mind of the Church, teaching children and others, like people converting. Of course it looks cruel to them, but the Bishop has to be concerned more with people's salvation, including those being taught by Ms. Kolpack, moreso than their self-esteem].

The situation again casts Morlino as the heavy [?] in a controversial personnel decision. [isn't it always labeled as controversial when it involves a bishop or priest who is faithful to the mission of the Church rather than the issue du jour?] Last summer, the music director at a Verona church was fired after five parishioners brought concerns to the bishop’s office about the director being openly gay [see Fr. Z's excellent post on this issue].

Morlino declined an interview request Thursday. Diocesan spokesman Brent King said because Kolpack’s situation is a personnel issue, details cannot be discussed, including whether she was fired for her thesis or for the presentation of or denial of any specific church teaching.

But King said the bishop needs to have confidence that priests and lay people are teaching church doctrine faithfully. “It can be inferred,” King wrote in an e-mail message regarding Kolpack, “that this is no longer the case, and she was let go.”

A 35-year history [of sadly not being corrected along the way - which, in itself is not charitable]

Kolpack has been a member of St. Thomas since 1974 and an employee the last 26 years, rising to pastoral associate in 1995. In that position, she performed many of the duties of a priest for the 325 households in the congregation.

“She did everything but celebrate Mass,” said church trustee Macy Kunz, who is “shocked and angry” by Kolpack’s firing.

In 1997, Kolpack began work on a master’s of divinity degree at St. Francis Seminary, a Catholic institution in suburban Milwaukee where, at the time, lay women were able to study alongside male seminarians [that was part of the problem], although they could not be ordained. [You have to wonder just what kind of Catholic institution of learning it is that permitted such strange teachings to pass muster. What were they grading on - vocabulary or content? The thesis can be found here]

She did not think her thesis views risky at the time [times are a changin', thankfully] — Morlino had not yet arrived in Madison — although she admits now that her use of the term “religious evil” in reference to male-only ordination was “very strong.” [perhaps she should re-think that and change the "s" with a "w" in that last word]

Kolpack said she believes women can be called by God to priesthood, but she said it’s a personal belief that she has not pursued publicly other than signing one online petition. “If I’m an activist in any way, it’s for equality,” she said. “We are all created in God’s image. Nobody is less, nobody is more.” [this completely flies in the face of the dignity of women. Women are not men and men are not women. God created us to compliment one another, not compete. Women are equal with men, in a complimentary way, and vice versa. Mulieris Dignitatem by Pope John Paul II would be great reading for anyone wanting to know what the Church teaches on the dignity of women]

Kolpack had never had a conversation with Morlino prior to being called to his residence March 12. In a 10-minute meeting, she said he asked her to profess her faith, take a loyalty oath and renounce [recant] her thesis. She was willing to do only the first two. [One would think that when standing before a man with a doctorate in moral theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, she would make an act of humility and give careful attention to what she might learn from him!]

She was stunned by her firing, although storm clouds had been brewing. [I think we will be seeing more of this around the country as bishops work to bring things back under control after decades of loop-hole theology and fuzzy philosophy. These bishops blew the dust off of Thomas Aquinas, along with the other Doctors, and Fathers of the Church.]

In December, anonymous people distributed flyers outside St. Patrick Catholic Church in Madison alerting parishioners to a “scandal” at St. Thomas. Those who have seen the flyer say it mentioned Kolpack’s support of President Barack Obama and suggested that since Obama supports abortion rights, Kolpack could not be trusted around children.

Kolpack, who gave $320 to Obama’s campaign last year, said she opposes abortion. [Would it have been proper for a Catholic to give $320 to David Duke even though they oppose racism?]

Separately, a former parishioner brought concerns to the bishop, said Kolpack, who will not disclose the nature of those concerns but said they grew out of a misrepresentation of something she said in a private conversation.

In January, Kolpack said the Rev. Steven Kortendick, pastor of both St. Thomas and St. Jude parishes in Beloit, told her the bishop asked him to fire her but he would not do so. Kortendick did not respond to messages. [If this is true, how sad that a bishop had to do the pastor's job.]

Parish ‘in an uproar’

News of Kolpack’s firing stunned St. Thomas parishioners, said Tom Lang, a member of the parish council who has known Kolpack for 35 years. “Never have I heard anything unusual from her about Catholic doctrine,” he said. “She’s really the heart and soul of this parish. It’s devastating she’d be fired.” [and if she had humbly told the bishop she was prepared to learn and understand where she was out of sync with the Church, rather than stick to her guns, she might very well have still had that job.]

Member Bill Cunningham said “at least 99 percent of the congregation” wants her back. His wife, Jo, said the “entire parish is in an uproar.”

Online petitions call for Kolpack’s reinstatement, but she has taken a drubbing on Web sites of Catholics who are loyal to church teachings. Morlino is a hero to them.

“Pray for our bishops! May they take back the church in America from the grips of dissidents,” wrote Diane Korzeniewski of Detroit, who tracks the work of bishops on her Web site, Te Deum laudamus.

In an interview, Korzeniewski said she’s thrilled with Morlino’s backbone. “We have a problem in the U.S. where some people basically want to create a designer religion out of Catholicism,” she said. [By designer religion, I meant that each person gets to make Catholicism into what conforms to their liking. The world, and many poorly catechized Catholics accept the relativistic view that the Church is like Burger King where you get to have it your way. I also told Erickson, that in all charity, we need to pray for Ruth Kolpack. Truly, may God enlighten her understanding in light of authentic Church teaching. I wish she would go back to him with a willingness to learn. She might be awestruck with the beauty of our faith, as it has been handed down.]

The Web site Catholic Culture likened Kolpack’s thesis to “the first term paper attempted by a not-too-bright college freshman.” [That was Diogenes, in the post: Madison Hatter]

Closer to home, Travis Ganser, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Monona, said he “wholly supported what (Morlino) had to do to maintain clarity” in church teaching.

“I’ve listened to the bishop a lot,” Ganser said. “He makes his case based on reason and says, ‘Show me where I’m wrong.’ A lot of times, people can’t, so they resort to name-calling and demonizing him, when actually he’s a wonderful person.” [yep, this is what happens alright, or they talk about how their feelings were hurt.]

Morlino has agreed to meet with parishioners April 3. Members hope to get Kolpack’s job back but aren’t optimistic. [Hopefully, they do what is right, which is to receive him with humility and listen to him. More likely than not, they will go with intent to tell him a thing or two. If anyone has info on this meeting when it takes place, email me at].

“I feel sad and without power,” said member Cecilia Ramirez. She says her 12-year-old son doesn’t want to go to church anymore because he “doesn’t understand why God is doing this to Ruth.” [Well, you might explain to your child that Ruth did this to herself.]

Kolpack continues to worship at St. Thomas and has encouraged others not to leave. The church is its people, she tells others, and the bishop is just one member like everyone else. [Well, there you have it. If you believe the local bishop is on equal footing with Bubba sitting in the pew, then that explains the root of the problem]

A new website enables supporters of the Bishop to express it:

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!