Sunday, March 22, 2009

Statement from Bishop Morlino to NCR on personnel matters after firing of pastoral associate

Bishop Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin took administrative action against a pastoral associate, Ruth Kolpack, firing her from the position she held at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Beloit, WI since 1995. Her dismissal followed a meeting that lasted all of about 10 minutes.

The dissident weekly, the National Catholic Reporter, defended Ms. Kolpack in an article parsed well by Fr. Z, in his blogpost: NCR defends a fired parish worker. I highly recommend you read his comments woven throughout the article. It's a good way to see how dissidents spin things when someone sheds a spotlight on them.

Complaints being lodged against the pastoral associate over the last few years had been the focus of some meetings between the diocese, the pastor - Fr. Steve Kortendick, and Ms. Kolpack. They were unable to come to a resolution satisfactory to the diocese. An investigation led to a closer look at a Master's thesis she wrote in 2003. The bishop said he did not need to read the entire thesis, which focused mainly in "inclusivness" and attacked the "patriarchal tone of the liturgy".

From Ms. Kolpack's own account of the meeting, according to NCR, we learn the following:

  • The bishop said her views on the teachings of Jesus were "off base".
  • The bishop "asked her to denounce the thesis, make a profession of faith, and take an oath of loyalty in order to remain as a pastoral associate at the parish".
  • Ms. Kolpack, "could not refute the thesis in good conscience, that to dos [sic] so would risk her reputation as a scholar and academician".
  • She was fired 10 minutes into the meeting.
There you have it. Bishop Morlino didn't take her job from her, he gave Ms. Kolpack an opportunity to keep the job and she blew it.

It's a little hard for a bishop to respond to allegations of verbal heresy not recorded in audio, video, or on paper. However, if the accusations made against Ms. Kolpack could find their basis in the 2003 thesis, then it gives credibility to the accusations. The fact that the bishop didn't need to read the entire thesis says enough. If, for example, someone challenges the Divinity of Christ, there is no way to explain your way out of it later in the paper. It is what it is.

The bishop offered to come to the parish to explain the firing, but said he could not get into specific personnel matters. This is common folks. Whenever displinary administrative action is taken, there is a fine line that ought not be crossed, lest they risk engaging in detraction.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin speaks :

(emphases mine in bold)

Full statement offered to the National Catholic Reporter, regarding personnel issues.

It is out of respect for the dignity and good reputation of every person involved, in this and all personnel matters, that specifics cannot and will not be discussed. You can be assured that the canonical and civil rights of each individual have been upheld absolutely. The Church takes this very seriously. I cannot make statements regarding Ms. Kolpack, as they could injure her good reputation. If a person or group chooses to make public information or conversations that put someone’s reputation into question, that is their decision, but the Church, and individuals associated with it, cannot play party to the serious sins of detraction and calumny.

That said, in general, it is an absolute fact that through our Baptism in Christ, there is a genuine equality of dignity and action among all of Christ's faithful. Because of this equality, we all contribute, each according to our own condition and office, to the building up of the Body of Christ. Likewise, conscious of our own responsibility, we are bound to show christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith. The bishops and priests must teach the truth, without compromise.

This unadulterated truth, as taught by Christ’s bride, the Church, cannot ever be forsaken. Church personnel, likewise, must uphold the faith and morals of the Church, according to our their condition and office, through what they publicly teach and claim to believe, what they associate themselves with, and by their actions. Public actions, associations and teachings contrary to Church doctrine are at worst seriously scandalous, and at best very inappropriate for someone working for the Church, be it a bishop or a lay person. This must be corrected in every situation, as unpopular or as difficult as it may be.

This is not to say that if someone is let go, that they have not done some truly great things. However, bishops and priests have an obligation to stand up for the truth; the truth of the Catholic faith; the universal doctrine of the Church.

Folks, I think we are going to be hearing about more things like this. The bishops are getting their voice. Don't grumble about it being late. Just be grateful that they are acting on the graces falling upon them to clean up the mess spoken about by Archbishop Chaput at a conference in Detroit this past Saturday.

EDIT: My deepest sense is that we are going to see an increase in this kind of thing. In the past, valid complaints were merely dealt with behind closed doors and if the person didn't change their ways, the poor people of the parish were left to suffer. This doesn't mean the diocese didn't continue to talk to the priest or personnel involved, but at some point, talk needs to end and action needs to be taken for the good of the people, and ultimately for the Church. This newer generation of bishops is just getting warmed up and their zeal is rubbing off on other bishops.

Pray for our bishops! May they take back the Church in America from the grips of dissidents!

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