Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

mystery movie

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 25, 2011

Ruth Kolpack doesn’t understand why she was dismissed from her post as a religious-education instructor for a Catholic parish in the Madison, Wisconsin diocese.

Brent King, a spokesman for the diocese, has an answer for her. Kolpack, he reports, had given public support to the ordination of women, announced her opinion that she herself could confect the Eucharist, and associated herself with groups “that clearly do not believe what the Church teaches.” Sounds reasonably clear, doesn’t it?

Not to Kolpack. After meeting with Bishop Robert Morlino, and refusing to renounce her heterodox views, she explained that she never promoted those views during her classroom time. In effect she claimed that while she believed heresy, she did not teach heresy.

Would you hire a geography teacher who admitted to the private belief that Belgium is located in Africa? It’s easy to see how his employment could create difficulties. If a student questioned him closely about the location of Belgium, he would be forced either to dissemble, hiding his true beliefs, or to teach according to real beliefs, and thus lead students astray. More to the point, someone who believes that Belgium is in Africa evidently does not accept the authority of standard maps, so how could you be confident that he would give his students accurate instruction on other questions?

There’s yet another consideration, and it’s perhaps the most important one. In a geography class, one hopes to impart a certain body of knowledge to students. In religious education, one hopes not only to convey knowledge but also to promote faith. An instructor who does not have that faith—who does not believe what the Catholic Church teaches—is obviously a liability.

I say “obviously,” and yet it’s not obvious to everyone. “It’s still such a mystery,” says Ruth Kolpack about her dismissal. The dissident group Voice of the Faithful has awarded her a $10,000 grant to explore that confusion in a documentary film, which can then be used to confuse other people.

Before we leave the unhappy Ms. Kolpack, we should note that her views on women’s ordination were put forward in a thesis “written for her master's degree in divinity from Milwaukee's St. Francis de Sales Seminary.” Do you find it troubling that someone studying at the seminary where Milwaukee’s priests are prepared was arguing in favor of woman’s ordination? I find it even more troubling that someone could continue making that argument, in the seminary and afterward, without ever getting the message that Church authorities found those arguments objectionable, until Bishop Morlino finally blew the whistle.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Gregory108 - May. 29, 2011 6:47 AM ET USA

    Happy to hear this seminary, as even the one here in Michigan, has dramatically turned around! You can see the difference in the priests they produce, two of which are making a dramatic difference in one of our parishes. No more sermons about the disciples going to Emmaus "resurrecting Jesus in their minds by remembering Him" or a talk on the importance of the foot and how regions of the body are mapped onto the foot, when feet were washed on Holy Thursday. Both of these sermons really happened!

  • Posted by: Defender - May. 28, 2011 2:25 PM ET USA

    We have administrators who have either not entirely embraced the Faith or who have never been properly schooled in it, too. The irony (and tragedy)of it all is that they are also responsible for the hiring and firing of others based on a criteria that they cannot fulfill themselves.

  • Posted by: jdieterich616502 - May. 26, 2011 2:40 PM ET USA

    Though Ms.(Mrs.?) Kolpack's writings and actions certainly warranted her dismissal (I read her thesis when it was made public- ouch)I want to quickly defend St. Francis Seminary. The school has gone through a dramatic change and has been turning out good priests for several years. It was not a great place, in the very recent past, but the formation there has turned around under Dolan and Listecki's guidance, and I think the naming of their rector as a bishop this morning reflects that progress

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2011 12:56 PM ET USA

    Why does Voice of the Faithful continue to get a pass from journalists in calling itself a "Catholic reform group"? It is, in fact, a group of former Catholics wo have long since determined that the teachings of the Catholic Church are wrong in a number of areas - areas that have beed doctrinally settled for years, if not decades. Unfortunately, some of our Protestant brethren have changed their doctrine under force of political pressure, leading the media to believe Catholics can do the same.

  • Posted by: mwquacker4169 - May. 26, 2011 12:01 PM ET USA

    I would also like to say that dealing with this incident continues to be painful for faithful Catholics who want to see reverence restored before Mass, during Mass and our Bishop respected as Our Shepherd. The pre-Mass chatter at Kolpack's parish makes it difficult to pray. Kolpack is also a member of Call to Action. That alone should be enough to put one's allegiance to the Church into question. Lord, have mercy.