Have you heard that Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison, WI recently fired Ruth Kolpack, the Pastoral Associate of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Beloit, after she gave 35 years of service to the parish? Her termination was apparently based on a series of anonymous letters and her 2003 Masters of Divinity Thesis about the use of inclusive language in Church services.
Anybody familiar with Call to Action, this blog, or Church justice in general realizes that there are roughly 1,000 ways to approach this situation, and none of them will lead us to the conclusion that this is the right or Christian thing to do.
Right off the bat, we have John Paul II reminding us, “The obligation to earn one’s bread presumes the right to do so. A society that denies this right cannot be justified, nor can it attain social peace.” It’s not too much of a stretch to think that this right shouldn’t be contingent on passing an ideological litmus test. Would the Vatican support Boeing if it fired a worker from its passenger airline division because she thought it was morally wrong to shoot missiles at civilians?
Then there is the Church hierarchy’s increasingly obsessive anti-feminism that has been on display far too often in recent weeks. One month ago, Ruth had little in common with a 9-year-old rape victim’s mother in Brazil besides her femininity and her shared position to the west of the original 1493 Line of Demarcation (shout-out to Pope Alexander VI for starting 500+ years of European colonialism). Now Ruth and the Brazilian girl’s mother have been subject to the hierarchy’s new position on disagreements between bishops and the laity: “If you’re a woman, you’re wrong.”
There are so many layers of hypocrisy going on here, it makes my head spin. Raping your own children from the age of 6 is bad, but performing a medical procedure with the intent of saving an endangered life “was more serious,” at least according to Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho. Exploring the complicated intersection between your gender and your faith was rewarded with a master of divinity degree from a Catholic seminary, but you should take a false oath discrediting that work six years later if you want to keep your job at a Catholic parish, at least according to Bishop Robert Morlino.
Ruth Kolpack was given six years of recognition for her feminist, spiritual academic endeavor, and then she was banished from her job for it. A girl in Brazil was given six years of childhood before her father raped her, and now the Church hierarchy says that she should have given up her life and the two lives inside of her, because rape isn’t as bad a sin as saving a little girl’s life. And all of this happened within days of International Women’s Day!
I’m afraid we have reached the point of spiritual bankruptcy that prompted God to come to Earth in human form the first time around. The Church has become an institution that is more concerned with the letter of the law than the spirit of it. The men of the Church hierarchy feel no obligation to respect a feminist viewpoint they couldn’t possibly understand, to empathize with a mother’s concern for a child’s life that they couldn’t possibly understand, or to follow their own basic teachings of workers’ and women’s rights. They do, however, feel obliged to exile those who complicate their neat and tidy sets of rules.
This was exactly the state of the Sanhedrin at the time when Jesus took human form. I’m pretty sure if Christ took human form and began working on this Earth today, the Church hierarchy would find a way to excommunicate Him, fire Him, and for good measure, they’d probably crucify Him again too—Especially if He was a She.
Bill Przylucki is a community organizer in Westside Los Angeles. He is a former Jesuit Volunteer and a graduate of Boston College. He believes that you gotta pray like only God can do it, and act like only you can do it.