It's the story of Ruth M. Kolpack, the pastoral associate who was recently fired by Madison, Wis., Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino.
Why? What heinous thing did she do? Did she have sex with a choir girl or boy? Has she been having an illicit affair with a parishioner? Has she been engaging in slander, raising questions and "doubt" that "Father" might be doing bad things in the rectory with little boys?
No, none of these things. She was fired for writing these words in an academic paper six years ago:
"In the same way that God acted to save the Israelites from captivity, God is 'acting now to free women from their captivity' and to free 'God language from the captivity of patriarchy'.”
Yup. That is, 'yup' to your heads nodding 'no' in disbelief. And, 'yup' to her assessment of God's activity in our worshiping communities of faith.
You can read it all here.
NCR reports: "The document in question actually comprises three papers totaling 51 pages of text and footnotes that investigate a comprehensive examination topic under the heading, “Inclusive Language for Naming God: Challenge for the Church.”
The papers, dated January through March, deal with the subject, respectively, from the perspectives of scripture, systematic theology and moral theology. The papers were written to fulfill requirements for a master of divinity degree at St. Francis Seminary."
In a previous article, NCR also reports that Kolpack was fired after a 10 minute meeting with the not-so-good Bishop who 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.
She said she could profess her faith and take an oath, but could not refute the thesis in good conscience, that to do so would risk her reputation as a scholar."
And, for that, she was fired.
Oh, the Bishop admitted to "reading bits and pieces" of her paper. Why read the whole thing when you are secure in the knowledge that, in terms of God, you have "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".
Normally, I would dismiss this whole thing with a deep sigh and a very sad shrug of my shoulders, placing articles like this and the recent reports of Pope Benny's pronouncements about condoms and AIDS in Cameroon into the "circular file" with a prayer of thanksgiving that I long ago left Rome for Canterbury, adding a wee prayer for all my RC friends who have chosen to stay and fight the good fight.
"Only in the church," I sigh.
Except, lately, I've been thinking about Michele Obama's arms.
Is it just me, or has the whole world gone 'gaga' over the upper extremities of our new First Lady?
Okay, they are toned. If I'm honest, I admit to being envious of them. More importantly, she inspires me to take my own physical fitness more seriously.
But, what is it about her arms that produce such mania in the media?
I want to suggest that this is a thinly-veiled but nonetheless obvious example of the co-mingling of racism and sexism.
It's more of the same, in darker shades, as it were, of what is happening to Ruth Kolpack.
It's nothing new. The media has always been atwitter with the fashion of women in power. Recently, fashionsita journalism is completely obsessed with Hillary Rodham Clinton's trench coat. I loved it when she turned the table on her critics with her reference to "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits".
Her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, was not immune. When she wore high-heeled boots a few years ago, she was instantly and shamefully dubbed a "dominatrix".
When Madeline Albright wore broaches on her colorful business suits, it did not escape the view of the fashionistas at People Magazine who said, as I recall, that she brought "a new panache to power suits for women."
I know I'm not alone among my sisters of the cloth who have not escaped scrutiny about the way I dress, which has been called everything from "interesting" to "crunchy granola-earth-mother-social-worker".
Sorry. I love basic black as much as anybody in the Northeast Corridor, but I'm really not interested in emulating the 'black is the rejection of the world' deeply flawed theology which is behind many of my clerical sisters' and brothers' sense of fashion.
Mostly, on a good day, I just laugh. Other times, it makes my already hot Portuguese blood boil.
There's a new term for it, I'm told. Micro-oppression. It's sort of an oppressive-death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts.
They build up and build up and build up and end up in things like the firing of Ruth Kolpack.
The battle for equality is far from over, my sisters and brothers.
It may well be time to join our sisters and brothers in Wisconsin and take our protest to the streets.
Or, at least to join in solidarity with our sister, Ruth Kolpack, who wrote a letter to Morlino in which she wrote, “My ministry is my life's work,” concluding by asking him to reconsider her dismissal.
Perhaps we should, too. You can write him here:
Catholic Pastoral Center
702 South High Point Road
P.O. Box 44983
Madison, Wisconsin 53719
I have. Please join me.