Friday, April 3, 2009

Authoritative vs Authentic Teaching

Real Shepherd with trustworthy Catechist.

I'be been avoiding commenting on the Ruth Kolpak story principally because it involves Bishop Robert Morlino and I have history with Bishop Morlino. This is a history, from his time as Bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Mt, of which I'm sure he is unaware. It's a bitter history.

That's the trouble when bishops make decisions strictly from ambition or fear, they don't take into account any of the collateral damage. Bishop Morlino made a number of such decisions while he was in Helena, and it seems he is now inflicting his 'pastoral' ability on Madison, Wi, and once again he cares little for any of the damage these decisions may cause.

I don't know that one can expect a Bishop who sits on the board of WHINSEC, or School Of The America's, to give a fig about collateral damage. I'm also convinced that Bishop Morlino is right at home with a military training school which places great emphasis on following the chain of command with out question. Obedience without question necessitates a great deal of trust in one's command or structure. Trust is always Bishop Morlino's fall back position and he is always the victim of distrusting associates. The following is a typical of this reasoning. It is taken from the website of the Diocese of Madison. It is a Q/A session in which 'typical' questions are answered by an anonymous diocesan writer, and pertain to the Kolpak situation

Q: Is it true that Ms. Kolpack was not given an opportunity to confront her accusers, and that there was no due process in this matter?

A: What is true is that this should never have happened. A bishop should be able to trust that every priest, deacon, religious and lay person tasked with catechesis is teaching the truths of the Church. But this is not always the case. (This is the standard opening in which Bishop Morlino will continue to paint himself as a victim of misplaced trust.)

The optimal process, as described above, would have seen any issues resolved, lovingly, in a one-on-one basis, within parish structures. But again, this is not always the case.
If a serious concern has not been dealt with, or dealt with properly, at these other levels and reaches the bishop or even the Holy See, then the process is different. The question is not who, or how many people, are raising how many concerns. Rather, once it is put to the bishop, the questions are: "Are the concerns of a serious nature?", "Are they warranted?", "Has the accused person been given the benefit of the doubt?" and "What action needs to be taken?"

(This is a clear indication the 'Temple Police' are totally supported in Madison. It's never who or how many, it's always the merit of the accusation, which means you are guilty and will be given very little chance to prove yourself innocent, and let's not even get into trustworthy.)

In Ms. Kolpack’s case, there is well-warranted and serious concern. She was given the benefit of the doubt for a number of years and alternate resolutions were sought, prior to the meeting at which she was let go. The serious concerns brought to the bishop’s attention should not have been news to Ms. Kolpack. As stated previously, Ms Kolpack had an opportunity to establish the bishop’s trust to teach in his name, in his parish. (This statement is very very interesting. It's incumbent on Ms Kolpack to re establish HIS trust because it's HIS NAME and HIS PARISH. So much for pastoral concern about her soul, or the parish. Oh well, it's HIS parish so I guess that means it's none of the actual parishioners concern.)

"Due process" has its place in criminal matters. Were this a criminal accusation, canonically or civilly, the proper canonical or civil process would then come into effect. This is not a trial, but simply a matter of trust. Can the bishop trust that Ms. Kolpack will teach the Truth of Jesus Christ as revealed to His Church, without compromise? In the end, in his prudential judgment, the bishop decided he could not. Ms. Kolpack was let go and her termination did follow a process. (She forced him to fire her because she abused his trust. No formal procedure was necessary. It's a matter of trust, and that's way beyond silly canonical or civil concerns about due process.)

If there was a breakdown in the optimal process, that necessitated that the bishop address the situation himself, then this is something that must also be addressed. Because, again, this should have never happened. (This should never have happened but, there you go, she abused his trust. He will never trust her again and she has to go. Divorce Bishop style. Ooops I mean annulment. See she wasn't fired, she was annulled.)


I loved this Q@A thing because it so demonstrates how Bishop Morlino operates. He is always the victim of misplaced trust and because of that, it's never a matter of canonical or civil law, it's personal betrayal. Should Ruth Kolpak decide to fight this it will quickly become a matter of religious freedom and state interference in the exercise of HIS apostolic authority, an attack on Catholicism itself, and it will get even more personal. Until it's all about poor put upon Bishop Morlino. The righteous right will come and prop him up and all will be restored in the Bishop's strange personal world. And more scandalized and frustrated Catholics will exit parish doors in Madison, Wi.

Over on the website Talk2Action, blogger Frank Cocozzelli has another point of view about this situation in Madison, but he does hit on the big reason Bishop Morlino and other's like him are such divisive problems in the American Catholic Church:

In his distrust of humanity, Bishop Morlino eerily echoes the infamous Dostoyevsky character: this modern-day Inquisitor does not believe that the most of us can handle the choices that Jesus offers in Christian thought let alone those afforded all citizens in a liberal pluralistic democracy such as ours.

The truth is that real every day Christianity is always played out in the choices we make. Jesus taught that those choices must come from a center of love, not obedience to the law. It's first, foremost, and always about choice. Bishops like Morlino are all about removing choice and keeping it all in their hands precisely because they don't trust the laity when it comes to choice about the direction of the Church.

Mr. Cocozzelli then goes on to say:

In another recent article the Bishop Morlino remarked, "When people start to see religion as the enemy of freedom rather than the friend of freedom, then, we're headed for secularism." He went on to say, "Secularism is the absence of God in daily life."

Beyond his eminence's fractured and inaccurate view of "secularism" in a pluralistic democratic society, Bishop Morlino's own unbending and strident worldview blinds him to the obvious: The forward-thinking religious inclusiveness of Ruth Kolpack is a far more effective example of a healthy faith than his own exclusive, reactionary dogmatism.

The threat to the Church is not secularism. It is the small-mindedness of Bishop Morlino and his ilk that has caused growing numbers of Americans to see religion, particularly Catholicism as the enemy rather than the friend of freedom. By stifling dissent and discussion they marginalize rather than fortify the faithful; drive people away from rather than lead people towards God; and sew distrust of the Catholic Church by both members and non-members. Their behavior both inside and outside the Church is strong evidence that they don't understand that they risk destruction of American Catholicism.

But in the name of unquestioning orthodoxy, it is a risk they are all too willing to take.

I agree with Mr. Cocozzelli's assessment, but having seen Bishop Morlino in action, I can tell him Morlino doesn't see himself destroying American Catholicism but protecting it from being destroyed by heretics. He doesn't give a damn about how many disenfranchised and marginalized Catholics walk out the door, or how his behavior is crippling the authentic moral voice of the Church in secular society. It isn't about any authentic moral voice, it's about an authoritative moral voice which is hell bent on removing our freedom to choose in any other way except the way of his and those of his ilk. In his world, authority trumps authenticity every single time and that's why he can't trust anybody who isn't above him in the chain of command.

When a real Shepherd doesn't trust his dogs, he can't work with his flock or his dogs, and will then resort to coercion to keep them all in line. Ultimately this leaves both sheep and dogs with one choice, quiver in conformity, or bolt.

Seems like Bishop Morlino has more or less given his human flock the same choice.


  1. Colleen, what a wonderful posting! You really get to the heart of the sick, twisted psychodynamics underlying the trust-me appeal to authority by man men wearing miters these days.

    When I read that Q and A and saw the question and response about trust, I almost fell out of my chair.

    The question essentially asks if Morlino violated Ruth Kolpack's human rights--not to be fired on the basis of allegations she didn't know and against which she had had a chance to defend herself.

    And Morlino TURNS IT ON ITS HEAD! HE is the one violated, we learn. Forget about Ruth Kolpack.

    I should be able to trust you, and you have placed me in a position whereby I don't trust you--and oh, well, never mind, but I just have to fire you and not tell you what I have heard about you and why I am firing you.

    Is that not totally sick? It's a complete inversion of values, in which the aggressor tries to convince us he is the wounded victim.

    I have seen this defense over and over with men of the cloth, and it boggles my mind each time I read, hear, or see it in action. Its solipsism and sense of entitlement are so breath-taking, that one wonders how anyone employing such a defense can claim to be connected in any shape, form, or fashion to Jesus and the gospels.

  2. I have seen it over and over again with abusers of all kinds. The thing I never forget is they had to learn it somewhere. I've always wondered about Morlino. What was in his past that he resorts to this kind of pathetic it's your fault defense for his crazy actions, and it's always centered on how his trust has been betrayed. The crazy thing is he doesn't have to actually know you to pull this stuff.

    I bet the vast majority of Catholics in Madison are beside themselves in frustration. How do you defend yourself against the accusation that you betrayed his trust when you don't actually have his trust to begin with? That's a tough one to do.

    It's so crazy people can't process it. I can see the same reaction in Ruth Kolpac as I saw with people in Helena. Head shaking, crying tears of frustration, not knowing where to turn, not knowing how to respond because you know it's futile, and ultimately disbelief that this is all happening.

    My heart goes out to Ruth and the people of Madison.

  3. I think that this is an excellent post and analysis of the situation. I unwittingly got myself into a bit of a dustup about this elsewhere. It is too bad I did not have your words to refer to at that time!

    Frank Cocozelli understands power and abuse in people like Morlino.

    Your analogy about the shepherd, dogs and flock will stay with me for a long time.

  4. Oh God, the only reason I could give the analogy about mishandling flocks is because I was trained in cattle control by a "cow whisperer".

    With him I never said a word or went after a cow or calf until they refused to obey the lead of the head cow. Then it was speed and voice as necessary. Most of the time we did what we had to do in total silence and trusted the dogs and horses to do the job we trained them to do. It made life a lot easier and far less stressful.

    I see what Bishop Morlino is doing as the same thing I saw from 'cowboys' who resorted to cattle prods---you don't have what it takes to be a shepherd, leave the field of play to those who do.

  5. The wolves in shepherd's clothing are dangerous to the dogs and horses as well as killing the sheep. They want the sheep to wait submissively and hopelessly, not knowing when the ax will fall.
    This week at our church,those distributing Communion were told that if someone that they knew to be "living in sin" "presented themselves", they were to give them Communion and report them to the priest. So the dogs are supposed to herd them to the wolves?
    I read Dr Estes column at NCR today and am trying hard to soak in that message. I would recommend it to all.

  6. coolmom, what you've written about your parish is just incomprehensible. Have we really gone from temple police to communion police?

    You're analogy is correct. Wolves in sheep's clothing mandating the dogs betray their true calling and not protect the sheep but lead them to slaughter.

    My God, how much lower can this church sink.

  7. How much lower? They still have a ways to go. The RCC is following the path of the scribes and pharisees of Jesus' day. That gives us insight as to how much farther down the road of depravity they will have to sink before it is clear to everyone that their way is not the way of the Holy Spirit.

  8. Bishop Morlino sacks a DRE over her persistent denial of core truths of the Faith and you folks see fit to calumniate the man and liken him to sexually abusive priests. Have you no shame?