Ruth Kolpack, pastoral associate since 1995 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Beloit, Wis., was fired earlier this month after a brief meeting with Madison Bishop Robert Morlino.
No specific accusations supporting the dismissal have been publicly made. A news release issued by Kolpack supporters stated that over the past three years, Madison diocese officials received “several accusations” against Kolpack. It added that last January, Fr. Steve Kortendick, pastor of St. Thomas and St. Jude parishes in Beloit, met with Morlino about those accusations. Since then, the release said, Kortendick and the diocesan chancellor, Kevin Phelan, had met in an unsuccessful effort to find a “positive resolution.”
According to the release, the investigation shifted to a thesis Kolpack had written for her master of divinity degree that was granted from St. Francis seminary.
The thesis, written in 2003, evidently stirred little or no interest from church leaders until lately. Kolpack's main theme is on inclusiveness, and what she sees as a patriarchal tone in the church's liturgy, with an implicit exclusion of women from key roles, such as the priesthood.