Developments on the UST v Archbp. Nienstedt front

You might remember the events in St. Paul, Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas.  The Board of UST voted the Ordinary, Archbishop Nienstedt off the board, effectively, by changing the bylaws so that the local ordinary was no longer and ex officio member.  Pretty bad.

Now there may be a development.  This is from the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, The Catholic Spirit.

Archbishop, St. Thomas outline new relationship

By The Catholic Spirit   
Wednesday, 03 September 2008

Following months of discussion between Archbishop John Nienstedt and the University of St. Thomas regarding the archbishop’s relationship to the school’s board of trustees, the archbishop and UST have announced new measures to help ensure and perpetuate the school’s Catholic mission and governance. 

The archbishop and Father Dennis Dease, UST president, announced three outcomes from the discussions in separate statements released Sept. 4:

• The UST board of trustees has elected Father Lee Piché, archdiocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia, to the board. As a voting member, he will act as the archbishop’s representative at board meetings.

Archbishop Nienstedt will be present for one of the three scheduled meetings of the board of trustees each year. He also will meet twice a year with the chair of the board’s executive committee and key trustees.

The board of trustees has agreed that it won’t make any decisions that may affect the school’s Catholic mission or its Catholic identity without directly consulting the archbishop’s office.

Last fall the UST board of trustees announced changes in its bylaws, based on recommendations made six years ago by the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, to elect its chair and vice chair. Previously, the sitting archbishop served as ex-officio chair of the board.

Visit to read Father Dease’s statement.

The following is Archbishop Nien­stedt’s full statement:

Archbishop Nienstedt’s statement on the relationship of the archbishop to the University of St. Thomas

Over the past several months, I have been working with Father Dennis Dease, president of the University of Saint Thomas as well as with members of the University’s Board of Trustees, to establish a new relationship between the office of the Archbishop and the Board. A focal point of these discussions has been to ensure and perpetuate the University’s Catholic mission and governance.

I am happy to announce jointly with Father Dease that one key outcome of these discussions is the election by the St. Thomas Board of Trustees of Father Lee Piché, the Archdiocese’s Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, to the Board. As a voting member of the Board, Father Piché, a 1980 alumnus of the university, will be my representative at all future meetings.

As another result of our fruitful discussions during the past few months, I have proposed, and the University has ac­cepted, two procedural resolutions designed to clarify its association with me and my office and the University’s desire to manifest its identity as a Catholic institution.

First, as Archbishop, I will be present for one meeting of the Board of Trustees’ three scheduled meetings every year. And I will also meet twice a year with the Chair of the Executive Committee of the Board and key trustees of the University. The purpose of these meetings will be to discuss issues related to the University’s Catholic mission. Second, the Board of Trustees has agreed that it will make no decisions that may affect the University’s Catholic mission or Catholic identity without directly consulting the office of the Archbishop.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Father Dennis Dease and the members of the Board for their valuable assistance in helping to establish the terms of this relationship. I feel confident that the University of Saint Thomas and the Archbishop’s office will move forward together to promote the mission of the Catholic Church in all its fullness.
The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, S.T.D
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Min­neapolis.

WDTPRS thinks that Catholic universities should have a close relationship with the local bishop.

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  1. WRC attends a (pseudo-) Catholic University at night and agrees with WDTPRS. Bishop Finn would do this school a world of good.

  2. Patrick says:

    Maybe someone can help me. I do not understand why bishops are so unable to influence what happens at Catholic colleges within their dioceses.

    I get that the colleges are owned by their trustees rather than the Church so the bishop has no direct control. However, the Church provides much of their staffing, in the form of priests and religious. Can the bishop not just tell the order which founded the college that Father So-and-So is no longer welcome in this diocese?

    It seems like this would get the point across quickly. If the trustees responded by hiring laity to take the positions previously filled by priests, then at least the facade of it being a “Catholic” institution would be gone.

  3. supertradmom says:

    Sadly, our local “Catholic” university gave an honorary doctorate to a famously pro-choice Catholic politician this last spring. Several priests and some of the laity wrote to the bishop, who is on the board with the vicar-general, expressing their dismay at this and received letters from the nun who is the president of this university. In these letters was expressed a lame explanation that the receiver of the doctorate was not given the award for her pro-abortion stand, but for other things. Sadly, the bishop did not address any of the concerns. The so-called “Catholic” university is St. Ambrose in Iowa, which also has on faculty a person teaching feminist theology which includes at least one feminist “theologian” who supports wicca. In a recent class, a young woman stood up and declared that she was a Catholic and involved in witchcraft and the class applauded. One person did not applaud-a close friend of the writer.

  4. Kim D'Souza says:

    Fr Ian Kerr once told me that Cardinal Newman said that such a university, without a close relationship with the bishop and an active ecclesial life, would end up being little different than the Spanish Inquisition: No matter how many Catholics and even theologians are involved, it can never be a Catholic institution.

    Unfortunately, I never asked Fr Kerr for a precise citation, but I’d love to be able to find it, because I’m sure it’s much more trenchant in Newman’s beautiful prose.

  5. Kim: Please do ask him that, and greet him for me as well.

  6. Geometricus says:

    While I certainly welcome the UST board’s graciously allowing the Archbishop to be involved in their deliberations, it seems to me that the board still holds all the cards. And who decides when a particular issue “may affect the school’s Catholic mission or its Catholic identity?” What if the Archbishop gets wind of a timely decision that must be made affecting the school’s Catholic mission in November, and the next full board meeting he attends is in June?

    I hate to be all “look who has the power” about this, but when I read the names of people who are allowed to be a part of EVERY board meeting while our Archbishop sits out 2 out of 3 meetings, I worry just a tad about the future of “Catholic identity” at UST.

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