UST Class Action

“I tell my relatives to send their teenage children to a secular college, where they will have to fight for their faith, rather than to a Catholic college where it will be stolen from them.” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1972)

 “After four years at St. Thomas, I regret to say that there is nothing truly Catholic about the University in any of the departments (including the "theology" department) outside of the department of Catholic Studies... those that choose to spend the extra money to attend a private, Catholic University, should ... receive an actual Catholic education.”
UST graduate '08

 Purpose of this Website

The purpose is to advise those with an interest in the University of St. Thomas (UST) Minnesota--- prospective students, students, their parents, and potential contributors--- that the University is often not providing, in accord with its Mission Statement, an “academically excellent education in the Catholic tradition.”  The student (as in the above quote) and the payer may feel defrauded by this experience.  (See the letter “A Parent’s Perspective”.) These problems are traceable to the failure of President Fr. Dennis Dease to adhere to the norms that regulate the governance of a Catholic university.  In order to bring the University into greater conformity with those norms, we seek:

1) Restoration of the Bylaws so that the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, by virtue of his office, automatically becomes Chairman of the Board with power to appoint the President of the university.

Take Action                  Sign our Petition

Note: This is NOT a wholesale condemnation of the University. There are good teachers at UST, Catholic and non-Catholic, who respect the Catholic mission of the university. Nor is this an attempt to demonize Fr. Dease, who engages in laudable work such as his efforts to improve healthcare in Uganda. This is a specific criticism of Fr. Dease as university president, for the deterioration of Catholic education at St. Thomas under his stewardship.

 The Problem

In 1967, at the infamous Land O’ Lakes Conference, the administrations of many Catholic universities publicly arrogated the right to define, independent of the Church, what was meant by a Catholic education. In the name of “academic freedom,” they hired and promoted teachers, “Catholic” and non-Catholic, who were, to various degrees, hostile to the faith.  These teachers undermined the faith of their students, who thought they were receiving a Catholic education.  This deception is what prompted the above comment by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. 

Pope John Paul II also recognized that Catholic universities were depriving students of their right to a Catholic education.  To correct this injustice, he in 1990 built on what was already established in Canon Law (Can. 807-812) and issued The Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, also known as Ex Corde Ecclesiae which established norms for Catholic colleges and universities.  In 2001, these norms were adopted as “particular law” by the Catholic bishops of the United States, in a document called The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States.  Many Catholic universities, including the University of St. Thomas under President Fr. Dease, have not only failed to comply with these norms, but have distanced themselves further from them. 

For example, in 1991, the year Fr. Dease became president of the University of St. Thomas, the Conviction Statement of St. Thomas said:

 “The University of St. Thomas is a Catholic, diocesan university, founded on belief in God, and commitment to a life of worship leading to active participation in the mission of Christ and the Church to the world.”  

 It no longer says this.  The new de-Christianized version says:

“We value intellectual inquiry as a life-long habit, the unfettered and impartial pursuit of truth in all its forms, the integration of knowledge across disciplines, and the imaginative and creative exploration of new ideas.” 

 Truth--- "in all its forms"?  And what happened to the "commitment to a life of worship leading to active participation in the mission of Christ and the Church to the world"?

But the gravest threat to the University’s Catholic identity occurred in 2007, when the UST Board of Trustees changed the University’s long-standing Bylaws so that the Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis would no longer automatically become Chairman of the Board of Trustees with the power to appoint the President of the University.  These Bylaw changes, if not corrected, open the way to increasing secularization of St. Thomas in the future.  This was done with the silent approval (Qui tacet consentiret) of Fr. Dease, who defended this changes saying, “The archbishop doesn’t have enough time.” Fr. Dease should have recognized the potential for these changes to undermine the Catholic identity of the university and opposed them.  He did not. This changes defied the explicit admonition of Ex Corde Ecclesiae , which says:

“Every Catholic University is …to be in close communion… with the diocesan Bishops of the region or nation in which it is located… Each Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic Universities in his diocese and has the right and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character.” (Article 5)

Changing the Bylaws so that the Archbishop is not automatically Chairman of the Board, and removing his power to appoint the President, and putting the power to elect the chairman and the president in the hands of a largely secular board impairs the University’s ability to be “in close communion” with the bishop and undermines his ability “preserve and strengthen” its Catholic character. For more on this, see “Ominous Bylaw Changes” in the navigation panel at the left.

The preface to the University of St. Thomas' Mission Statement says that St. Thomas is a "Catholic diocesan university."  If this is so, it needs to conform to the norms that regulate the governance of a Catholic university.  Below are more comparisons of these norms and the corresponding behavior at St. Thomas:

  Norms   Infraction at St. Thomas  

"...the university should strive to recruit and appoint Catholic professors so that, to the extent possible, those committed to the witness of the faith constitute a majority of the faculty."  Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities (Art IV, 4a)


"…we value the gay, lesbian
bisexual and trans-gender faculty  of the
University of St. Thomas… We will continue to recruit faculty from among these communities."
 Fr. Dennis Dease. 
Sept. 7, ‘06

 Dease encourages
a new on our mission”

  See video here.

All professors are expected to be aware of and committed to the Catholic identity and mission of their institutions.  All professors expected to exhibit… respect for Catholic doctrine.”   Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae.


2/3 of English Department signs
a letter protesting
St. Thomas
“unmarried partners” travel policy.

 "Administration Shows lack of Integrity"  Aquin Mar. 2006

Fr. Dease’s response to the violation of this norm was the apology above.


Catholics who teach the theological disciplines are required to have a mandatum granted by a competent ecclesiastical authority.” Canon Law #812 “Catholic students have a right to receive from a university instruction in authentic Catholic doctrine and practice, especially from those who teach the theological disciplines. Ex Corde Ecclesiae (Art 4, 5a)

  Neither the University of St. Thomas nor its Theology Department will disclose which theology teachers are Catholic nor whether or not they have a mandatum.  


What you can do:

1. Sign the petition.  Restoration of the Bylaws is the most urgent need.

2. Write a polite letter to Fr. Dease asking for restoration of the Bylaws and a recommitment to St. Thomas’ Catholic identity.  Send copies to Archbishop Nienstedt and Abp. Emeritus Flynn.  Their addresses and a sample letter can be found here.

3. Students or parents who believe they have been defrauded and want their money back should contact the Business Office: JoAnn B. Ott, 651 962-6607, or

4. Students may want to take classes elsewhere: [Click on this link.]

5. Pray for the University of St. Thomas, Fr. Dease  and Archbishop Nienstedt..

6. DO NOT CONTRIBUTE until the Bylaws are changed.  Contribute instead to the Archdiocese of Minneapolis & St. Paul Education Fund,
226 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 291-4400

7. Tell others, especially alumni and those who are thinking of attending St. Thomas.  Encourage them to write and sign the petition.  Email the address for this site,  to them.

8. If you know a Trustee, contact this individual about this problem and ask him or her to bring this matter up at a Board meeting.  A list of the trustees is here: [Click on this link.]