UST Class Action

University of St. Thomas Theology Department Needs Full Disclosure

Oftentimes secular newspapers quote the remarks of a theology professor at a Catholic university on a moral issue, and most readers think that the professor’s remarks reflect the view of the Catholic Church. Similarly, most people think that if they took a theology class at a Catholic university, they would actually receive instruction in Catholic theology from Catholic theologians. At St. Thomas, this is not the case. In the St. Thomas Theology Department there are also Lutherans, a Methodist, an Orthodox Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim.

More concerning still, the Theology Department does not disclose the religion of the teacher to enrolling students. But for many students attending St.Thomas, this is the primary reason for going there: to learn more about the Catholic faith. They want authentic Catholic teaching. The religion of their teacher is "material information" that should be disclosed, as it would help the student connect with the teacher of his or her choice. It would help the student avoid wasting his time and money taking a class only to conclude too late, as my daughter did, that the teacher isn't Catholic.

There is another problem. "Catholic" Catholic Theology teachers are required under both Canon law 812 and by the document governing Catholic universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, to have a mandatum from their local bishop. The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States says this:

Catholics who teach the theological disciplines in a Catholic university are required to have a mandatum granted by a competent ecclesiastical authority... The mandatum is fundamentally an acknowledgement by Church authority that a Catholic professor of a theological discipline is teaching within the full communion of the Catholic Church… The mandatum recognizes the professor’s commitment and responsibility to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s magisterium… Catholic students have a right to receive from a university instruction in authentic Catholic doctrine and practice, especially from those who teach theological disciplines.

But at St. Thomas, the Theology Department will not reveal which Catholic teachers have a mandatum. Instead the Department says, "We don’t know who has a mandatum. It is a private matter between the teacher and the bishop."

But the then Vatican Secretary for the Congregation of Education, Abp. Michael Miller, speaking at a conference at Franciscan University in April 2007, says otherwise: "The Catholic faithful ---both parents and students--- have a right to the assurance, when choosing a university or a specific course, that those teaching theology are in full communion with the Church. While no law obliges the university to make known those who have the mandatum, and many Catholic universities prefer it that way, such silence frustrates the purpose of this law and deprives the faithful of their right to assurance about the doctrinal soundness of a given professor."

Why would a Catholic theologian resist declaring that he has a document that he’s required to have? Monsignor George Kelly, past President of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars answers this question: "Why, in the name of God, should a Roman Catholic theologian have trouble declaring himself loyal to the Vicar of Christ? He is ashamed because--here is the tragic truth--to do so would be a lie!"

This tendency of some Catholic colleges to undermine the faith they’re entrusted to convey, prompted the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen to say this to Monsignor Kelly: "I tell my relatives to send their teenage children to secular colleges, where they will have to fight for their faith, rather than to a Catholic college where it will be stolen from them."

In his book The Catholic Catechism, the late university professor and theologian Fr. John Hardon says this when discussing "fraud" as a sin against the Seventh Commandment: “All substantial defects… must be revealed to a prospective buyer, where a substantial defect would render the object useless or substantially inhibit its use for what is the presumed purpose of the buyer." For students who want authentic Catholic teaching, being taught by a non-Catholic, or a Catholic lacking a mandatum constitutes such a defect. Students have a right to know. Failure to disclose this is a form of fraud.

Example:

Several theology instructors use texts written by Bart Ehrman. On this video, Mr. Ehrman declares that he doesn't believe in God. Why is the Theology Department using theology texts written by an atheist? Are there no good texts written by Catholics available?

Tuition at University of St. Thomas: $27,800
Tuition at the University of Minnesota: $10,800
Savings $17,000

In 2006, many University of St. Thomas professors signed a letter protesting the University's "Unmarried Partner's travel policy." This policy prohibits teacher's "unmarried partners" from accompanying them on student trips. Consider the absurdity of the University changing its policy. Imagine an adulterous couple, or a homosexual couple chaperoning the students on a Catholic "Sanctity of Marriage" conference.

Signing this protest letter is a violation of The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States, which says: "All professors are expected to be aware of and committed to the Catholic identity and mission of their institutions. All professors are expected to exhibit not only academic competence and good character, but also respect for Catholic doctrine."

These Theology Department instructors signed this letter:

Kimberly Vrudney
David W. Smith
Susan Myers
David Landry
Corrine Carvalho
Shirley Jordon

Students who desire Theology teachers that are "committed to the Catholic mission of St. Thomas" and exhibit "respect for Catholic doctrine" may wish to avoid these teachers.

Note: It is possible to get a good Catholic education at St. Thomas, but in order to make the investment worthwhile, it is incumbent upon the student who desires such an education to choose his classes and teachers carefully.

Online Theology Courses

Catholic Distance University
International Catholic University
Holy Apostles College and Seminary (Theology and English Courses)