Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More MEN Like This in Seminary, Please

(Hat tip: Diogenes at Off the Record)

A rather "interesting" graduation speech by a student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN:
A spring term that began with controversy at the University of St. Thomas ended the same way Saturday when a student used part of his commencement address to admonish people he considered "selfish," including women who use birth control.

The remarks by Ben Kessler, a well-known student recently honored by peers and faculty as Tommie of the Year, led to catcalls and boos during commencement at the Catholic university in St. Paul. Others booed those who were booing. Some students walked out on their own graduation ceremony.
[ED.: Apparently, they weren't used to hearing the Truth of the Catholic faith.]

Kessler, a celebrated football player with a deep Catholic faith, apologized Monday in a written statement distributed by the university.
[ED.: You shouldn't need to apologize for speaking the Truth of the Catholic faith at a Catholic university's graduation ceremony.]

"Instead of providing hope to all, I offended some by my words and by my decision to speak those words at commencement," he wrote.
[ED.: Real hope (not touchy-feely "affirmation") lies in the Truth, as taught by Jesus and His Church. When you become a priest, you will offend many with that Truth. Keep speaking those words, regardless of who is offended.]

He was unavailable for comment beyond the statement.

The university's president, the Rev. Dennis Dease, also expressed regret "that graduates and their families and guests were offended by Mr. Kessler's remarks." Dease said he told Kessler it was inappropriate for him to use commencement to express his opinions.
[ED.: Gee, Father, those "personal opinions" sound a lot like what the Church teaches. Perhaps if your university did a better job of imparting those teachings throughout the students' 4 years there, they wouldn't be so shocked and offended upon hearing them at graduation. Nor would your unmarried professors be so shocked upon finding out that they can't cohabitate on university-sponsored trips - see following paragraph.]

Kessler's speech was the latest in a series of controversies that has divided the campus. It began with university decisions last year that kept a lesbian choral director from traveling with her partner and kept an unmarried heterosexual couple from sharing a room on a student trip.

"The speech started out pretty normal," Aus said. Then, he said, Kessler began talking about his disappointment at fellow students after a spring dance when a food fight became intense enough that security was summoned.

"His disappointment kind of snowballed," Aus said.

Kessler also alluded to the unmarried professors caught up in the travel policy battles, calling them selfish. And he then called women who use birth control selfish.

He also called himself selfish and said he needed to be a better person, said university spokesman Doug Hennes.
[ED.: How judgmental. Why couldn't he have just affirmed himself?]

Kessler was a defensive tackle on the St. Thomas football team and had a 4.0 grade-point average. He majored in philosophy and business, was an undergraduate seminarian at the university and plans to become a Roman Catholic priest.

"It takes a tough person to play football," Kessler said in a Pioneer Press profile last fall. "Well, what kind of priests do we want to have? We want someone who is internally strong and externally strong. That's the kind of priest who can change society."
[ED.: Damn straight!]

(emphasis and editorial comments added)
My Comments:
My guess is that this was the first time in their 4 years at the University of St. Thomas that many of these graduates had actually heard the teachings of the Church on these matters.

Now, I suppose it is arguable that a graduation ceremony is an inappropriate forum for expressing these views. But it is, after all, a Catholic university. And the student chosen to speak is, after all, discerning a vocation to the priesthood. And the matters discussed are, after all, timely and relevant to events at the university. And the message delivered does seem, after all, to be in accord with the Church's teachings.

And I can tell you from personal experience that there have been more controversial commencement speeches than the one this kid gave, and nary a peep was uttered from the same types that would have been offended by Kessler's speech.

Keep telling it like it is, son. I look forward to the day when a man my age can call you "Father" instead of "son".

GOP Soccer Mom offers her views (and links to what others are saying) here:
So let me get this all straight. A Catholic man graduating from a Catholic college has to apologize for upholding Catholic ideals and encouraging other Catholic adults to do the same? And the Catholic priest - the Rev. Dennis Dease - who is the president of the school says this?

"I have shared my sentiments with Mr. Kessler that it was not appropriate for him to use the commencement exercise as a venue to express his opinions on several issues," Dease said.

Um…those aren’t HIS opinions, Father Dease, but God’s opinions (delivered through His Church). You'd think that the school would at least have backed him up that the opinions are the doctrines of the Church.


Here's a bit of a round-up for you on other Catholic bloggers and what they had to say about it. ...

Thomas, the American Papist, has a link to a rough video of the speech, as well as a link to Dom's coverage of it. (Dom even mentions this: "He even named himself as selfish.")

Over at the Cafeteria Which Will Remain Closed, Gerald has some comments, too.

Amy Welborn has something to say, too.


At 5/24/2006 6:39 PM, Blogger Rick Lugari said...

I don't even view it as him expressing his views (to say nothing of the observation that he is reflecting Church teaching), what he said was a total act of charity. It wasn't *about* contraception and other issues, it was about not selling yourself short and being a positive influence in the world. Sheer Gospel reflection in the mold of the Sermon on the Mount, yet he was despised in the manner that Christ was after ridding the Temple of the moneychangers.

I hope this has strengthened his resolve rather than discouraged him. Good kid, may God bless him.

At 5/31/2006 6:56 PM, Blogger Fidei Defensor said...

One of the ironclad policies I set for myself is that I never apologize for the teachings of the church, that said I don't think I would have had the courage this guy had to say those things at a graduation. As for people being offended, better to have your feelings hurt than wind up in Hell.


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