On Monday, I related the sad tale of a pro-life speaker getting kicked off of a Catholic campus because its administration determined that she didn’t meet the mission of the university. St. Thomas University in the Twin Cities has reconsidered, and will pay Star Parker out of its own pocket to deliver a speech on Monday, April 21. The school’s announcement oddly eliminates the two people most responsible for the earlier decision to block Parker’s appearance while noting but not addressing the complaints of their critics:
St. Thomas extended the invitation Monday after the decision was made to use St. Thomas funds to pay her speaker’s fee and related expenses, thus giving university officials more involvement in managing the event.
Parker, a syndicated columnist, is active in the pro-life movement. Critics of St. Thomas’ original decision not to invite Parker said the decision diminished the university?s position on pro-life issues.
“St. Thomas proudly functions within the Catholic intellectual tradition,” said Dr. Mark Dienhart, executive vice president and chief administrative officer. “We are now and always have been fully supportive of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. This issue has always been about what is the appropriate involvement of the university in scheduling speakers, not about any particular speaker or his or her message. We are glad to have reached this agreement with Ms. Parker.”
Two external organizations not affiliated with St. Thomas previously had offered to pay Parker’s fees. A St. Thomas student organization had agreed to serve as a co-sponsor and submit a request for free space.
We have two St. Thomas administrators missing in action. President Father Dennis Dease and VP Jane Canney, whose decisions led to the embarrassment for St. Thomas, get no mention at all. Katie Kieffer of the Young America’s Foundation told us on our Northern Alliance broadcast on Saturday that Canney explained to her in a meeting that YAF speakers would not be allowed on campus as long as Canney remained at St. Thomas. Dease has remained entirely silent, which seems odd for a Catholic priest involved in an abortion debate.
The idea that the problem started because the YAF is unaffiliated with St. Thomas is absurd. The YAF has been active on the campus of St. Thomas for years, and Parker’s appearance had been co-sponsored with the school’s conservative campus newspaper. The university claims that it was “uncomfortable” having an outside group contribute funds for the event because it meant less control for the university. Really? No other outside groups contribute to other speakers on St. Thomas’ campus? I’m certain St. Thomas students will find that a rather surprising and completely ludicrous notion.
Parker will finally get a chance to talk about her opposition to abortion on a Catholic campus. Only in the bizarro world of American academia would this be a headline.
Power Line also comments on this story today. Like me, they find this resolution somewhat suspicious. I suspect that the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States this week and the emphasis on the rogue nature of many Catholic universities in regards to the mission of the Church created some pressure on Dease to get this story out of the headlines. Dease is scheduled to meet with Benedict during his visit, and the notion that he would deny a pro-life speaker access to his campus may have made Dease a little nervous about the results of that tete-a-tete.