By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
She has a doctorate in psychology; a string of prestigious clinical internships, academic publications, and presentations; and a seven-page resume detailing her work as a therapist in some challenging settings—with sex offenders, in state prisons, a domestic abuse program, and an abortion clinic.
But she has that age-old problem: What do you say when you're asked why you're leaving your current job? Sovereign loves the post she's leaving this week, as visiting faculty at the University of St. Thomas, her alma mater. And by all reports, the students and faculty love her. It had been her understanding that if things worked out, her temporary appointment would be made permanent. So how is it going to sound when she tries to explain to a potential employer why she wasn't kept on?
The truth, as Sovereign understands it, is that sometime between October, when she was assured that she was on track to be hired permanently, and March, when the university announced it would conduct a national search to fill her job, her past work counseling women who were planning abortions became an insurmountable issue. It wasn't that the Catholic institution she worked for suddenly realized that she'd once been an abortion counselor, she believes; faculty and administrators alike had long known that, and it had never been a problem. Moreover, she hadn't done the work in years, and didn't talk about it on campus.
Sovereign is convinced her past became a problem only after a handful of nasty letters from outsiders threatened to make it one. She got one herself, by e-mail, the afternoon of December 16. "I am investigating an accusation someone made regarding your involvement with Planned Parenthood and abortion rights groups and an apparent contradiction with the mission of the University of St. Thomas, your present employer," it read. "Do you in any way hold any allegiance to these groups and/or confirm or deny present or past involvement. I appreciate your clarification."
Sovereign had never heard of the man who sent the e-mail, Matt Weilgos, a pro-life activist and producer of a broadcast on a Catholic radio network, Relevant Radio. (The afternoon drive- time program in question, the Drew Mariani Show, is broadcast locally on 1330 AM.) As a courtesy, she forwarded the message to her dean.
Ignore it, was his reply: "I don't know if you remember but I had a conversation with the VP about this early on," David Welch wrote back. "I regret that this is causing you some stressful time—you know you have my full support." Sovereign expected that if she heard more on the topic, it would be from the stranger, not from St. Thomas's bureaucracy. Over the next four months, however, the matter took on a life of its own.
The student newspaper, the Aquin, was overflowing with stories about students, staff, and faculty who were rubbing up against the university's commitment to Catholic teachings. Most notoriously, there were ugly controversies involving first a lesbian who was told not to travel with her same-sex partner on student trips, and then two unmarried straight professors who were told the same thing.
The Allies, a student gay-straight alliance, were complaining that they were treated differently than other student clubs. A Vatican delegation was looking for evidence of homosexuality at the university's two seminaries. Racist graffiti had appeared on campus. The Aquin overflowed with letters, including one signed by 132 faculty members about the travel controversy. Relevant Radio in turn contacted many signatories.
Sovereign went to some of the public meetings, but mostly kept quiet in the hope of working something out. In March, however, she was told that a national search would be conducted to fill her job. Officially, she was welcome to apply. Privately, she says she was told her application would not be considered. "It appears there is no room for negotiation at the higher levels," Sovereign's dean wrote to her. "I wish there were a softer way to say this but it seems that I have played out any sources I can think of. Let's talk about how I can be of help as you look outside St. Thomas.
"I believe I know how much this position means to you and there is little consolation in knowing you did a terrific job. I wanted to affirm that with you in any case."
Not only is there little consolation in knowing that her performance was lauded, Sovereign says—if St. Thomas won't acknowledge the events that prefaced her departure, how is she expected to convince anyone she did a terrific job? She's left, in the end, hunting both for a way to support her family and to explain what happened.
Can a Catholic university simultaneously dedicate itself to diversity and to church doctrine? On one hand, St. Thomas has grown explosively, dotting both Minneapolis and St. Paul with its trademark yellow Kasota limestone buildings, opening satellite campuses in Owatonna and Rome, and offering 46 graduate degrees in such secular arenas as entrepreneurship, engineering, and software design. On the other, it requires undergraduates to complete three Catholic theology classes and operates two seminaries.
On one hand, the university president has repeatedly voiced concern for the campus climate, emphatically stating St. Thomas is better because of its gay and lesbian population. On the other, he expects homosexuals and unmarried straights to keep their most intimate relationships under wraps.
On one hand, St. Thomas pledges not to discriminate, not even on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, or marital status. On the other, its administration defends controversial policies by noting that as a religious institution, the university engages in "legal discrimination." Similarly, although the university is dependent on government research grants, student aid, and other tax dollars, it holds that this same private religious status exempts it from anti-discrimination laws.
Founded in 1885 by Archbishop John Ireland, St. Thomas was, until 1977, a small, all-male, undergraduate liberal arts college. Over the next quarter-century, women were admitted, graduate programs were initiated, and enrollment swelled from 2,500 to more than 11,000. Today it is the state's largest independent university. Fifty-one percent of students are women; 10 percent are racial or ethnic minorities. Diversity might be a moral imperative, as university literature repeatedly states, but it's also a matter of keeping those capacious new classrooms full: Less than half the students are Catholic.
By all accounts, the contradictions have been kept in check for years by an unspoken "don't ask, don't tell" approach. But the quiet compromise began unraveling last May, when one or more unidentified students in the liturgical choir complained to an administrator in the Campus Ministry department about the choir director's plan to bring her son and female partner on a pilgrimage to France that was slated to leave in just five days. The administrator told the choir director, Ann Shrooten, that her partner's presence presented a "moral dilemma" for students. Accordingly, St. Thomas expected Shrooten to change her family's travel plans.
Shrooten thought about it overnight and then refused. Instead, she filed a grievance alleging that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her sexual orientation. Six months later, on November 1, the faculty grievance panel rejected her petition. It did, however, find that the university's written policies "are ambiguous about, if not silent on, whether the conduct of staff and faculty members who have responsibility for students must model the Catholic values of the institution."
In the past, faculty had traveled with same-sex partners and no one had said anything. But Shrooten's case arose at a time when the university's Catholic identity was under heightened scrutiny from outsiders, wealthy patrons, and conservative church factions. Homosexuality is a particular hot button.
While most Catholic colleges and universities are run by orders of nuns or priests, St. Thomas is a diocesan university, meaning that it has a formal relationship with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It is financially independent, but Archbishop Harry Flynn is the ex officio head of the board of trustees.
The board itself is heavy with some of Minnesota's richest business people: Some (including Best Buy founder Richard Schulze, attorney Michael Ciresi, and Business Incentives founder Guy Schoenecker) are wealthy alums or parents of St. Thomas grads. Others (including Opus Corp. founder Gerald Rauenhorst, former Graco CEO David Koch, broadcasting mogul Stanley Hubbard, Central Bank Group chair John Morrison, and former Waldorf Corp. owner Eugene Frey) have histories of conservative religious philanthropy or political activism.
Their largesse is evident throughout St. Thomas's campuses, particularly in downtown Minneapolis, where seemingly every square foot is named after a booster. The building housing the business and psychology programs is adorned with Italianate "frescoes" of donors and their families. The new law school, which opened in September 2001, is an architectural Who's Who. Spurred by the promise that the faculty would boast religious conservatives, the law school had amassed a remarkable endowment of $82 million by the time it opened, fueled in part by some of the university's most fervently religious patrons. That sum matches the endowment of the University of Minnesota's own law school, and it's higher than Notre Dame's. Rauenhorst, in particular, is reported to have pressed for an institution that would mix law and religion.
Indeed, if St. Thomas had long been home to a number of hard-line religious scholars, particularly in the departments of Catholic studies and philosophy, the law school faculty has introduced religious politics into the mix. Professor Theresa Collett, for example, has written in favor of the role of religion in the judiciary, school vouchers, fetal pain laws, same-sex marriage bans, and matters pertaining to "the homosexual agenda." She has testified before Congress and the Minnesota Legislature and written amicus briefs in cases on assisted suicide and partial-birth abortion, and she was the principal author of last year's California referendum on parental notification of abortions.
As the law school opened, the Catholic Church as a whole was being rocked by a series of high-profile scandals. Throughout the country, hundreds of lawsuits were underway against priests alleged to have engaged in sexual abuse as well as the dioceses accused of covering up for them. The church hierarchy has largely blamed the scandals on a "gay subculture" in the priesthood and has undertaken a review of U.S. seminaries that, among other things, would look for evidence of homosexuality.
And as if those factors weren't enough, the rise of blogs did for right-wing Catholic activists what it did for their more established religious-right brethren. E-mails like the one Ashley Sovereign received from a pro-life broadcaster have become increasingly commonplace at religious schools nationwide, St. Thomas faculty members say. Some of the outsiders want to know about staff's past or outside activities. Some want to know whether the faculty's priests are adhering to doctrine.
For a while, Ann Shrooten kept her problems as choir director quiet. She didn't tell the choir about her dilemma before the trip, only that she wouldn't be going because of a family obligation. "I did not want to create a divide within the choir," she told the Aquin months later when the episode went public. "If I had related all the facts of the situation to them, I believe that the tour may have fallen through, and we would have received no refund from the tour agency we were working through."
Students learned the real reason for her absence anyhow. And in July, after the tour was completed and Shrooten's contract with St. Thomas terminated, she sent an e-mail to the choir explaining her decision, according to the Aquin. "Having been placed in the difficult position of choosing between my family and work, I would not, nor could I, dishonor my family by going on this trip without them," she wrote. "Such a decision would have sent a message I am unwilling to send, either to them or to anyone else. It was by far the most difficult, yet the plainest decision I've ever had to make in my life." (Shrooten initially agreed to be interviewed for this article but did not return follow-up phone calls.)
Vice President of Human Relations Edna Comedy told the Aquin that Shrooten should have known that her travel plans were inappropriate. "You have to ask the question, 'What type of institution is this that she's working for?'" Comedy said. "Ann knew that she was working for a Catholic university. Ann knew that she was the director of the liturgical choir. She knew that the tour she and the students were going on was a pilgrimage."
University administrators further contended that the problem in Shrooten's case wasn't that she was a lesbian. It was that she proposed to travel with a romantic partner to whom she was not married. Five days after the Aquin broke the story, human resources questioned the travel plans of two unmarried heterosexual professors.
In October, someone from the International Studies Department approached Leigh Lawton and asked whether he would be willing to take on some administrative duties in association with a "J-term" course his partner, Professor Ellen Kennedy, was teaching in Australia in January. Because Lawton, chair of the Decision Sciences Department, was going anyhow, International Studies would pay his airfare if he agreed.
The afternoon of November 16, Kennedy got a call from an administrator in one of the departments sponsoring the trip. The department head had just gotten back from a meeting with human resources, the caller said, and as a result of what had happened with Shrooten, "we have to ask you a difficult question," Kennedy relates. "I have to ask you what kind of living arrangements you and Leigh are planning for Australia."
Students were to visit the Somali refugee community in Perth to compare their experience with that of Somalis in Minnesota. Kennedy had spent two years planning the course in painstaking consultation with a number of outside groups.
"I have to think about how and whether I will answer that," Kennedy replied, and hung up. She went home and talked to Lawton. The two had traveled with St. Thomas students together in the past, on a 2002 trip to New York and a 2003 semester at sea. No one had said anything either time. They were concerned that they were being targeted to shore up the administration's insistence that its actions in the Shrooten case were not a response to her sexual orientation, but to her unmarried status.
The next day, they met with an administrator. "She said we could both go and stay in different rooms and the school would pay," Lawton says. "Or Ellen could go and I could stay home. But neither of those was acceptable to us."
"Of course, if you rent two rooms there will be no bed checks," Lawton says the administrator countered. "And I said, 'Are you suggesting we do that?' And she said, 'I would neither suggest nor encourage that.'"
Next, the two met with a more senior administrator, who, according to Lawton, repeated the suggestion that they simply rent two rooms and stay in one. "We said we were willing to do that only if [University President] Father [Dennis] Dease would put in writing that he knew we were staying together. And she said she didn't think he would do that." Administrators later denied that this suggestion was made.
The two say they met with administrators nearly every day for two weeks without reaching a compromise. Finally on November 30, a month before the group was to leave, Kennedy and Lawton met with Dease. It was, Kennedy says, "a cordial but difficult conversation." It was also "the first time the idea ever came up that our lifestyle was in conflict with Catholic values."
In the end, Lawton and Kennedy withdrew from leading the trip. "Some of the faculty have said to us, 'Why make a big deal out of this, it's just a trip?' But it's not just a trip," says Kennedy. "The university is very public about avowing its commitment to diversity and clearly this was not in keeping with that public face.
"If the administration would create a policy that would affect unmarried people, what was next? The broader human rights issue is very important to us," she continues. "For us to go on our trip knowing that Ann Shrooten had not gone on hers, we couldn't countenance going on ours. There was no question. She and her partner were never given the option."
Lawton concurs. "If you don't want people like that, then say so in the hiring process. Don't put 'equal opportunity' on your statement," he says. "There are a couple of areas in which religious doctrine comes into conflict with the idea of diversity, and it's critical that the university come to grips with how it's going to be resolved."
It's not just St. Thomas that's struggling to come to grips with the chasm between Catholic doctrine and the way that most people live. For a while in the 1960s and '70s, in the wake of Vatican II, it seemed as if a new era of openness was being ushered in, one in which Catholics would be able to decide for themselves how hard and fast certain church teachings were. Dissidents, including faculty at some Catholic universities, were questioning traditional interpretations of church teachings on sexuality.
That kind of talk found a ready audience. More than 80 percent of U.S. Catholics disagree with the birth control ban, says David Landry, a St. Thomas associate professor of theology. "And that's not the only one," he says. "To varying degrees of popularity, American Catholics are opposed to priestly celibacy, to the all-male priesthood, to the church's teachings on homosexuality. And this just drives conservative Catholics nuts, that so many Catholics disagree. And they want that to stop."
Catholic schools are often blamed for the dissent, he adds: "It's not that the students make up their own minds, they were taught badly. So they decided to try to reign in these renegade teachers and theologians." The Vatican began requiring priests teaching in Catholic institutions to have a license, called a mandatum, from their bishop. At least one prominent professor who dissented on doctrine about sexuality had his license rescinded by Joseph Ratzinger, the man who last year became Pope Benedict XVI.
As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict authored an infamous 1986 letter describing homosexuality as "a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil." He also has made no secret of his indifference to the possibility that his harder line might alienate liberal Catholics. A smaller church, he has indicated, will only be purer, more zealous in its evangelism.
It's been no surprise to liberal Catholics, then, that church hierarchy has blamed a "gay subculture" for the sex abuse scandals of recent years.
In late February, a few weeks after the pope barred most gay men from the priesthood, St. Thomas got a visit from seven church officials dispatched by the Vatican to evaluate the university's two seminaries, undergraduate St. John Vianney and its graduate counterpart, the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. Faculty, students, and recent graduates were questioned individually. The investigators allegedly asked whether there was evidence of homosexuality in the seminary.
In October, St. Thomas's student gay-straight alliance club, the Allies, complained it was having problems scheduling and advertising events. The group had had some trouble the previous year with outsiders videotaping people attending its meetings. This year, they were finding their flyers ripped down almost as soon as they went up.
Earlier in the school year, the Allies organized a National Coming Out Day event. The university refused to advertise it in its daily bulletin, according to the club's faculty adviser. The group's president was called into an administrator's office for trying to advertise the event by chalking campus sidewalks, common practice at St. Thomas. A campus life committee told the group it found the phrase coming out "too exclusive."
"The event was very appropriate for St. Thomas," says Sociology Professor Lisa Waldner, the Allies' adviser. "All of the speakers were Catholic or raised Catholic and were talking about coming out with a Catholic background. I thought it went well, but the next time we tried to organize an event, I got a call from the administration."
The Allies had asked a St. Thomas alumnus from the Human Rights Campaign to talk to their September 30 meeting about job discrimination. Administrators initially said that the event would cross the line because it was advocacy and not education, says Waldner. They eventually allowed the speaker to come, but insisted that a representative of Catholic Studies, Theology, or Campus Ministry be allowed to present a Catholic viewpoint.
But according to Waldner, she was also informed that the group's charter was under review because it hadn't followed a university policy that requires controversial speakers to be cleared with administrators in advance. The Allies asked for a list of written rules, she says, but the Campus Life official in question declined, saying, "having unwritten rules gives me the flexibility to protect these students."
Allies members have also had trouble getting funding for the same kinds of activities as other student clubs, says Waldner. Her conclusion: Anything the group does is by definition controversial.
Not true, counters Jane Canney, vice president for student affairs. "They've been underfunded, and attendance comes and goes," she says. "But we've worked really hard with them in terms of finding resources. [In April] we brought in Judy Shepherd, mother of Matthew Shepherd."
"There can be open discussion on abortion rights in the classroom," adds Doug Hennes, vice president for governmental and university affairs. "There just needs to be a position presented on the teachings of the Catholic Church. It's a careful line to walk because some people will infer that because someone is speaking on campus, St. Thomas supports their position."
At the second faculty senate meeting of the semester, David Landry introduced two resolutions. One addressed the then-unwritten travel policy and the other asked that the Allies be treated the same as other student clubs. Both were tabled. "At the first meeting, the people opposed to the [travel] resolution said, 'We can't begin to discuss this because we're just hearing about it now for the first time,'" he complains. "Never mind how ubiquitous discussion of this issue has been on campus. It was clear they didn't want to talk about it at all, because they made a motion to table discussion indefinitely." That was followed by a filibuster, he says.
Administrators vehemently deny that there's been a change of direction, formal or informal. Lisa Waldner's not so sure. "This all seems so different from this president's history of standing up for people's right to speech, for research and discourse," she says. "We're being dishonest to students by saying, Come here, you're welcome." Of course St. Thomas, unlike the pope, doesn't have the luxury of seeing its empty pews—or in this case, classrooms—as a sign of doctrinal purity.
The daughter of a United Church of Christ minister, Ashley Sovereign grew up surrounded by discussions of morality and faith. In college, she studied theater arts and women's studies and worked as an advocate for rape victims. After college, she went to work for the Midwest Health Center for Women, a Minneapolis clinic that performs abortions. She had a particular interest in helping women with grief and loss. Eventually she began working toward a doctorate in psychology.
At St. Thomas, Sovereign was something of a star. She had won several prestigious scholarships. She had published her research. And when the time came to begin practicing psychotherapy, she was chosen to work at the university's counseling center—a coveted internship. Soon after she graduated, in May 2003, she was invited to return to teach part-time.
Two years later, the psychology program's dean invited Sovereign to apply for a job teaching and coordinating the program that places students in clinical internships. He offered her a 12-month contract, she says, but told her that the department's hope was to make its temporary hire permanent. The likelihood of a long-term appointment was important to Sovereign: In order to take the post, she would have to leave a job she was happy with counseling prison inmates.
Sovereign started work on August 1, 2005. Three months later, she says, Dean Welch told her she was doing a great job and that he was going to ask the administration to post the permanent job internally so as to avoid "wasting the time" of other applicants.
The posting never went up. A few weeks after Sovereign was told everything was proceeding apace, the e-mail arrived. And a week after that, she adds, the dean told her the administration had received more than one anonymous letter questioning her fitness to work at a Catholic university. As a consequence, he was being asked to justify her retention. Not knowing who was lambasting her, or on what basis, or which administrator had fielded the communications, there was little Sovereign could do. In early January, she wrote a letter for Welch to submit with his own statement.
"I am comfortable with the incorporation of moral discussion into everyday life, including work life," she wrote. "I understand that there are places of moral conflict and dilemma when diverse populations come together, and my honoring those places has long been a part of how I approach the world, including my current appointment as the practicum coordinator of the GSPP. I do not take faith lightly and understand and deeply respect the Catholic identity of St. Thomas."
And because she had been forthright about her past both as a student and a job candidate, she had already had discussions with Welch about how the topic of abortion was to be dealt with at St. Thomas: "I consider it my job as a UST faculty member to assist the university in maintaining guidelines regarding areas of potential conflict. I have no inclination to be challenging to the content."
On February 4, the dean sent another letter to his superiors, once again emphasizing Sovereign's "understanding of and willingness to support Catholic values in her work in our program, and [the] integrity with which she has done this.... I value this staff member and believe that she has honored her commitment to working in such a way that no question can be raised about our Catholic identity and I am hopeful that we can find a way to keep her on our staff."
In March, Sovereign says, Welch told her the administration had decided to conduct a national search. Officially, she says he told her, she was welcome to apply. Unofficially, she would not be considered. As promised, Dean Welch provided her with positive references, calling her "exceptional" and "outstanding" and noting that her performance had "exceeded our expectations."
Welch's version of events differs slightly. He did go to his supervisor to start the process of asking for permission to post the job internally, he says. He was a new dean, he continues, and therefore unaware that St. Thomas rarely uses the process, preferring to conduct broader searches. He was preparing the paperwork to ask for an exception when the e-mail to Sovereign from Relevant Radio arrived. During the ensuing discussion with the vice president for academic affairs, he realized that Sovereign's background was a bigger deal than he would have guessed.
"Ashley didn't do anything wrong," he says. "She didn't hide anything, she disclosed everything on her vitae. But other people in the community saw that she'd been employed at a site that very clearly advocates abortion."
When he spoke to Sovereign, he adds, he tried to be as honest as he could. He believed that her past work would be a "strong negative" during the search process, although he also believed his own evaluation of her "would be a strong positive."
The position hasn't yet been posted externally; the university plans to enter into another 12-month contract now and to advertise the job later this year or in early 2007, says Doug Hennes, vice president for governmental and university affairs. "Ashley is welcome to apply when they post the position," he adds. "It's premature to say she would or would not get the job."
Although it's commonly thought that religious institutions are exempt from discrimination lawsuits, Minnesota courts have ruled that this is true only insofar as the alleged victim was performing a function tied to the school's religious mission, says Minneapolis employment attorney Stephen Cooper. "A religious organization in its religious activities has the right to use a litmus test," he says. "But in its non-religious activities, it can't. The line is ambiguous."
It's possible to argue that a liturgical choir director leading a pilgrimage is an activity associated with St. Thomas's Catholic identity, he imagines. Sovereign's situation, if her version of events proves correct, might be a different story. Not only is it harder to envision how placing psychology students in training programs is a religious endeavor, a Minnesota law passed to protect the rights of smokers prohibits employers from considering employees' lawful behavior outside of the workplace.
In April, Sovereign filed a grievance with the university. "There is clearly one official position and another 'unofficial' position that contradict each other, making one of them an untruth," she wrote. "I am left with the following choices: to apply for the position knowing I will not be selected, which would raise serious questions in the professional community about my abilities and work performance, or to not apply, which raises questions about my ability to commit to employment and my fidelity to the institution. Neither of these is an acceptable choice, and clearly the university's actions constitute unfair and/or unreasonable treatment, as they will have significant negative consequences on my career." A faculty panel last week agreed to hear her complaint.
In April, Father Dease approved a written policy barring faculty and staff from bringing unmarried partners on student trips. The move followed three months of public meetings and forums and the release of a series of unranked recommendations formulated by a committee appointed to study the issue in the wake of the faculty travel controversies. Ultimately the decision was Dease's alone, according to university relations' Doug Hennes: "The archbishop said, do what you have to do."
"The discussions of the past weeks have not been easy," Dease wrote. "Feelings run deep because the various values under consideration are extraordinarily important, touching as they do on people's commitments, loyalties, and ways of interpreting life's deepest meaning. I realize that none of us asked for this challenge. It was brought to us by circumstances that compelled first students and parents, then faculty and staff, to ask that we clarify the 'conscience of the institution.'
"I have never been willing to concede that 'a Catholic university,' to quote George Bernard Shaw, is a 'contradiction in terms.' Instead, the mission of a Catholic university involves striking a 'delicate balance.'"
In the short term, anyhow, the decision appears to have done little to restore that balance. Indeed, it may have emboldened the university's most vociferous conservatives. Ellen Kennedy, for instance, reports receiving menacing phone calls. Hennes reports that in the hours after the decision was announced, both he and Dease received a number of calls and e-mails. He says that all were supportive. Last week, the faculty senate finally passed David Landry's resolutions opposing a ban on travel by unmarried partners and demanding equal treatment for the Allies. Both passed by an overwhelming margin.
In the end, Landry sees the controversy of the past months as an entree into a fundamental discussion. "For me the question is not whether we're going to be a Catholic school or not, but what kind of Catholic school we're going to be," he says. "Catholic schools across the country, they run the spectrum. There are schools like Ave Maria [where], for example, if you've ever been divorced, you can't work there. And if you get divorced, you get fired. Thomas Aquinas College in California requires all faculty and staff to make an oath of fidelity and a profession of faith at the beginning of every year. The oath of fidelity is that you'll never dissent from a single one of the Catholic Church's teachings."
At the opposite pole, he says, is Georgetown, a Jesuit university that has extended health care and other benefits to employees' domestic partners. "Georgetown, Boston College, Holy Cross, Loyola, Dayton, Marquette, San Francisco, Santa Clara—these are all schools that are on the other side of the spectrum," says Landry. "And my argument was, if you think about those schools, where's the quality, where's the reputation? St. Thomas says it wants to have a national reputation. Well, Marquette has a national reputation, and Boston College does, and Georgetown. Ave Maria and Steubenville and St. Thomas Aquinas College, they don't and they never will because of their rigidity and their insistence on this sort of pure enclave mentality.
"It seems to me that St. Thomas has established a culture over a period of time," he concludes. "We have a lot of faculty who are not Catholic and we have a lot of staff who are not Catholic, because we haven't been the kind of institution that asks that question and requires people to toe the line. It seems to me that we're changing horses in mid-stream when we start adding restrictions that were not there previously."