Friday, August 13, 2010

Too Orthodox for a Catholic College?

Seton Hall University has been searching for a new president. Shortly after the list of two candidates was narrowed to one (viz. Msgr StuartSwetland), members of the faculty protested Msgr Swetland's candidacy, citing his orthodox Catholic beliefs. The faculty senate passed a resolution declaring the search for a president unfinished and asking for an openness to a non-Catholic priest candidate.

From The Catholic World Report:
When Msgr. Swetland withdrew his candidacy, Thomas White, the Seton Hall spokesman, told the Star-Ledger, “This is probably best for both parties…it’s important we get it right…Msgr. Swetland is tremendously talented and will go on to great things, I am sure.” Unfortunately, the Star-Ledger also reported that (unnamed) Seton Hall “officials” said that Swetland was “seeking a long list of perks, including a three-year severance package.” In an interview with a Star-Ledger reporter, Msgr. Swetland denied making any of those demands and said he was disappointed that details of the talks had been openly discussed. This sort of backlash is common when well-qualified orthodox Catholics apply for faculty and leadership positions on Catholic campuses. The reasons for not hiring them are never attributed to their faithfulness or to their orthodox beliefs. Rather, they are portrayed as unable to collaborate, too rigid or intolerant, inexperienced, or as in this case, wanting “too much money.” FULL ARTICLE

Obviously, the timing and circumstances only lead to speculation that Msgr Swetland's orthodoxy was behind the way things played out... Either way, elevating those with non-Catholic sentiments/beliefs/missions to administrative po
sitions in Catholic academic settings is one thing (as Marquette almost did), but making orthodoxy handicap is another. The latter almost seems more egregious because it reveals an outright disdain for Christ as the Church proposes Him rather than a possibly innocent intellectual curiosity in other traditions.

For Marquette to give a position to Jodi O'Brien would have been irresponsible. For Seton Hall to reject Msgr Swetland for his orthodoxy (I recognize that this is not exactly what happened) would have been far more forgetful of Christ.

Msgr Swetland speaking at Benedictine College's (my alma mater) 2010 Commencement Exercises

1 comment:

clairity said...

When our new Bishop Paul Sirba came to Duluth, he had a Q&A session with our Cathedral parishioners. When asked how to improve the Catholic witness of our local college, he said that the best answer would be to hire people who were well qualified and supportive of our Catholic tradition. It's too bad Seton Hall is missing this opportunity to lead, especially given the 20th anniversary of Ex Corde Ecclesiae!