Imagine this scenario: Graduation ceremonies at a large midwestern Catholic university. An outstanding student, who plans to enter seminary, is asked to give a speech. He courageously defends Church teaching and makes a call to faithfulness to the Gospel. Sounds great, right? Sounds like something the Catholic priest who is president of the Catholic university would praise, right? You know where I’m going with this.
Ben Kessler was named “Tommie of the Year,” an honor given to an outstanding graduating senior at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, and was asked to give a speech at graduation. In that speech, Kessler called on Catholics to stop being selfish, naming, among others, women who use birth control and professors protesting a university policy against unmarried employees bunking with girl/boyfriends on school-sponsored trips. He even named himself as selfish.
And the reaction was that selfish graduates and their selfish families began booing and catcalling because Kessler dared to speak the truth of the Gospel at the graduation ceremony and to name a spade a spade rather than blowing sunshine up their butt telling them how “truly great” the class of 2006 is. Some even walked out. And rather than back up the courageous student, the university administration threw him in front of the bus:
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.
Those weren’t mere “opinions.” Kessler was preaching the Gospel, and if those students had heard a smidgen of that Gospel during their 4-years at the college perhaps it wouldn’t have come as a shock during commencement.
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.
I hope he continues pursuing his call, and if the Archdiocese of Minn.-St. Paul doesn’t want him, he can come to Boston. Although I’m pretty sure that St. John Vianney Seminary, which is on the grounds of Univ. of St. Thomas and is an excellent seminary, will be happy to have him.