Catholic St. Thomas University Votes to Sever Historic Ties with St. Paul Archdiocese

Minnesota's St. Thomas University has voted to remove the bylaw that maintained the sitting archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis as the Vicar General and Priest President of the University. The board of directors voted unanimously to change the university's bylaw and install soon-to-retire Archbishop Harry Flynn as chairman for a five year term. The move is feared to be an effort by the university to override the authority of and possible reforms by Archbishop John Nienstedt, Flynn's more orthodox Catholic coadjutor bishop who will fully succeed him as head of the archdiocese next year.
The surprise move has alarmed some Catholics who attend St. Thomas, the only Catholic university in the US founded directly by a bishop, who fear that the break with its historic ties to the archdiocese presages the "complete secularization" of the university, widely known as one of the US' more doctrinally liberal Catholic schools.
A memo from the board of directors said, "Implementing a process the Board Affairs Committee began last February, the board also elected Archbishop Flynn to a five-year term as chairman of the board after making appropriate changes to the university's bylaws which heretofore had stipulated that the ordinary (head) of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis serve ex officio as chairman."
Archbishop Flynn is due to offer his retirement to the Vatican next year when he turns 75, and his coadjutor bishop, John Nienstedt, is known to be a strong supporter of Catholic moral teaching and an opponent of the homosexual political movement and dissenting trends in the Church.
The university describes itself in its recently revised mission statement as "inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition," and was founded in 1885 as a Catholic seminary by Archbishop John Ireland. St. Thomas currently enrols more than 11,000 students, making it Minnesota's largest independent university.

At a meeting following the decision, about a hundred concerned students vowed to petition the university to reverse the decision. A student organiser wrote in a circular email to supporters, "By removing the ex officio position of the Archbishop, the University largely purges itself of a continual, institutionalized connection with the Church."
"With the ecclesial connection lost, we lose the presence of a continual conscience of the Board, and we can be confident of rapid secularization over a number of years," he added.
Archbishop Flynn retires after years of complaints by faithful Catholics over his handling of a host of scandals involving homosexual activists both within and without the archdiocesan administration.
Under his rule, a notoriously pro-homosexual parish, St. Joan of Arc, was allowed to continue in open support of the Gay Pride parades and homosexual lifestyle. The parish's opposition to Catholic teaching was so brazen that it resulted in 2004 in a rare direct intervention by the Vatican.
Flynn was named by homosexual political activists as one of the US's four most "gay friendly" bishops. When he publicly supported the orthodox Catholic teaching on marriage, gay activists in the Rainbow Sash Movement were furious at what they saw as a betrayal by a friend of their cause.
Nienstedt, who came to St. Paul-Minneapolis this year from the diocese of New Ulm, is well established as a defender of orthodox Catholic teachings in his diocese, especially on homosexuality. He supported the Minnesota constitutional amendment banning same-sex "marriage" and in 2004, joined the eight other Catholic bishops in spearheading a campaign for a constitutional amendment defining marriage strictly as between a man and a woman.

University President
Father Dennis Dease
2115 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

See list of Board of Trustees

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Guest

    Well, I think Archbishop Flynn deserves credit for the fact that he did publicy support Catholic teaching on marriage. Obviously he was negligent in allowing the St. Joan of Arch parish to support gay pride events. Some bishops (such as the one in my diocese, unfortunately) are way too hands-off.  Archbishop Flynn is originally from my diocese (Albany);  he used to be pastor of my church, long before I was a parishioner.  I think that despite his failure to be more authoritative with St. Joan of Arc, he is essentially a good man and faithful to the Church.

  • Guest

    He's basically taking the college away from the new bishop — how nice is that?

  • Guest

    Claire, you're kidding right? It's so difficult to grab a hold of these "essentially good men" who continue to do essentially bad deeds because they're such snakes. The only thing positive here is that st. thomas u. is no longer playing pretend.

  • Guest

    So what is the affiliation between St. Thomas and the seminary there, St. John Vianney?  Certainly, the new Archbishop will have authority over the seminary, but if the seminarians take academic courses at St. Thomas, it could become a problem over time.

    I'm concerned because it is one of the two seminaries used by our Archdiocese (Louisville) for undergrads.  We have a wonderful new Archbshop.  Archbishop Kurtz made the news kneeling for the Rosary in front of an abortion clinic after his predecessor pretty much ignored the issue except for his January 22 sermon.  Your new man in the Twin Cities will do great things.


  • Guest

    This is an interesting test. Replacing a liberal bishop with a conservative one in a major archdiocese is likely to cause some angst. I am thinking that we are going to have more examples soon. The new generation of bishops are just more orthodox. Look at what happened in Baltimore. I think fear of what might happen has slowed appointments in Detroit and New York.

    Bishop John Nienstedt gives everyone in the Minniapolis Archdiocese a choice. Either embrace a more orthodox church or leave. St Thomas University seems to have made a choice for now. Retired Harry Flynn won't live forever. They will ahve another choice to make then.

  • Guest

    I really don't think Archbishop Flynn is as liberal as some would say he is.  I worked with his niece, and she spoke about how opposed he was to abortion.  We worked as nurses at a local woman's hospital which unfortunately has an outpatient unit where abortions are performed, and when he found out she took a job there, his first question was whether she was going to have any part in working in the area of the hospital that did abortions (she didn't, obviously, and neither did I).  She also told me about a former priest who had a sex change, and her uncle (archbishop Flynn) was very distraught about this, and very opposed to it.  And no, Goral, I'm not kidding.  Archbishop Flynn is not a snake.  He neglected to reign in an unfaithful parish, and he will have to account for that on judgment day.  Some bishops, mine included, do not do enough to take authority.  None of us are perfect;  some people are born to be administrators, and some just aren't cut out for the tasks of taking control when needed.  This doesn't make him a snake.  It means that he failed in part of his duty of bishop.  Have you ever failed before?  I know that I have.  I would hope that my failures don't completely define me and sum up my total character.

  • Guest

    That Archbishop Flynn comes from the Diocese of Albany speaks volumes. I occassionally attend mass in that diocese and have witnessed many liturgical abuses.  As a matter of fact, a great retired priest told me that there are so many complaints against the diocese that the Vatican can't investigate most of them.

    Another protege of the Albany Diocese is Bishop Matthew Clark of the Diocese of Rochester, where most of the priests signed a document opposing the Church's teachings on homosexuality.  Also, lay people have done the homilies there.

    Times are changing, though.  Both these bishops will most likely be replaced by more orthodox men, so Catholics in those dioceses will be introduced to real Catholicism, possibly for the first time in their lives.

  • Guest

    I live in Albany, and I can certainly attest to the liturgical abuses that occur here.  It is very frustrating.  But I still don't think our bishop or archbishop Flynn are opposed to Church teaching on sexuality.  I've seen writings by our bishop, and he eloquently defends this teaching.  The problem is that he, like Flynn, have failed to take control and have let those with the wrong agenda take over.  Archbishop Flynn's niece, who I worked with, was a faithful Catholic with 8 children (before she became widowed) who did not use artificial contraception and was vehemently opposed to abortion.  Her uncle was a major influence in her religious convictions.

  • Guest

    Jacko  If the following seems God-ordained to you– pass it on please

    IN GOD WE TRUST —            Really? Is it true, like in really, really, really, really? Now, and over the next months may be one of the most significant and important times to test ourselves. Scripture relates God’s promise, “If my people will humble themselves and come to me in prayer, I will heal their land.” II Paral 7:14 Suppose our Catholic Church, because we have an organized common platform, were to lead, exhort and continually remind the faithful to pray a simple prayer, such as, "Father, we implore you to affect the minds and hearts of the voters so that the candidate that You know is the best to lead our country out of this downward slide of immorality and rejection of Your laws, is elected."  According to the polls, the country is almost evenly divided regarding the candidates for president in this next election. Obviously, it would be divisive and unlawful to suggest from the pulpit or in 'official Church material’ a specific candidate or party.  At this point, our honesty and ‘trust in God’ would be tested.  Each person will have to trust that God, in His Wisdom and Divine Will, will cause the election of the person of God’s choice. If a person were reluctant to let the Church promote prayer for the specific intention of God affecting His Perfect Will in this matter, it would appear apparent that this person is not confident that the candidate of that person’s choice is in accord with God’s Will and choice. The Church would seem to have a perfect right to exhort to this prayer, even though some people might imagine that they were praying in opposition to their own opinions or desires. If the Church would take up this challenge, the Holy Spirit would surely foster this prayer among all Christians, and America will be on her way back to                                                                        One Nation under God!                       IN GOD WE REALLY DO TRUST, PLEASE!

  • Guest

    Has Archbishop Flynn agreed to this arrangment? I would say that is a pretty liberal thing to do in and of itself. Archbishop Nienstedt is taking over the see. It seems highly irregular for the outgoing archbishop to get involved in what amounts to a slap in the face for the new man.

  • Guest


  • Guest

    rosary4peace  I am not from the arch-diocese, but I do admit to being confused by the actions (or lack of them) by the arch-bishop over the years.  He has presided at or supported many orthodox events across the arch-diocese over the years.  Yet this same archbishop shunned Human Life International and Father Paul Marx back in 1997 over some drummed up charges that Father Marx was an anti-semite.  He also was the one who "pulled the plug" on one of the greatest priests anywhere in Father Altier.  The reason?  Because Father Altier told the truth about a very harmful sex-ed program which was endorsed by Planned Parenthood.  For that reason, this wonderful faithful priest was exiled to a nursing home in Hastings and not allowed to gift the world with his beautiful orthodox teachings any longer.  How sad.  We all need to pray for the retiring Arch-bishop and pray also for the incoming Arch-bishop Nienstadt.  He will have his hands full with the headstrong dissenters in the Curia and across the archdiocese.   

  • Guest

    Archbishop Harry Flynn will retire and become the chairman of an institution which in some way answered to him. It will no longer answer to his successor because of change of affiliation. The school was founded by an archbishop. It decided not to be subject to the current archbishop and the soon to be former "gay friendly" archbishop is blessing that move and capitalizing on it. That’s the scenario as I understand it.

    RandyGritter correctly identifies it as a slap in the face. At another time in history this would be considered a scandal. But we're calloused to that so the snake gets a pass.

    Claire, his niece sounds like a good woman but we're not talking about her. Failure in his duty to the point of Vatican involvement is a serious dereliction of duty. We're talking about an archbishop who has a commission. These types of failures in the military might have given him a court-martial. His actions are held to a much higher standard than Claire's or goral's failures. The Church cannot afford or tolerate these failures any longer hence the appointment of Archbishop Nienstedt. 

  • Guest

    pray for the bishops.

    Pray and fast for them!!

    It's Too easy to criticize but we aren't the one with the big bullseye on our souls. We don't know what it's like to have legions attacking our souls…

    Heck…most of us fall when one or two dinky demons tempt us…or worse…we just fall from our own stupid evil inclinations. We should quake in fear for the judgment of God that might fall on these mens souls. 

    In war the enemy always knows to go after the leader…so does the devil. Why is anyone surprised that a few bishops fall? 


  • Guest

    May I ask a question of Jacko?  You've posted before using the same verses and arguments, and I do not understand the reference to "II Paral 7:14".  Can you provide some insight?

    Also, may I assure you that, just because you don't see references in these posts to it, doesn't mean that there are not many of us praying exactly this way (and, have been for years)…….with the clear understanding that God's Will may very well call for the election of further "morally devastating" candidates who's governance may be intended to bring the whole country to its knees in order for those who don't read this website to understand how their "license" affects the rest of us.

    If we "really, really, really, really trust God", we have to be willing to trust even in and through such a circumstance.

    "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord"  Ps. 144:15

  • Guest

    Goral, I know we're not talking about his niece.  I just brought her up because she is a faithful Catholic, and her faith (including her adherence to Church teaching on sexual morality)  has been greatly influenced by her uncle the archbishop.  I also brought her up to counteract the accusation that he is not against abortion;  he definitely is, which is why he was so concerned when he heard that she had taken a job at a hospital which performs abortions.

  • Guest

    Claire, you have a broader view of this story than I do. I'm not against you taking a stand for the archbishop. In fact it's beneficial to the discussion that someone does, especially with information like yours.

    This move by Flynn may have a strange beneficial twist, I don't know. On the face this looks really bad and makes him appear like a turncoat.

    On my birthday I have to make an effort to be less contentious.

  • Guest

    I didn't find you to be contentious, Goral.  Certainly some of his actions are questionable.  As slbute said, his actions or lack thereof are confusing;  on the one hand I know him to be opposed to abortion and to be in agreement with Church teaching on marriage and sexual morality.  On the other hand, he is sometimes negligent in defending these principles as aggressively as he should.  My bishop here in Albany is the same way.  It's frustrating. They should be more willing to defend their convictions and the convictions of the Church.  Having a conviction doesn't accomplish much if one lets those around him promote an agenda that is in conflict with one's convictions.  A bishop shouldn't be a people-pleaser;  he should be willing to risk losing the popularity contest.  I'm not a bishop (obviously), but this is something I need to remind myself of, too.  There are times when I should have spoken but have kept quiet.

    Happy Birthday, by the way.  

  • Guest

    Ooh, I like that your post time is :23 also, I'm going to shoot for 11:23. I hope that one gets through. Thanks

  • Guest

    goral, you missed it! Happy birthday.

    Claire, With all due respect, your description of the archibisop sounds like my Uncle Don. A committed Catholic who is very nice, very concerned when loved ones seem close to moral danger and distraught when confronted with a scandalous situation. 

    But Uncle Don is an accountant.  Harry Flynn is an archbishop.  His calling in life is to preach, teach, and sanctify; to suffer and give himself for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Guest


    I'm not Jacko, but that's a reference to 2 Chronicles…it's called 2 Paralipomenon in the Douay Rheims. A number of the books have different names in the DR compared to translations that you're probably used to. If you go to New Advent, it has the OT books listed with the newer names and the older ones in parentheses along side so you can see which are which.

  • Guest

    Can anyone refer me to the faithful Catholic publication that annually lists Catholic colleges/universities, and ranks them in order of whether they are faithful to the Holy Father/Magesterium, have returned to faithfulness after a time in the wilderness, or are just plain off the reservation?  I think this list was published not too long ago for this year.

  • Guest


    not to mention that as an archbishop, he is given special graces from God to execute his office. Just as I, as a mother, am given special graces with regard to raising my children and am expected to correspond with them, a member of the hierarchy of the Church will be judged by God based on his correspondence with the graces that God has given him to live out his vocation. Recall Luke 12:48, "And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more."  

  • Guest

    Thanks PTR, I nailed it in the An Important Notice section. I figured that was a good heading for it (Ahm). Mkochan let that throw-away comment through just for the sake of the numbers.

    We all have uncles that are great guys, just keep them out of positions of any authority or decision making.

  • Guest

    Happy Birthday goral!

    I wish I had, had the baby today!  Then I could've sang "Oh my darling Clementine"!

    I hope you got piroges instead of reheated turkey for your birthday dinner!

  • Guest

    I didn't expect a birthday wish from elkabrikir. Nice surprise. Are you now down to hours? What an exciting and difficult time for you. I'm sure so many of us are just waiting for the news and praying for you. You're making history on this website.

    Pierogi would be out of character for the occasion (Thanksgiving) but I did get my favorite whole pea soup. The painted squash yesterday was great.

    All the blessings for mother and child.

  • Guest

    Birthday blessings Goral — so glad you are here!

     Elkabrikar, I pray a safe and uncomplicated delivery for you.

  • Guest

    This is the icing on the b-day wishes. Thanks mkochan for your kind words.

    "Here" is the place to be. With topics from babies to bishops and blessings to bad days, why go anywhere else. 

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    🙂 Folks – we have had a midstream topic change –
    “Goral is a Year Older” – 🙂

    For which, Goral, 🙂 happy happy :), and you can have mine since I don’t use it anymore. :(=)

    OH! YES! Elkabrikir, about to yield another birthday – may it be even happier than Goral’s – whom I have gifted with MY (now unused) birthday so he (she?) can have TWO a year, and become the youngest looking centenarian around, some day.

    Milady E., God bless you and yours with just the cutest little saint this side of paradise. And, you feeling ten years younger than you did going into delivery! God can add your ten years to me, since no one will know how old I am, anyway.

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In the Suffering of Christ, and in His hope of His Resurrection,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest

    You guys have brought needed comic relief to my heart!  Thanks!

    I'll keep you posted! 

  • Guest

    I wouldn’t exactly call my birthday a topic change. These days I want to make it less of a topic. I don’t know how Claire got that out of me this morning. Certainly that bold type and message is hard on the eyes. Thank you wljewell for the fanfare, I think.

    How about we get back to the real topics of stem cell research, the Magisterium and the collapse of civilization. Who knows by elkabrikir's or Claire's or mkochan's next birthday, we may be looking at a unified Church. (That’s unified not Unitarian)

     Y’all are my kind of Catholics.

  • Guest

    I'm really good at getting things out of people.  Last Christmas I managed to get my lawyer brother to tell me how much his Christmas bonus was (and then I wanted to smack him, because it was more than I make in a whole year!).  Anyway, I hope you had a good birthday.

  • Guest

    I intended to give credit and not blame so your interpretation is right. Obviously, I’m not good at it because out of the three ladies mentioned in the prior comment, not one has volunteered the birth date. There will be other opportunities and much better occasions for best wishes. 

  • Guest

    Thank you, dear Stacey, for the info.  The quote was so familiar I didn't have much trouble finding it, and so made the connection, but thanks for the "hand".  We've just moved and my DR is still packed away in some unknown box in some unknown location.

    Dearest Elka, may angels attend you and your daughter in the delivery room.  Waiting with baited breath………

    And dear Goral, I'm sorry I missed your "green pea celebration" (with candles??????!).  A day late and a piroge short, happy birthday!

  • Guest

    Cooky, I hope you moved to someplace warm. New England got a cold blast last night. The car is warming-up now. Thank you for the message, and you weren't late because the celebration went to wee hours (yah). Actually the website carried it much later than the family did. I actually shared it with a newcomer to the family so she got to blow out one candle and I the other.

    I have two pierogi jokes that I'll share at a later time. Hope you find everything.

  • Guest

    Cool!  I'm so glad your b'day lasted longer than you did…..!!!!  Laughing  Sounds like a great day.  May you have many more.  (Looking forward to those pierogi jokes.)