Saturday, March 28, 2009

Do Seminaries Discriminate?

By Ed Kohler

For its size, the Twin Cities may be unique nationally in housing four seminaries. Two are in St. Paul – Luther Seminary (Lutheran) and St. Paul Seminary (Roman Catholic). Two are in the northern suburbs – Bethel Seminary (Baptist) in Arden Hills, and United Theological Seminary (United Church of Christ) in New Brighton.

I decided recently to compare the human rights/anti-discrimination policies of these four institutions. The motivation was supplied by a press interview given last October by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. His office supervises Catholic seminaries throughout the world.

The Cardinal focused his remarks on the Vatican policy that men with a “deeply seated tendency” toward homosexuality were categorically unqualified for priesthood. He maintained that even if they live chaste lives and commit themselves to lifelong celibacy, homosexuals may not be ordained Roman Catholic priests.

Because St. Paul Seminary is subject to Vatican policies, I wanted to learn if this local Catholic institution had integrated the Vatican homosexual mandate into its admission policies. Specifically, I was anxious to see in written form how the Seminary formulated a directive to discriminate against one class of persons while repudiating discrimination against other classes.

So I asked St. Paul Seminary for a copy of their admissions/ human rights/anti-discrimination policy. The admissions office sent me this statement:

The University of St. Thomas does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or physical disability in the employment of faculty or staff, the admission or treatment of students, or in the operation of its education programs and activities, with the exception of observance of ecclesiastical conditions for preparation for ordination as permitted by applicable statutes and regulations.

The statement reveals that St. Paul Seminary does not have its own anti-discrimination statement and that no class of applicants can feel free of discrimination from this Roman Catholic institution. The statement is meaningless as regards the Seminary because the Seminary is affiliated with but is not part of the University of St. Thomas.

From Luther and Bethel, I received statements which say they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, national or ethnic origin, or disability. Bethel adds age.

United’s statement includes the above categories, but stands alone by protecting from discrimination two additional classes not found in the statements from Luther or Bethel, denominational preference and sexual orientation.

It is 2009 and the clock is ticking. How long will it be before the local Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran seminaries join United Theological Seminary in proclaiming that sexual orientation will not be a factor in processing qualified applicants for their respective Christian ministries?

Ed Kohler was ordained from St. Paul Seminary for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul in 1957, served as academic dean, admissions committee member, and Social Justice instructor at Nazareth Hall prep seminary for ten years. He had been National Chaplain of the Christian Family Movement (CFM) when he married in 1972.

See also the previous Progressive Catholic Voice posts:
“Spiritual Paternity”: Why Homosexual Men Cannot Be Ordained Catholic Priests - Paula Ruddy (Progressive Catholic Voice, January 13, 2009).
Homosexual Priests and Spiritual Paternity - Ed Kohler (Progressive Catholic Voice, January 26, 2009).
Ministry, Not Maleness, is the Theological Starting Point for a Priest - James Moudry (Progressive Catholic Voice, February 18, 2009).
“We Are All the Rock”: An Interview with Roman Catholic Womanpriest Judith McKloskey - Michael Bayly (Progressive Catholic Voice, August 2008).

Image: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


  1. As a former devout Catholic and priest, I assure you that "Progressives" or "Liberals" are welcome in the Roman Catholic Church only in so far as they are content to be "pay and pray" members.
    By allowing themselves to be counted as members they are enabling the conservatives who RUN the church and make all of its important decision and policies to do so as a body of "one billion members".
    So called "liberal" Catholic underlings and the conservative overlings attempt to use each other for their own purposes, but the liberals always get the short end of the stick.
    See http://JesusWouldBeFurious.Org/ for Jesus view of the Catholic Church.

  2. Hi Rayosun,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the link.

  3. Anyone who speaks on behalf of perverts must be a pervert himself

  4. Baron, because of your comment, I'm having an Identity Crisis. Since I'm a registered member of a Roman Catholic parish and speak out in favor of my parish community, I must be Roman Catholic like practically everyone else there. I often speak out in favor of Samoyed dogs, so I must be a Samoyed. So far, so good. I'm a Roman Catholic Samoyed. But, because I also speak out in favor of Maine Coon cats, I must be a Maine Coon. Who am I? A Roman Catholic Samoyed or a Roman Catholic Maine Coon? Help! NanookMN