Tuesday, May 23, 2006

St Thomas Grad Angers Classmates in Commencement Address

A spring term that began with controversy at the University of St. Thomas ended the same way Saturday when a student used part of his commencement address to admonish people he considered "selfish," including women who use birth control.

The remarks by Ben Kessler, a well-known student recently honored by peers and faculty as Tommie of the Year, led to catcalls and boos during commencement at the Catholic university in St. Paul. Others booed those who were booing. Some students walked out on their own graduation ceremony.

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.

"It takes a tough person to play football," Kessler said in a Pioneer Press profile last fall. "Well, what kind of priests do we want to have? We want someone who is internally strong and externally strong. That's the kind of priest who can change society." Pioneer Press

The Strib has some student reaction.

KARE11 has some video of the talk Tip of the hat to American Papist.


Anonymous said...

Those students obviously needed to hear that seeing that how so many were yelling at him or getting up and leaving. Im sure they rarely heard about the evils of birth control or abortion from any of their politically correct/liberal teachers.

I congradulate that future priest (God willing) for his courage to speak the truth. Hopefully one day STU will live up to its name, it is after all a Catholic University!

Anonymous said...

Wow. That school can't catch a break, can it?

There is a time and place for everything. A warm speech about valuing life through NFP would have attracted more students and parents than criticizing many in the audience.

Remember that UST (yes that's the acronym) about at least 40% students who are not Catholic. Inviting them to the insights of Catholicism rather than calling them selfish would go a lot further....

Anonymous said...

Notice that the StarTribune does not mention, as the Pioneer Press story does, that Kessler criticized himself and that people were booing those who were booing.

Which story is right? Or should I say which one is left? :-)

I look forward to this young man becoming a priest. I hope he stays in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. We need him.

Mr. Dad said...

Cathy - I believe he is a seminarian for the diocese of Madison, WI. Unfortunately looks like he won't be sticking around here.

I'd just like to share the following anecdote from my time at St. Thomas. As this Pioneer Press story illustrated, the UST student body is pretty average - students who are really truly striving to live chastely are in the minority of the population.

Well, one day my Christian Marriage professor threw a curveball at our class. He began by having the class list off any and all criteria for what they would consider necessary to have the most fulfilling sex that is absolutely possible for them to ever imagine. (The key word being "fulfilling" - as opposed to merely feeling really good for the moment.) As the chalkboard filled up with things like "mutually enjoyable" and "lifelong commitment" and "caring" and even "bringing forth new life", the professor all of a sudden stopped and said, "See, the Catholic Church wants people to have great sex. And only great sex. None of the second-class variety."

That got everyone thinking. And it put everything in the proper context. So as his lecture then turned to the topic of birth control, he had set in motion a winning argument. By the end of the hour, I don't think there was a single person in the room who still thought contraception was okay.

The complete transformation of viewpoints was amazing - I've never seen anything like it.

It's too bad Mr. Kessler wasn't able to effect the same change upon his audience... of course, as susan mentioned, there's a time and place for everything. Perhaps he'll learn from this and will be a more effective witness in the future.