Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Secularized Thomas U Restricts and Penalizes Chesterton Society Conference:

Thomas U of St. Paul, the one that is in the process of freeing itself from the control of the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, is requiring that the American Chesterton Society start paying for room rent and overpriced staff for its 12th Annual Conference this weekend. Up until now, the conference has been free and open to the public.

Good times ending for the Chesterton Society at St. Thomas

For a decade, aficionados of the early 20th century writer G.K. Chesterton have gathered at the University of St. Thomas for a conference billed as a "great time for arguing and agreeing, eating and drinking and being stimulated by the ringing words of the writer who challenged us to 'break the conventions and keep the commandments.'"

But the good times are apparently over for the Chestertons at St. Thomas. Some of them are now ripping the university for what they see as heavy-handed rules laid down for this weekend's conference.

Those include requiring St. Thomas staff serve the homemade wine and beer that's a staple of the Chesterton conference, a cost society president Dale Ahlquist said effectively kills the event in the future. Chestertons also object to St. Thomas security needing to be present at all gatherings and St. Thomas requiring a fence around the group's' outdoor "afterglow" cigar-and-nightcap gathering on Foley Plaza.

Some Chestertons are now urging Archbishop Nienstedt weigh in on the matter. At least one believes it's part of a concerted effort to drive the "fundamentalist" Chestertons off the St. Thomas campus.

The university today said it actually waived the conference's $5,700 facility use fee this year because its Center for Catholic Studies was a co-sponsor.

The policies for the Chestertons are no more restrictive than for any event on campus when alcohol is served and minors are present, it added, and reflect the university's "concerns about underage drinking and respect for its neighbors."

St. Thomas has had its share of controversies over the past year. This one's unique. We'll cross our fingers that the Chestertons don't rumble this weekend with St. Thomas security. Pioneer Press blog report


Anonymous said...

I see that the UST has named Rev. John Malone (retired from Assumption) to the board of directors. Do you know anything about him? I was searching your blog and found the following:

"Malone was in on the creation of the Dorothy Day Center for the homeless across the street from the church and regrets he'll be out of the country next summer during the Republican National Convention, also planned for a site across the street.

"What I'm going to miss is the GOP reaction to the homeless" - the poor, the homeless, the sick and especially the dying, Malone said.

I'm not a Republican, or Democrat for that matter, but that comment struck me as very judgmental, shallow, whatever...

Unknown said...

I don't know too much about him, other than that he is outspoken and his parish has a strong social justice ministry. He probably has retired within the past year.

The Ironic Catholic said...

For the record, I got married at the chapel at St Thomas 9 years ago, and got familiar with the standard fees and regulations then. They aren't different from what has been described. They are to protect the school legally from any person who has imbibed too much and goes a little crazy. And their rental prices are steep (we ended up doing the reception elsewhere), but not more than most comparable venues. It sounds to me like the Chesterton conference got a free ride for many years while others didn't.

I'd volunteer my university, but I think the same rules will be in effect for sure. Still, I bet the rental prices are better. If someone is interested in hiking to SE Minn, it's worth a try.

I'd suggest holding it at a friendly Church hall in the Cities, with optional reserved hotel rooms nearby.

Unknown said...


I'd say that the regulations probably are reasonable, given our litigation happy society.

But why now after 12 years? And why on such short notice? This conference has been scheduled for a year?

Is some pagan employee of UST mad at Chesterton or Chestertonians?

The Conference has never charged fees except for the banquets; volunteers have provided home brew and wine and munchies. Free (donations accepted)

The ambience of the distributivist organization of the Chesterton Conference will be gone forever.

Wiki: According to distributivism, the ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of a few state bureaucrats (some forms of socialism) or wealthy private individuals (capitalism). Chesterton & Belloc

Maybe a certain college president who pulls in a quarter of a million (plus a house) might agree to subsidize future conferences.

Terry Nelson said...

Seriously - In regard to eric's assesment of the person in charge imposing the rules, I think the "ass" he refers to may just be "tight" - meaning, it's a person who loves rules and is imposing them as part of his/her job. They also may have some outside pressure to ensure security, set standards for alcohol and so on. (I see IC already pointed that out.) In addition - like everyone else - they are looking to make some money on their facilities. Maybe it is unfair to pull this at the last minute, maybe it is something more sinister, but the fact is there is no free lunch anymore for anyone. I love it how religious people demonize those who impose rules they happen to object to. It is like a Catholic business I know of who felt they were above all sorts of regulations. This is one of the things that piss me off about the holier than thou.

As for Fr. Malone, he happens to be a friend of mine, among other things, he is a canon lawyer, and his statement concerning the Republicans may indicate his political leanings only.

Unknown said...


Back from my meeting, I'll finish.

No question that the Chesterton Society got a free ride. But since they never charged for anything, it's not like they were laughing on the way to the bank. I wouldn't be surprised but if Ahlquist doesn't support the society as a labor of love. It is a pretty unique group.

And what wrong with colleges supporting pretty unique groups.

A church might work, if they have a lot of classrooms for the various small group discussions. I'm sure the powers that be will come up with something. Probably the most valuable thing UST provided was reasonably priced rooms for attendees from out of town.

Maybe St. Kate's would like to support the Chesterton Traddies.

Adrienne said...

I agree with IC - start looking for a church. It would be like our church hosting A.A. and Alanon, including our big annual "long timers" party this up-coming weekend, and asks for nothing. We do give them a cut of the donations because A.A. must remain self-supporting.

I'm sure a many churches would be happy to have you guys. You could even take up a free will collection for the church.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Ray, I get your point about the distributivism and all...and for sure popping it on you all was rude. If UST was willing to do the free ride, that would be gracious. But like Terry, I doubt there is something sinister going on there.

Who knows? St Kate's may be OK with it.

Unknown said...


Oh, I don't think it was a conspiracy. It most probably was a new employee in charge of renting UST facilities and getting money for that, wondering why the Chesterton Society was not being charged, and decided to charge them on his own. Father Dease has a lot more things than "rents" to worry about.

swissmiss said...

I was a bit shocked at all the outrage about this. It may have been a last minute thing that was sprung on the conference, but these are the rules and requirements that everyone has to deal with if you want to use the UST facilities. I haven't used them myself (too pricey and restrictive), but St. Kate's was even less friendly, more pricey and had pages of rules.

It's a great conference and I don't think they should see this as a deal breaker. This is probably the best venue for the conference, at least in the Twin Cities. I won't stop going just because I can't have a cigar or wine...that's not the point of the conference.

Anonymous said...

The society should promise to: 1. begin and end their conference with the Internationale played by a handbell choir; 2. have at least one session on the inevitability of women priests; 3. smoke only Cuban cigars; 4. salute Castro before lighting up.

If they did all of the above they'd get not only a fee waiver but additional funding from the university. The president might even tie a few on with them.

Dymphna said...

Did anybody get drunk last year? Did anybody behave badly with a school employee last year? To be honest, the restrictions aren't that strange. When I hosted my family reunion we had to abide by similar rules.

Unknown said...

Not one incident has ever caused police intervention in the twelve years the conference has been held at UST.

Everyone would agree that the fees and regulations are not overly restrictive.

UST has known this event was to take place on this weekend for 300+ days.

UST knew that there never has been any fees charged to attendees of this conference.

Why would they decide to impose charges that could not be collected 30 days before the start of the Conference. How did they expect that the fees would be paid?

Or were they hoping that the event would be cancelled?

UST knew that this organization is devoted to one of the most prolific and respected intellectuals of the 20th Century?

In my opinion, if this event had been meant to honor Charles Darwin or Sigmund Freud or Margaret Mead or Margaret Sanger, I doubt that the fees would have been charged. UST would have been honored to be the host to something that would bring honor and respect to the University.

But a staunch Catholic, whose book was entitled Orthodoxy and was published exactly 100 years ago? That doesn't fit with academia these day.

It was announced at the end of the last conference that it will be a long time before the Conference will be held again in the Twin Cities.

Figuring that costs will be the same everywhere, Dale Ahlquist has decided to take the Conference on the road and see if he can create more interest in Chesterton in other communities around the country.

Anonymous said...

Face it UST has left the fold...the crazy thing is that this occured 20 years ago and Archdiocesean Catholics are just waking up to it now. Talk about lag-time! Oh UST will throw a bone or two here and their to pacify their conservative alumnae, but structural change will not occur with former ABP Harry Flynn, Fr. John Malone or Fr. Kevin McDonough in leadership positions.