Judge Sides With Monks Defending Catholic College

News: US News
by Paul Murano  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 23, 2020   

Catholic identity remains uncertain

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A New Hampshire judge is backing Benedictine monks who are defending their Catholic college from a board of trustees seeking to secularize it.

Superior Court Judge William Delker

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge William Delker on June 15 blocked a move by the trustees of Saint Anselm College to retain their positions after their terms expire in October.

In April, the trustees sought to extend the terms of nine trustees, citing negotiations over accreditation and the Wuhan virus crisis. These trustees had served the maximum of three, three-year terms. Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge William Delker blocked that bid.

Delker wrote:

The court does not discount the fact that the loss of experienced leadership will make the challenges of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the (New England Commission of Higher Education) accreditation process more challenging. But allowing the current trustee terms to expire by operation of the bylaws will not result in irreparable harm.

Monks viewed the attempt by trustees to cling to their positions as part of a larger power struggle to secularize the college. The monks are now gearing up for a showdown with the trustees this fall over the future of Saint Anselm and its Catholic identity.

The monks at Saint Anselm, in a high profile case last year, sued the trustees over control of the 2,000-student, Catholic liberal arts college in Goffstown, New Hampshire, right outside Manchester.

Monks viewed the attempt by trustees to cling to their positions as part of a larger power struggle to secularize the college.

The judge also blocked a motion to stop monks from acting on behalf of the college, but the heart of the lawsuit, however, remains unsettled. Delker will have to eventually decide who will have control over the college bylaws — the trustees or the monks. This lawsuit, on which Church Militant reported in December, could decide the future of Saint Anselm's College, its name and identity.

Site of Anti-Catholic Debate

The trustees made headlines in January by holding at Saint Anselm a nationally televised debate of Democratic presidential contenders before the New Hampshire primary, in which every candidate invited was a vociferous supporter of anti-Catholic positions on abortion, so-called same-sex marriage, gender ideology and the curtailing of religious freedom.

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The Benedictine Monks, who in 2009 relinquished most of the day-to-day operations of the 131-year-old college, have said they need control of the bylaws to ensure the college adheres to its Catholic and Benedictine roots. The trustees have said they need control of the bylaws to show lines of authority, which they claim are needed for the purpose of reaccreditation.

Students Deeply Concerned

A concerned student majoring in history at Saint Anselm named Philip told Church Militant he and his Catholic friends were pleased by the recent court ruling but know the war is far from over.

These board members are working to secularize the school in the name of 'working to protect accreditation.'

"These board members are working to secularize the school in the name of 'working to protect accreditation,'" remarked Philip.

Ann M. Catino, Chair of the Board of Trustees

He is still deeply concerned about the long-term direction of the college.

"The chair of the board herself has donated thousands to Democratic candidates, per OpenSecrets.org," Philip commented. "The board members have been fooling around in many areas in school management, and the lawsuit has not helped their standing amongst the students at the college."

Philip and his friends, who are practicing Catholics, know there is a lot at stake. Realizing the impact the case could have on theirs and other Catholic colleges struggling to maintain their identities, Philip told Church Militant that "this case obviously has an impact regarding Catholic identity in Catholic colleges."

Now that the board will lose key trustees in October, eyes are fixed on what move(s), if any, will be made between now and then by this board of trustees. Catholics who love their faith and appreciate the Benedictine Catholic intellectual tradition are watching closely. As Philip told Church Militant, he and his friends fear a hidden agenda that is to usurp power in order to fully secularize the college.

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