By Gudrun Schultz

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, April 26, 2006 ( – The Catholic University of St. Thomas has developed a formal travel policy for unmarried staff, saying they must have separate rooms on student trips.

Debate on the issue began in May 2005 when a choir director attempted to bring her lesbian partner along on a school trip to France. She was told it was inappropriate, reported the Star Tribune, and was asked to make separate travel arrangements for her partner. She skipped the trip.

College president Rev. Dennis Dease made the final decision, saying:

“While the institution is committed to respect the right of its individual members to hold values not in harmony with Catholic teaching, it also expects that those individuals will respect its right as a Catholic university to refrain from endorsing such values.”

He said that on school-sponsored trips, “St. Thomas faculty and staff are expected to model behaviour consistent with Catholic values on marriage and sexuality.”

Quoting John Paul II, Fr. Dease said St. Thomas is “a Catholic university that as such “has a relationship to the Church that is essential to its institutional identity.”

“My concern throughout has been to try to maintain the integrity of the university’s Catholic nature and faithfulness to its Catholic mission, and at the same time to articulate and reaffirm the respect and gratitude the university community owes all its members.”

Critics have suggested the decision is simply a veiled attempt to restrict homosexuality on campus, but the rule applies to any non-married partnership, including heterosexual relationships of long standing.

Last November, an unmarried couple, both professors at the university, were told they could not room together while accompanying students to Australia.

St. Thomas University was listed as “gay friendly” on a homosexual website listing of Catholic parishes open to homosexuality. In his statement Fr. Dease said he values the contribution of homosexual faculty members.

However, Fr. Dease said, “clearly some [understandings of diversity] cannot be endorsed by a Catholic institution.”

“In order to respect the values of others, we do not feel the need to sacrifice our own,” he said, reported the Tribune. “It would be contradictory for us to endorse values that are antithetical to the values of the Catholic Church.”


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