Safeguard Clergy Requirement for Seton Hall President

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On February 27, 2018, Patrick Murray, the Chair of the Board of Regents at Seton Hall University, announced through an email that the Board of Trustees has amended the University By-Laws and expanded the qualifications for the presidential search from “qualified priests” to “qualified, practicing Roman Catholic laypersons.” 

At the time of writing, we merely wish to convey some immediate thoughts upon the issue:

With about 37,000 diocesan priests in the nation, it seems disingenuous to maintain that among them not a single candidate met the qualifications.  The announcement seems to reveal that the selection committee was not seriously looking for a priest as a candidate in the first place.  Well-documented examples demonstrate that institutional shifts toward Catholic orthodoxy improve both enrollment and alumni relations, and should give the search committee pause to contemplate whether it is making a serious miscalculation.

The move is an explicit insult to the Seton Hall Priest community.  To suggest that among the 46 of them not a single one is qualified, even though several of them have terminal degrees in education and other academic areas, and have given their lives to the success of this school, and by the nature of their office would labor to promote and defend the Catholic identity of this University in a way no lay person could, seems to demonstrate the insincere nature of the search. 

One of the things that attracted me to Seton Hall was her commitment to a strong priest community and her Catholic mission.  The number of Catholic universities in this country that cherish their Catholic mission is falling, while the number of students and parents interested in a university that actually promotes a Catholic mission is rising—this creates a gap worthy of our attention, from not only a missionary perspective but also from a business perspective.  I understood President Esteban as an exception to the by-law, and not the norm.  Therefore, it seems this move is a continuation of the nationwide institutional push to oust the Catholic Church from her active involvement in higher education. 

The move weakens the University’s bond to the Archdiocese of Newark and to the entire Church body, and in so doing alienates its students from the spiritual and intellectual wealth of the Catholic Church. This introduction of distance gives the impression that the University wants to keep the school buildings, the teaching infrastructure, and the money those resources can provide without any of the moral obligations of Catholic tradition and Social Teaching.

This letter serves as a petition to the Board of Trustees to reverse the amendment and support the Church’s active involvement in higher education. In addition, I ask for a forum to foster a campus-wide discussion in order that the views of all may be heard.  Students, faculty, and alumni of Seton Hall, parents and allies devoted to the Catholic Mission of higher education in the United States, this is our moment to unite.

 Benjamin R Jaros                                                                                   Sophomore, Economics Major                                                          The Gerald P. Buccino ’63 Center for Leadership Development       Stillman School of Business, Leadership Class of 2020           Seton Hall University                                                                                



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