Statement of Vice Chancellor and Director of Communications on Comments by Some Seton Hall University Students

The Archdiocese of Newark is blessed to include Seton Hall University under its auspices, and equally blessed that the University remains committed to its mission as a Catholic institution of higher learning.    

We understand that the University also has a wide range of other commitments – to students, government entities and others – as it works to ensure the highest in educational quality. We respect and appreciate the University’s ongoing efforts to fulfill its Catholic mission while serving a diverse and sometimes complex community.

It saddens us that a particular group of students has chosen to react to media reports that have grossly misrepresented a short note and set of principles that Archbishop John Myers recently sent to pastors.

The document that Archbishop Myers distributed to pastors last week very clearly says that these are principles. They are not “rules” or “particular law” being set down. In his role as primary teacher of the faith in this Archdiocese, it is appropriate and central to his ministry for Archbishop Myers to give advice and direction to priests and others involved in parish ministry as they deal directly with people facing some of the challenges about married life and living according to the faith.

In particular, the principles start by calling on priests to “walk with the people” as they journey through their situations, and to cherish and welcome them to participate in the Church as they can. This direction is very much in line with the thinking and actions of Pope Francis, who is reminding priests today that Church teaching will not change, but that priests must help people to understand the teaching, resolve differences, and bring about conversion.

The principles have been taken wildly out of context by many – some viewing them as a challenge or a “setting of the agenda.” However, the principles are reflective of the law and teaching of the Church. There is no special reason for its issuance now, except that the Archbishop knows from his priests that there is confusion and misunderstanding among some parishioners on the teachings of the Church with regard to marriage – all influenced by what is going on in secular society. Sadly, most of the media that has been reporting on these principles has been adding to the confusion and to the mis- and disinformation.

Archbishop Myers also offered as part of the principles that “pastors and others who lead in the Church should explain these matters in appropriate ways, privately when this is possible.” Fortunately, at Seton Hall University there is a community of more than 40 Archdiocesan and Religious order priests who live with and minister to students. We encourage this particular group of students, and in fact all students – Catholic and non-Catholic – to reach out to these priests in order to gain a true understanding of the Archbishop’s message based on what the Church teaches.

I know that the priests are and always have been present to Seton Hall’s students, faculty, staff and families to deepen their faith based on the Gospel and Church teaching. And that is precisely the central message of Archbishop Myers’ recent memo and principles.