Students and alumni at Saint Louis University are furious over the ouster of two priests, who reportedly were forced from their jobs because they were too zealous in being advocates for students.
The priests were known for drawing hundreds of students to Mass and for being willing to take on senior administrators and their policies on behalf of students. The two priests are the Rev. Michael J. Doody, the director of campus ministry, and the Rev. Barney Barry, whose job involved ministering to student groups, such as fraternities and sororities and the student government. The university is a Jesuit institution and both Father Doody and Father Barry are Jesuits.
While Saint Louis students and alumni are quite upset about the developments, they are generally unwilling to speak publicly because the university leadership was apparently horrified that many did so in an article this week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Father Doody said Thursday that after the article appeared, he had been ordered not to talk to reporters, and he declined to say anything other than that. Father Barry did not return calls. Supporters of the two priests, however, said that the article -- for which Father Doody cooperated -- accurately depicted events.
According to the article, Father Doody said that he had been told that Father Barry had to be fired for not adequately supporting the administration. And shortly after that, Father Doody was told that he needed to leave as well. While both priests were known generally for going to bat for students, the article said that Father Barry had recently upset senior administrators at Saint Louis by backing students in a dispute this spring.
The dispute concerned a $75 fee announced in April that would be charged for all students who were graduating. The fee angered many students, who held protests criticizing it and threatened to hold back on contributions as alumni because of the fee. The university eventually withdrew the fee, acknowledging that it should not have been sprung on graduating seniors so close to their commencement, but the fee will be in place next year.
Father Barry was present at the student government meeting where the fee was announced, and was quoted in the student newspaper as saying, "You go to school here and at the beginning of the year you are given set fees, and then to have this fee added on at the very end is really an issue of justice."
The Post-Dispatch quoted numerous students as saying that they felt betrayed that the priests lost their jobs for supporting students. They also said that Father Doody and Father Barry were the two officials students could turn to for guidance on spiritual and educational issues.
A spokesman for the university said that because the resignations were a personnel matter, its officials could not comment on them.