“Opus Dei priest loses
by Deborah Kovach, April 10,
1990, The Trenton Times
PRINCETON BUROUGH – The Rev.
C. John McCloskey III, the Opus Dei priest whose presence at Princeton
University has created strife among campus Catholics, has been removed
as associate chaplain and will not be replaced by another Opus Dei
priest, university officials said yesterday.
The Rev. Vincent Keane, director
of the Aquinas Center where the Catholic chaplaincy at Princeton
is housed, told McCloskey on Dec. 8 that he would be dismissed,
McCloskey said yesterday. McCloskey said he will stay on as associate
chaplain until commencement on June 12.
Keane reportedly made the announcement
at the Aquinas Center Sunday Mass. He did not return phone calls
McCloskey, who has worked at Princeton
since 1985 amid a swirl of student and faculty protest, said Keane
told him he wanted to hire a full-time nun or laywoman to fill the
associate chaplain's position. McCloskey said his position was part
time and without pay or contract.
BUT MCCLOSKEY will remain in Princeton
as priest of Opus Dei, which is Latin for Work of God. Opus Dei
is a worldwide doctrinally conservative Catholic lay organization
that has been dogged with controversy since its founding in Spain
in 1928. Some former Opus Dei members have charged, among other
things, that the group is cult like in its adoration of founder
Monsignor Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer y Albas, a Spaniard who
died in 1975. Opus Dei officials vehemently deny that charge.
McCloskey, who will continue to
live at Opus Dei's house on Mercer Street, said he will hear confession,
lead retreats and celebrate Mass, among other activities.
As for his relationship with Aquinas,
he said, "hopefully it will be just a friendly relationship.
That's up to Father Keane."
The Rev. Joseph Williamson, dean
of the chapel at Princeton, said, "Father Keane and I have
been in conversation about this over several months, and the overriding
concern for both of us is the welfare of Catholic ministry on campus.
. . Father Keane made the decision that he felt the ministry would
be better served without Father McCloskey."
The announcement came after a group
of students and faculty opposed to Opus Dei circulated a petition
last week calling for McCloskey to step down. The petition accused
McCloskey of, among other things, violating academic freedom by
counseling students not to take courses given by professors who
MCCLOSKEY DECLINED to discuss the
issue. But in a letter printed yesterday in the student newspaper,
The Daily Princetonian, McCloskey wrote, "I deny the charges
of infringement on academic freedom. I consider it my right and
duty to give advice to students regarding course selection. . .
I would be derelict in my pastoral role if I did not proffer that
Controversy has surrounded McCloskey
since his arrival on campus and particularly since he was made an
associate chaplain at the university in 1986. The problems became
more intense last fall, when Opus Dei and some of the group's supporters
purchased a house on Mercer Street for $600,000.
A group of Princeton Catholics,
who call themselves "liberal" or "progressive,"
say that Opus Dei is moving to create two Catholic chaplaincies
and the basis for an authoritarian Catholic community. The Aquinas
Institute on Stockton Street has ministered for decades to Princeton's
Central to their call for McCloskey's
removal last year were 12 signed letters from students complaining
about McCloskey that were collected and presented to Keane. The
letters described upsetting encounters between students and McCloskey.
Opus Dei officials have strongly denied the allegations in the letters.
Robert Taliercio, a senior who has
been a leader in the movement to oust McCloskey, said yesterday,
"I think it's the best situation for all parties involved.
It was really about the resolution of a problem in our own community.
I don't want to look at it as a win-or-lose situation."
HE SAID the recent petition, signed
by 12 faculty members as well as a number of students, did not influence
Keane's decision, but Taliercio said, "It strengthened our
Freshman Mary Meaney, however, said
she is upset that McCloskey is stepping down.
"I'm very disappointed by it,"
she said. "I think very highly of Father John. I know people
look up to him."
Meaney, who said she only occasionally
attends Opus Dei activities, said the allegations that McCloskey
has infringed on academic freedom are "untrue" and fraught
But Luis Tellez, the director of
Opus Dei activities at Princeton, said McCloskey's dismissal "does
not preclude our activities here."
"In a way, it frees him to
devote more time to Opus Dei," Tellez said. "There is
no break here. It is just a change in relationship."
"I think in some ways it's
a relief," Tellez said. "It was a sacrifice to be devoting
time to things that were not associated with our work."
Tellez said he is not angry with
the group that pressured for McCloskey's ouster.
"I just pray for them,"
he said. "I don't think there is room for anger on this. That's
not what a Christian ought to respond with. I'd just like to move