by Junelly Gonzalez
Seven monks of St. Procopius Abbey filed suit against Benedictine University’s Board of Trustees and former president this summer claiming they were denied their rights to help govern the university their abbey founded.
“If you take the monks of St. Procopius Abbey out of the picture, you are taking away an important contributing factor to the Catholic nature of Benedictine University,” stated Abbot Austin Murphy in article posted to the EWTN global Catholic network. “(The Board of Trustees) are surely not the only ones who contribute to the Catholic identity of Benedictine University, but they make an important contribution.”
The lawsuit, filed in DuPage county, states that the University’s by-laws, allow for both members, being the monks and the trustees, to do among other things, meet the presidential candidates as well as approve of a new president for the University. The monks assert both these rights were denied.
“I certainly did not know this was in the mix when I was nominated for the position,” said Dr. Michael S. Brophy, the new President of BenU. “What I came to find is that the Abbey has a deep affection for the University. I was extremely happy when earlier this week the faculty and staff came together and were led in prayer and were blessed by the Abbey. My main concern is more with the day to day interactions we have with the abbey and any traditions, whether educational or cultural, we have with them.”
Some students agree with the monks actions because of their significant role in the school.
“The brothers should have every right to have their voices heard and considered just like every other student, faculty, staff and administrator that is a part of the Benedictine community, especially with important decisions such as Benedictine University’s new president,” said junior Katie Roe.
However, the university, as well as some students, find this matter could have been resolved internally before being taken to the civil courts.
“Benedictine is a family and as such is not immune to disagreements. The University leadership respects the monks and their ecclesiastical position and has a mutual desire to resolve any disagreements internally. As a result, we are disappointed that the Abbey monks have chosen to find resolution of ecclesiastical disputes through the press and to file a civil lawsuit against the individual Trustees instead of continuing internal dialogue with University leadership” stated James L. Melsa, the chairman of the BenU Board of Trustees in a press release.
“I believe the monks do have the right to fight for their rights. However, I feel as though this could have been resolved without officially filling a lawsuit,” said sophomore Paulina Piasecki. “Overall, I think it shows a clear rift between the administrative board and the monks, when they are supposed to be working together as a team.”
Although the University continues to express confusion and disappointment in the monks actions in filing a lawsuit, the monks have made it clear that this is an ongoing issue that originated years before the appointment of president Brophy.
“Although for more than three years, we have tried in good faith to resolve these issues, the present impasse leaves no viable option other than to resolve these ongoing disputes with this legal action,” stated Abbot Murphy.
There is not an objection to the selection of Dr. Brophy as next president. The issue the Monks express is with the process by which Dr. Brophy was chosen.
“The Board of Trustees is trying to portray the problems as originating with new leadership at the abbey,” stated Abbot Murphy. “The trustees are operating contrary to the By-Laws.”
“I do not know when or how it will end,” said Brophy, “but earlier this week I think our campus breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the Monks being on campus and being a part of our opening program and of course things like Convocation during the first week of school will continue. We have to roll along for the students because they need to see the Monks on campus. They need to feel that part of our identity is still there.”