This is the 3rd in a series of posts concerning SSU.
St. Sincerus University is usually quiet at this time of the year. Recent graduates have left in search of jobs, and students in dorms and residency halls have returned home until next school year. But this summer the school has been rocked by controversy & claims of collusion with the forces of evil and their best-known symbol, the Prince of Darkness.
On May 5 it was announced that St. Sincerus, the 84th largest Catholic university in the country, had invited Satan to deliver its commencement address the following week. The university community was nearly unanimous in its approval of the invitation, as students, alumni, & faculty applauded what has been hailed as an act of ecumenical courage. “This invitation reflects our openness to the global spiritual community,” one graduating senior said after the invitation became known. “I couldn’t be more proud to be an SSU student.”
Within the conservative Catholic community, however, there have been fierce attacks on St. Sincerus and its popular president, Fr. Thaddeus Despereaux, as detractors claim that the university is deliberately trying to provoke the Church and its bishops at a time when commencement addresses at Catholic universities have become a battleground in the conflict between progressive and anti-progressive forces. Controversial Catholic communications network founder and host of the radio show “Warriors of Faith” Sr. Mary Margaret Agnes Thomas Aquinas of the Incarnation claimed that “this move is typical of those ‘Catholic’ universities trying to cater to the whims of secularists and haters of the Church.” Other critics have claimed Despereaux was making a political statement in support of the current presidential administration & its policies, some of which have been condemned by right-wing Catholic leaders for being hostile to the Catholic Church.
Despereaux has denied any betrayal of faith or political grandstanding, defending the invitation to Satan on the grounds that a genuine university will always be prepared to have its core beliefs strengthened through debate and challenge. “Satan has a long and distinguished record of intellectual and public service,” Despereaux noted before the commencement speech on May 12th, adding that the invitation should not be considered a challenge to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “As a university in the catholic tradition, Saint Sincerus firmly disassociates itself from any positions or policies that are in open conflict with important church teachings,” he added. “Yet we are a community that is fiercely committed to the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas challenge preconceived notions. While we draw our inspiration from a religious tradition that provides us with an intellectual, moral, and spiritual point of departure, we are also open to critically engaging that tradition in order to become the university we believe God called us to be.”
Fr. Edward F.X. Cheever has become the loudest voice of opposition to Despereaux and what he claims is a long-standing willingness of the university and its administration to “play with fire.” Cheever, the Distinguished Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Culture & Religion at St. Sincerus, was initially indifferent to the invitation and the criticism it drew. He was even quoted in the student newspaper as saying that Satan doesn’t exist. Recently, however, he has made a number of antagonistic remarks in the wake of Satan’s speech. Cheever suffered a mild heart attack the evening before, shortly after having a private meeting with Satan. From his hospital bed two days later he claimed how badly mistaken he had been in claiming that the devil was not real, and that Satan has “duped everybody at St. Sincerus into thinking he is benevolent, when in fact he is the father of all lies and wholly bent on our destruction.” When asked why he had changed his mind so dramatically, Cheever claimed to have seen “the true face of evil.” He also contends that his heart attack was triggered by Satan revealing his role in ancient religious sacrifice, Cheever’s academic specialty, as well as his plans for the future of St. Sincerus. “We are headed for ruin unless we dramatically turn course,” he added, and implored President Despereaux to publicly repent of his sins and denounce Satan. In his strongest words, Cheever went so far as to claim that Despereaux has for years openly encouraged Satan to “weave his evil spell” over St. Sincerus by promoting his diabolical work through university programs & policies, all in the attempt to cater to social & academic trends.
Despereaux and his legion of supporters have brushed aside such criticism, suggesting that the stress of a heart attack has clouded Cheever’s mind. “Fr. Cheever has had a rough few days. We should pray for him, and allow him to rest and recover quietly. Extremist statements like this are uncharacteristic of Eddie, and we hope he will temper future remarks with Christian charity and moderation,” Despereaux said, adding that Cheever’s words “may inadvertently fuel the current climate of division and confusion.” Despereaux has also noted that Satan’s speech, far from being an invitation down the dark path of demonic despair and ruin, was both an inspiration and a call to action for all who attended the graduation ceremony. “We’ve had students, alumni, parents, & local business people all asking how they can help further the vision so eloquently articulated by Satan. Heck, he even fired me up. And fundraising has seldom been so successful at this time of year.”
Despereaux declined comment on the rumor that the university has invited Satan to become a full-time faculty member, though he did say that Satan’s academic credentials in a number of disciplines are impressive. Cheever, who is currently recuperating at his residence on campus, has promised to give a full-length interview with the on-line journal Idées Progressiste as part of its award winning interview series in the coming months. And Satan, the figure who has had the least to say in the controversy surrounding his appearance at St. Sincerus and its aftermath, has yet to comment, though he is rumored to be on vacation in Peru. Calls to his publicist have not been returned.Share on Facebook