Now we know the price of academic freedom at St John’s University

It’s $20,000.

St John’s is a very nice, private Catholic college not too far down the road from us. They also have a program named after our celebrated liberal Minnesota politician and alumnus, Eugene McCarthy, the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement, which has a Senior Fellows program to bring in new and interesting people to the community. So you’d think they’d be good guys; I’ve had a good opinion of them for some time. That’s changing fast.

One of the Senior Fellows they recently appointed was Nick Coleman, formerly a well-known columnist at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, one of those old school working class liberal writers with an assertive tone which, as you might guess, I liked, but which conservatives found abrasive. So far, so good: Coleman plus St John’s sounded like a good combination.

But then St John’s decided not to extend his contract.

Why, you might wonder. It’s easy: Coleman, popular liberal columnist, annoyed a few conservative donors to the school. One, Bob Labat, “a 1959 St. John’s grad who has donated to the school every year since”, thought Coleman was “grating” and “caustic” and “inappropriate” for a Catholic school.

Another, Len Busch, “who has given $20,000 to the St. John’s theology department each of the last three years” objected to the fact that Coleman dared to criticize corporations and our Republican sleazebag governor, Tim Pawlenty. Notice that his donations are exclusively to the theology department, which gives him the clout to dictate who can be in the department of public policy.

Labat and Busch announced that they would make no further donations to the university, and St John’s caved in. I guess donors to Catholic theology have bought out the integrity of the college.

Catholicism has compromised them in more ways than one. The university has an associated Benedictine monastery, which has a — can you guess? — history of housing pedophile priests. But then, we all just take that for granted at Catholic institutions nowadays, anyway.