A Catholic high school in Minnesota has denied honors for a state legislator who is a candidate for governor, citing his active support for “pro-choice issues.”
Holy Angels Academy in Richfield, Minnesota had considered alumnus State Rep. Paul Thissen as a nominee for its Activities Hall of Fame, which recognizes those who “through their citizenship and achievements, have brought honor to themselves, their school and the community.”
Thissen, a 1985 graduate of the school, was to accept the honor at a January ceremony, the Star Tribune reports.
However, the school’s president called Thissen days before the ceremony and asked him to withdraw his name from consideration. He refused and was told the day before the ceremony he would be stripped of the award because of his support for abortion as a state legislator of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
According to the school, an alumnus’ record at the academy constitutes the primary criteria for the award but the nominating committee also considers activities and professional life afterward. Thissen’s legislative actions contradicted Catholic teaching.
"Mr. Thissen had an outstanding activities career at Holy Angels and has had much success beyond," the school's president, Jill Reilly said in a statement.
However, she reported that the nominating committee was not aware of his voting record regarding “right-to-life issues.”
“As a result of Mr. Thissen's public and professional position to actively support pro-choice issues, with regret, AHA has chosen not to include Mr. Thissen among this year's inductees,” Reilly said, according to the Star Tribune.
Thissen reportedly wrote a letter to Reilly citing his record as a proponent of health care coverage for children and as an advocate for the poor. He cited his participation in football, basketball and track while at the academy and also noted his position as president of the student council.
“It's not the biggest thing in the world, but the school was and is important to me," Thissen told the Star Tribune. “Many of my closest friends, even today, were my friends back then. The recognition meant a lot.
“When I heard about this, I really was disappointed, not so much because of the award, but because the award was for something that had nothing to with my position on giving women the choice of what to do during a pregnancy.”
Thissen is reportedly a regular Mass attendee and has been a frequent contributor to the school.
Explaining its decision, Holy Angels Academy referred to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document “Catholics in Political Life.” The 2004 document states that those in public life who do not work to correct abortion laws are “guilty of cooperating in evil and sinning against the common good.”
Dennis McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told the Star Tribune that the archdiocese did not intervene in the matter, calling it “purely a decision by the school.”