According to Meehan, church officials have officially said he was expelled due to differences of opinion over church teachings. But Meehan said he was told by Schmitz that his expulsion was the result of several incidents, including his decision to tell another student he was gay and his public criticism of the seminary's approach to sexuality at two forums sponsored by the rector.
Also, at a church gathering in Hartford, he was critical of the seminary for teaching that homosexuality is a moral choice and for discouraging discussions about ordination of women.
''The way the church addresses the issue of sexuality in the seminary does not foster maturity or honesty,'' Meehan said in an interview in Hartford, where he now lives. ''From day one when you enter the seminary, the mechanisms are there for repression and dishonesty. People who succeed most in moving up the hierarchy are the ones who can be most deceitful about their sexuality if they happen to be gay.''
Meehan said few of the roughly 75 graduate candidates for ordination at St. John's were openly gay, although he said six students told him in private that they were.
As for homophobia, Meehan said he sometimes heard students make cruel jokes and derisive comments about homosexuals, especially after the sex abuse scandal erupted in January and the issue of whether gay priests are partly to blame for the scandal became a matter of public debate.
In his year-end faculty evaluation, Meehan received a positive review. But ultimately, Meehan said, church officials concluded that he was a ''loose cannon'' whose outspokenness made him unfit for the seminary. In July, the Hartford Archdiocese notified Meehan that it was withdrawing its support for him, a move tantamount to expulsion.
Two months later, Meehan sent the letter calling another seminarian a ''closeted practicing homosexual'' who ''has had plenty of practice at the trade while at St. John's.'' In the letter, Meehan said the seminarian had ''fornicated'' with another seminarian in a store dressing room.