The perky Katie attacks Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria U

The perky Katie attacks Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria U

Katie Couric teed off on Ave Maria University’s Tom Monaghan this morning for his plans to build Ave Maria Town next to the university in Florida. I’ve seen even some Catholic bloggers say this is a bad idea because we’re called to go out into the world to evangelize it, not gather ourselves in Catholic ghettos where we won’t be contaminated by the ritually impure. Perhaps this is what some people intend to do at AMT, but that’s not what I’ve heard from the founders. In fact, they say it’s simply a way to give employees of the university a place to live near the campus, plus allow those interested in living near a first-class Catholic university an opportunity to do so. I doubt they’re going to have gates at the entrances to screen for baptismal status.

But what’s got most of the liberal media up in arms is the claim that pharmacies in the town will be forbidden from selling contraceptives or pornography. For those steeped in the culture of death, contraception and abortion must be accepted as a positive good and must be available to one and all, always and everywhere. Yet in reality, all Monaghan had said was that he “hopes” those things won’t be sold there, and it’s likely that residents of the town would use their free-market influence to prevent the sale of such items.

As NBC dutifully plastered the words “Catholic Town USA” on screen, Couric began pestering Monaghan about his hope that pharmacists would not sell contraceptives there. She asked about it four times. After four denials, she started dropping the bombs.

“Some people,” she claimed, think Catholic values might be “deemed wholesome, but in other ways, I think people will see this community as eschewing diversity and promoting intolerance.” Marinelli refused to take the bait, instead calmly explained that this town was open to all people of all faiths with a “traditional family value perspective.” Couric was unconvinced and shot back, “Does that mean you would welcome Jewish residents?” It was an ugly question with the veiled accusation of bigotry lurking just below the surface.

Will the cable channels have enough smut?

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
54 comments
  • Actually Katie, if some people don’t want themselves or their families exposed to porn, contraceptives or any other pillar of the culture of death, why should they be forced? Nobody is being compelled to live near Ave Maria are they??

    Some people move to Wyoming or Montana to escape the smog and crime of the city. Is that OK? Or are all obligated to inhale carbon monoxide? In the same way, maybe some people are getting a little sick of breathing the contaminated air of modern America.

  • In the Middle Ages monasteries were holy places apart which helped keep Christianity from devolving into semi-paganism. We need such strongly orthodox, powerfully Catholic “zones” in the Catholic Church in America today. Call them ghettoes, call them monasteries, call them anything you like—but we need them because so many Catholics have the goal of becoming totally assimilated to a secular, semi-pagan society that we need such “zones” to show what pure Catholicism can be and is all about and what fraudulent Catholicism—promoted by the world of academe and the media using semi-treasonous Catholics—really is—sell-out Catholicism

  • I wonder how Couric would react to an announcement of a new gated community of houses ranging from $400,000 to $700,000, complete with guardhouse and guard at the entrance.  Would she suggest that the ACLU is watching that development as well?  Would she suggest the residents were obstructing civil liberties and freedom by requiring residents of the new community to be able to afford to live there?  Or is it that discrimination on monetary terms is acceptable and even lauded, while discrimination on moral terms is tantamount to criminal action?

  • It’s amazing what people focus on sometimes. I mean, any town in the USA can have ordinances outlawing the sale of some items. That’s as American as cherry pie. It will depend on the kind of people the town attracts.

    People with Catholic values, huh? Well, let’s go beyond the soundbites and the hype, and look at the actual plans for the town itself.

    http://www.avemaria.com/

    We will find completely separate for “active adults,” that’s people over 55 (another pro-family victory?), plus “estate homes” for the wealthy. Not much information there to confirm reports about the low- to moderate-income housing for the less wealthy people already in the area. I mean, will everyone’s maids and gardeners live?

    Looks like another high-priced suburb, folks. You can figure that out just looking at the site plan. I just hope they scrapped that really stupid idea which was reported in the local press a couple of years ago, of a private golf course for wealthy benefactors.

    But even if they went ahead with it, at least you couldn’t buy pornography.

  • The athiests at my work were all abuzz about this.  I joked to them that the Obstetrics Ward of the hospital better be double sized.

    I told them I personally wasn’t interested unless they decided to offer the Tridentine Mass.

  • I didn’t actually see any numbers for the various homesites in the website.  Just how wealthy does a resident of Ave Maria have to be in order to afford the taxes?

    That’s a curious combination—expensive homesites and a rejection of any form of contraception.  I wonder who is expected to live in this town and how many bedrooms the average homesite offers?

  • Yes, I’d seen that.  Couldn’t tell if it was one homesite or three.  If one, my imagination says $300,000 if a penny.  Just the right price for your average non-birth-controlling Catholic with four or five kids, right?  Who’s kidding who?>

  • They also offer multi-family homes, condos, and apartments. Let’s not jump to conclusions based on lack of information and supposition. Oh right, what am I saying this is a blog…

    Anyway, it’s fairly common in large development projects to start with the expensive homes first because they have the most profit margin, then move on to the smaller, less expensive places.

  • Speaking of lack of information, just what is a “multi-family home”?  The first thing that comes to mind is the kind of place the Christians retreated to in Lewis’ “That Hideous Strength”.  Large building with a lot of unrelated people making their home in it.  It brings to mind persecution rather than choice.
    Or, I suppose, there is the kibbutz.  I’m guessing neither of these are what is planned for Ave Maria.  But perhaps it’s just a blanket term for condominiums and apartments.

  • Interesting analysis, David. 

    Monaghan is a common name.  Still I keep returning to the question, is he related to Patricia Monaghan at DePaul?  So far I haven’t managed to find an answer…which means, I suppose, that he is not. 

    In any case, were I to imagine a Catholic town, it would not look like that “lake district” on the website.  If I were to imagine a community that worships the dollar sign, though, it would. 

    Curiously this plan does point up one cultural aspect of Catholicism.  After generations of fighting our way out of the Catholic ghetto, we have arrived.  Of course what got us here means that there are a lot less of us than the PTB were so worried about back in the 40s and 50s. 

    For some reason every time I look at a drawing of that cathedral I expect it to talk.  Am I the only one who sees a 1940s radio in that design?  (Future title for a radio program for Ave Maria Town, “The Miter Speaks.”  Hey, there have been stranger program titles…)

  • Rather thank speculate on what multi-family homes means and how expensive the estate homes will be, I’ve requested information from the developers. I’ll let you know what I find out.

  • There are several errors in Domenico’s commentary. Dom wrote: “… Yet in reality, all Monaghan had said was that he `hopes’ those things won’t be sold there, and it’s likely that residents of the town would use their free-market influence to prevent the sale of such items.”

    Not quite, Dom! The quote from the Boston Phoenix has been widely reprinted. In that speech, Tom said plainly that AMU officials will CONTROL the town and they will NOT allow contraceptives and pornography to be sold. He’s been backtracking in the last week on his previously stated intentions.

    Attorney Charlie Rice commented eloquently on the serious and costly legal problems with Tom’s vision of the town, many weeks before the major media picked up on it. Rice’s comments are on these web sites, both run by alumni and students of Ave Maria School of Law: http://www.whoseamsol.blogspot.com/
    http://fumare.blogspot.com/

    Additionally, Dom made reference to AMU being a “first-class” Catholic university. Wrong again! There are many academics who disagree vehemently with the idea that AMU is headed for anything but tragic, money-wasting mediocrity.

    For those who have not been paying attention (New Oxford Review has covered this, as well as the two blog sites listed above, and Ave Parents), a place to begin to understand AMU is from those who have worked at the place. Consider the Dec. 8, 2005 memo by the chairman of the economics department at AMU. He wrote in a memo that is leaving the school and claims he was lied to and betrayed by the leadership of the school.

    Here are quotes from that memo:

    “I feel deeply misled. I was promised this university was a serious attempt to make a Catholic Princeton, or an Orthodox Notre Dame. It is clear that such promises referred to endowment and football teams only, not to academics. We left family, jobs, established research careers to make this place a national leader only to find out that I had been lied to. Outside of theology, AMU has no plans to engage in serious research, or to offer serious scholarship that shapes American culture. … Accreditation will freeze the current structure of the university for a decade, since accreditation with Nicaragua is a sure way to delay effective accreditation for AMU. Misleading advertisement is a sure way to betray people. …

    “AMU also misled us with respect to the town. The town, as you all know, will be Catholic only in name. The university is a silent partner and has little influence. The Oratory will be run by AMU and some small shops will be leased, but for all intents and purposes the town will be three gated communities similar to those found all around us. …

    “AMU also misled us about its Catholicity. The university is not connected to the diocesan structure, nor to any order of the Church. It is an endeavor by lay Catholics, at best tolerated by the local bishop who has never visited AMU.  …

    [END OF QUOTES]

    It is a sad thing that faculty and staff of both Ave Maria College and Ave Maria University know that if they public say something deemed “critical” by the administration they will be fired.  This happened to internationally esteemed canon lawyer Ed Peters, who posted his commentary about how he was deceieve on his web site.

    In short, Dom, AMU is not a “first-class” university. It is nowhere’s even close to getting on track to become one, and there are well-respected academics who have gone on record explaining why.

  • The first point may be an error. I haven’t followed this story too closely.

    The second is a matter of opinion. I hardly cite the New Oxford Review as a reliable source of anything but vitriol and invective these days. The memo is one side of a two-sided argument. I’d love to hear from AMU on why the professor was leaving.

    A claim that the university could only be Catholic if it’s run by a diocese or a religious order seems to lack understanding of what Catholicity. Lay Catholics can in fact set up and run very Catholic institutions.

    And Jay, you should probably come clean on your own involvement in the AMU/AMC situation. You’re not exactly a disinterested observer.

    There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does mean you have a particular pre-conceived notion coming into this discussion.

  • Around here multi-family home frequently means a larger older house that used to be a one-family back when people had large families that has now been divided into several apartments.

    For example, we live on the first floor of a three story house, there are other apartments on the second and third floors. Thus one home and three families… The majoritiy of big houses in our neighborhood are similarly divided.

  • Dom – It is disingenuous to tell Jay to “come clean of your own involvement in the AMU/AMC situation”… and that he’s “not exactly a disinterested observer”.  Who is your boss at Ignatius Press, Dom? Fr. Fessio? Isn’t he also the Provost of AMU? Is he “one of the founders” who told you that Ave Maria Town was “simply a way to give employees of the university a place to live near the campus”. “Pre-conceived notion” indeed.

    Let’s see how many of the university employees can actually afford to buy a house in AMT.  AMU is now advertising to hire a full-time senior level (Associate Professor), PhD-trained biology professor for $37,000/yr.  That’s hardly a one-earner salary to permit ownership for a family (much less a Catholic-sized family) in the outrageously bloated Naples-area market.  Facts on Associate Professor Biology positions in Florida: mean = $56K, 25th (bottom) percentile = $40.5K.  The Church has something to say about a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.  AMU, again, shows her priorities, which have little to do with building an academic community.

    Jay offered you direct quotes from the resigned AMU Economics Chairman, as published in New Oxford Review.  So, ragging on NOR as not being reliable in this case – as if heresay was printed by them rather than a quote – is unfair & journalistically poor. 

    Finally, you said “Yet in reality, all Monaghan had said was that he “hopes” those things won’t be sold there”.  C’mon Dom. Please get the facts right before blogging about it; people trust you. Here’s one of many Monaghan quotes about the Town (May 2004):

    “We’ll own all commercial real estate… That means we will be able to control what goes on there. You won’t be able to buy a Playboy or Hustler magazine in Ave Maria Town. We’re going to control the cable television that comes in the area. There is not going to be any pornographic television in Ave Maria Town. If you go to the drug store and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won’t be able to get that in Ave Maria Town.”

    If there are any “misperceptions” about the Town, it is Mr. Monaghan’s fault; this is not a liberal media hatchet-job.  Look what Monaghan’s own 50/50 partners are saying:

    From: Okeechobee News
    March 7, 2006
    “Mr. Sansbury [Tom Sansbury; VP, Barron Collier Companies] stated that the university would follow Catholic standards. However, he said, the community would be diverse. He said Ave Maria would not be a Catholic town any more than South Bend, Ind., the home of Catholic Notre Dame. He also made the comparison between the community and university of Ave Maria and Boston and Holy Cross College.

    From: AP/Washington Post
    March 3, 2006
    Paul Marinelli (Barron Collier CEO) “I think it would be boring if in fact it was all Catholic”

    This will be news to the many Catholics who have already started to pursue land/home ownship based, expressly, on Mr. Monaghan’s months/years of statements about the catholicity of Ave Maria Town.

  • Oh I forgot to add… around here $300,000 is a bargain. For that kind of money here you might get a small two or three bedroom Cape-style cottage. With no yard. In other words, it’s the minimum Dom and I would be looking at if we wanted to buy anything in this area. One of the reasons we’re thinking of moving to Texas. Though maybe we should consider one of these spiffy new houses in Florida….

  • Since it says very clearly on my blog that (and i have made no effort to hide the fact) that I am editor of Catholic World Report, I’m not exactly hiding the fact.

    Lots of assumptions are being made about the town without having any facts. How much will the various housing types cost?

    What does the salary level have to do with anything? It’s not like people are being forced to take those positions or that there’s a bait and switch going on. If AMU couldn’t find anyone to work at those “slave wages” then they’d have to raise them to market levels. Looks like some people are willing to sacrifice some cash now to work there.

    Frankly, the fact that some people are quick to side with the liberal media and the ACLU against Monaghan and AMU should give them pause.

  • “Frankly, the fact that some people are quick to side with the liberal media and the ACLU against Monaghan and AMU should give them pause.”

    Are all the concerns raised here about the project a sign of allegience with the “liberal media and the ACLU”? I hope that’s not what’s being implied here, because I sure don’t fit that category, and I dare anyone to find anything I’ve ever written that does.

    By the way, I haven’t commented on the housing prices because I don’t know what they are. But it IS Florida, and one doesn’t go out on a limb to suggest that most new development in that state is priced above the national average.

    (Now THAT, admittedly, is speculation.)

  • Miss Couric’s presumption that no Jews will ever have “a traditional family value perspective” is a very interesting insight.  I had no idea she was an anti-Semite.  Very revealing medium, television.

    Watching NBC (“No Bloody Catholics”?) discuss religion of any kind has, as Evelyn Waugh said about something completely different, “all the horror of seeng a Sèvres vase in the hands of chimpanzee.”

  • I wasn’t referring to you or Carrie, David.

    Whatever the prices are, my guess is they are less than Massachusetts, new or old home sales, based on conversations I’ve had with people around here buying property in Florida.

    But we’ll know when they respond to my requests for more iinformation.

  • Dom – Are you suggesting that my pointing-out Mr. Monaghan’s grossly inaccurate statements about the catholicity of the Town is me being “quick to side with the liberal media and the ACLU against Monaghan and AMU”?!  I left a great position in a prominent medical school, took a $16,000 pay cut, and moved my family to another state to be a full-time professor at AMC.  I put my money, career, and family where my catholic heart was; so, umbrage is taken with your suggestion that I side with liberals.

    It is precisely this kind of knee-jerk response, and inability (unwillingness) to accurately see fact from perception, that is undoing Ave Maria from the inside out.  Nobody will tell the emperor that he has no clothes.

    Your comments about the poor salary are telling.  It is absolutely positively NOT acceptable to offer people a grossly sub-market salary (one that I’d argue is not even a decent living wage for a Catholic man to have the dignity of being a homeowner in a one-earner family) because “some people are willing to sacrific some cash now to work there”. 

    You make my point for me – to pay people inadequately because the employer can take advantage of THE EMPLOYEE’S virtue and sacrificial willingness (ie. commitment to Catholic higher education) is unethical (whether by the Church’s standard or those of just plain human goodness). 

    That very tactic – taking advantage of the dedication and virtue of good Catholic men and women – is one of the immoral problems of Monaghan’s AMC/AMU.  If AMU feels no obligation to deliver on salary (because of the faculty being “willing to sacrifice”), then they don’t have to deliver on promised lab space, or needed research equipment, or promises about when faculty will move to Florida, or governance, or frankly anything.  And the exceptionally high turnover rate of faculty who have come/gone (in disgust) in the short history of AMC/AMU supports the deplorable basis for this tactic, one that you brush off.  This *is* a “bait and switch”, and it is predicated on the devotion of good Catholic students, parents, and employees.

    You, like many Catholic journalists, probably want to avoid the arguments critical of Monaghan coming from within the orthodox Catholic community.  You’re content to close your eyes when the emperor passes by.  But, if that is the case, don’t be surprised with people hostile to Catholics (ie. Couric) do see the problem and start asking questions.  It is this same exact melody – an unwillingness to self-assess – that allowed the Church’s sex scandals to fester.  Don’t defend Monaghan (especially when you don’t even know what he’s said about the Town over the years) just because wacked-out Couric pressed him on inconsistent statements.

  • last point –

    The news headline is not that Couric ‘attacked’ Monaghan.

    Rather, the news is that, according to Monaghan & his developer, “Ave Maria would not be a Catholic town any more than South Bend, Ind., the home of Catholic Notre Dame”

  • I am certainly NOT “siding” with the liberal media, any more than Charlie Rice, a former member of the AMSOL Board of Governors, was “siding” with them when he wrote his Jan. 10, 2006 letter explaining that Tom was wrong, wrong, wrong to think he could exert such control in any town in the United States.

    Here’s is an excerpt of Rice’s letter:

    “Mr. Monaghan’s expectations appear to be inconsistent with settled interpretations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.  In my opinion, an attempt to mold a community according to Mr. Monaghan’s stated intention would be likely to be held unconstitutional. It would also be imprudent.”

    My comments on this blog today were to correct the misquote of Monaghan, and to object to the reference to AMU as a “first-class university.”

    At the very foundation of AMU is a sense that certain laws are meaningless, that AMU is above the law, and nothing at all matters except how Monaghan wants to spend “his” money. This reckless attitude led to the $250,000 in penalties from the Department of Education in 2004, and will surely have led to costly and needless litigation if AMU tried to abide by Tom’s vision about what stores may sell and people may watch on TV. This is what Charlie Rice warned about, long before the ACLU launched its attack.

    Catholic scholars with impeccable credentials have been raising questions about AMU governance and practices long before Katie Couric’s interview.

    btw, regarding me “coming clean” about my relationship with AMU/AMC, I spent seven years in the Monaghan empire, the last two years as Director of Public Relations for AMC/AMU. I was abruptly dismissed from my job on July 2, 2004 and am suing AMC, claiming whistleblower protection for reporting illegal activities at Ave Maria that led to the $250,000 in penalties to the federal government. Needless to say, I am not “disinterested” on these matters, and have two children still enrolled at AMC.

  • I have to say that this is a very complicated mess, but it is not necessarily serving God, the Church, the world, or even Ave Maria University to look at the issues as a “liberal-conservative” conflict or even as a “Catholic-secular” conflict.

    I should first disclose my situation. I have a lawsuit against Ave Maria College of Michigan in the Michigan Court of Appeals, and have just filed one in federal court alleging that I was dismissed for reporting possible violations of the federal False Claims Act.  I am also alleging, in my federal suit, that I was asked to act in ways that violated my public policy duties as interim financial aid director of the College. At the time, Ave Maria College was operated by a board comprised of four administrators who held key positions on the board of Ave Maria University.

    I believe that this liberal-conservative, Catholic-secular controversy is and has in the past been used as a smokescreen for some real management problems—or at least as a smokescreen to hold up against real accountability. 

    Of course, I think Katie Couric has no interest in the real issues and I completely agree with Dom’s analysis of her interview.  I think there is value in the witness which Tom Monaghan, Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, and others involved in Ave Maria University have offered.  This new chance at witness is not something I would want to undermine.  But I am concerned that the undermining will happen anyway if no change in management practices occurs. In brief, I think Catholics should consider and discern carefully, what, if any are the justices issues, what, if any, are the management problems (the same people who lead the university were required to pay back over a quarter million in student loan monies to the federal government because the awards were insufficiently documented or else were given to ineligible students.  Criticism can be positive, but only if it’s based on truth.

    And certainly anyone who is affiliated with venture should seek to ensure that justice and fairness are part of the collegiality—a social justice principle—that is being touted far and wide.

    Even if you can brush off my story, it should give pause that there are so many others similar to mine: Charles Rice, Janet Smith, Jay Mcnally, the faculty and staff of St. Mary’s of Orchard Lake, the faculty and staff of Ave Maria College, Michigan, and so on.

  • Dom said – “So are you saying that Monaghan is wrong for having recognized his original error and correcting his position?”

    It is hard to call the media blitz of Mr. Monaghan and his 50/50 partner, Paul Marinelli of Collier developers, “recognition of his original error”. Their emphasis, repeatedly, was on “misperception”, not Monaghans years of statements that we now know to be false.

    About the closest he came to an admission of being wrong was in an ABC interview when he was pressed on reconciling the new claim of ‘misperception’ with Monaghan’s earlier ‘we will own/control’ statements. Mr. Monaghan’s response was “I said those words, but I was out of place.” But later in that interview, when asked if he wanted to dispel the myth that this will be a Catholic town, Monaghan said “I don’t know where that idea [of a Catholic town] came from.”

    So, again, whatever small admission he might have made at the beginning was blown at the end. He really doesn’t know where the idea of a Catholic town came from?!

    But, let’s concede that Mr. Monaghan heartily admits to ‘misspeaking’. Does one ‘misspeak’ repeatedly in multiple venues, in newsletters, in fund-raising letters, at fund-raising event, and in newspaper interviews over a period of many months (even years)? This was not a single overzealous comment in the heat of a Catholic men’s conference. Marinelli says that thousands of people have already started pursuing property in Ave Maria Town. And how many of these did so expressly because of Mr. Monaghan’s comments concerning the catholicity of the town?… comments that we now find out were “out of place”.

    So, what are the options to explain this?…

    – Marinelli & Monaghan have had, to date, a genuinely incomprehensible communication gap about the Town/University relationship

    – M&M are backtracking on an original agreement concerning the catholicity of the town because of bad PR & ACLU threats (both of which hurt the bottom line)

    – Monaghan knew that banning contraception would never be possible, but lied to Catholic audiences to drum-up support for their venture

    Whatever the case, you can’t put lipstick on this pig; Monaghan isn’t a hero because Katie Couric “attacked” him. Mr. Monaghan’s disconnectedness with the reality of the town is, sadly, consistent with how out-of-touch he is with the reality of the College/University’s problems.  And you in the Catholic media who intentionally avoid this story (in part for fear of vindication) and, instead, offer uninformed knee-jerk defenses of Monaghan, are setting-up Mr. Monaghan, AMU, and Fr. Fessio for a liberal media feeding frenzy down the road… and it won’t be Katie Couric’s fault.

  • Or he thought they could genuinely keep porn and contraception out of the town and realized later that they couldn’t?

    Oh and thank you for reading my mind: “…you in the Catholic media who intentionally avoid this story (in part for fear of vindication)…”

    I’m glad you’re hear to tell me what I think. I’d be delighted to hear about these uninformed knee-jerk defenses. On this thread, I’ve been exploring alternatives to the arguments offered by one side in the battle, which is, you know, what an unbiased reporter is supposed to do.

    Perhaps some media people “avoid this story” because they know no good deed goes unpunished and no matter how balanced a report they offer, they will be blasted as incompetent and/or biased reporters who don’t have their facts straight.

    It reminds me a lot of what Mark Shea calls the Lidless Eye RadTrads. You’re either with us completely or you’re the enemy. No middle ground. No neutrality.

  • So, what has CWR printed about Ave Maria besides Fr. Fessio’s glowing perceptions?

    It is ironic that you’d talk about “no good deed going unpunished no matter how balanced a report”. Your boss, Fr. Fessio, was invited by New Oxford Review’s editors to submit an article defending AMU. Besides that January 2005 piece, NOR also published another pro-Monaghan article by AMU’s President in October 2004.

    And how did Fr. Fessio thank NOR? In Spring 2005, because NOR refused to cave to Fr. Fessio’s insistence that NOR publish a third pro-AMU article, Fr. Fessio unilaterally instructed Ignatius Press’ business office (ie. without even Brumley’s knowledge) to cancel all contracts that existed between IP and NOR, including mutual advertising. 

    Now think about that.  The Provost at a non-profit university (Fessio) used a completely and wholly unrelated for-profit private business venture of his (Ignatius) to enact retribution on a small family-owned orthodox Catholic publisher because Fessio couldn’t get-in the last word about AMU in that small family-owned publication.  Yes, your employer knows a thing or two about “no good deed going unpunished”.

  • Once again you display your mind-reading prowess. You astound me that you know exacly why Ignatius Press doesn’t carry NOR advertising in its publications. (Incidentally, you’re completely wrong, but don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.)

    I love how NOR comes out completely innocent as a newborn babe in your version.

    By the by, Ignatius is not a for-profit business venture. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guadalupe Associates, a non-profit entity.

    Also, CWR has not printed only Father Fessio’s glowing perceptions. We have printed other viewpoints. But don’t forget that Father is the magazine’s publisher so he does get some say in what goes in. It’s his magazine. Nevertheless he has never ordered us to publish or not publish anything about Ave Maria.

    You have clearly illustrated my point. There is a carefully constructed mythology about the whole AMU/AMC affair that brooks no dissent and certainly brooks no neutrality. “If you’re not with us, you’re agin us!”

  • How exactly did Monaghan and the developers intend to deliver on their promise of a “Catholic town”?  Zoning restructions?  Lease restrictions?  How do you go about preventing the sale of contraceptives and porn?  Provisions in the town charter?  What?

    It’s one thing to tout such a venture and quite another to actually deliver it.  It might even be possible that the recant we have recently seen was planned all along.  If it was, he wouldn’t be the first developer engaged in inflated advertising.

    At the risk of alienating our host here, I must say that I’ve found coverage of Ave Maria in NOR to be credible.

  • The sad fact is that I might have a tendency to be sympathetic to both sides of the debate. There are people I respect on both sides—Fr. Fessio, Monaghan on one side; Jay McNally, Ed Peters, others on the other—but it’s the combative and snippy attitude of some of the anti-Monaghan crowd that keeps turning me off. I just don’t want to have anything to do with them because every experience is so unpleasant.

  • Dom, you say that you’ve “printed other viewpoints”, so please offer us citations of where CWR has done so.  Please. Maybe you mean that CWR has printed other “glowing” viewpoints.

    Your “with us, agin us” accusation is much more applicable to CWR, who is hardly “neutral” about Monaghan’s management and AMU.

    NOR printed 2 full articles plus many pro-Monaghan letters, yet you cast them as unreliable for “anything but vitriol and invective”.  And what did CWR do? Her publisher, Fr. Fessio, financially hurt a small-time publisher because it wouldn’t print a third pro-Monaghan article in that publisher’s family-run magazine.

    If I’m wrong about why Ignatius Press (not just CWR) banned NOR, and you’re denying that Fr. Fessio unilaterally canceled all IP contracts with NOR, then tell me what happened.  Ask Mark how he first found out about Ignatius Press unilaterally canceling all of NOR’s contracts (it wasn’t from Fr. Fessio, and it was after the fact).

    You say that Fr. Fessio never ordered CWR to publish or not publish anything about AMU. But then you argue that “it’s his magazine”… so ordering you to publish/not publish anything is a moot point. It’s his; he’s only going to publish what he wants.  That’s fine, but don’t make it sound like CWR is neutral & balanced on this topic.

    In September 2004, CWR received at least 3 letters from AMC faculty re: gross inaccuracies in Fr. Fessio’s August 2004 CWR article about AMC/AMU.  At the time, Phil Lawler indicated to us his interest in publishing the letters.  They were never published. 

    You talk about “carefully constructed mythology”  concerning AMC/AMU.  How true.

    Anyway… CWR/IP isn’t the focus of this blog post.  Main point – Monaghan brought the misperception/confusion about the town upon himself as a chronic symptomatic pattern of disconnectedness between perception and reality; whatever wacked Katie Couric thinks is irrelevant and certainly not ‘news’.

  • I would consider moving to Ave Maria simply to reap the advantages of a true Catholic community for myself and my family. Living in this culture of death and dissent here in Boston, I yearn for a place where Catholic values are treasured and God is glorified.

    Two of these catholic hubs have sprung up around the country, i.e. Steubenville OH and Ypisilante MI (probably spelled that wrong)by virtue of solid Catholic universities in those cities.

  • What are the values of a “true Catholic community?” A standard suburban neighborhood, where you have to get into the SUV to drive one mile for a quart of milk, where people are strictly segregated by income level and age group (yes, look at the site plan, read the web site)—will somebody please tell me what in God’s name is “Catholic” about that?

    So they don’t sell pornography or condoms. Big deal. I’d just as soon drive into the next town so my neighbors couldn’t see me.

    If you want a REAL Catholic community, move to Steubenville OH or Front Royal VA. I admit it doesn’t have quite the cache. Or is that another “Catholic value”?

  • Maybe one of the tests of a Catholic town is how many swings and sliding boards you find in the local park, and is it within walking distance of the neighborhood of affordable houses with four bedrooms.

    That lake district looks to this mother like a district of hazards for little people who like to investigate waterholes.  Most Catholics who reject birth control cannot afford to live on a suburban lake, so who is intended to be living there?  Apparently not the university professors who, it would seem, are being paid the equivalent of minimum wage.

    Maybe the town should be called Ave Maria Contradiction.

  • There is a neighborhood designed for families. Fortunately, older adults who don’t want to have to be bothered with the noise they make can live in an “active adult” community especially designed for them. And the children don’t have to be bothered with their noise either.

    Maybe they’ll have a Latin Mass. Oh yeah, that’ll make up for everything.

  • Actually, David, I’m not entirely opposed to neighborhoods of older adults and neighborhoods of young families.  We all like to be around people who share things in common with us. 

    For example, young families are looking for playmates for their children and other mothers with whom to trade childcare for short periods of time or when an emergency arises.  Older adults like to talk about their illnesses which is interesting to those who share similar complaints and a total bore to those who have not yet experienced the limitations.  There really is nothing wrong with like people getting together IMHO, so that sort of segregation really doesn’t bother me or make me think the place is less Catholic.

    It’s the displays of wealth that I find to be less connected to Catholic values.  I tend to see the property devoted to lakes and the taxes that must be paid on them in terms of how many meals some poor family could buy with that money.  I guess I’m just not willing to subscribe to upwardly mobile Catholicism, and I’m not impressed by it.

  • When is a principle not a principle?

    When the people who give lip service to it will not go out of their way to uphold it.  How is Wal-Mart’s caving into pressure on the Morning After Pill, discussed previously on this blog, any different from the caving in of the owners of Ave Maria Town to pressure to be like everyone else?

    It also begs to be answered, were they ever any different?  Is the desire to create a good environment for Catholic families, or money, really the driving force here?

    God is in the details.

  • Carrie:

    I understand what you’re saying. But we speak so often of the breakdown of the family. If we look at, say, the Philippines, we learn that there are no nursing homes there. No family would dream of letting a parent, an uncle, or even an elderly cousin fend for themselves; it would be unthinkable. People do like to gather around their own, yes, but the separation by age group, the isolation of generations, is a modern, Calvinist constuct, brought on by the Gospel of prosperity.

    Bottom line: don’t judge this project by the fancy brochures with ringing endorsements from one Catholic celebrity after another. Judge this project by its fruits.

  • You can take it a step further, David.  A truly family-centered community would integrate the means of livlihood for the family into that family structure.  There are few things more condusive to the well being of all family members than working together to provide that livlihood.  Children mature and learn from having responsibilities that are essential to the family’s well-being instead of being offered activities that amount to little more than busy work.  Grandparents can shoulder a lighter load that still contributes to family welfare instead of being shuttled off to retirement “play.” 

    I came to that conclusion from looking closely at Amish lifestyles.  If you want to see a community focused on family values, look at an Amish community.

    I don’t expect to see such a Catholic town in my lifetime, however.  We are completely opposed to mixing living arrangements with production—with a few exceptions of which Dom is an example.

  • Carrie:

    Well, Ave Maria is nothing like the Amish in terms of how various age groups interact. And it is nothing like a town in the sense of those by which Christendom civilized Europe. The town of Ave Maria is a monument to American consumption, much like any other “planned community” that is built. There’s a Catholic university next door, but there is little else “Catholic” about it.

    The sad thing is, a viable alternative is possible. All that’s needed is for a bunch of rich guys to admit that having all the money doesn’t mean having all the answers.

    If Doctor Marra were alive today…

  • Hello folks…

    Don’t know if anyone is still reading down this far. I just came across this thread.

    I speak here as a graduate student here at AMU.  Obviously I speak only for little old me and not the university in any remotely official connection.  But little old me does have a few things to speak just the same.

    1. Let me take up Jay McNally’s assertion first: “In short, Dom, AMU is not a “first-class” university. It is nowhere’s even close to getting on track to become one, and there are well-respected academics who have gone on record explaining why.”

    First off: I guess we would have to define “first class university,” wouldn’t we? 

    AMU has been operation for…2.5 years. Really only 1.5 years at anything like full steam. With the permanent campus yet to be built.  Given the size (40 some odd faculty) and resources (most of the library is still in cataloging, science lab space remains very limited) at present, I think it is not a stretch to say that we’re not quite Notre Dame just yet. 

    But I also think the quality of the faculty and the curriculum down here are truly remarkable – especially given the infancy of the program – and I *have* attended first class institutions, here and abroad.  Certainly theology is very, very good, as even Dr. Montes (the economics professor cited in that letter) admitted – unless Mathew Lamb, Gregory Vall, Matthew Levering, and Steven Long don’t fit your definition of high quality Catholic theologians.  Philosophy and classics have become pretty remarkable as well, I should add, which is not to write off any other department by omission – I merely speak of that which I am most familiar.

    As for Dr. Montes: He was also quite angry that this letter of his was made public, and asked for it to be withdrawn from the websites in question, as I understand it.

    But as to the substance of his concerns…I only know him a little, but from that I respect him highly and hope things work out for him.  I don’t know what all he was promised, beyond what he stated in the letter…I will just add that in some measure I don’t think (or I suspect) that it’s a question of being misled, so much as an overestimation in the initial plans about how fast this thing could grow.  And some of that optimism may have been genuinely misplaced on principle, given the dangers involved in trying to grow so fast.  But some of it also came from the skyrocketing cost of operating and building down here.  SW Florida is already a very, very expensive place to begin with – to speak to Mr. Alexander’s query, I would say home prices are nearly double what they are in my part of the Midwest (though obviously salalries are higher as well) – and having eight major hurricanes come barreling through in two seasons has not helped at all.  Phase 1 construction costs jumped about $70 million over what was projected, last I heard, and that may have gone up again since.  It goes without saying that this won’t help matters if you’re trying to hire more econ pofessors, for example. 

    (to be continued…)

  • (Continued…)

    2. NOR’s general view regarding Fr. Fessio, Tom Monaghan, and AMU are well known by this point.  It’s not for me to say they have never made a criticism with some justice in it, only that, as is too well known, Mr. Vree and company tend to be about as unbalanced about the whole thing as they are so much else, alas, meaning many people end up taking what they say with a grain of salt.  A real shame given the great work NOR used to do.  In other words they can really be their own worst enemy far too often, and one does not need to work for a Fr. Fessio-helmed publication to feel there’s some justice in that assessment. 

    3. Zoning issues: Well, let me say for starters as I have been given to understand that pornography is right out, that will be written in the leases as I understand it, and that’s nothing remarkable since municipalities do that kind of thing all the time with zoning ordinances.  It goes without saying that abortion won’t be permitted either. 

    As for the rest – especially the contraceptives – well, it’s not for me to speak for anyone, and I cannot say I am privy to everything.  It does seem that Mr. Monaghan made some rather categorical statements to the Boston Phoenix a while back, and seems to be saying something else now.  What’s up with that?

    I can’t say there hasn’t been some work to get on the same page betwixt Barron-Collier and Ave Maria; or that subsequent legal consultation may have indicated that some things that it was thought could be done might have to be done a little differently.  Quite possible, to be sure, and at least just as likely (if we are exercising a little charity, which I think even Mr. Monaghan deserves) as deliberately hyped fundraising talks to scrounge up donor money and interest. 

    But I also know I ran into the Phoenix reporter when he was here, and I have…let us say a healthy skepticism for the quality and accuracy of his work.  Maybe the Monaghan quotes he conveyed *were* accurate…but then again, if the professionalism (And agenda) of his conduct down here is anything to go by…I just wouldn’t build too high of a seige tower on his foundation.  In any case, on the ultimate results I will be very, very, very shocked if any business that leases in town ends up selling contraceptives, simply given the reality of doing business in town for any business that wants to succeed.  Just my two cent prognostication, of course. 

    4. As for David Alexander’s comments on the nature of the planning of the town: This is a subject near and dear to his heart, and I wish as fervently as he that he wins $300 million on the PowerBall so that he can play Catholic New Urban SimCity for real, and I do mean that in all sincereity, because David has some truly great ideas.  Would I have done things differently? Have some opportunities for reconceptualizing urban planning been missed?  These are fair questions.  And whatever happens, I hope, and think, that lessons can be learned from our experience that will at least mark this as a step in the right direction if nothing else.

    But I will add that a major chunk of housing here is supposed to be set aside for lower incomes, and that will certainly have to remain the case if they’re to retain quality faculty and staff.  Time will tell on that score, and I don’t have all the facts.  But I would add: don’t assume that everything out there in the public domainis exhaustive on that score.  We’ll see what happens.

  • P.S. I ask pardon for all the typos. It’s awfully late or awfully early depending on your point of view.

    P.P.S. I want to drive home my respect and admiration for David Alexander’s understandings on urban planning, and want to make it especially clear that the Sim City jibe wasn’t a jibe, just a line that seemed clever at 3am in the morning.  Because I would really be keen to see and even live in what he would try to build if he really did hit the jackpot.  Because I loathe the social atomization of strip-mall suburbia ever bit as much as he does and for precisely the same reasons.

  • Richard:

    Actually, that Sim City remark is pretty funny at 9 in the morning, so relax. As a matter of fact, that is EXACTLY what I would do with $300 million dollars (after paying off my mortgage and putting that son of mine through college). As to the percentage of low- to moderate- income housing, if anybody down there had any brains, they’d be playing up that angle for all it’s worth. Don’t see it on the website though.

    Which means they can always say they weren’t that serious about it. (No, it’s not lying; it’s adjusting your plans to meet the changing realities.)

    Monaghan should have hired me when he had the chance.

  • Hello Carrie,

    I hate to get ahead of myself.  There are lots of contingencies involved here that have little to do with my own preferences.  If I am able to do my PhD here then I’ll be around for the first few years of the town.  And if so it will be fascinating to watch unfold from inside.  Beyond that I hate to make plans. I would not be averse to staying if the opportunity arose.

    Leaving aside the zoning and cost stuff I have to say I’m not a big Frank Lloyd Wright fan, or Fay Jones fan for that matter…so there are areas where my Sim City would look different from Mr. Monaghan’s right off the bat.  But it’s not my $300 million, and I know what I would build would end up being more expensive.  Properly detailed classical idioms always do. 

    Hello David,

    A big part of getting all the zoning approvals was a requirement for a major set-aside for lower income housing, as I understand it.  I don’t know what you know about Naples and Collier County, but…it’s one of the most white hot real estate markets in the country, largely because of all the snowbird retirees.  It’s created a crisis for the labor pool, because skilled workers increasingly cannot afford to live in Naples.  The Sheriff’s office is about 30 deputies short for just this reason, and the school district is in even worse shape.

    And then, yes, all those faculty and staff, none of whom have retired-investment-banker disposable income, have to live somewhere, and that’s also a matter of close ongoing discussion with faculty right now, as I understand it.  Something is being worked but I don’t know the details. 

    I suspect the website was primarily designed to put the main foot forward in terms of securing reservations for the higher end housing right up front, because the the university gets a chunk of all that for its endowment, which is critical to sustaining the university once the Monaghan millions run out.  That may be why all the plans for lower-income stuff are still very much there but have not been accentuated.  Perhaps PR-wise that had drawbacks…but it may also be that there wasn’t much to say yet since the details had not been finalzed.  They may also want to keep it in-house since the first priority for lower-income housing is the faculty and staff, and they wish to square away with them before going public for anyone else.  I honestly don’t know.

    And in that regard, I suspect that the high end buyers will in some sense end up subsidizing the low end ones. 

    But I am glad you enjoyed the Sim City crack.  If it ever happens I hope one of your first calls will be to Duncan Stroik or Dino Marcantonio…(I fantasize about this kind of thing frequently.)

  • If the architect of choice were Duncan Stroik, the building would be Catholic in its symbolism.  If the architect of choice were a follower of Frank Lloyd Wright, the building could very easily have Theosophic overtones (see paragraph 3).  There is a good reason for instinctively disliking some architecture.

  • Richard:

    As a matter of fact, I could have guessed the lay of the land. It is Florida, after all. The housing market is probably comparable to the DC metro area.

    If the “city fathers” were as concerned about adequate provision of affordable housing as you suggest, they wouldn’t have to keep anything under wraps, knowing ahead of time of the need to provide for a service-job labor pool, as well as faculty. Let’s not kid ourselves; the builders are operating under conventional wisdom, which has proven to work for them in the past. They don’t have to live with it afterwards.

    Fine. That’s the way the world works. But please, can we end the charade about this being a “Catholic town” just because the 7-11 won’t sell condoms? This is not the mentality that civilized Europe under a GENUINE Catholic influence. Some genius in the history department would know this, if they read Warren Carroll, or Regine Pernoud.

    Never mind the fixation on Frank Lloyd Wright. No, my first call would indeed be to Professor Stroik. I’ve seen the alternatives proposed by him and his students (courtesy of Michael Rose, whom Father Fessio knows darn well is right). They obviously did their homework. Would that Mr Monaghan had done the same.

  • Allow me to respond quickly to some of Richard’s rebuttal to my comment that “AMU is not a “first-class university”.

    Richard says we need to define “first class university. Indeed indeed. The first place to begin would be with the topic of academic freedom. Ave Maria’s policy is that faculty can—and will—be fired if they publicly question the operation. AMU’s Ed Peters was fired for speaking out against the secret effort to sell AMC to Madonna College less than two years ago. Ed is a highly regarded canon lawyer, a towering figure in his field. There are other faculty who got caught in the AMU faculty meatgrinder.

    The Boston Phoenix reported that professor Bill Riordan nervously told his wife to quit speaking to its reporter on the very innocuous question, “What is it that attracts you to AMU,” and told him to see the AMU PR people. The reporter also said students were very obviously fearful of talking to him. A faculty wife at AMU recently said she hates living down there. She said many are afraid they might say the wrong thing to the wrong person because it might get back to the chiefs, who might exact retribution.

    Remember folks, there is no tenure and job security at AMU. The list of faculty and staff who have been capriciously fired or pressured into leaving by AMU President Nick healy is very long. Both Healy and Tom Monaghan are openly contemptuous of the very characteristics, traditions and customs that are at the foundation of great Catholic universities, including tenure. The “at will” statement new employees sign indicates Ave Maria may fire them for “cause” as well as “no cause.”

    Richard admits that “science lab space remains very limited at present.” This this gets to the academic credibility of the institution. AMU has offered science classes with absolutely inadequate lab materials. This is one of the reasons the highly acclaimed science professor AMU hired served notice that he was leaving only after being there a few weeks.

    A Naples-area newspaper reported that Edison College terminated several professors for not having academic qualifications to teach in their subject area. One of those terminated professors is also a biology/anatomy professor at AMU. Also, biology students are graduating from AMU, but have to take courses at other campuses because AMU repeatedly canceled courses that were part of the biology curriculum. Students who graduate from even rinky-dink colleges with a degree in biology meet at least the minimum course requirements to sit for the MCAT.

    Richard downplays the Montes memo. Montes wrote that he’ll never work in a Catholic institution again because of the ongoing lies and deceit he saw at AMU.  Pretty strong stuff, Richard.

    The AMU hype does not match reality.

  • I’m not sure what you’ve just described, but I am sure it isn’t Catholic.  You make it sound like a police state.

  • Richard said “Mr. Vree and company tend to be about as unbalanced about the whole thing as they are so much else”.  While it is true that the Editors have come to a conclusion about AMU’s management based on evidence provided by myself and a number of others (ie. Charles Rice at Ave Maria Law School), NOR *has* been quite balanced in publishing both sides of the matter (ie. articles from Healy, Fessio, and many pro-Monaghan letters). 

    Where else, I ask, have you seen both sides published? Fr. Fessio’s CWR? It is not only unfair, but inaccurate, of Richard to depict NOR as one-sided.  Dale Vree has said repeatedly that AMU represents great hope, and should be looked at carefully to see if it is worth supporting or not.  I’ve been told that Fr. Fessio banned NOR from AMU, which, if true, is in keeping with the real one-sided paranoia.

    I could cite professors that you would recognize who, at great risk, have stood up to speak passionately in faculty meetings to protest actions of the administration, calling them “assaults on human dignity” (and these are individuals not prone to exaggeration, who very much understand what is involved in ‘human dignity’).

    In October 2004, all of the AMC faculty received a letter from Mr. Monagahn stating that he added, to all faculty contracts, an addendum stating that ANY public criticism of ANY activity by the administration would be cause for termination. Intimidation is effectively used.

    I respect the Ave professors who, for the most part, probably still do their best to keep the students focused on their work and away from the problems – much as good parents protect their children from problems involving husband-wife relationships, finances, etc.  So, I do not expect a student such as Richard to necessarily have a pulse on institutional problems.  However, I will say that I still receive (unsolicited) calls and emails from AMU students who are quite dissatisfied with their academic preparation at AMU and ask for academic advice.. and who also just want to vent their frustrations about their treatment. That goes for parents too.

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