Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

City of God (continued)

Related links

Town of Ave Maria

Official Web site for the yet-to-be-constructed "community of uncompromising quality and boundless opportunity" in Collier County, Florida. Includes photos of ongoing construction and artists’ renderings of the town center.

Ave Maria University

Official site of Tom Monaghan’s new university, which aspires to be nation’s most orthodox and academically rigorous Catholic educational institution.

Ave Maria Foundation

Includes links to several other Monaghan projects, including Legatus, an organization of Catholic executives; Ave Maria Radio; Ave Maria School of Law; and the Thomas More Law Center, "The Sword and Shield for People of Faith."

Daschle Documents

Site launched by the Ave Maria List PAC to help defeat former Democratic Senate minority leader Tom Daschle in 2004.

Ignatius Press

Home page for the primary English-language publisher of the works of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Founded by Father Joseph Fessio, the provost of Ave Maria University and a confidant of Benedict.

Ave Parents

Web site founded by parents worried that Monaghan may Ave Maria College, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for his Florida project.

2030: Looking Backward

Full text of a fictional letter written by Father John McCloskey — member of Opus Dei and converter of Senator Sam Brownback and columnist Robert Novak — imagining an imminent religious schism and wave of anti-Catholic persecution in the United States.

Will Monaghan’s vision be realized? The educational piece of the Ave Maria project is developing quickly. This year’s graduating class, Ave Maria University’s first, had just 23 members — but 150 new students are expected this fall, and total enrollment is approaching 400. And, as Monaghan proudly notes, its name recognition among practicing Catholics is now in the top quartile of Catholic schools.

Whether the town of Ave Maria will be everything Monaghan hopes is less clear. Last week, Blake Gable, the Barron Collier Companies’ point person for the Ave Maria project, offered an emphatic disclaimer when I mentioned Monaghan’s plans for the community. "It’s an ongoing debate between our company and Tom how Catholic the town is going to be," Gable said. "He feels, obviously, that it’s going to be extremely Catholic. We feel it’s going to be, certainly at the beginning, primarily Catholic. But we are not going to discriminate or market to Catholics — that’s simply not what the company believes in. Tom has his vision, and we have ours."

Monaghan’s vision, though, is the one that’s currently being marketed to prospective residents in the Angelus, the newspaper of Ave Maria University, which mentions the same restrictions Monaghan cited at BC High and describes the town as a "utopia." And it’s this vision that Collier County’s board of commissioners has embraced. According to Jim Coletta — the commissioner from the county’s Fifth District, where the new university and town will be built — the project’s anticipated economic benefits are one reason for the board’s unanimous support. "The idea of Ave Maria coming to the Immokalee area — it was one of those things. You know, like God gives you a gift every once in a while," said Coletta, a genial man who keeps an alligator head, two mounted fish, and a George W. Bush action figure in his office. Another big reason, Coletta told me, was Monaghan’s moral rigor. "This commission has been very supportive of Ave Maria and the principles that it stands for," he explained. "Ave Maria is going to be a unique town, set up on its own. They have the ability to control things within their own border."

That’s the idea, anyway. But according to Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the tight control to which Monaghan aspires may be legally untenable. "I think they really can’t do this, as much as they might want to," Lynn says. "You can’t create your own town and then decide what all of the rules will be for living in that town. You can’t have a religious test for purchasing a house.... This kind of approach to creating your own little community is still governed by fundamental civil-rights and civil-liberties principles that are inherent in the constitution of the state of Florida and the federal Constitution. This is not a guy who’s buying his own island out in the Pacific. If he did that, he might be able to get away with all of this."

The legal issues are hardly clear-cut, however. At the outset, the town of Ave Maria will be unincorporated, with several key municipal services (utilities, trash pickup) managed by the developers rather than by Collier County. The private K-12 school slated for construction will likely serve the majority of Ave Maria’s younger students. In addition, the land in question is privately owned instead of publicly held, and Collier County usually gives private developers wide latitude to control real-estate usage. In other words, the county’s major contribution to the project may be just allowing it to proceed — and it’s not clear what principles governing church-state separation this violates, if any.

What’s more, recent legal precedent may be on Monaghan’s side. In 2003, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a federal appeals-court ruling that allowed Orthodox Jews in Tenafly, New Jersey, to create an eruv — a demarcated area within which specific religious guidelines would be followed on holy days and the Sabbath — inside that community. It was an emphatic validation of the constitutional right to freedom of association. The parallel with Ave Maria isn’t perfect, since the Tenafly case involved occasional behavior within a pre-existing community. But it bodes well for those who envision a more restrictive Ave Maria. So, it’s worth noting, do Monaghan’s ties with Antonin Scalia, the conservative Catholic Supreme Court justice who was recently a "justice-in-residence" at Ave Maria Law School, and Clarence Thomas, Scalia’s Supreme Court colleague, who spoke at the law school in 1999 and 2004.

Even so, a number of troubling scenarios come to mind. What happens, for example, if an outspoken atheist tries to purchase a home in Ave Maria? If supporters of a political candidate who backs abortion rights attempt to canvass there, will they be turned away? If an individual or group of persons living inside Ave Maria deviate from Monaghan’s conception of Catholic orthodoxy — say, by possessing pornography or contraception — what will the consequences be?

Strange as it may sound, the best outcome for Monaghan and his supporters might be to see Ave Maria challenged in the courts. It is a commonplace, among conservative Christians of all stripes, that the judiciary and the broader culture are hostile to "people of faith." The acuteness of this conviction should not be underestimated. In 2000, for example, Father John McCloskey, another eminent Catholic conservative, wrote a widely noted letter framed as a communication, in 2030, from an elderly priest to a newly ordained youth. In McCloskey’s imagination, a vague but ominous conflict had replaced the United States with a "Regional States of North America"; the Catholic Church in the US had emerged stronger, but hardly unscathed. "As it turns out," the imaginary mentor tells his protégé, "those few years in prison and the torture were wonderful for my spiritual life."

If meddling secularists and activist judges intrude on Monaghan’s project, the collective ire of orthodox Catholics — who are already incensed by America’s embrace of the so-called culture of death — will only intensify. And those who share Monaghan’s worldview will have a new martyr. If the town of Ave Maria proceeds apace, meanwhile, the militantly separatist Catholic subculture that’s already growing in American society will be that much stronger. Either way, Tom Monaghan wins.

Adam Reilly can be reached at areilly[a]phx.com

page 1  page 2  page 3  page 4 

Issue Date: June 17 - 23, 2005
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group