A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”  G.K. Chesterton–  The Everlasting Man, 1925

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 By Marielena Montesino de Stuart – Resident of Ave Maria

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Marielena Montesino de Stuart

As a resident of Ave Maria, and one attracted to move here in part by the advertised presence of an “orthodox Catholic” university, I wish to present the following comments and questions to the Board of Trustees of Ave Maria University, for discussion during the Board’s meetings scheduled to take place on February 19 and 20, 2009.

My husband and I moved with our young children to Ave Maria in August 2007, seeking the orthodox Catholic environment that Mr. Tom Monaghan had promoted through the creation of a university that would follow the Apostolic Constitution of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II in Ex Corde Ecclesiae. This is manifested through promotional materials and the use of the words Ex Corde Ecclesiae (“From the Heart of the Church“) and the title of Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth“) in the university’s logo. This expression of Ave Maria University’s stated loyalty to the guidelines of Catholic education set forth by Pope John Paul II was further supported by the use of the Oratory’s image surrounding the words Ex Corde Ecclesiae. As parents, we were filled with tremendous hope that this return to traditional Catholic higher education and obedience to the Magisterium, would repair the terrible damage caused by the infamous Land O’ Lakes Statement of 1967, which disassociated Catholic higher education from episcopal guidance.

Ave Maria, Florida

Upon arriving in Ave Maria, we found that the Catholic orthodoxy that had been advertised, was suddenly under attack by the same administration that had promoted it. For example, at this new so-called “orthodox Catholic” AMU campus in Ave Maria my children and I were not permitted to kneel at the communion rail; paradoxically, kneeling at the communion rail had been routinely permitted– in fact, it was a tradition at the old AMU campus, only a few miles away in the community of The Vineyards, in Naples.

Many persons interested in moving to the new Town of Ave Maria had attended Mass at the old AMU campus in The Vineyards and witnessed the use of the communion rail– something clearly indicative of a return to a level of reverence and belief absent in so many other places. The opposite was true at the new AMU campus in Ave Maria, where the student body had to bravely and respectfully argue for use of the communion rail, but AMU’s administration stubbornly refused to comply. When I asked the priest who claimed to be “Chaplain” where the communion rail was, he responded that it had been removed and placed in an undisclosed location.

What followed were months of an adversarial environment involving our local Bishop’s authority. This was a shocking experience, considering that this is a Bishop universally regarded as an orthodox Catholic. This situation became worse, as AMU’s institutional identity was being questioned.

The Naples Daily News reported during the month of February 2008, that the president of AMU had said that although “Catholic” status has not been conferred upon the university, changes to church laws might not do enough to reflect the laity’s growing influence after the Second Vatican Council, and that “it might take a while for canon law to catch up to all that.” This clearly did not lend credence to the AMU administration’s claim to uphold Catholic orthodoxy. To the contrary, Catholic orthodoxy does not engage in power struggles with an orthodox Catholic Bishop.

Need I say that nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the division and defiance I witnessed against our Bishop, nor for the persecution I suffer as an orthodox Catholic, to this day, inside Ave Maria. What a profound disappointment it has been, to my family, and to others– who are interested in being loyal to the Church, and were attracted to Ave Maria by AMU’s marketing to “orthodox” Catholics.

The months passed in this suspended state, and the pressure built on all sides. As the need for Sacraments increased, something that could only be provided through obedience to the local Bishop and under his pastoral care, AMU finally reached an agreement with the Catholic Church, allowing the Oratory to be under the control and guidance of the Bishop. Today, we feel blessed and privileged to have the Oratory under the pastoral care of Bishop Frank Dewane. Despite pressures from the AMU administration, the Oratory is presently a haven from idiosyncratic and unorthodox practices that occurred on occasion, prior to episcopal supervision.

The question now is the future of Ave Maria University, and its lack of legitimate recognition by the Catholic Church; consequently, I present to the Board of Trustees the following questions:

1. Why doesn’t the local Bishop have episcopal oversight of AMU, through permanent institutional participation in the Board of Trustees? Articles 5.1 and 5.2 of The Catholic University Within the Church, in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, indicate that “every Catholic University is to maintain communion with the universal Church and the Holy See; it is to be in close communion with the local Church and in particular with the diocesan Bishops of the region.” It further states that “each Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic Universities in his diocese, and has the right and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character.”

2. If AMU has pursued episcopal oversight through other means, other than through the local Bishop (such as through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or directly through Rome) then AMU’s administration would be well-advised to provide written proof that such steps have been taken, in pursuit of official Catholic recognition. Or, is AMU simply not interested in taking the steps necessary to obtain episcopal recognition as authentically Catholic? Is the stumbling block yet again a reluctance to submit to the Catholic Church– to surrender power and control? Or does the AMU administration simply not care about Ex Corde Ecclesiae? If that is so, the words Ex Corde Ecclesiae – Veritatis Splendor should be removed from the university seal immediately, as it is misleading students, their parents, donors, as well as current and prospective residents of the Town of Ave Maria.

3. Why doesn’t the administration of AMU openly advertise its well known stubborn bias for the Charismatic Movement and the “Praise & Worship” Mass, and its dislike of Sacred Music and the Extraordinary Form (Latin Mass)? Is it merely to entice traditional and orthodox students (and residents) to AMU and to the Town of Ave Maria? In other words, the type of Catholics that are drawn to Ex Corde Ecclesiae?

Why not more Catholic honesty? This defiance against the expansion of the use of the Tridentine Rite goes not just against Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum, but also against the advice of Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

4. Why has the administration advertised that AMU is a Catholic University, when Article 3.3 of Ex Corde Ecclesiae states: “A University may refer to itself as a Catholic University only with the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority, in accordance with the conditions upon which both parties shall agree”. The administration certainly knows this. Again, more honesty is needed, or better– do whatever it takes to comply with Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

5. In consideration of the fact that AMU markets itself as faithful to Ex Corde Ecclesiae, to donors, students, and residents, is AMU a “Catholic institution”— or a for-profit real estate/educational corporation?

6. Why serve on a Board of Trustees of a so-called “orthodox Catholic” university, if you are not going to take Ex Corde Ecclesiae seriously– the guiding, and most recent document from the Vatican on Catholic university administration?

Ave Maria University will never achieve serious recognition in Catholic academia, unless it strictly complies, in both words and actions, with Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Since the opening of the new campus here in Ave Maria in August 2007, I have seen the expectations and the morale surrounding AMU deteriorate day by day. The current situation is not only damaging to its distinguished faculty, but also to the future of the university, as well as to the Town of Ave Maria.

In light of the serious issues and questions presented above, as well as in consideration to the faculty, current and prospective students, parents, residents, donors and benefactors, it is incumbent upon the Board of Trustees to take the necessary steps to begin the process of requesting the resignation of the current administration at Ave Maria University, and to seek a new leadership– leadership that will sincerely and faithfully support and live up to AMU’s logo– Ex Corde Ecclesiae – Veritatis Splendor.

Respectfully, yours in Christ,

Marielena Montesino de Stuart, Resident of Ave Maria, February 14, 2009


Condensed Version of Guest Commentary by Marielena Montesino de Stuart in the Naples Daily News – Wednesday, February 18, 2009 – Page 5E

September 2007

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Marielena Montesino de Stuart is an observer of the Roman Catholic world.  She expresses her views as a journalist for The Wanderer and for  www.TheRomanCatholicWorld.com . 

© Naples News   www.theromancatholicworld.com

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Marielena Montesino de Stuart and  www.TheRomanCatholicWorld.com do not disparage anyone’s motives at Ave Maria, Ave Maria University, including the administrators, Ave Maria entities, Ave Maria Town, and Barron Collier Co.  Nothing contained in The Chronicles of Ave Maria© or Divine Comedy©, or anywhere on this blog/website questions the commitment of all involved to what they genuinely see as the best interests of Ave Maria, Ave Maria University, Ave Maria entities, Ave Maria Town and Barron Collier Co.  Marielena Montesino de Stuart and www.TheRomanCatholicWorld.com concede this.