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The Roman Catholic World

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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Marielena Montesino de Stuart

By Marielena Montesino de Stuart,

Resident of Ave Maria

March 02, 2009

Ave Maria University President, Nicholas J. Healy Jr., in his reply to my Guest Commentary published in the Naples Daily News on February 17, carefully avoided the central question I asked:

Why is AMU, after six years of existence, still not permitted to call itself a ‘Catholic university‘?”  Instead, President Healy chose to discuss whether the Bishop must be on the Board of Trustees, a point I simply mentioned as one way to gain His Excellency’s Episcopal oversight.  It is only through obedience, cooperation and allowing his participation, that the Bishop’s confidence can be earned.

Ave Maria, Florida

Many an eyebrow has been raised concerning the way in which the AMU administration tried to assume Right of Presentation, in their reluctance to submit to the Bishop’s authority in naming the pastor / administrator of the Ave Maria Oratory. One could hardly call such a bold attempt an “inherent complexity,” as Mr. Healy described this process.  Many questions are also still being asked concerning the absence of Episcopal oversight of the Pre-Theologate program.

Mr. Healy recently asserted that “We believe that we are a Catholic university insofar as we believe we’ve complied with all the requirements of Ex Corde Ecclesiae and of canon law to be a Catholic university.”  Mr. Healy has also claimed that changes to Church laws might not do enough to reflect the laity’s influence after Vatican II, and that “it might take a while for canon law to catch up to all that.“  These are conflicting statements, that do not demonstrate a desire nor show evidence of AMU becoming an Ex Corde Ecclesiae compliant institution.  I sadly expect the words “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” to be removed from the AMU logo, as they have been from the Grammar school logo– but this would at least be truthful and not misleading.

Mr. Healy is also mistaken in defining fidelity to the Catholic Church, particularly in light of the “orthodox“ marketing of AMU, which attracted so many here.  Fidelity to the Catholic Church is namely fidelity to liturgical laws.  Summorum Pontificum is now the law of the Church.  It became effective as of September 14, 2007.  As such, any “Catholic” institution advertising itself as “orthodox” would be expected to respect and promote their fidelity to this law.  It is clear, however, that the AMU administration has espoused their preference for the “charismatic and healing liturgy“.

While President Healy states that AMU is open to “diversity and pluralism,” the administration has shown its desire to limit the presence of the liturgy prescribed in Summorum Pontificum; consequently, it is not because of the AMU administration that we enjoy the present liturgy at the Oratory. On the contrary– it is thanks to Bishop Dewane‘s efforts and careful pastoral care that we enjoy the current liturgical schedule, which includes the Latin Mass.

Mr. Healy’s statement that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have “strongly and repeatedly endorsed” the Charismatic Renewal, is an absolute exaggeration, and it is an actual distortion of the truth with specific reference to Pope Benedict XVI.

Mr. Healy, we do not want to be turned into another Mother of God “Charismatic and Ecumenical” community, whose controversial practices were investigated by the Church, and then it simply “reorganized” and reemerged as a “Private Association of the Faithful”.

President Healy is correct that charismatic liturgies, within certain norms, are permitted by the Church. This is a point which I did not deny. My objection is how President Healy has used his authority to promote “charismatic healing liturgies” and music, without making that very clear to potential residents, faculty and students. To do so would very likely hurt recruitment, but it would not be so misleading.

In 2007, under Mr. Healy’s administration, a liturgical “directive” was issued through a priest, Father Robert Garrity, who used to call himself “Chaplain” (a matter of public record). This liturgical “directive” stated authority over ecclesiastical matters at AMU.  Father John Zuhlsdorf  (Father Z) a famous American priest based in Rome, called this directive “pompous” and “inflammatory” on his widely read blog. It was during this time that people in Ave Maria began to refer to President Healy as “Bishop” Healy– while some of us quietly waited for Bishop Frank Dewane (the real Bishop) to exercise his authority.

AMU has advertised for years without any reference to anything “charismatic” about it. Instead, “tradition” and “orthodox” were the words emphasized. Once the traditional and/or orthodox students are here, they realize that the emphasis on the words “tradition” and “orthodox” is quite misleading.

It is somewhat disingenuous for President Healy, who is himself the foremost proponent of “charismatic and healing liturgies” and music at AMU, to obscure that point by references to diversity.  If “diversity” in these matters is the goal at AMU, then there is every reason to make the charismatic preference clear at the outset, except that some potential residents, faculty and students may not (and do not) share his appreciation of the “charismatic and healing liturgies” and music.  People have a right to be shown the full picture before moving here.

The issue of the communion rail was sidetracked by President Healy’s reply.  The administration made their position very clear by hiding the communion rail at the time of AMU’s move to Ave Maria.  I mentioned this by way of an example of resistance to tradition, in favor of charismatic activities.

I would also like to address President Healy’s purported liturgical expertise on standing for communion, and communion rails.  Yes, it is true that the Administrator (Pastor) assigned by Bishop Dewane has brought back the communion rails that had disappeared under the control of AMU’s administration; however, well after the Oratory was under the pastoral care of the Bishop, our Parish Administrator had to issue a strong statement protecting a communicant’s right to access the communion rail, due to complaints from students and residents who were being denied their right to kneel.

Mr. Healy refers to my standards as “too-narrow” when it comes to kneeling for communion.  So I take this opportunity to inform and update President Healy with the just released statements from Msgr. Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, on the matter of kneeling to receive communion:

Benedict XVI began to distribute Communion on the tongue and kneeling, on the occasion of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi last year, in full consonance with the provisions of the current liturgical law, perhaps intending to emphasize a preference for this method. One can imagine the reason for this preference: it shines more light on the Truth of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, it helps the devotion of the faithful, and it indicates more easily the sense of mystery.”

President Healy states that the town of Ave Maria was never intended to be “an exclusive orthodox Catholic environment.”  I will simply point out that Mr. Healy is a good lawyer.  By adding the word “exclusive” he barely makes the sentence true:  it was never intended to be exclusively Catholic; however, it was intended to be a “Catholic town,” which is why my family and other Catholic families are here.  That is why the population is 99 percent Catholic.  The town’s marketing has been shifted to emphasize “non-Catholic” –but it does not change what attracted nearly all of us here– the promise of a “Catholic town,” with that public identity, built in part to finance an “orthodox Catholic university.”

Finally, Mr. Healy, this is not about how you view my personal preferences as a Catholic.  This is about what the AMU administration has failed to deliver, after marketing itself as an “orthodox Catholic university.”

In fairness, I must add that one Board member has indirectly started to ask the same central question that Mr. Healy failed to answer: “Why is AMU, after six years of existence, still not permitted to call itself a ‘Catholic university‘?“  This Board Member resigned two days after the publication of my Open Letter to the AMU Board of Trustees, and has begun to publicly express his substantial concerns about Ave Maria University’s board and administration, including its Catholic identity.

Like me– he is waiting for an answer.


You may also read Marielena Montesino de Stuart’s commentaries through: RenewAmerica,, The Dallas Morning News, U.S. Politics Today (an EIN Service for Political Professionals-*) Poynter Online, Spero News, Daily Estimate, The New Liturgical Movement-Poland, The Naples Daily News, Les Femmes-The Truth, Culture War Notes,  ProLife Blogs,  The Wanderer, The Times of India, etc. Notice to readers

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