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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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August 21, 2009

by Marielena Montesino de Stuart

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AVE MARIA: The Promise, The Reality” (Part 3) appeared as the front page feature  article in The Wanderer’s August 20th, 2009 Edition (available online as of 1:00pm Eastern Time, on Friday, August 14, 2009).

The Attack On Catholic Identity at Ave Maria University

THE WANDERER - August 20th, 2009 Edition - Front Page Featured Article "AVE MARIA: The Promise, The Reality" (Part 3)

THE WANDERER - August 20th, 2009 Edition - Front Page Feature Article "AVE MARIA: The Promise, The Reality" (Part 3)

Human endeavors claiming to be noble and truth seeking have a way of attracting outstanding individuals. A notable example is German Munoz, Ph. D., a distin­guished professor and author, who in 2003 spearheaded what became an ambitious recruitment of students in the Archdiocese of Miami, in support of Ave Maria University.

Dr. Munoz, a respected writer in the field of social sciences, has also written articles analyzing the present state of the Roman Catho­lic Church and its liturgy.  These can be found at www.drgermanmunoz.com. Dr. Munoz chairs the Wolfson Campus Department of Social Sciences at Miami Dade College — America’s largest, with eight campuses and a student body of more than 167,000.

As a faithful Roman Catholic — drawn by the advertisement of an “orthodox” Catholic university, Dr. Munoz began working to channel students to Ave Maria University. He then took the project to Miami Dade College ( a secular institution which does not promote or endorse Ave Maria University) — where he collaborated with professors who would assist students in their dis­cernment of colleges, by amplify­ing their options — to include Ave Maria University.

To this end, Dr. Munoz was the person involved in initiating an “ articulation agreement” — that would allow Miami Dade College students to have their credits trans­ferred and accepted by Ave Maria University. Dr. Munoz’s efforts are even more noteworthy, given that he placed his distinguished aca­demic reputation and efforts in sup­port of AMU starting in 2003 — in spite of the fact that there were ac­creditation issues, that remain pend­ing to this day.

In an interview with Dr. Munoz, he expressed the following opin­ions, regarding the current state of and issues surrounding Ave Maria University:  

Ave Maria, Florida

Ave Maria, Florida

Since 2007 I’ve been observ­ing the real nature behind the ‘or­thodox’ image that had been pro­moted by the administration of Ave Maria University. This became even more evident and devastating when I attended a meeting on campus, in­volving the administration, faculty, and students. It became obvious to me that Ave Maria University had become another example of the ‘ modernist’ lay movement that is undermining the Church, under the disguise of the word ‘orthodox.’ The strong Catholic identity we had hoped for at Ave Maria was being undermined. The Traditional Latin Mass was not given its rightful place as desired by our Holy Fa­ther.

“This is all misleading parents and students to think that Ave Mar­ia University is the solution to the problems found in Catholic higher education — when in fact they are behaving much the same as univer­sities like Georgetown and Notre Dame, among others, which have lost their Catholic identity and mis­sion. This is false advertisement in­volving a breathtaking amount of money, resources, and human effort — and it needs to be reined in by the Vatican.  Even the secular world takes seriously truth-in-advertise­ment laws.”

Dr. Munoz considers that Ave Maria University’s administration has “betrayed” many who trusted the advertisement and promotion of AMU as an “ orthodox” Catholic institution. Dr. Munoz added that he is following closely the admin-i­strative situation at Ave Maria Uni­versity, and is also fully aware that the liturgical schedule that we en­joy at the Ave Maria Oratory, in­cluding the Latin Mass, is due to Bishop Dewane’s pastoral guidance and efforts.

Dr. Munoz, who has dedicated his life to the field of higher education, added that as a Catholic parent he is keenly aware of the difficulties that many parents and students face when trying to decide on the prop­er Catholic college — which was another factor that compelled him to support Ave Maria University when he became a Founding Mem­ber; however, Dr. Munoz added:   

Based on the events of the past two years, and the questions sur­rounding Ave Maria University, fur­ther referral of students to AMU is being reconsidered.”

The Bishop’s Role In Catholic Identity

His Excellency Frank J. Dewane, bishop of Venice in Florida, as­sumed the liturgical responsibilities of the Ave Maria Oratory in March 2008. His pastoral care is not just extended to the faithful Catholics of the Town of Ave Maria and to the students at AMU, but it encompass­es his right of participation in reli­gious vocation programs at the uni­versity, to ensure that they are be­ing conducted pursuant to Church laws, and with episcopal oversight. As reported in Part 1 of this series, Bishop Dewane has accepted a re­cent invitation to join the AMU Board of Trustees, as an ex officio member.

This very recent step to bring the presence of the bishop to the Board leads to a series of questions, regard­ing the Catholic recognition that Ave Maria University needs to ob­tain, if it is ever going to be allowed to identify itself as a Catholic insti­tution.

The Ave Maria University admini­stration has not offered any expla­nation for the removal of the Pre­-Theologate Program from its web site. Was this due to lack of episco­pal oversight? Many fine young men have been part of this program. Where do they stand now, when they return to classes only to find the title of their program gone? What does this say about academic institutional instability, and the use of financial resources, donations, and human efforts that have been put into the Pre- Theologate pro­gram, and its advertisement as such? The Ave Maria University adminis­tration owes an explanation to the students, the residents of Ave Mar­ia, as well as parents across this na­tion.  

Ave Maria University: A New Secular Environment?

A person who is a fund-raiser for Ave Maria University recently ex­plained to me that Ave Maria Uni­versity’s administration is aggres­sively seeking the enrollment of non-Catholic and secular students, in order to maintain a functional level of new student enrollment, and that Ave Maria University can no longer survive by depending on the recruitment of Catholic students only. Although this person did not ask for anonymity, the name is be­ing omitted given the retaliation experienced by Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, as well as former faculty members who have been called “ academic terrorists” by Tom Monaghan.

An administrative member of the university, who asked for anonymi­ty, added that AMU administra­tion’s attempt to recruit secular and non-Catholic students will result in failure and misuse of resources, be­cause the institution is not equipped to handle such changes — both fi­nancially and logistically.  

The Future: Ave Maria University, Notre Dame, Georgetown — What’s The Difference?

If the Ave Maria University ad­ministration persists in aggressive­ly recruiting non-Catholic and sec­ular students, what is being done to accommodate the needs of Catho­lic students in a student population that is shifting, and could eventu­ally outnumber Catholic students? Will there be a Newman Center? How will the current Catholic fac­ulty be affected? If the objective will be to evangelize non-Catholic and secular students, will the professors be expected to exercise “ministeri­al” responsibilities — like the Ave Maria School of Law professors? (pursuant to Tom Monaghan’s re­cent statements).

The bishop of Venice in Florida has never designated “ ministerial law professors” in his diocese. In spite of this reality, would the AMU administration attempt this designa­tion of its professors — and wouldn’t this jeopardize the possi­bility of ever gaining Catholic rec­ognition, pursuant to Church laws? This recent approach from Mr. Mon­aghan to define law professors as having “ministerial” duties is a per­fect example of Catholic lay initia­tives overstepping their boundaries — and running amok.

Is Ave Maria University becom­ing a “mixture of faiths and worship styles” — the way Ave Maria Uni­versity’s President Nick Healy de­scribed the town of Ave Maria, in his Naples Daily News March 8, 2009 rebuttal to my Open Letter to the Board of Trustees?

Given the above scenario, what would be the incentive for a faith­ful Catholic student to attend Ave Maria University, or faithful Catho­lic parents to support and send their children to Ave Maria University, versus Notre Dame or Georgetown — or other secularized Catholic col­leges? Notre Dame and Georgetown have groups that support the needs of traditional/ conservative Catho­lics students, to counteract the sec­ular presence on campus. Why would we want this kind of diluted Catholic identity at Ave Maria Uni­versity?

The original mission of AMU, which includes Chastity Teams and the promotion of moral guidelines pursuant to the Servant of God Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, will be increasingly chal­lenged by the presence of a secular student body — which will force Catholic students into separate groups, in order to find an environ­ment that supports the Church’s moral teachings — much like it hap­pens at Notre Dame, George­town, and other secularized Catho­lic campuses.  

Questioning The Cardinal New­man Society’s Center For Cath­olic Higher Education

Given that Ave Maria University does not have official recognition from the Church to call itself “Cath­olic” — and given the questions re­garding institutional instability, vi­ability, lack of transparency regard­ing finances and recruitment of stu­dents, why is The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for Catholic High­er Education promoting Ave Maria University in its Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College?

The following letter to the editor of the Naples Daily News (July 6, 2009 edition) was sent by Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society:

“Editor, Daily News:

Re: Liam Dillon’s Daily News  article, on June 26, ‘Bishop’s ap­pointment to Ave Maria board in­dicates closer ties to university,’ mis­takenly concludes that Ave Maria University’s current lack of recog­nition as a Catholic university by Bishop Frank Dewane ‘doesn’t trou­ble’ the Cardinal Newman Society, because AMU is recommended in our Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.

“It is the basis of our work to ad­vocate conformity of Catholic high­er education to the Church’s guide­lines, including recognition as Catholic by the local bishop.  “When we included AMU in the 2007 edition of the Newman Guide,  the university was listed in the U.S. bishops’ Official Catholic Directo­ry,  and it was our misunderstanding that AMU had diocesan recognition. “We are thrilled that AMU is seek­ing that recognition and applaud the apparent progress that has been made by the election of Bishop Dewane to AMU’s board of trustees.

“Patrick J. Reilly, Manassas, Va., President, The Cardinal Newman Society.”

Based on Patrick J. Reilly’s state­ment above that “it is the basis of our work to advocate conformity of Catholic higher education to the Church’s guidelines, including rec­ognition as Catholic by the local bishop” — will it remove Ave Mar­ia University from the Newman Guide 2009, until AMU receives di­ocesan recognition? What about all the parents and students that have been led to Ave Maria University believing that it is a Catholic insti­tution, as a result of a “misunder­standing” by the Cardinal Newman Society?

We expect that an institution like the Cardinal Newman Society, which advocates on its web site that the Newman Guide “ is the first col­lege guide to show students where they can learn and grow in a genu­ine Catholic environment without the nonsense that has overtaken even some of the most well-known Catholic universities,” would take the responsible step of making a more clear and widely publicized statement regarding their position on Ave Maria University, one that would address those who purchased the 2007 Newman Guide, in addi­tion to the removal of Ave Maria University’s listing from the Cardi­nal Newman Society web site, until it obtains diocesan recognition.  

What Exactly Is Ave Maria University?

The current picture of Ave Maria University shows a lack of consis­tency in mission — which is wors­ened by the lack of transparency re­garding the questions that have been raised on the subject of financ­es, institutional instability, and via­bility. (See Fr. Fessio’s second firing and the Levering Memo, in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.)  

Thomas Aquinas College

The following information re­cently appeared on the web site of  The Catholic Business Journal:

Thomas Aquinas College is one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education, accord­ing to The Princeton Review, and it ranks number one in the country for ‘most religious students.’ The ed­ucation services company features the four- year, Catholic school in the new 2010 edition of its popu­lar guidebook, The Best 371 Col­leges ( Random House/ Princeton Review, July 28, 2009).

The Princeton Review profiles only the best of America’s 2,500 four- year colleges — about 15% of them. It includes detailed profiles of the colleges with school rating scores in eight categories, plus ranking lists of top 20 schools in 62 categories based on The Princeton Review’s surveys of students attending the colleges.”

Of special note in this year’s re­port on Thomas Aquinas College is that the school is one of only 13 in the country to be named to the first­ever ‘Financial Aid Honor Roll,’ re­ceiving a highest possible rating of 99. It also received a rating of 99 for its academics, and is one of the ‘Top 50’ institutions in the country. Further, it is ranked in the Top 20 in 8 of 62 additional categories.”

This flagship annual college guide by The Princeton Review profiles only the best of America’s 2,500 four- year colleges — about 15% of them. It includes detailed profiles of the colleges with school rating scores in eight categories, plus ranking lists of top 20 schools in 62 categories based on The Princeton Review’s surveys of students attending the colleges.”

If Ave Maria University wants to succeed as a Catholic university, it will have to follow the path of Thomas Aquinas College. Ave Mar­ia University would have to ac­knowledge that the current ad­missions problems that it is fac­ing are due to the fact that it needs to fight for the same type of students that attend Thomas Aquinas College.  To that end, Ave Maria University would be well- advised to change its cur­rent policies — but that would require a radical change of ad­ministration.

Also, click on the following links for Part 1,  Part 2 and Part 4 of  “AVE MARIA: The Promise, The Reality”


Marielena Montesino de Stuart

You may also read Marielena Montesino de Stuart’s commentaries through: RenewAmerica, USAToday, 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, etc.

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Topics for DiscussionAve Maria, Ave Maria University, Tom Monaghan, Nick Healy, Ave Maria University Chancellor, Ave Maria University President, Catholic Identity, Dr. German Munoz, Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus Department of Social Sciences, Orthodox, False Advertisement as a  Catholic University, Ave Maria Oratory, Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice in Florida, Thomas Aquinas College, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Chastity Teams, Theology of The Body, The Cardinal Newman Society, Patrick J. Reilly, Father Joseph Fessio SJ, The Levering Memo, The Catholic Business Journal, Best Colleges, The Princeton Review, Financial Aid Honor Roll, The Wanderer.

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UPDATE:  May 06, 2010:  Commentary and Analysis by the President of the Catholic Media Coalition

UPDATE April 25, 2010:  The Wanderer issued a statement about this article on their 04/29/10 issue, available at www.thewandererpress.com

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