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January 8, 2010

The Roman Catholic World

The following article appeared as the front page feature story in The Wanderer‘s January 14, 2010 issue.  It was available online as of 1:00pm Eastern Time on Friday, January 8, 2010.

Rhetoric vs. Actions…Is Abortion Allowed In Monaghan’s Ave Maria?


Now a lie is directly opposed to truth. Therefore dissimulation or hypocrisy is also

— St. Thomas Aquinas

Appearances Are Deceiving

Ave Maria, Florida

Ave Maria, Florida

Appearances are deceiving — and such is the case in the Town of Ave Maria — a town named after the moment of conception of Our Lord and after the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On November 5, 2009, during a press conference at Ave Maria University, the administration, various faculty members, and selected students proudly honored and gave a standing ovation to Tom Golisano, a billionaire with a long history of supporting pro-choice politicians. Mr. Golisano has been a key sponsor of institutions like the Clinton Global Initiative, which promote the culture of death. On the day of his honoring, Golisano had no record of ever having publicly renounced his quoted position on abortion — or made any clarification about it. In fact, his position was so controversial that the university’s public relations firm, Falls Communications, issued a recommendation as to how to proceed in the event that Golisano’s background would come into question during the press conference.

Why would such a recommendation be necessary if Golisano’s political background was not in clash with the university’s stated mission?

This controversial recommendation from Falls Communications has been circulating in the public domain for several weeks. For the benefit of the readers, it is quoted below:

Tom Golisano

“Golisano: Recommendation from R. Falls

I recommend we come up with a single positioning statement that Ave Maria leadership can refer to with regard to any and all questions regarding other entities that Mr. Golisano has contributed funds to in the past that may be contrary to the mission of Ave Maria (or any positions he has held politically). Please keep in mind, that if we don’t like the premise of a question — we can always change the premise.

“Let me state how pleased and grateful we are to Mr. Golisano for his generosity and his obvious support of our mission. A gift of this magnitude is a clear demonstration of a personal commitment he has made to Ave Maria which encompasses our curriculum, our core values and our dedication to the teachings of the Church.

“It all comes down to how pressing the media might be regarding his other contributions (or positions) that may be contrary to AMU’s mission. This statement is strong because it focuses on two primary messages:

“1. Our gratitude for the gift

“2. Dedication to our mission

“We can precede our answer above with a dismissal of a premise by saying:

“I think that question is not applicable to what we are celebrating today.

“I think it is just the best way out of the situation. Otherwise they will just pick apart any other answer we give them.”

The reader should understand that nothing in this article is intended to question the commitment of any entity or any person to the stated goals of Ave Maria University and related entities. We freely concede that all persons involved are acting in what they see as the best interest of Ave Maria University and the other entities involved.

But why was this billionaire being honored? Golisano had just given a 4 million-dollar donation to the university. The university, in turn, chose to honor Golisano by naming a building after him.

On November 5, 2009 the Naples Daily News reported how Monaghan approached Golisano for a donation:

The donation came about because someone told Monaghan that he should speak with Golisano about a donation, Monaghan said. So, the university’s founder contacted Golisano and they set up a time for him to visit Ave Maria.”

“He did his basic sales work,” Golisano said. “You prospect, then you present and then you close.”

Nick Healy, President of Ave Maria University

Golisano’s public honoring on November 5, 2009, was in violation of the instructions from the U.S. bishops, based on the information revealed in the Falls Communications recommendation and Golisano’s political background.  The decision to honor Golisano was also in stark contrast with the following statement given by Ave Maria University President, Nick Healy, to the Naples Daily News television program “One on One With Jeff Lytle” — on the subject of Notre Dame University’s honoring President Obama:

Excerpt from Nick Healy’s interview aired October 18, 2009:

The United States Catholic bishops have made a very clear rule that no Catholic college university is to honor a pro-abortion politician. Period.

“…but to have him [Barack Obama] preside over commencement, and then award him a doctor of laws, was a way of honoring him, and it sends a very mixed message to the whole community.”

Yet, Mr. Healy appears to ignore the fact that Golisano ran for governor of New York three times on the abortion-tolerant Independence Party of New York platform.

The Cardinal Newman Society

Golisano’s honoring prompted the Cardinal Newman Society, which includes Ave Maria University in its Guide to Catholic Colleges, to issue the following statement in support of the Church’s stand in the defense of human life:

Cardinal Newman Society [The following statement, dated 11/24/2009 has been scrubbed from the Cardinal Newman Society website]

ARLINGTON (Cardinal Newman Society) – Recently Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, announced an extraordinary $4 million gift and the naming of a new campus field house in honor of the donor, B. Thomas Golisano. The honor has been scrutinized by local media and others because of Mr. Golisano’s past political activities and campaign donations which have associated Mr. Golisano with support for abortion rights and for those who are champions of abortion rights.

 Because of suggestions that Mr. Golisano may today fully support Catholic teaching on abortion, and knowing of the demonstrated commitment of Ave Maria University to a strong Catholic identity and to Catholic doctrine on the sanctity of all human life, The Cardinal Newman Society has communicated with the University and others to gather complete information. Meanwhile, Ave Maria University has released a statement affirming that Mr. Golisano supports the University’s Catholic mission and, in response to criticisms about the honor, has asserted that “it is precisely because you [Ave Maria University] are confronting the culture that you got my attention.”

 It is clear to us that Ave Maria University is fully committed to a genuine Catholic identity; that Ave Maria University has no desire to violate the bishops’ 2004 policy on Catholic honors and platforms for those who publicly oppose Catholic teaching, and believes that the University did not do so in this instance; and that while Mr. Golisano’s past political actions and reported statements suggest a “pro-choice” position on abortion that has not been clearly and publicly disavowed (including a 1994 quote in The New York Times that he is “pro-choice” on abortion), Mr. Golisano’s statement to Ave Maria University indicating support for the university’s mission is welcome and indicates some level of support for Catholic teaching. 

Nevertheless, Ave Maria University’s decision to honor Mr. Golisano does at least give the appearance of violating the bishops’ 2004 policy—which for a committed Catholic university should be a concern—and perhaps also in fact. 

The naming of a building for a particular individual is clearly an honor. Some have compared the honor for Mr. Golisano to the University of Notre Dame’s honorary degree for President Obama last May; that is an exaggerated comparison, as the Notre Dame action was clearly much more serious with great potential for scandal given the greater publicity and President Obama’s strident positions and actions with regard to abortion and embryonic stem cell research. It could also be noted, however, that while an honorary degree has only a short-term visibility, a named building is an honor providing long-term recognition to the individual. 

While Mr. Golisano may in fact support Catholic teaching, whether fully or in part, we could find no public statement from Mr. Golisano that has clearly disavowed what appears to have been his public “pro-choice” position. Nothing clearly dispels the impression that Mr. Golisano may espouse the “personally opposed but” position, soundly rejected by the Catholic Church, that abortion is disagreeable and immoral but ought to remain legal. In several instances, Mr. Golisano’s campaign contributions appear to ignore the bishops’ guidance regarding the obligations of Catholic citizens in elections that offer a pro-abortion candidate in opposition to a pro-life candidate. 

The fact that Mr. Golisano’s positions remain unclear permits the appearance that Ave Maria University honored a publicly “pro-choice” individual who has repeatedly aligned himself with pro-abortion politics.  The fact of Ave Maria University’s decision to honor an individual whose reputation at the time was of a “pro-choice” individual is of concern regardless of subsequent statements from Mr. Golisano. 

The hopeful result of evangelizing or fostering dialogue with Mr. Golisano does not, in itself, make the honor appropriate. Defenders of Notre Dame’s honor to President Obama hailed the potential for evangelizing him and opening doors for dialogue on abortion; but Bishop John D’Arcy and other bishops responded that a Catholic honor is not an appropriate means of evangelization and encouraging dialogue. 

As long as there remains the perception and possibly the fact that Ave Maria University’s athletic center is named for a publicly “pro-choice” individual, we fear a negative impact on a university that largely serves and employs faithful Catholics. 

The Cardinal Newman Society and Ave Maria University have a shared, demonstrated commitment to faithful Catholic higher education. We continue to have a strong relationship. The Cardinal Newman Society trusts that the University will address this concern with a sincere reflection on its mission and will develop policies to appropriately address such situations in the future.

End of Cardinal Newman Society statement.

Damage Control

Tom Monaghan, Chancellor of Ave Maria University

Nearly one month after his honoring, Ave Maria University made public a letter that Golisano addressed to Tom Monaghan at AMU. In that letter, which is dated December 3, 2009, Golisano states that he has always been pro-life, and that The New York Times 1994 article quoting him as being “pro-choice” was a” misinterpretation” of his position.

Here is the quote from The New York Times:

“Where do you stand on abortion?” one woman asked him.

Mr. Golisano responded, “The Country has been very clear that it wants choice, and I’m pro-choice.”

The following is Golisano’s clarification in his December 3 letter, regarding the above quote:

What I proclaimed as a candidate was that, if elected, I would be bound to enforce the laws of the State of New York, whether I agreed with them or not. Those laws obviously allow a woman to choose to have an abortion.”

How can Golisano claim to be pro-life? He gave 1 million dollars to Barack Obama in 2008 for his coronation in Denver. Add to this his financial support of 50 politicians that NARAL-New York deemed pro-choice, his sponsorship of the Clinton Global Initiative — which promotes abortion on an international level, his breathtaking monetary contributions to the William J. Clinton Foundation, etc., etc.

In spite of Golisano’s track record, the administration of Ave Maria University chose to buy Golisano’s rhetoric, rather than the reality. This is no surprise.

Chilling Speech and Limiting Freedom of Movement

Golisano’s honoring gave way to a scandal, which was widely covered by print, Internet, and television media — mostly drawn by the fact that the university’s administration chose to ban this journalist from the press conference where Golisano was being honored. An amazing fact, given that I was the only Catholic journalist who would have been present at this press conference — one reporting for a prominent Catholic newspaper (The Wanderer) — after having secured the necessary press invitation from the university’s public relations/media firm.

But the university’s administration took it a step further. In a draconian approach, they chose to also indefinitely ban me from the entire university campus private property, comprised of over 900 acres!

Nineteen days before Golisano’s honoring, Ave Maria University President, Nick Healy, also stated on television during his interview for the Naples Daily News show “One on One With Jeff Lytle” that “there is never any attempt to restrict the public” from the university.

Well, not only am I forbidden to enter the university campus as a journalist, resident, and taxpayer inside this district, but FOX Television News reporters were also banned from entering the university campus, with or without cameras — after my ban was set in motion.

This pattern of rhetoric, which is contradicted by actions, is consistent with Golisano’s approach.

The university administration claims that my ban has nothing to do with the articles I have written about Ave Maria University — but everything to do with questions I had asked two days before the Golisano press conference, at a town government Stewardship District meeting — questions related to Florida statutes, which I asked as a property owner and taxpayer in the Town of Ave Maria.

Such questions were deemed “disruptive” by the university’s administration. Was this a coordinated effort between the university’s administration, the town government, and the developer (who are all interconnected through board memberships) to control not just free speech, but also to control freedom of movement, inside Ave Maria?

Welcome to Ave Maria — where if you ask unwelcome questions as a property owner, regarding Florida statutes at a town government meeting, you may be banned from the very limited cultural activities available in this remote town in the Everglades — a town mostly controlled by the overlapping boards of the university and town developer.

In the meantime, Barron Collier Companies (the developer of the town in partnership with Tom Monaghan) continues to advertise on its web site that “town residents also benefit from the cultural and academic resources provided by the university.”

 Back to the beginning– The connection between Monaghan, Ave Maria University, and the Town of Ave Maria

When the plans for the development of the Town of Ave Maria began, the name of Tom Monaghan, Ave Maria University, and Ave Maria Foundation were used interchangeably, in reference to the 50/50 partnership with Barron Collier Companies.

For example, an early press release from reads “Barron Collier Companies and Ave Maria University are pleased to announce a partnership which will create Ave Maria, Florida.” In the same web page, the reader is offered the choices of requesting information about the university and about Ave Maria, Florida.

A Press Release from the former Ave Maria College in Michigan, dated 11/20/2002, stated that “a new Catholic university will be built east of Naples, Fla., with a new town to support it.” “The new town, also named Ave Maria, will have an integrated town-university center” and “the development of the town, including comprehensive residential areas will be undertaken through a 50/50 joint venture between Ave Maria University and the Barron Collier Companies.” Another article titled “Ave Maria Development Taps Pulte,” written by AMU Staff, describes how “the Town of Ave Maria is being developed by the Barron Collier Companies in partnership with the Ave Maria Foundation.”

 The Angelus (which is AMU’s newspaper/newsletter) used to have the subtitle of “The Voice of Progress for Ave Maria University and Town” — until approximately October 2008 when “and Town” was dropped. Was the university distancing itself from the town? Why?

 The Angelus inaugural issue featured Monaghan’s personal letter to the readers where he states, “As the newspaper and community grow and expand into the Catholic hub we anticipate” — then he goes on to say “I encourage our 42,000+ readers to peruse these pages and read the articles with a heart toward the community of faith we are building.

The January 2005 issue of The Angelus featured “Ave Maria Town grows a Christian community in the Tomato Fields of Collier County.” The opening paragraph reads: “Since the announcement that Thomas Monaghan had taken his vision of a truly Catholic community to Southwest Florida, people in the area and beyond have been clamoring for information.”

In June 2005 The Boston Phoenix reported that at a Boston Catholic Men’s Conference, Monaghan told a crowd of over 2,000 — including over 80 priests, about the construction of Ave Maria University and the Town of Ave Maria. The following is Monaghan’s quoted statement in The Boston Phoenix:

We’ve already had about 3,500 people inquire on our web site about buying a home there — you know, they’re all Catholic.”

That’s right — Mr. Monaghan, 98% of residents in Ave Maria are Catholic, because you promoted this as a Catholic town. Why else would they be in this remote area in the middle of a swamp?

A “Letter of Intent” signed at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on November 18, 2002, by Ave Maria University and the Barron Collier Companies, included the following provision:

6. The New Town in its character, ambiance, restricted covenants, zoning, etc., shall allow no public activities which are offensive to traditional Christian values or which might represent a scandal to Catholic and Christian sensibilities. Thus, no topless bars, abortion clinics, ‘adult’ bookstores or the like shall be permitted. The town or village shall be called ‘Ave Maria’ or ‘The Town of Ave Maria’.”

While the Letter of Intent from 2002 was not a binding legal document, it did serve as the framework for the town. Indeed, Monaghan confirmed his intentions on the Catholic identity of the town, during his Boston address in 2005.

In addition, fund-raising solicitations included statements, such as:

When we announced that we would be building a town for Catholics like you, along with the university, we received…3,000 requests for information.”

At the intersection of the town and university will be the focal point of both — a beautiful Catholic church.” This statement was immediately followed by, “With your help, Ave Maria will truly be a city of God!”

Charles E. Rice is Professor Emeritus of Law at University of Notre Dame. On March 28, 2006, Professor Rice wrote a letter to Tom Monaghan and to the Ave Maria School of Law Board of Governors. Professor Rice was a member of the board at the time of the letter, where he expressed his deep concerns over the relocation of the Ave Maria School of Law, from Michigan to Florida.

The following is an excerpt from his letter:

The constitutional and prudential concerns I expressed were, and are, substantial and legitimate. The Monaghan-Marinelli statements do not resolve the constitutional problems arising from the overall symbiotic relation between AMU and AMT [Ave Maria Town].” Professor Rice goes on to comment that the university with town vision was “likely to fall in a crossfire of litigation, possibly including even criminal proceedings founded on various misrepresentations.”

Yet, on August 19, 2006 The Wall Street Journal reported that Monaghan continued to “tailor his message to his audience” — and that in June 2006 he [Monaghan] told a Catholic gathering in Denver that “our plan is that no adult material will appear on the town’s cable system and the pharmacy will not sell contraceptives.” It seems obvious that Monaghan has played both sides, in the way that he has misrepresented Ave Maria Town.

Another quote, this time from one of Nick Healy’s most famous articles in The Angelus, titled “University, Town Set Precedent Long Lost in Europe”:

What kind of university will this be, which will determine the character and ethos of Ave Maria Town?

There is an answer for Nick Healy’s prophetic question.

 Ave Maria University is Not A Catholic University

Ave Maria University has no official recognition from the Church that would allow the university to call itself a “Catholic university.” The claim of “the first new Catholic university in 40 years” was a huge misrepresentation.

The university and town relation is another misrepresentation of the “Christian” values both would embrace — given the present reality that I face as a resident of Ave Maria Town, banned from over 900 acres by a university administration which claims detachment from town matters, while participating in coordinated efforts to control and restrict this resident’s freedom of speech and freedom of movement. It is important to note that representatives from all three entities (university, town government, and the developer) were present at the town government meeting that I attended, which AMU’s administration has claimed, in writing, as the basis for my ban.

 Ave Maria Is “Absolutely Not” A Catholic Town

As of January 2008, the town developer’s web site inserted (in the Q&A section) a statement that Ave Maria is “absolutely not” a Catholic town. That is definitely true, as Ave Maria’s true reality continues to be exposed. A huge Catholic church in the middle of town, processions, and a university “in the Catholic tradition” does not determine the ethos of this town — since that Catholic public identity has been switched and denied. That makes this town like any other town in America — except that it is in a remote location in the middle of a swamp, where until this last summer one could not even buy the most basic necessities.

Why is Ave Maria like any other town? Read on, and you’ll understand.

 The Final Betrayal

On November 15, 2007 at 3:44 p.m., the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Collier County recorded a document titled, “Amended and Restated Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions of Ave Maria Town Center I / Core.” It was signed by Paul Marinelli of Barron Collier Companies, Donald R. Schrotenboer (who was Monaghan’s Project Director for Ave Maria Town), and Blake Gable for The Residences of La Piazza Condominium Association, Inc.

The document includes the following statements:

 6.5 Restrictions and Prohibited Uses

 The following operations and uses shall not be permitted on any Lot under any circumstances:

 (T) Any facility performing embryonic stem cell research or other activity involving the destruction of human embryos or any facility performing in vitro fertilization or human cloning, or any use by which such prohibited activities are promoted or are the subject of counseling or referrals when such promotion and/or counseling and/or referrals are a substantial part of the use of the facility, i.e., comprising 25% or more of the activity of the facility;

 (V) Operation of any facilities in which abortions, as defined in Chapter 390, Florida Statutes (2006), are performed, or any use by which abortion is promoted or is the subject of counseling or referrals when such promotion and/or counseling and/or referrals are a substantial part of the use of the facility, i.e., comprising 25% or more of the activities of the facility;

This may well have been an effort to appear to “restrict” abortion; however, it confirms that abortion is allowed in such premises. Take, for instance, a 2,000 sq. ft. space, which is the size of an average medical office. This apparently could allow up to 500 square feet to be used for abortions, embryonic stem-cell research, destruction of human embryos, in vitro fertilization, etc., in Ave Maria. An abortion provider, or those involved in the activities listed in the above amendment, could hardly find this objectionable!

Monaghan spoke of having no abortions in this town named Ave Maria, which he actively promoted and advertised to Catholics. Indeed, in a deposition dated February 20, 2008 Monaghan stated, “Well, I thought that a disproportionate amount of the people that moved there would be Catholics; serious Catholics.”

Given that we do have in Ave Maria a disproportionate amount of residents that are “Catholics, serious Catholics,” Mr. Monaghan — how can they not find abortions in La Piazza offensive? How can “serious Catholics” in Ave Maria not be horrified to have paid $600,000 — and possibly more, for residences that are sitting above retail space where abortions are allowed — not completely prohibited, pursuant to town covenants?

The pre-2007 Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions does not ban abortion.  The 2007  revision actually allows abortion, up to 25% of the activities of the facility. These documents are available in the Collier County Public Court Records.

There has never been any public statement from Monaghan, or Barron Collier, recanting the “no abortions in Ave Maria” language.

Are the disproportionate number of “Catholics, serious Catholics” who actually moved to Ave Maria supposed to ignore all of Monaghan’s promises? Were they expected to assume that abortion is allowed? Not to mention the other activities which are also permitted pursuant to the revised covenants — activities which are, in fact “offensive to traditional Christian values” and do in fact “represent a scandal to Catholic and Christian sensibilities.”

 Parting Thoughts

Ave Maria University has chosen to honor Golisano, in spite of his active history of supporting pro-choice politicians, and being part of institutions that are enemies of the culture of life. This action, on the part of Ave Maria University, speaks louder than any stated mission that appears on paper or on the university’s web site.

Is the honoring of Golisano an attempt to pull away from the original “Catholic” mission of the university — into a secular one — just like Ave Maria Town? After all — how else are we to interpret Nick Healy’s prophetic question, “What kind of university will this be, which will determine the character and ethos of Ave Maria Town?

My husband and I moved with our young children to this town named after the Blessed Mother — this “City of God”– where there would be a ban on the culture of death.

Instead, the ban is on me — for exposing the bitter truth.

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How quickly they forget…

[Ave Maria] Project manager Blake Gable says all businesses in Ave Maria fall under the same ordinances as every other vendor in Collier County and to think that businesses would be treated differently just because a catholic church stands in the middle of the town is outrageous.

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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.
© All Rights Reserved

TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION:  Is Abortion Allowed in Monaghan’s Ave Maria?, Tom Golisano gives Millions of Dollars to the William J. Clinton Foundation, Ave Maria University Honors Tom Golisano, Catholic Media Coalition,  Les Femmes, Blood Money, Ave Maria Florida, Ave Maria University is Not a Catholic University,  Ave Maria University Bullying,  Is Ave Maria University ready to face ”Blood Money”?, Ave Maria Stewardship Community District (AMSCD) Town Government, Ave Maria University Honors “Tom” Golisano Politician / Billionaire who Has Given Millions of Dollars to Pro-Choice Politicians and Now Claims that he is not Pro-Choice, Does AMU have a Right to Criticize Notre Dame?  What is the ”Ave Maria University Council” and what is its purpose?  What is the Status of Ave Maria University’s Accreditation Process?  Ave Maria University Board of Trustees, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Father Joseph Fessio SJ, Firing of Priest, Lack of Fiduciary Responsibility, Institutional Instability, Tom Monaghan, Nicholas J. Healy Jr., President of Ave Maria University, Barron Collier the Ave Maria Town Developer, Ave Maria Development, Ave Maria University 2nd Mortgages, Ave Maria Real Estate, Naples Daily News, The Wanderer Catholic Newspaper, Open Letter to the Ave Maria University Board of Trustees, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Summorum Pontificum, Latin Mass, Communion Rail, etc.

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UPDATE:  May 06, 2010:  Important  Commentary and Analysis  (PDFby the President of the Catholic Media Coalition

UPDATE  April 25, 2010:  The Wanderer printed a statement about this article on their 04/29/10 issue, available at

Reference re: Cardinal Newman Society: (PDF)

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