Speaking of Millionaires

March 2007

We were astonished by an article in Our Sunday Visitor (Aug. 20, 2006) written by the Our Sunday Visitor staff. Our Sunday Visitor is an upbeat, happy-clappy periodical. However, it has given Tom Monaghan, a mega-millionaire (perhaps a billionaire), a comeuppance. Why this downbeat article? Who knows? But it was electrifying.

According to the article, over the years Franciscan University of Steubenville "has supported fledgling schools in several ways, including forming a foundation in the 1990s that helped new Catholic colleges get off the ground…." The article goes on to detail "the price Franciscan paid for the assistance it gave to one college in particular, Ave Maria University [Tom Monaghan's university]. Franciscan lost key faculty and staff, prospective students and important donors to the Naples, Fla.-based school [Ave Maria University]. And other universities [and colleges] have as well."

In the Sunday Business section of The New York Times (July 30, 2006), there was a major story about Ave Maria University. The title was "Our Lady of Discord," which says it all.

According to the Naples Daily News (Dec. 4, 2006), things are not going well for Monaghan. In a recent letter to Ave Maria University supporters, Provost Joseph Fessio, S.J., said the enrollment, recruitment, and retention are low. Indeed, Fessio referred to it as a "crisis."


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New Oxford Notes: March 2007

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It's unfortunate that donor dollars are being diverted from orthodox Catholic colleges. But perhaps it will help mitigate the tendancy to accept too easily projects that pass themselves off as "orthodox" and "authentically Catholic" without asking them to pass any reasonable discernment or values test for mission and implementation. In a recent article in a major national newspaper, Tom Monaghan said he thought that the Catholic bishops--who, though fallible, have the fullness of the priesthood--didn't get it right when they followed Popes Leo, John XXIII, and John Paul II in formulating Catholic social teaching. Monaghan's actions with regard to some of his projects suggest that this was not a misunderstanding or a misquote. He just announced he is closing a third educational institution in Michigan--Ave Maria School of Law-- to open a new institution in Florida under the same name. Subsidiarity, solidarity, and even collegiality are not among the considerations for this very serious decision. Mr. Monaghans willingness to control his gifts (after he gives them) and his non-profit, tax-exempt organizaitons, are part of the considerations, according to the board members who were willing to be quoted. Posted by: kmernsti
February 28, 2007 08:13 PM EST
Very Interesting but not particularly informing. What is the problem at Ave Maria? So far we know that the Provost was fired with no clear reason given - (Maybe the Attorney General's staff helped) which is not helpful to providing a good indication of leadership and stability in an organization. Some of the controversy regarding Michigan and Naples Fl has to do with Monaghan's deisre to expand in Mich which he couldn't do and some faculty not wanting to move -- so? Were all the "orthodox colleges" who lost faculty and donors following the mandatum? Did Mr. Monaghan do something unethical? Lots of questions. Starting a new university is a big endeavor and it needs help not criticism - hopefull articles such as this will be more forthcoming in the future. Posted by: Wunsch
March 26, 2007 05:35 PM EDT
Maybe Wunsch is new to New Oxford Review. NOR has featured an ongoing conversation about the multitude of serious problems at Tom Monaghan's Ave Maria University. Wunsch and others should definitely look through the NOR dossier on Ave & Monaghan. To answer Wunsch's questions: first, yes the other so-called "orthodox" colleges were following the mandatum; that's pretty much why they are considered "orthodox" colleges. Second, Monaghan not only moved his academic project to a swampland in Florida, he effectively dismembered his Michigan project in order to do so. Monaghan has made many, many enemies of his former allies along the way. Third, did Monaghan do something unethical. Yes, yes, and yes. (Read the dossier articles for info on all that.) In fact, some of what he has done may well be illegal. The Department of Education is investigating Ave to determine that. Fourth, along the way, many students have lost years of their education becaus eof an accreditation fiasco. Professors and others have moved their families only to be burned by Monaghan and his Donald Trump-style.

The Ave Maria issue is important for conservative Catholics to understand for many reasons. First, because TM is not a faithful Catholic. He is representing his own self-styled brand of Catholicism and calling it "orthodox," (e.g., his distortion of Catholic teaching on social and economic issues.) Perhaps most importantly, Monaghan -- because he garners so much media attention, since he is a former "pizza magnate" -- is giving conservative Catholicism an embrassing face. The best thing he could do now for everyone is shut down his schools for good and play golf and go to Mass. Leave colleges and universities to the orthodox Catholic academics who understand higher education. Do we really need another Citizen Cane?
Posted by: charing cross
March 27, 2007 12:28 PM EDT
As a former student at Ave Maria College in Michigan, I can say that part of the problem was that he appears to think more of his own plans than of others needs. The students loved the college in Michigan but it was closed down. It created a definite anger at Monaghan and the way he handled the situation. It was a mess. Now he wants to close the Law School against the wishes of the students. Whatever Mr. Monaghan's intentions may be, and I do hope they are good, his actions do not sit well with many. He cannot simply go around, doing anything he pleases, and expect everyone to go along with it.

It is very sad since we are in dire need of traditional, orthodox Catholic universities that teaching the truth of our faith and really raise students not only to the fullness of their mental capabilities but also to shape them in the way they live out their lives.

Pax Christi tecum.
Posted by: StBasil777
January 04, 2008 07:17 PM EST
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