Monday, February 27, 2006

UK Times Online Article on Ave Maria Town

UPDATE: The Drudge Report has now linked to this article, which means that this will now become a mainstream news item for the forseeable future...

It looks like Ave Maria Town and AMU are starting to appear on the radar of the national and international mainstream media. Unfortunately, as this article and the Newsweek story show, they seem to only want to focus on the minor issues of banning pornography and contraceptives in the town, rather than doing an in-depth story about this rather novel plan.

The real story that both the Catholic media and the mainstream media should be doing is why a large university and town are being built on worthless swampland, in hurrican alley, in a place that has dangerous wildlife roaming freely, is isolated from any major metropolitan center, yet will have housing that is anything but affordable.

Add to that the fact that one man is the de facto ruler of both town and university, and micro-manages everything to the smallest detail, including who talks to the media. Yes, it will be hard to get that story, because how are you really going to find out how things operate in a place where no one is allowed to speak freely?

'Pizza pope' builds a Catholic heaven
Tony Allen-Mills, New York

A FORMER marine who was raised by nuns and made a fortune selling pizza has embarked on a £230m plan to build the first town in America to be run according to strict Catholic principles.
Abortions, pornography and contraceptives will be banned in the new Florida town of Ave Maria, which has begun to take shape on former vegetable farms 90 miles northwest of Miami.

Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain, has stirred protests from civil rights activists by declaring that Ave Maria’s pharmacies will not be allowed to sell condoms or birth control pills. The town’s cable television network will carry no X-rated channels.

The town will be centred around a 100ft tall oratory and the first Catholic university to be built in America for 40 years. The university’s president, Nicholas J Healy, has said future students should “help rebuild the city of God” in a country suffering from “catastrophic cultural collapse”.

Monaghan, 68, sold his takeaway chain in 1998 for an estimated $1 billion (£573m). A devout Catholic who has ploughed millions into religious projects — including radio stations, primary schools and a Catholic law faculty in Michigan — Monaghan has bought about 5,000 acres previously used by migrant farmers.

The land on the western edge of the Everglades swamp will eventually house up to 30,000 people, with 5,000 students living on the university campus. Florida officials have declared the project a development bonanza for a depressed area, and Governor Jeb Bush attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the new university earlier this month.

Yet civil rights activists and other watchdogs concerned about the separation of church and state are threatening lawsuits if Ave Maria attempts to enforce Catholic dogma. Environmentalists have also complained the town will restrict the habitat of the Florida panther, an endangered species.

None of which has deterred Monaghan, who initially tried to build his new university in Michigan but could not get permission. Asked recently about possible lawsuits in Florida, he replied: “That’s great. That would be the best publicity we could get.”

The Florida developers managing the project claim more than 7,000 people have already expressed interest in buying homes in the town. Retailers and other businesses are reportedly close to leasing 60% of the intended commercial space.

Monaghan was sent to a Catholic orphanage with his brother James after the death of their father on Christmas Eve 1941. After serving with the US Marines and later dropping out of university, he founded Domino’s in 1960 with his brother, who sold back his share for a Volkswagen Beetle.

Monaghan then set about building what became America’s second-largest pizza chain. He collected antique cars, bought a yacht and became the owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team.

About 15 years ago he read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. “That was a big turnaround,” he said recently. “I decided to simplify my life. No more airplanes, no more yachts. It’s been a big relief.”

Sources close to the project said Monaghan was particularly disturbed by what he regards as the failure of western civilisation to resist Islamic fundamentalism. In a speech to students last year Healy warned that Islam “no longer faces a religiously dynamic West”.

Healy described the “virtual collapse of Europe” as “one of the most profound and unsettling developments of our new century”. He added: “If you consider the more telling signs, such as its plummeting birth rate, Europe does not even seem to believe in a future . . . children are a sign of hope and the fruit of obedience to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.”

Monaghan has argued that the owners of the town’s commercial properties will be free to impose conditions in leases — notably the restriction on the sale of contraceptives. But that has been challenged by Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Simon said the US Supreme Court had already ruled “ownership [of a town] does not always mean absolute dominion”. “If he wants to build a town and encourage like-minded people to come and live there, that’s fine. We get into problems where he tries to exercise governmental authority.”

Frances Kissling, president of a liberal Catholic group supporting women’s rights to contraception and abortion, said the idea of a Catholic town was “very disturbing”.

“We have to learn to tolerate the fact that there are other religions — as well as non-believers — and the interplay of cultures helps make each of us more productive members of society. A Catholic-only town goes totally against that.”

Lawsuits appear inevitable once the new town begins functioning in 2007, but Monaghan believes he has more than the law on his side. “I think it’s God’s will to do this,” he said.


At 1:44 PM, Blogger J. T. Corey said...

Oh, big surprise, they go to KISSLING for a response. When the hell did that mouthy cow become a representative for anyone besides a bunch of bitter hags?

Sorry for the restrained tone.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger SGF said...

"The real story that both the Catholic media and the mainstream media should be doing is why a large university and town are being built on worthless swampland, in hurrican alley, in a place that has dangerous wildlife roaming freely, is isolated from any major metropolitan center, yet will have housing that is anything but affordable."

This is not getting covered by anyone save a few bloggers because it is not the real story. In fact, for 99.9999% of the population, this part of the "story" doesn't even show up on the radar. It doesn't because just about everyone has made peace with the entirely unremarkable fact that, when he puts his mind to it, man is able to develop the land and settle in Florida.

There are strong arguments to be made against moving the law school to Florida, if that's your thing. I think you can make them, however, without positing a rag tag bunch of students and professors, wandering around the everglades while fighting off the occasional aligator and panther, and getting picked up and blown around by hurricanes.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger twolawschools said...

Granted, many people in Michigan have reason to be concerned. Tom Monaghan has decreased or pulled funding to organizations he has helped found in the past, and AMSOL would struggle if he were to do this to the law school.

However, I find this article charming and telling. I have to give Tom Monaghan credit for taking part in the culture war, the war between the culture of life and death. He is on the front lines, and his response to the reporters about possible law suits made me laugh. “That’s great. That would be the best publicity we could get.”

So many things are said in his statement. It treats the leftist, secular humanist, culture of death folks with contempt and sarcasm. It also shows that they can't win, and that their ideas are bankrupt.

While I am very supportive of the work Tom Monaghan has done to build the Catholic community in America, I recommend reading the story of Carl Fisher, who built the Indy 500 speedway and then attempted to build swamp land into Miami beach. He succeeded, but ended up dying penniless.

This is Tom Monaghan's plan. He is choosing to die penniless, like Fisher, in order to "help as meany people get to heaven" as he can. In the long run, Ave Maria town is likely to succeed. If the University of Miami, St. Thomas University and countless other universities can make it in Florida, Ave Maria will thrive as well.

I am concerned about how to prevent AMU and Ave Maria Town from eventually becoming secularized like so many other Catholic Towns and universities. I hope that can be avoided.

I believe deeply in AMSOL. Though I may not want it to move to Florida, I believe strongly that it will thrive wherever it is. In addition, I believe that the organizations founded with Tom Monaghan's funding in Michigan will survive, except AMC and possibly AMSOL. These are, like it or not, quite likely to move to Florida. I just hope that AMSOL is not destroyed in the process.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger SGF said...

Yikes. Could this Drudge-linked story be the final nail in the coffin for Ave Maria?

At 3:53 PM, Blogger twolawschools said...


Realistically, no. Gov. Jeb Bush is behind the town, along with a lot of other folks.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger bncq said...

Regardless of the angle this story should or should not take, the story is being picked up by various news outlets around the world -,2933,186202,00.html,10117,18280817-13762,00.html

At 9:53 PM, Blogger SGF said...

Well, Ave Maria is going to need all the help Governor Bush can give because look at this story:

As far as I know, no one has gone within ten feet of the unlicensed-dentistry-in-South-Florida side of this story. Did anyone stop, for even one second, to think about renegade Peruvians giving root canals to unsuspecting students when they concocted this harebrained idea?


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