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Catholic educators nervous about pizza man's university plans

Many officials in Catholic higher education in the US are reportedly uneasy about plans of Dominos Pizza founder Tom Monaghan to build a new Catholic university on a remote 303 hectare site near the Florida Everglades.

Monaghan, who has committed $A339 million to the project, has said the school, Ave Maria University, will be far more conservative than most of the nation's Catholic colleges and universities.

"For twenty-five years, I've felt the need for a school with more spirituality," said Monaghan. "At some Catholic universities, students graduate with their religious faith more shaky than when they arrive.... Ave Maria is for students whose faith is central to their lives."

Plans for the school, the first new Catholic university in the US in four decades, call for a Division I football team; three golf courses, including one for donors; majors as varied as theology and hotel management; and construction of a town, also called Ave Maria, built from scratch. But it's Monaghan's rigorously conservative vision for the school a vision that has no room for coed dorms or gay-support groups that worries many Catholic educators.

"Tom Monaghan has the agenda of a right-wing Republican, and he happens to confuse that with the teachings of the Catholic Church," commented Richard P. McBrien, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. "I wish he had spent his money the way a really good Catholic would: helping the poor; helping inner-city schools, which are being suffocated through lack of money; helping the aged and infirm. Those are the teachings of Jesus Christ."

PND News

A Catholic College Will Rise in Florida
Ave Maria University leaders already working on getting temporary site running (Naples Daily News 3/1/03)
Ave Maria College (Michigan) |
Thomas S. Monaghan | Chancellor's Message (Fr Joseph Fessio SJ)

13 Feb 2003