By Martin Bosworth
This week saw the first public tours of Ave Maria, the combination Catholic university/planned community envisioned by Thomas Monaghan, the former Domino’s Pizza magnate turned fervent facilitator of a new Catholic movement.
Essentially, the community seems like a perfect hermetically sealed environment–families will be able to walk to work, send their kids to school, and then to college–all without ever leaving the town’s boundaries. And that’s just the way Monaghan wants it.
In an expansive interview with GQ magazine, the author quotes Monaghan’s unintentional giveaway of the plan from a 2005 conference:
Speaking before a Catholic-menâ€™s conference in Boston, Monaghan touted the great interest his unbuilt town had sparked. Already, he said, its Web site had received thousands of inquiries from people interested in moving to Ave Maria, all of them Catholic.â€œWeâ€™re going to control all the commercial real estate, so thereâ€™s not going to be any pornography sold in this town,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re controlling the cable system. Our pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives.â€
Monaghan’s tried to downplay and spin those comments ever since, but the window to the truth remains open–Ave Maria is a community designed to shelter and reinforce Catholics from the nasty evils of the real world, such as human sexuality, and train them to be warriors for God in the inevitable battle against secular culture. Mother Jones correspondent Bill Donahue explored the inside workings of Ave Maria earlier this year (despite significant obstacles), and got to the heart of the matter:
I am with St. Martin de Porres when he argues that the precept of charity trumps that of obedience. Sitting in Stella Maris Chapel, wondered if that Catholicism was somehow thriving at Ave Maria beneath Tom Monaghan’s radar. I soon discovered that it most decidedly is not. The students are far too controlled for that to happen. They are forbidden to live off campus, unable to take any elective courses during their first two years, barred from having TVs in their rooms, and (according to the student handbook) subject to fines if they listen to “any music which is sacrilegious, obscene or violent.” One Ave Maria adjunct music professor, Lan Lam, told me, “They seem very sheltered, very polite. It’s as if they don’t know how to act up.”
One future resident, construction manager Darryl Klein, who has six children, had told me earlier that he’d moved his family from South Carolina because Ave Maria represented “the ideal American community. It’ll be a place where you know your neighbors. We’ll be around like-minded people. The kids that play with my kidsâ€”they’ll go to the same church as us. And we’ll be accepted.”
That’s really the truth right there–Ave Maria is designed to shelter a generation of angry and frustrated psuedo-evangelicals who refuse to engage the world on any terms but their own. It’s this sort of subtle-but-noticeable Dominionism that has led Catholics such as Monaghan to emulate the “fundamentalist army” viewpoint of many of the milleniarist Evangelical “war faiths”– enabling two historically divergent strains of Christianity to find common ground over the unthinkable horror that is a woman’s right to control her own body, and the evil that is sexual pleasure.
If this were just going to be a closed community of like-minded religious believers, such as the Amish or the Hasidim, I’d be happy to wave them on and laugh when their offspring fall flat on their faces trying to handle modern secular society. But this is more insidious–these communities are being built to create armies specifically designed to wage their “culture war,” and when I look at what Ave Maria’s university is being designed to produce, I don’t see a celebration of faith and an integration of values in one’s life–I see Regent University 2.0, another diploma mill designed to turn out soldiers in the war on secularism.
If the current crop of failed Bush hacks is any indication, the last thing our country needs is yet another round of authoritarian cultists who are so utterly incapable of handling the real world and doing anything but following the orders of their master that they fold or go crazy at the first opportunity. If that’s what a fortune made from Domino’s Pizza delivers, I’ll stick to my local (and very secular) neighborhood greasy Italian joint, thanks ever so much.