American Culture

Ave Maria: the Holy City of Domino’s Pizza and Christian Soldiers

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-men’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.“We’re going to control all the commercial real estate, so there’s not going to be any pornography sold in this town,” he said. “We’re controlling the cable system. Our pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives.”

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 kids—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.

10 replies »

  1. According to someone with whom I spoke employed by a nearby state university, their student body is growing and there is room for another university in the area. Moreover, the universities are not competing for the same type of students.

    A quick check of demographics for the nearby town of Immokalee reveals that well over one-third of families living in the town have incomes below the officially abysimally low povery level. The good news would be if the presence of the new university raised the income level within the town. The bad news would be if, as is the case with several promient Northeastern universities, it became an island of self-serving culture surrounded by a sea of dispair.

  2. Threebells,

    Indeed! Many of the articles I referenced for this post mentioned how Ave Maria would bring new jobs and business to the surrounding area. I worry, however, that the bleak future you forecast will come to pass, as the (mostly) white Christian soldiers of the community are feted and fed by the (mostly) not-white retail/service/trade/unskilled job holders.

  3. The newest Pope certainly set the stage for religious apartheid when he clarified papal doctrine by reasserting the primacy of the Catholic Church and as much as said other churches were going to hell. So much for ecumenism.

  4. If this is setting the stage for another Regent university then don’t worry about it too much. Remember, they tend to be incompetent.

  5. Kyle,

    Yes, but even the stupid can do tremendous damage if they’re placed carefully. Look at how badly corrupted the DOJ is thanks to the efforts of people like Goodling.

  6. Johnny-come-lately Regent lacks legitimate comparison to Catholic schools such as Fordham, Loyola, Villanova, Notre Dame, Boston College, Georgetown, or Xavier.

    For what it’s worth, Ave Maria is not the first town in the United States built on religious values. One hundred and sixty years ago, Mormons founded Salt Lake City. The difference is that the founders of Salt Lake City were building a religious refuge from scratch while the founder of Ave Maria is imposing his will to build a utopian community that seems to be as much predicated on politics as religion.

    A truly interesting question is whether, with a conservative Supreme Court, Ave Maria officials will try to reverse court decisions such as Shelly v. Kraemer (forbidding restrictive real estate covenants), or have cause to get around various prohibitions in The Constitution such as those found in Article IV Section 4 (mandating a republican form of government) and Article VI (barring religious tests for public office).

  7. Wow! What prejudice and ignorance you spew! I pray that God opens your hearts and minds to the truth instead of the anti-Catholicism that fills it now. The Catholic Church does not believe that human sexuality is evil as your article above states. It teaches that it is a gift from God and incredibly important to our humanity. Read the Theology of the Body written by Pope John Paul II (Christopher West wrote a great translation/interpretation of it call Naked without Shame). AFTER you have studied this, then explain to me how Catholics believe that human sexuality is evil (this will also answer your accusation that Catholics are against women’s rights). Although free speach is a right, you have a responsibility to do your research and state accurate information, instead of hateful lies!

    The same goes for three bells. If you read directly what was said about protestants you would have read that the Catholic church believes that the Protestants share in Jesus’ salvation.

    The other things you said about the city and university were so absurd that I do not even choose to address them at this time, seeing how unreliable your info is on Catholic beliefs and documents why would I believe a word you said on anything else?!?

  8. Kacy Kaszyk,
    Thank you for that post. This article is the result of lazy secular reporting — paroting the same lines of the times, without actually doing critical research or objective reporting.

  9. A positive future America requires diversity. Innovation and cultural growth ceases when we are no longer surrounded by diverse viewpoints. I understand why like-minded people would want to be surrounded by each other. However the ramifications of such isolation could be mindlessness, limited simplistic categories with which to view life, hatred toward other people who are not understood, and the like. If you want to know how this religious-paradigm works once collective power/$ is behind it simply research any of the extremists who are dominating politics around the world (including in D.C.). It always comes down to “us vs. them”. That is primitive, Neanderthal thinking. We need to enhance connections not differences.

    Regarding secular reporting, it’s about time the other side is heard. Those of you who are “comfortable” with the media probably don’t even realize the privilege that you experience because reporting is so biased towards your own religious values. Some of us sense relief when reading this article, just like others may feel relief when the news speaks casually about the Pope being connected to a magical Deity (which frustrates those who have not been socialized to believe this is true). Bottom line – if you weren’t raised to think what you think, you most likely wouldn’t think it. This means our beliefs are more often randomly assigned than universal truth. Humans do not behave based on values as much as we as a society believe. There are other social contracts in place through collective behavioral norms and survival instincts that are much stronger than “stated values”. Besides all values are subjectively rationalized anyway (i.e. Salem Witch Trials, and now evil condoms and endorsing wars). Anyway, though we may feel negatively about our differences, we all need each other for a peaceful world to exist (this assumes most religious people want a peaceful world which may be inaccurate for extremists given the story about the end of the world and salvation etc…). We don’t need to separate from one another and let the tension build up. And if we saw each other in a supermarket, we would probably smile and say “excuse me” when passing one another, never the while focusing on our differences. That doesn’t sound so bad to me…but then again neither do condoms.