Ave Maria and the new Eden

By Domenico Bettinelli, Jr. (articles ) | Sep 04, 2003

The Boston Globe has a story today on the opening of Ave Maria University in Florida this week. It gives the short version of the story of its founding, talks about Tom Monaghan, interviews some local kids who are going there. But then, for some reason, the reporter has to find a negative take. I think they call it "balance."

Catholic scholar Eugene Kennedy, a seasonal Naples resident and professor emeritus at Loyola University in Chicago, dismissed Monaghan's plans for a "new Eden for Catholic education."

"In this new Garden of Eden, there will be, as in Genesis, a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, whose fruit the students will be forbidden to eat," Kennedy recently wrote in the National Catholic Reporter.

"We lost our lease on Eden a long time ago, and this effort to build a new one couldn't succeed even in an old movie directed by Frank Capra, 'Mr. Monaghan Goes to Naples.'"

Huh?! Meeeow! Kennedy is suggesting that students who go to Ave Maria will be brainwashed and that they won't be allowed to learn anything outside of a rigid dogma. Unwittingly, Kennedy makes Monaghan's point for him. To Kennedy, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was something Adam and Eve were right to eat from. But the lesson should be that not all academic pursuit is good in its own sake. Just take, for example, the bioethicisit Peter Singer's studies into whether infanticide or bestiality should be frowned upon by society. Does Kennedy really expect a Catholic university should give a home to academics who spit in the face of moral truth? How about giving a neo-Nazi a place on the faculty?

Then the article goes on to hint that Ave Maria, the school and the accompanying town, have a nefarious purpose of being a playground for -- duh, duh, duuuh! -- the rich!

Monaghan's educational Eden will also include more earthly pursuits, including three golf courses, one of which will be reserved for high-paying donors -- a place he's referred to as a "Catholic Augusta National."
Good Lord, not golf courses! In Florida even, where there are more golf courses than people! If this is the best they can come up with, Ave Maria is going to do just fine.

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 10, 2003 11:56 PM ET USA

    Attention Eugene Kennedy: FORE! That object approaching in your rearview mirror is your conscience.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Sep. 06, 2003 5:56 PM ET USA

    Of course Kennedy is worried. I'm sure a lot of people in old-line so-called Catholic universities are worried. If Ave Maria succeeds, there will be a standard to judge them by.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 04, 2003 9:32 PM ET USA

    BRAVO, Domenico ! Keep it up ! I just sponsored a young man to go to Ave Maria, because he wants to become an ETHICAL attorney. A.M. will flourish, I have no doubt. Idiotic ravings from the far-left end should boost its credibility.

  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 04, 2003 6:23 PM ET USA

    At the end of the Globe article are the emphatic assertions of Ave Maria's President Healy. "We are very clear about our Catholic identity...and about our commitment to Ex Corde..." all of which is great news! But he continues, "We are very clear about our mission." This would be great news too, if only it were true. Once you step outside of theology, there's not much difference in course offerings between AM and most other Catholic colleges. The core curriculum is Catholic lite.

  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 04, 2003 6:11 PM ET USA

    Kennedys Eden allusion is oh so quaint. He was after all the vanguard of new-catholic psychology that ushered in enlightened sexuality to laymen and clergy alike. There is no shame with these fellows, and it seems, no need for fig-leaves either. Alas, some bishops are still entranced by his Psychological Investigations (see: http://www.usccb.org/vocations/articles/kicanas.htm )

  • Posted by: Phil - Sep. 04, 2003 10:58 AM ET USA

    File that story under "sour grapes." Kennedy, who has made his name as a dissident Catholic-- heavy on criticism of the Church and light on academic rigor-- wouldn't merit consideration for a slot on the Ave Maria faculty. But wait! Did the Globe say that Kennedy is a Naples resident? How interesting. Naples isn't exactly a slum; this avatar of liberal Catholicism is living in a nice neighborhood. Monaghan got rich selling pizza; I guess Kennedy did pretty well for himself selling dissent.