The best thing the Catholic Church did for Tom Monaghan was to take him in as an orphan. The next best thing it did was to boot him out of seminary school. The former Domino’s Pizza founder has been trying to repay that debt ever since. With an estimated fortune of $900 million, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Monaghan’s latest philanthropic cause is Ave Maria, Florida, a college town based not on the decadent values of spring break-bound sophomores, but on traditional Catholic principles. Liberals, naturally, have been apoplectic, calling Monaghan’s proposal “unconstitutional,” and racing to the courthouse to see who could be first to file suit.
While newspapers across the country ran derogatory headlines about “Catholic Town, USA,” the Today Show‘s Katie Couric was apparently all that stood between honest Americans and the papist menace. “I think people will see this community as eschewing diversity and promoting intolerance,” she told Monaghan during a March 3 interview. “…[Isn’t this] really infringing on civil liberties and freedom of speech and right to privacy and all sorts of basic tenets this country was founded on?” And “[D]o you think the tenets of the community might result in de facto segregation as a result of some of the beliefs that are being espoused by the majority of the residents there?”
America’s Sweetheart quite naturally assumes that Catholicism is synonymous with “intolerance” (read homophobia), “eschewing diversity” and “segregation,” (read racism) and that Catholics will naturally use the Bill of Rights to rekindle the bonfire of the vanities. Mind you, that wasn’t quite Monaghan’s intention.
SET ON 5,000 ACRES in the swamplands of southwestern Florida, Ave Maria is lauded as a place where people of all ages can safely walk the streets at night without fear of being raped (“except by priests!” one lapsed Catholic told the Miami Herald). Plans call for 11,000 homes and 20,000 residents. The town’s centerpiece will be a European-inspired town center with a mammoth cathedral. Press reports, however, have focused on plans to build the largest crucifix in the nation, at nearly 65 feet tall. Not to keep vampires away, but, the media seemed to suggest, non-Catholics.
A year ago Monaghan could brag that Ave Maria would ban abortion clinics, strip clubs, contraception, and porn. But once the media got wind of his intentions they went after him like a pack of starving jackals.
Since then, Monaghan has hired a PR flack to redefine his image and the image of his proposed town. Today he sounds more like a Greenpeace activist than the Catholic philanthropist. A recent press release touted “a new ‘rural stewardship’ land planning process that has enabled the protection of 17,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land in Eastern Collier County.” The more ecumenical and inclusive “traditional family values” have replaced “Catholic principles.” And Monaghan is telling everyone who will listen that homosexuals will be warmly welcomed, as will Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and atheists. And Monaghan promises he will only suggest local stores refrain from peddling condoms and smut.
Why the change of heart? Certainly there is nothing inherently un-American or undemocratic about religiously oriented communities. At its founding America was largely populated by communities of Puritans, Shakers, Quakers, et al. Many exist to this day (not the Shakers, obviously). Mormons largely run the state of Utah. “Utah is a theocracy,” Janelle Eurick, staff attorney for the Utah branch of the American Civil Liberties Union told the Guardian newspaper. Today the U.S. has dozens of Mennonite settlements that largely do their own thing. Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, is a newly chartered town based on the principles and teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Yet incredibly these folks all pay their taxes and obey state and federal law. To the best of my knowledge they haven’t roasted any heretics in years.
Is this another instance of anti-Catholic bias? That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but until we see Katie Couric playing hardball with some dour bearded gentleman in a straw hat, demanding to know what the Amish have against the Playboy channel, I wouldn’t rule it out.
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