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Ave Maria University: A Catholic project gone wrong
Miami New Times ^ | Oct 20 2011 | Michael E. Miller

Posted on 10/25/2011 8:08:31 AM PDT by Alex Murphy

Marielena Stuart stood in the middle of a quiet street, 120 miles across the swamp from Miami, and stared down the black plastic barrel of a news camera. Behind her loomed a monstrous church, its 100-foot orange-brick façade shimmering like scales in the nighttime spotlights. Stuart glanced up at its one round window — a Cyclops's unblinking eye gazing out over the strange, tiny town of Ave Maria — and shuddered.

Her dream town had turned against her, she explained. Stuart, a conservative Catholic writer and blogger who resembles an aging Elizabeth Taylor, explained she felt like she was being watched from all angles. She had been banned from nearly 1,000 acres of the town for asking inconvenient questions. Now she was afraid to even step into her own church for fear of being arrested.

"You only find this in fascist regimes," she said bitterly into a Fox 4 News microphone.

Stuart's two years in Ave Maria had become a nightmare, she added, all because she had committed the cardinal sin of questioning town founder and Domino's Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan. On her blog, the Chronicles of Ave Maria, Stuart had compared the place to a prison and Monaghan to its warden. She and her family had been "harassed" because she was the only one willing to stand up to the billionaire and his edicts.

"I believe that the duty of a journalist is to expose and write the truth," Stuart said. "And I've written the truth."

That was in 2009. Two years earlier, Monaghan had unveiled Ave Maria as his vision for a new and righteous America founded upon strict Catholic values. He had sunk a half-billion dollars into building the town and its centerpiece university in the middle of the Corkscrew Swamp, 20 miles northeast of Naples. Calling the place a ticket to Heaven, he had boasted that birth control and pornography wouldn't be allowed. Ave Maria would be the epicenter of an American Catholic revival: "a saint factory" that would "change the world," he promised.

But there has been trouble in paradise. Construction has halted, leaving half-built subdivisions to mildew in the tropical heat. Lawsuits and a federal investigation have dogged Monaghan. Ave Maria University's ambitious athletic program fell to pieces amid an unholy trinity of F-bombs, firings, and defections. And the town's hidden, anti-democratic, and perhaps unconstitutional origins have been splashed across local news. Instead of a city on a hill, Ave Maria has become a place of secrets and sectarianism.

After years of fighting for the soul of Ave Maria, Stuart — a Cuban émigré who left the island in 1967 — is now battling to become the Republican Party's candidate for U.S. Senate. Her quixotic campaign has reignited interest in her bizarre and scandal-plagued hometown, just as community leaders try to rebrand Ave Maria as a normal place of faith and fun. But like a latter-day Martin Luther, Stuart is still anathema in these parts.

"I've never experienced such hostility in my life, except for in communist Cuba," she tells New Times. "If someone had warned me of what I was getting into, I never would have come here."


Stuart's mix of Catholic ardor and First Amendment fire was forged as a child in Cuba. She was born Marielena Montesino near Havana in 1956. Her father, Heriberto, was a schoolteacher and proud Catholic. After the revolution's triumph in 1959, he spoke out against the new government and was repeatedly thrown in jail. Marielena still remembers the police's heavy knock on her front door. Once, her six-foot-two father returned home from jail weighing just 112 pounds.

"The beatings and the torture and the hunger really took a toll on his body," she says. Even still, Heriberto taught his daughter to fiercely defend her faith and beliefs against all odds. "Everything in Cuba was looked at as a threat," she remembers. "The question was always: 'Can this undermine the revolution?'"

Heriberto took the family to Los Angeles in 1967, when Marielena was 11. The multicultural chaos of the city taught her to value one thing above all: freedom of speech. "In L.A., I was friends with Republicans and Democrats, Catholics and non-Catholics," she says. "We often disagreed, but we were civil with one another."

Marielena learned English and soon became a translator for business conferences, first in California and then in Europe. She visited France and Greece to learn those countries' languages as well. Then, while gardening in L.A., she met George Stuart, a Lutheran 11 years her senior. They married in 1996 and had two children. But several years after their second child, a son, was born, the couple began yearning for a quieter place to raise a family. Then they saw advertisements for Ave Maria.

It seemed like no other town in America: a Catholic citadel designed to withstand and combat the increasingly murky moral landscape around it. Monaghan's vision had begun to materialize nearly a decade earlier, when he sold his Domino's Pizza empire for $1 billion and then founded a small Catholic college in his native Ann Arbor, Michigan, with the name Ave Maria — for the Virgin he prayed to nightly. But his plans to merge the college with a law school and grow the whole thing into the nation's premier Catholic university took a hit in 2002, when Ann Arbor Township rejected his plans for a 250-foot crucifix.

So Monaghan began searching for land near Naples, where he had often vacationed. In 2003, Barron Collier Companies — one of the state's largest real estate developers — made Monaghan an offer he couldn't refuse: nearly 1,000 acres to build his university, for free. In return, the company would develop nearby land. Monaghan invested $100 million into the town, planning to recycle real estate profits into the new school.

By the time the Stuarts arrived in 2007, Ave Maria was carved into several subdivisions, each stocked with identical Spanish-villa-style houses. The couple bought one to the northeast of the town's central piazza for $317,000. The 13-foot golden cross atop Monaghan's garish church glinted at them from across a narrow lake.

But Marielena quickly began to feel out of place. She soon realized that as many as half of the roughly 2,000 residents had followed Monaghan or the university from Michigan. Some seemed to consider the man a saint.

Stuart wasn't so sure. On her first Sunday in Ave Maria, she tried taking her preschooler son and teenage daughter to mass at the church in the center of town. It was locked — the result of a battle between Monaghan and the bishop of the Diocese of Venice, Frank Dewane. Monaghan had built himself a church; now he wanted to name his own pastor. The bishop refused to let him. The building had been largely unused for a year. "The only times they would open it was for tours or concerts," Stuart says. "And that was so people could donate money." The church now has a priest, but to this day retains its ignominious title as the world's only "quasi oratory" — privately owned Catholic church.

In the spring, Stuart received another shock, this time in the mail. It was a $1,287 bill to be paid to something called the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District. Like many of her neighbors, Stuart had no idea what that was.

Gov. Jeb Bush had signed the stewardship into law June 17, 2004. Like other special districts in Florida, it had been designed to give the developer — in this case Barron Collier Companies — government-like powers over the town as it was being built. But the special district's charter hid an unprecedented secret.

"Even someone really versed in Florida law would think that it was just like any development district," says Liam Dillon, a reporter back then who covered Ave Maria for the Naples Daily News. "But it was really a novel concept: Barron Collier could control the town forever."

For decades, Florida developers had been required to cede control within ten years. But in the case of Ave Maria, the decision when — or if — to turn town government over to its residents lay entirely in the hands of the Southwest Florida land magnate. And the company seemed in no rush to let the townspeople vote.

"We could control it in perpetuity," wrote Barron Collier vice president Tom Sansbury, according to a 2003 internal memo obtained by Dillon.

Ave Maria developers had more power than anyone since Julia Tuttle or Henry Flagler during the land boom at the turn of the 20th Century. Even worse, Ave Maria residents were kept in the dark about the controversial arrangement, even as they were spending their life savings to move to the Catholic enclave.

"Nobody really understood what was going on," Dillon says. "Even the [state] legislators didn't know, and they voted on it." In a three-part series titled "Ave Maria: A Town Without a Vote, Now and Forever," Dillon questioned the constitutionality of the town's charter.

Stuart was asking herself the same thing. "It's taxation without representation," she says. So she began attending public meetings to demand answers. The stewardship board, however, wouldn't respond to her queries. "This special district is a recipe for corruption," she adds.

Barron Collier CEO Blake Gable says he has no desire to lord over Ave Maria, promising that residents will gain control "as soon as we sell enough property that they are majority landowners."

But Stuart says that at the current rate, that could take 458 years. In the meantime, she is the only one speaking up. "It's a company town," she says. "Who is going to speak out against Monaghan and Barron Collier when nearly everyone here works for them?"


Even after Tom Monaghan fired her, triggering seven hellish years of legal battles and a close call with bankruptcy, Katherine Ernsting still refers to her billionaire ex-boss by his first name. "Morality is black-and-white for Tom," she sighs over the phone from Ann Arbor. "He really does believe that people were trying to undermine him, including me."

Marielena Stuart wasn't the first person to question his bizarre vision — or pay for it. Five years before Stuart moved to Ave Maria, Monaghan began strong-arming employees and students to move there from Michigan. This led to scores of firings, a federal investigation, $259,000 in revoked financial aid, and a half-dozen lawsuits totaling roughly $2 million.

Ernsting was one of Monaghan's longest-serving employees. He hired her in 1997 to help run his charitable foundation and by 2003 had promoted her to the job of financial aid director for Ave Maria. The move to Florida was already underway, yet administrators promised Ernsting she could stay in Michigan until 2006.

But in the rush to relocate, Monaghan was breaking rules left and right. The new Ave Maria University in Naples wasn't yet accredited, so admissions and financial aid had to be handled by the Michigan office.

Soon Ernsting figured out that money and students were being illegally shuffled between the two schools. She warned her colleagues: "I think that could be fraud," and one complained to the U.S. Department of Education, which opened an investigation.

"They were pulling a lot of shenanigans," says now-retired DOE investigator Joseph Hajek. "The whole show was run by the one person, Tom Monaghan. Whatever he said went." Hajek soon began to suspect that federal Pell Grants were being funneled to a campus that Ave Maria had opened in San Marcos, Nicaragua, in 1999. "There was a lot of money going there, but they couldn't even prove that the kids were actually going there," Hajek says. "They would sign someone up, and then they'd be gone."

Ernsting says Ave Maria officials "thought they could just play dumb and ignore the whole thing." But she worked hard to gather documents and submitted the key ones to prosecutors.

In May 2004, the DOE ordered Ave Maria to pay back $259,000 in financial aid and fines, but Ernsting's cooperation and hustle kept prosecutors happy and staved off criminal charges. Yet she was fired, so several weeks later she filed a whistleblower lawsuit. In a deposition, Monaghan claimed, "What [Ernsting] reported was slanted and erroneous and maybe even malicious."

"The whole thing was kind of a nightmare for me," says Ernsting, who nearly went bankrupt because Monaghan's lawyers delayed the trial for five years. "These were people that I loved. I still have very warm feelings for Tom Monaghan... but I knew brushing it under the rug wasn't right either." Monaghan declined to comment for this article.

Ernsting was just the first of at least five employees to sue Monaghan over the move to Florida. Stephen Safranek, who helped found the law school, complained to the American Bar Association that Monaghan wasn't acting in the school's best interests by relocating. He also argued that Monaghan had hidden his intentions to move and misled the ABA two years earlier when applying for accreditation.

The professor led a September 2006 faculty revolt against the move — and was quickly fired. Then, like Ernsting, he sued. "We had done everything right. We were poised to be one of the best law schools in the country," Safranek says. "But Monaghan's greed, his desire to say, 'Look what I'm going to do; I'm going to create this university in the middle of nowhere,' ruined it all."

Charlie Rice, a founding board member of Ave Maria law school and then a constitutional law professor at both Notre Dame and Ave Maria, agrees. "Monaghan just wanted to get rid of people who were not favorable to the move. He treated those guys outrageously. It was unconscionable."

Rice adds that, before leaving the law school, he warned Monaghan that his idea for a strictly Catholic town to host the university was impossible. "Tom had this concept of a place with no pornography, no contraceptives," he says. "I told him right up front that there is no way he could do that. It would be unconstitutional."

Monaghan didn't listen.


On November 5, 2009, Marielena Stuart was packing her camera, crucifix, and pearls to attend a news conference about a $4 million donation to build an athletic center at the university when she checked her email. "Due to your recent history of being disruptive at meetings," the message from Ave Maria University's public relations firm said, "you are not invited to attend the press conference today." Stuart was baffled. What did her statements at town meetings have to do with the university? Is this even legal? she wondered.

Two sheriff's deputies and three security guards were waiting when she arrived at the Ave Maria student center. Their message was clear: Step foot on university property again and you'll be arrested. They escorted her from campus.

"This administration is [trying to] intimidate its residents and property owners," Stuart immediately vented on her blog. "[It] is a violation of our constitutional rights." A week later, she met with Fox 4 News and discussed what she saw as the university's hypocrisy and abusive behavior.

"What's going on here isn't Catholicism," she says now. "This town is built around the idiosyncrasies of one man: Tom Monaghan. It's madness."

Local reaction was swift and caustic. The Ave Herald, the town's online newspaper, invited readers to leave anonymous comments about Stuart's interview.

"The woman came across as an angry, bitter woman with a chip on her shoulder," one commenter wrote.

"I deduce that filling the news hole with this relatively weak story must mean there was not another family murder in Naples or gang rape in Immokalee. For that, I am grateful," wrote another.

Stuart responds that the messages were left by "Monaghan's little soldiers here who are always willing to wage vicious, anonymous attacks."

Around that time, it came to light that Monaghan's Ave Maria Foundation was going broke. During the 2008-09 school year, the university lost an estimated $16.4 million — more than twice the amount it had publicly revealed. Part of that debt was attributable to Monaghan's obsession with sports, which had already cost the school millions of dollars and several controversies. For a decade, the billionaire had dreamed of building a Catholic university football program that could crush Notre Dame.

During a faculty meeting in spring 2007, Father Joseph Fessio, a tall and handsome Jesuit priest who had worked for Monaghan for five years, pressured his boss to downsize his sporting ambitions. Fessio had played Division I baseball at Santa Clara University and knew how much time — and money — went into building even a mediocre program.

"We were starting to feel the financial crunch, and we simply couldn't build everything he wanted," Fessio recalls. "So Tom said he wanted to build the gymnasium and not build the academic building."

"Tom, this is a university," Fessio countered. "Do you realize the message it would send to build the gym but not the classrooms?"

Monaghan backed down, but just barely. He agreed to save money by beginning with a lower-division basketball team.

Soon, Ave Maria officials were splashing full-ride scholarships on players from around the country. Tony Turkovic was one of them. The New York City kid got the hard sell when he visited in 2008. After a tour, he was offered a full four-year ride. But there was a catch.

"They wanted him to sign before we were supposed to go back in the afternoon," his mother, Branca, remembers. "It was like, 'Sign before you really see any more.'" While a university photographer held up a digital camera, Tony put pen to paper.

"I don't know where my head was that day," she says. "We were distracted by their promises. I wasn't paying attention."

Tony moved to Ave Maria in August. Two weeks later, Branca's phone rang.

"Mom, these people are crazy," Tony said. "Put me on the first flight home."

Turkovic would later tell the Naples Daily News that his time in Ave Maria was "the worst two weeks of [his] life." The university offered courses in theology, philosophy, and biology, but not the tech classes he was expecting. Girls weren't allowed in boys' rooms under penalty of expulsion. And the nearest supermarket was ten miles away in Immokalee.

The basketball was even worse. Turkovic had passed up less generous scholarships to other schools in the Northeast. Now he found himself practicing in a local K-12 school in a town of a few hundred residents. There was one makeshift locker room. And the coach, supposedly a devout Catholic, screamed obscenities at players all practice long. Turkovic quit before the season began.

"It was a horrible experience," his mother says. "Those people weren't Catholic. They were weirdos."

Soon, the whole program began to unravel. The coach, Ricky Benitez, was fired for using profanity. It was soon discovered that his resumé was a fake. He claimed to have worked as an NBA scout and played for the Puerto Rican national team, but neither was true.

By midseason, nine of the team's 12 scholarship players had either dropped out or become academically ineligible. Of the three recruits remaining, one was the athletic director's son.

"It wasn't fair to these kids to bring them out there under the pretense that they were going to have a regular student life," Fessio says.

Monaghan's expensive sports scholarships had only made Ave Maria's financial problems worse. He had a simple but radical answer: Increase enrollment by 50 percent each year. But there was a hangup. The billionaire also demanded that SAT scores keep improving, which would require more scholarships to attract better students.

"He had all these incompatible goals," Fessio says. When Fessio suggested to a board member that it might be time for Monaghan to step down, the billionaire caught wind. And fired him.


Jim Towey is a former assistant to Mother Teresa, but he suddenly goes strangely Amish and squirmy when New Times attempts to take his photo in front of Tom Monaghan's orange-brick quasi-oratory. The Joe Biden look-alike waves his hand and walks in the opposite direction.

"Nah, it would send the wrong message," he says. "That's not what the university is about."

These days, Ave Maria's new president and CEO is having to disavow a lot of his predecessor's accomplishments. Towey was hired in February, relegating Monaghan from CEO to the ceremonial position of chancellor. Formerly an aide to President George W. Bush and head of Florida's health and human services agency, he doesn't hide the fact that he's the clean-up guy sent to fix Ave Maria's mess.

"Everyone expected deficits at the beginning," Towey says, admitting that the university is still losing several million dollars each term. "My job is to end them [within three years]." After less than two months on campus, Towey announced he was firing 17 employees, slashing the overall budget by 10 percent, trimming sports programs, and gradually building enrollment while reducing scholarships.

Yet straightening out Monaghan's experiment might not be so simple. Towey claims to have no clue about the basketball program debacle two years ago. And asked about Marielena Stuart, he turns to an aide and inquires, "Have I met with her?" Then, when he makes the connection, he slams her claims against the university. "I worked for Mother Teresa for 12 years," he says. "No one is going to accuse me of being squishy in my faith."

He uses the word normal like a bullet point: "This is a very normal place, with normal students." But moments later, he admits Ave Maria is anything but ordinary. "This is a very unique arrangement here. It's almost like what you would see in medieval times when a baron would go and build himself a church and monastery."

But there might be no pulling up from Ave Maria University's nosedive. Its law school, which is still in Naples, remains in rapid decline. This summer, only 11 of 23 of its graduates passed the Florida Bar exam. At less than 48 percent, it was the worst result in the state and nearly 20 percentage points behind its closest competitor. The Ave Maria campus, meanwhile, continues to be plagued by high attrition. "If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have come here," one shy biology major says with a soft Southern twang. "Moving out here to the middle of nowhere was not the college experience I was looking for."

Towey might be reforming Ave Maria University, but there is little he can do for the town itself. There the real baron is Barron Collier Companies, argues Georgia Hiller. The pretty Republican Collier County commissioner suspects that the company — via its control of the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District — is siphoning money from other parts of the county. This summer she ordered the county clerk to audit the district, but the results aren't in yet. "I was concerned about the accuracy of their numbers," she says. "Ave Maria is supposed to be an independent, self-supporting district. We should not be subsidizing it.

"Ave Maria is self-serving," she adds. "Obviously it's for Barron Collier's benefit, not anyone else's. And they are entitled to do it. If a business wants to make a profit, great. That's the American way. But you can't do it at the expense of the public."

Hiller describes Barron Collier as the county's "800-pound gorilla." She recently squared off with the company when she voted against enticing Maine-based biomedical group the Jackson Laboratory to Ave Maria. Barron Collier proposed giving the organization land for a research center if the state, county, and private donors would contribute a total of $380 million. "In effect, Jackson Labs wanted $380 million in cash for themselves, and Barron Collier would have been the indirect beneficiary," she says. The plan failed.

Blake Gable, the Barron Collier CEO, claims Hiller's audit is politically motivated. "I have a lot more faith in the people who work for us than in her ability to understand a balance sheet or budget," he says, adding that her opposition to the Jackson Laboratory deal was "pretty ignorant."

There are other signs that Ave Maria is leeching resources away from the county. On October 12, 2008, the town suffered its first truly violent crime. At 2:30 in the afternoon, two masked men, guns drawn, burst into Beckner Jewelry on the piazza. They quickly duct-taped owner Alan Beckner's feet, wrists, and mouth before stealing as much as $100,000 in jewelry.

But Ave Maria has no government of its own and no police force. It took county sheriffs at least 15 minutes to cover the 14 miles from Naples to the crime scene. By then, the thieves were long gone. Beckner was in shock.

"They had been casing the place for months," says one county employee who asked to remain anonymous. "The whole town was never set up for crime prevention. When we tried to give crime prevention classes, everything was pooh-poohed. They don't want to get bad news... What they are really looking for is to fleece the county taxpayers. They want us to baby-sit that place without any cost accruing to themselves."

But Monaghan hasn't escaped all of his bills. After a jury ruled in Katherine Ernsting's favor in May, the onetime pizza king settled with his ex-employee for more than $418,000. Two years ago, he paid out at least that much to Stephen Safranek.

Tony Turkovic, meanwhile, never fully rebounded from his two-week nightmare in Ave Maria. He transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas College near New York City, but managed only five games and zero field goals.

At least he escaped Ave Maria. Marielena Stuart says she is stuck there — her house is worth a fraction of what she paid for it. She hasn't appeared in public in the town since December, when she attended a town hall meeting about the Jackson Laboratory deal. "They threatened to remove me if I didn't write my questions down on a slip of paper," she fumes. "Well, I won't ask my questions anonymously."

Bizarrely, Stuart is now running for Florida's Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Even though she has never held office and is best known for her blog, she insists her campaign isn't about Ave Maria.

"I have nothing in common with this town," she says bitterly. "My house is here. It's on a lot. But my family and I have no connection to this town or the university." Stuart doesn't campaign in Ave Maria, and most of her neighbors aren't even aware she's running.

Yet she can't leave.

"It's a vicious town," Stuart says. "Once in, there is no way out."


TOPICS: Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: avemaria; catholic; catholiccolleges; highereducation
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[In 2007] Monaghan had unveiled Ave Maria as his vision for a new and righteous America founded upon strict Catholic values. He had sunk a half-billion dollars into building the town and its centerpiece university in the middle of the Corkscrew Swamp, 20 miles northeast of Naples. Calling the place a ticket to Heaven, he had boasted that birth control and pornography wouldn't be allowed. Ave Maria would be the epicenter of an American Catholic revival: "a saint factory" that would "change the world," he promised.

But there has been trouble in paradise. Construction has halted, leaving half-built subdivisions to mildew in the tropical heat. Lawsuits and a federal investigation have dogged Monaghan. Ave Maria University's ambitious athletic program fell to pieces amid an unholy trinity of F-bombs, firings, and defections. And the town's hidden, anti-democratic, and perhaps unconstitutional origins have been splashed across local news. Instead of a city on a hill, Ave Maria has become a place of secrets and sectarianism....

....In 2003, Barron Collier Companies — one of the state's largest real estate developers — made Monaghan an offer he couldn't refuse: nearly 1,000 acres to build his university, for free. In return, the company would develop nearby land. Monaghan invested $100 million into the town, planning to recycle real estate profits into the new school....

....[The church in the center of town]...was locked — the result of a battle between Monaghan and the bishop of the Diocese of Venice, Frank Dewane. Monaghan had built himself a church; now he wanted to name his own pastor. The bishop refused to let him....The church now has a priest, but to this day retains its ignominious title as the world's only "quasi oratory" — privately owned Catholic church.

In the spring, Stuart received another shock, this time in the mail. It was a $1,287 bill to be paid to something called the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District. Like many of her neighbors, Stuart had no idea what that was. Gov. Jeb Bush had signed the stewardship into law June 17, 2004. Like other special districts in Florida, it had been designed to give the developer — in this case Barron Collier Companies — government-like powers over the town as it was being built. But the special district's charter hid an unprecedented secret....

....there might be no pulling up from Ave Maria University's nosedive. Its law school, which is still in Naples, remains in rapid decline. This summer, only 11 of 23 of its graduates passed the Florida Bar exam. At less than 48 percent, it was the worst result in the state and nearly 20 percentage points behind its closest competitor. The Ave Maria campus, meanwhile, continues to be plagued by high attrition....

....Towey might be reforming Ave Maria University, but there is little he can do for the town itself. There the real baron is Barron Collier Companies, argues Georgia Hiller. The pretty Republican Collier County commissioner suspects that the company — via its control of the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District — is siphoning money from other parts of the county. This summer she ordered the county clerk to audit the district, but the results aren't in yet. "I was concerned about the accuracy of their numbers," she says. "Ave Maria is supposed to be an independent, self-supporting district. We should not be subsidizing it"....

....There are other signs that Ave Maria is leeching resources away from the county. On October 12, 2008, the town suffered its first truly violent crime. At 2:30 in the afternoon, two masked men, guns drawn, burst into Beckner Jewelry on the piazza. They quickly duct-taped owner Alan Beckner's feet, wrists, and mouth before stealing as much as $100,000 in jewelry. But Ave Maria has no government of its own and no police force. It took county sheriffs at least 15 minutes to cover the 14 miles from Naples to the crime scene. By then, the thieves were long gone.

1 posted on 10/25/2011 8:08:38 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy

Interesting.

I’m now waiting article(s) on those godforsaken places where Sharia law is practiced here in the U.S.

Crickets.

Chirping.

CW-II...it’s not just an idea, but a prediction.


2 posted on 10/25/2011 8:14:27 AM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: Alex Murphy

Immaculate Deception.


3 posted on 10/25/2011 8:24:24 AM PDT by smvoice (The Cross was NOT God's Plan B.)
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To: Da Coyote

I’m now waiting article(s) on those godforsaken places where Sharia law is practiced here in the U.S.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those places are out there. Very little is written about them. For, unless you are a muzzie, you ain’t going in.

And I understand there are Jewish communities also. If you ain’t a Jew - you ain’t living there.

Mormons too have their own communites.

And I recall a quaint little place called Jonestown. Had some tasy Kool-Aid.


4 posted on 10/25/2011 8:27:18 AM PDT by Responsibility2nd (NO LIBS! This means liberals AND libertarians (same thing) NO LIBS!)
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To: Alex Murphy

Utopian communities never work, regardless of their basis. Florida has always been a magnet for people with ideas like this, ranging from spiritualists to Catholics to Jews and innumerable little Protestant groups. Levy County is named for the Jewish would-be founder of a Jewish utopian community.


5 posted on 10/25/2011 8:33:14 AM PDT by livius
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To: livius

More broadly, the mixing of ecclesiastical and temporal power is a lousy idea.


6 posted on 10/25/2011 8:41:26 AM PDT by Mr. Lucky
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To: Responsibility2nd

Don’t rightly recall those nasty Jews or Mormons killing those who disobey within their communities.

Just wait, our little encounter with the Muzzies is coming.


7 posted on 10/25/2011 8:46:02 AM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: Da Coyote
Don’t rightly recall those nasty Jews or Mormons killing those who disobey within their communities.

"Mountain Meadows" doesn't ring any bells for you?

8 posted on 10/25/2011 8:47:27 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2703506/posts?page=518#518)
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To: Da Coyote

“Don’t rightly recall those nasty Jews or Mormons killing those who disobey within their communities.”

Actually, Mormons did a bit of thinning of their own herd, and others as well.

“Just wait, our little encounter with the Muzzies is coming.”

When do you think the first game of ‘Cowboys & Muslims’ will be played?


9 posted on 10/25/2011 8:49:29 AM PDT by GladesGuru (In a society predicated upon freedom, it is necessary to examine principles.)
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To: Alex Murphy

This is truly disappointing. I had heard good things about this University a few years ago. I guess it was all spin.


10 posted on 10/25/2011 9:00:44 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: Alex Murphy

This is the picture which headlines the article.

I think it's self explanatory and tells us all we need to know about the publication's objectivity.

11 posted on 10/25/2011 9:05:34 AM PDT by marshmallow (.)
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To: afraidfortherepublic
This is truly disappointing. I had heard good things about this University a few years ago. I guess it was all spin.

I would take the article with a grain of salt, along with the person who posted it. Liberals have wanted the University to fail ever since it began, and the anti's will happily be a soapbox for them.

12 posted on 10/25/2011 9:10:24 AM PDT by Hacksaw (I don't hate Mormons. Is that okay?)
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To: Hacksaw; afraidfortherepublic
I would take the article with a grain of salt, along with the person who posted it.

My doctor has warned me to cut back on salt, so all can afford to take more of me than usual.

13 posted on 10/25/2011 9:13:26 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2703506/posts?page=518#518)
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To: marshmallow; Alex Murphy
Oh and here's an even better one which accompanies the article.

Just look at these whacked out Catholics, will ya??!!

Don't attend Ave Maria folks, or you might end up like this!!

14 posted on 10/25/2011 9:15:17 AM PDT by marshmallow (.)
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To: Hacksaw
Check out the photos which accompany the article (see posts 11 and 14).

ROFL.............

15 posted on 10/25/2011 9:18:27 AM PDT by marshmallow (.)
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To: smvoice

People said I was daft to build a utopia in a swamp.
But I built it all the same.
Just to show ‘em.


16 posted on 10/25/2011 9:26:13 AM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: marshmallow
My granddaughter is in her last year of law school. Excellent education. Guest speakers have been tops from the best. The students are a mix of America. They are not goody-goody two shoes.
17 posted on 10/25/2011 9:34:13 AM PDT by rose
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To: rose

I have visited Ave Maria and met with some of the residents and students.They were all quite happy and content.This appears to be a ‘what is good is bad and what is bad is good’ story.


18 posted on 10/25/2011 9:58:34 AM PDT by ardara
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To: rose

All I have heard is on the excellent education given. I guess it’s a shame when the facts get in the way of a perfectly bad hit piece.


19 posted on 10/25/2011 10:00:23 AM PDT by sayuncledave (et Verbum caro factum est (And the Word was made flesh))
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To: Alex Murphy

Wow, Alex... a hit piece on AMU from what appears to be a vengeful God-hater?

Where was Michael Miller when Notre Dame banned pro-lifers from campus? Sorry, Marielena, just because the town and the university are founded by the same people, doesn’t mean the university is your property. (My beef with Notre Dame wasn’t that they banned hostile trespassers from their university; it was that the categorized pro-lifers as hostile trespassers.)

As for Ave Maria’s nosedive... what? Ave Maria is already the fourth most exclusive Catholic university in America, behind only BC, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. The size of a graduating class as Ave Maria law school, still a separate institution, is 209.


20 posted on 10/25/2011 10:17:00 AM PDT by dangus
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To: Alex Murphy

Miami New Times is the local ultra-liberal rag. Read it for fun, not for news.


21 posted on 10/25/2011 10:42:58 AM PDT by Paradox (The rich SHOULD be paying more taxes, and they WOULD, if they could make more money.)
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To: dangus
The size of a graduating class as Ave Maria law school, still a separate institution, is 209.

According to the article;

Any recent bar exam takers around here? What's the bulk of the test focused on?

22 posted on 10/25/2011 10:49:18 AM PDT by BlueDragon (there is only one "form")
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To: marshmallow
In light of the media blizzard from one, er, denomination, I can't help but to think of jokingly captioning the pic
23 posted on 10/25/2011 10:53:16 AM PDT by BlueDragon (there is only one "form")
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To: marshmallow
Don't attend Ave Maria folks, or you might end up like this!!

The Stepford Catholics?

24 posted on 10/25/2011 11:16:33 AM PDT by Lee N. Field ("And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" Gal 3:29)
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To: BlueDragon

What I’m wondering is why a “nose-diving” law school has a class of 209, but they are reporting the results of only 23 graduates.


25 posted on 10/25/2011 11:19:41 AM PDT by dangus
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To: BlueDragon

I wonder if these 23 graduates are the only ones who couldn’t finish on time, but also couldn’t transfer out when Ave Maria left Michigan... because yeah, it’s THAT class.


26 posted on 10/25/2011 11:21:04 AM PDT by dangus
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To: MrEdd

Did you know that Ave Maria includes required courses in sacred music chorus? Given a Catholic school like that, you’re going to invoke “But Father, I don’t want to sing!”


27 posted on 10/25/2011 11:24:23 AM PDT by dangus
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To: MrEdd

Did you know that Ave Maria includes required courses in sacred music chorus? Given a Catholic school like that, you’re going to invoke “But Father, I don’t want to sing!”


28 posted on 10/25/2011 11:24:31 AM PDT by dangus
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To: marshmallow

You'll find some agreement concerning the slant of the photos, from someone who actually knows about the goings one there, from http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2011-10-27/news/reader-mail-ave-maria-university-is-like-rehab-for-smug-catholics/, but otherwise, she claims the article is basically factual;

Ms. Ernsting was featured in the article;

Here's something coming from none other than "Ave Maria's new president and CEO" "Jim Towey...a former assistant to Mother Teresa";

I found the article to be chock-a-block FULL of stuff like that, that fairly leap off the page.

Just waving one's hands at the photo the Miami publication used, dismissing all the rest, is to bury one's head in the sand, concerning all the rest.

The Broward/Palm Beach New Times version didn't use the weird photos.

Here's some more, from the in-case-you-missed-it department;


29 posted on 10/25/2011 11:47:20 AM PDT by BlueDragon (there is only one "form")
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To: dangus
Ave Maria is already the fourth most exclusive Catholic university in America, behind only BC, Georgetown, and Notre Dame.

British Columbia?
Boston College?
Barney's College?
What?

I left my Ouija Board in my other suit.

30 posted on 10/25/2011 2:31:50 PM PDT by Publius6961 (My world was lovely, until it was taken over by parasites.)
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To: marshmallow
Owned by Village Voice Media.

VVM was getting sued because online ads it runs promote and provide essential services to child prostitution, but a judge threw out the case.

31 posted on 10/25/2011 2:42:00 PM PDT by x
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To: BlueDragon

Is that a legit stat? I thought you took the bar in whatever state you wanted to practice in, so the fact that only 11 passed the Florida Bar might be because only 11 took the Florida bar. The sentence is worded that you assume the rest flunked it, but does actually come out and say it. Being the NYT, I wouldn’t put it past them.


32 posted on 10/25/2011 3:38:18 PM PDT by mockingbyrd
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To: mockingbyrd; Notwithstanding

I *so* don’t care what anti-Catholics say about Ave Maria University. If my debating kid (currently in 10th grade) is interested in a Catholic school focussed on his strengths, we’ll strongly consider it. Plenty of reptiles (his other enthusiasm) in Florida, too. And his grandparents!


33 posted on 10/25/2011 3:44:04 PM PDT by Tax-chick (You can tell them I just sailed away.)
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To: marshmallow

Looks like this Marielena woman is a pariah.

http://www.aveherald.com/news/934-scant-financial-support-for-ave-maria-residents-us-senate-bid.html

Scant Financial Support for Ave Maria Resident’s U.S. Senate Bid

Tuesday, 25 October 2011 10:59

The long-shot bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. senate by Ave Maria resident Marielena Stuart has failed to attract much interest from people willing to support her financially, according to documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

Campaign finance reports show that Mrs. Stuart had just $51 in her campaign account as of Sept. 30, the lowest amount of any candidate who filed a quarterly report by the Oct. 15 deadline. She raised only $615 from donors other than herself or her husband in the third quarter of 2011 and her reports show no donations from anyone in the town of Ave Maria, where she is best known.

As would be expected, the top-tier candidates in the race raised the bulk of the money.

Adam Hasner raised $545,000 in the third quarter and had $786,000 in cash on hand. George Lemieux raised $403,000 and had more than $1 million cash on hand. Craig Miller raised $235,000 in the quarter and had $145,000 cash as of Sept. 30.

Fundraising by all Republican candidates paled in comparison to incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson who raised almost $2 million in the third quarter and has about $7.5 million in cash on hand.

Full copies of the FEC financial disclosure information can be viewed at www.fec.gov.


34 posted on 10/25/2011 4:36:45 PM PDT by Notwithstanding
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Comment #35 Removed by Moderator

To: Alex Murphy
These kinds of utopian communities wouldn't have any appeal if normal neighborhoods and localities were allowed to enforce public morals and, perhaps, screen out proposed neighbors of low moral caliber.

My proposed marginal reform: allow realtors to advertise if a home or apartment for sale/rent is near a church or religious school. (This is presently illegal, I think.) Less strictness about religious steering would also help.

36 posted on 10/25/2011 4:48:35 PM PDT by Dumb_Ox
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To: Publius6961; dangus

What about Christendom College or Thomas Aquinas College? They seem pretty exclusive to me.


37 posted on 10/25/2011 4:49:39 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: vladimir998; dangus

Define “exclusive” for the context. Does it simply mean what is commonly called “selective,” that is, the number of accepted students as a percentage of the number of applications?


38 posted on 10/25/2011 4:52:40 PM PDT by Tax-chick (You can tell them I just sailed away.)
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To: BlueDragon

Kate Ernsting, who was mentioned in that article as winning a lawsuite against the university, posted this in the comments section of this article:

“This was kind of a broad brush used to paint everything Ave Maria. I know many of the facts were accurate, at least the ones I lived, but is it fair to only present the negative like this? It was pretty myopically focused on the problems. And what’s with the photo was used to depict students—the article wasn’t even about them! It seemed like an unnecessary low blow. I will admit that I was interviewed for this article. There’s a time and a place speaking truth to power, or trying to correct a wrong, I hope that purpose was served here. I’m not sure I think it was. This is a project I still support, these are people who good people, human beings in the process of seeking redemption—just like me. It seems myopic to air all this without pointing out one exculpatory fact. What about the fact that the Bishop just granted AMU recognition to allow themselves to be identified as a Catholic institution? Would this article have been written if Tom Monaghan were Steve Jobs and a Buddhist? Or would he have won his legal battles more easily if he were Eisner (Disney cases I, II and III)? I think this is over the top—hopefully everyone has the common sense to see that. — Kate Ernsting”


39 posted on 10/25/2011 4:55:49 PM PDT by Notwithstanding
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To: Tax-chick; Publius6961; dangus

Those schools are both selective and exclusive, due to the fact that they have strict standards that they expect their students to maintain on campus.

Wyoming Catholic College also doesn’t take federal funding. Like Hillsdale, which my sister is loving. I’m a TAC grad myself, respect and admire the school, but am keeping my options open for my own kids. No matter what, if my children want me to assist with their college education, it will be a Catholic school we both agree on, or local, where they don’t have to deal with dorm life.


40 posted on 10/25/2011 5:00:40 PM PDT by mockingbyrd
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To: Alex Murphy
Ave Maria Receives Official Recognition as a Catholic University

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/ave-maria-receives-official-recognition-as-a-catholic-university#ixzz1bqGBmx4o

10/07/2011

From the Press Release:

Today, Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, made perhaps the most significant announcement in the history of Ave Maria University. During the investiture ceremony for new Ave Maria University president H. James Towey, Bishop Dewane announced that he grants recognition of Ave Maria University as a Catholic university.

Bishop Dewane commented, “This announcement marks a special time in the history and faith life of Ave Maria University. While the university continues to grow, it is the deepening of its roots of faith that is of primary importance to me as the bishop of this diocese. The Catholic Church views Catholic universities in very high regard, and, with that, the entire Ave Maria University community should be encouraged and inspired by its new designation.” 

Ave Maria president Jim Towey expressed appreciation and joy upon hearing the news: “I am grateful to Bishop Dewane for his confidence in our future and thankful for Tom Monaghan and all those who built the foundation that made this announcement possible. This recognition means a lot to us as we continue on the path toward new excellence.”

Bishop Dewane also took time out to congratulate President Towey as he enters into this new phase of leadership, which will move Ave Maria University into a bright future. The bishop also thanked Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of Ave Maria University, for his forthright commitment to Catholic education and his Catholic faith. His leadership and vision brought the monumental undertaking of building a Catholic university in southwest Florida to where it stands today.

The Code of Canon Law regulates the establishment and conduct of a Catholic university by the competent ecclesiastical authority, which in this case is Bishop Dewane. The recognition of Ave Maria University as a Catholic university is granted upon their commitment to continue to be guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church and faithfulness to the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. First and foremost, it is the responsibility of the local bishop to provide pastoral care to the university community, as stated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Bishop Dewane has served as an ex officio member of the Ave Maria University board of trustees since 2009. Ave Maria University was founded in 2003. The quasi-parish of Ave Maria Oratory was established in 2008. 

41 posted on 10/25/2011 5:17:02 PM PDT by Notwithstanding
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To: mockingbyrd

Jim Towey, President of Ave Maria University ... Excerpt from prepared text of his inaugural address given on Friday.

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2011/oct/08/jim-towey-president-ave-maria-university-excerpt-p/

Editor’s note: Jim Towey has been inducted as the new president of Ave Maria University. Here is an excerpt from the prepared text of his inaugural address given on Friday.

I believe that Ave Maria University can play a pivotal role in reforming Catholic higher education and American culture. The need has never been greater.

Too often students leave high school and arrive at college and find the values their parents instilled in them under constant attack. They are encouraged to believe that hooking up is better than getting hitched. They are urged to live recklessly, to the point where binge drinking has nearly become a rite of passage for freshmen.

The prevalent secular ideology on American campuses, including many faith-based ones, seems to assert that absolute moral truth does not exist, and that faith and reason are enemies.

The Church disagrees. Six weeks ago in Madrid at World Youth Day, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI met with a group of young university professors. He himself had been one in Bonn and to this day has not lost his love of the academy.

The Pope said to the group, “Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people. You need to understand and love them, to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence.”

I would like to touch upon what I believe the three hallmarks of Ave Maria University must be as it accomplishes this task.

First, academic excellence in the liberal arts tradition. Pope Benedict rightly decried in his Madrid address an approach to education that simply prepares students to satisfy society’s demand for labor without leading them in the pursuit of truth. He said, “The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality.”

He continued, “The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer.”

As we ponder the Pope’s words, we must be careful in how we apply them. His warning does not mean that Ave Maria should ignore the development of professional and pre-professional programs; indeed our mission statement requires us to.

But it does mean that our students must become critical thinkers, competent writers, and perpetual students of life. Of course, we hope that their studies in theology and philosophy, the lungs of any true Catholic university, will breathe life into their vocations.

It is our desire that each and every graduate leaves this campus as a responsible adult and better human being. The Catholic, liberal arts education we offer at Ave Maria University must be transformative.

The second distinctive trait of Ave Maria must be that we are firmly rooted in our Catholic faith while remaining fully open to the world. I say this because we are called to engage the culture, not flee it, or our convictions.

Students should not be sheltered from society and the so-called “real world” that awaits their full participation. When an Ave Maria student graduates, he or she should be able to thrive in the midst of people who do not pray like them, think like them, vote like them or worship like them. That is why during my tenure we will look to expand study abroad, service learning, campus ministry initiatives and student internships. The more outside engagement, the better.

The freedom students experience away from home should lead to the formation of virtue and a deepening of faith, as befits their God-given dignity. Such things cannot be coerced but should be encouraged, and I pledge myself to that task. I believe we can foster the responsible exercise of freedom and promote open debate, without abandoning our convictions, provided that we remain rooted in our Catholic faith and open to the world.

The third hallmark of Ave Maria University must be our unity. In Calcutta, Mother Teresa’s tomb has the simple inscription from the Gospel of John: “Love one another as I have loved you.” St. Paul warns that we can move mountains and work wonders but if we have not love, then we have gained nothing.

Twenty-one years ago, the apostolic constitution governing Catholic universities was issued, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, that is, “From the Heart of the Church.” It recognized the importance of having an authentic human community grounded in “a common dedication to truth, a common vision of the dignity of the human person and, ultimately, the person and message of Christ which gives the Institution its distinctive character.”

The document goes on to call for mutual respect, sincere dialogue, and protection of the rights of individuals. My friends, those characteristics of a Catholic university serve as a “sign of contradiction” within academia.

And from its founding, Ave Maria University has held itself to a higher standard – to be a light to academia by the example of our unity and our love for one another, even in the midst of reasonable disagreement. It would be hypocritical for us to present ourselves as an authentically Catholic institution if our relationships with one another are not rooted in Christ.

Imagine a campus free of the defects of pettiness, jealousy, intellectual bullying, and spiritual arrogance. Such an environment in our faculty lounges, administrative offices, classrooms, and residence halls would place Ave Maria University at the forefront of the new evangelization. Unity and intellectual charity will be the bond that perfects our scholarship and allows the “splendor of the truth” to shine.


42 posted on 10/25/2011 5:24:31 PM PDT by Notwithstanding
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To: mockingbyrd

I send donations to Wyoming Catholic College, because I think their frontier spirit is really cool. I don’t know if any of my Offspring would ever consider it, but it should be there for those who are the right people. (Maybe James, who seems to have no standards for personal comfort when there’s outdoorsiness to be done ... but he’s only 7.)


43 posted on 10/25/2011 5:30:02 PM PDT by Tax-chick (You can tell them I just sailed away.)
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To: vladimir998

Neither are exclusive in any way; they are affordable and will accept just about any qualified applicant.


44 posted on 10/25/2011 5:32:34 PM PDT by dangus
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To: mockingbyrd

By the meaning you are using for “exclusive,” that wouldn’t apply to Boston College, Georgetown, or Notre Dame, referenced in the original post using the term. They do not have moral standards or expectations for students.

Maybe that post just meant “academically selective.”


45 posted on 10/25/2011 5:32:34 PM PDT by Tax-chick (You can tell them I just sailed away.)
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To: dangus

Well, their qualifications had better be pretty high - judging by the grads I’ve met and they most certainly are exclusive when you consider how small they are. They’re so small they have to be exclusive. They literally can’t be very open because they DON’T HAVE THE ROOM to be anythimng else.

TAC has 359 students. Sounds exclusive to me.

CC has 389 undergrads. Sounds exclusive to me.


46 posted on 10/25/2011 5:55:53 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: Tax-chick

This Marielena Stuart (who claims to be a journalist) has gotten caught and spanked for writing false stories about Ave Maria in the recent past:

http://www.aveherald.com/news/572-the-wanderer-retracts-qfalse-statementsq-about-ave-maria.html

The Wanderer Retracts “False Statements” About Ave Maria

Saturday, 24 April 2010 12:46

The editor of The Wanderer has publicly retracted “false statements” that were published in the weekly newspaper about the town of Ave Maria and Ave Maria University.

In a statement titled “Retraction and Correction,” published in the April 29 edition of The Wanderer, Editor Alphonse J. Matt Jr. apologized for six different errors in fact that appeared in stories published in August, 2009, and January, 2010. Both stories were written by Ave Maria town resident Marielena Montesino de Stuart.

Mr. Matt said his retraction was “in accord with The Wanderer’s policy to offer a prompt apology and retraction for any factual inaccuracies pub­lished in The Wanderer.” He said that the errors were detailed in a letter from lawyers representing Ave Maria University.

Three of the statements were in a January, 2010, article that claimed abortions could be permissible in the town of Ave Maria despite statements to the contrary by the town’s developers. Mr. Matt acknowledge that covenants in the town of Ave Maria do prohibit abortion and that “we retract and apologize for” statements that suggested otherwise.

The other false statements, Mr. Matt said, were in an August, 2009, article by Mrs. Montesino de Stuart in which she said the “university aggressively recruits non-Catholics and/or seculat students” which the university’s lawyers called “100% false.”

Ave Maria University officials had no immediate comment on The Wanderer’s retraction.

The full text of The Wanderer retraction is available on the web only to subscribers of the publication.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 April 2010 17:54


47 posted on 10/25/2011 6:10:20 PM PDT by Notwithstanding
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To: Notwithstanding

The Wanderer henceforth stopped publishing any tripe written by that woman.


48 posted on 10/25/2011 6:11:50 PM PDT by Notwithstanding
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To: Tax-chick

I was thinking more of campus life, segregated dorms, dress code, students must refer to each other as Mr and Ms.in class, dry campus, no sports, academic expulsion for a week of unexcused absences in any one course. It appeals to a small segment and excludes many, because they don’t want to abide by such discipline.

That’s not to knock those who don’t go, I don’t really want my daughters to go there. Although not due to most rules.


49 posted on 10/25/2011 6:33:04 PM PDT by mockingbyrd
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To: mockingbyrd
Is that a legit stat?

I wouldn't know. The author gave no citation (that I recall) concerning it.

50 posted on 10/25/2011 6:33:47 PM PDT by BlueDragon (there is only one "form")
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