Why don't I believe him?

You're a billionaire who made his fortune by revolutionizing the pizza delivery business, improving the wee hours of the morning for stoners everywhere, but you think the world is going to hell and you're the best person to save it. What do you do? Start a school. Innocuous enough, you might think--education is always a good thing, and the tradition of religious schools in this country is a strong one--Boston College, Notre Dame--even though the recent trend has been less, ahem, academically proficient (Regents, Liberty, you get the idea). So where will Ave Maria fall on that spectrum?

From the outward accoutrements, you might get the idea that this will be one of the former--a 220,000 book library already, science labs, a sizable campus, and a stated desire to be "an outstanding liberal arts school, coupled with outstanding spiritual fidelity to the church." Monaghan wants to make it clear that he's not trying to set some sort of crazy agenda here.

Not a conservative school, he stressed, a label that many have pinned on the university. But one that "is in line with the pope, the Vatican and teachers of the church."

As such, he says, Ave Maria stresses doctrinal and sexual fidelity, plus regular attendance at Mass, confession and religious holy days.

So why shouldn't I take him at his word?

Because this is what he said in 2005 when he was first envisioning Ave Maria.
Bold talk--but the most dramatic part of Monaghan's speech is yet to come. Ave Maria won't be just a university, he continues. It will also be a new town, built from scratch, in which the wickedness of the world will be kept at bay. "We've already had about 3500 people inquire on our Web site about buying a home there--you know, they're all Catholic," Monaghan says excitedly. "We're going to control all the commercial real estate, so there's not going to be any pornography sold in this town. We're controlling the cable system. The pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives." A private chapel will be located within walking distance of each home. At the stunning church in the center of town, Mass will be said hourly, seven days a week, from 6 a.m. on. "So," Monaghan concludes, with just a hint of understatement, "it'll be a unique town." As he exits the stage, the applause is thunderous.

So what do you suppose changed in the last two years? Did Monaghan suddenly become more moderate? Or did he just change his sales pitch?

You don't actually have to answer that question, by the way. When the article above came out two years ago, there was a huge public backlash that questioned the very legality of Monaghan's vision, and the rhetoric has cooled down a lot since then. But I can't help thinking that Monaghan hasn't changed his mind--only his tune. Let's just say I wouldn't want to try to apply for the Hustler Hollywood franchise in Ave Maria any time soon.

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