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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Et cum Lazaro quondam paupere

IMMOKALEE (AP)--Immokalee residents have a new cause to fight for and and a new tactic by which to win the fight. Recent events at the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, MI have galvanized a rather sleepy community into one that has joined the fight of faculty, alumni and students at the successful young law school. The impending development of Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan's "Ave Maria Town" and the planned consolidation of his Ave Maria "Empire" outside Immokalee have greatly interested local residents, many of whom are excited at the possible economic opportunities that the new town will have to offer. Unfortunately, the tumult at the law school has this community wondering about the Emperor's new clothes--and they're not talking $10,000 suits and Kelly green ties!

Protests continue in their 4th day. The main effort is being spearheaded by the Lazarus group, who seeks to renew commitment to social justice and the principles of Catholic social teaching. Over the weekend, the Lazarus Group sent out a press release indicating that they have been further galvanized by the "open letter" sent by the Ave Maria School of Law faculty. Inigo Lopez, the Founder of the group, said: "The well known commitment of this faculty to the students and the institution is probably the greatest resource that the law school has to offer! For a woman who is a regular in the D.C. dinner circuit to insult and downplay their concerns is unconscionable and disgusting." The woman Mr. Lopez is referring to is National Review columnist, Kate O'Beirne. Mrs. O'Beirne is a member of the Board of Governors and met with concerned students last week to explain the position of the Board of Governors. In response to questions about the faculty's concerns, she replied that the faculty acted inappropriately and their concerns did not dignify a response. "I spit on her," were the strong words of Alvaro de Portilla, a farmer and lifelong Catholic. "These people are just like liberals. They think they are anointed, or something!"

Fr. James McNellis, S.J., professor of theology at Collegio S. Ignazio who specializes in ancient ascetical theology, commented that the form of the protests is very much an ancient practice. "This form of protest finds its roots in the ascetical practices of the Eastern Church. The fourth century experienced a flourishing of the stylitoe or 'pillar-hermits.' The most famous of these was St. Simeon Stylites who remained fasting and doing penance on top of a pillar for over 30 years. The Lazarus group is acting in holy imitation of those saintly men who are our brothers in the communion of saints. One hopes that their example will be heeded." Fr. McNellis also noted that the ancient stylitoe, like their modern bretheren, evangelized from their perches. They would speak to the assembled and call the masses to Christ and his teachings. History does indeed repeat itself.