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

Monday, April 14, 2008

AveWatch and Naples News: Quasi-Parish and Fessio Interview

AveWatch has some good commentary on several interesting articles in the Naples News.

First, Naples News has an article on Fr. Tatman, who has been assigned by Bishop Dewane to be the priest administrator of Ave Maria University and Ave Maria Town. Naples News also has a lengthy article discussing the issues involved in the relationship between Ave Maria and the local diocese. AveWatch has commentary on these articles here.

Second, Naples News has an article interview with Fr. Fessio, on the 1-year anniversary of Fessio's firing/rehiring at AMU. AveWatch has commentary here.

Some interesting excerpts from the Fessio article:
In the past year, Fessio said his relationship with Ave Maria University President Nick Healy has become virtually nonexistent. Fessio now acknowledges the two didn't agree on liturgical matters prior to his dismissal. Fessio's university office space is a shared room in the corner of the academic building.

Though he's asked for one, Fessio hasn't been given a reason for his dismissal, other than "irreconcilable administrative differences," the ambiguous statement which Fessio recently paraphrased from a March 2007 university press release.


[Mark] Brumley, the Ignatius Press president, said Fessio rarely talks about his firing, and that he's unsure why the university hasn't given him a reason for it.

"It's bizarre," Brumley said.

But Fessio said Monaghan has personally apologized to him for the way the situation was handled. Fessio believes the apology was sincere.

"He didn't undo it though," Fessio said.

Monaghan confirmed that he apologized to Fessio, but declined further comment.

Fessio said his current relationship with Healy isn't tense. Fessio acknowledged a difference of opinion with Healy about liturgy at the university.

"I know we didn't see eye-to-eye on things liturgically," Fessio said.

One issue that illustrated this divide was whether Ave Maria chapels should have altar rails to facilitate kneeling, as opposed to standing, during communion. They're not a norm in United States churches, and according to Fessio, Healy said having them would hurt the school's ability to attract a wider group of students which he called "the broad Catholic middle." Fessio countered that many other common orthodox occurrences at the school, such as much of the community stopping every day for noon prayer and students' high daily Mass attendance, could be just as off-putting as altar rails.

"If a student is going to be somehow repelled by pious practices of that nature, not kneeling at communion is not going to stop them," Fessio said. "In fact, I imagine that most students who are the broad Catholic middle would not be in the chapel at 7 in the morning or 8 in the morning."

Healy declined to speak about Fessio after he was read the priest's comments.

"I think it's better if I don't try to respond to that," Healy said.
Healy's argument about catering to "the broad Catholic middle" is a silly one and is similar to the argument made by other so-called "Catholic" institutions (especially those "in the Jesuit tradition") about staying in the "mainstream" of academia in contrast to "narrow-minded" Catholic orthodoxy. In my experience, the new wave of orthodox Catholic colleges (Christendom, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, Wyoming Catholic, etc.) are having great success by embracing counter-cultural Catholic orthodoxy instead of being lukewarm, middle-of-the-road Catholic schools.