The roughly three-hour event, held 7 p.m. at the town's coffee shop, The Bean at Ave Maria, was organized by a few town residents. It began with one audience member complaining that the panel was composed solely of Jackson Lab supporters and asking if he could become a panelist.I don't know anything about Professor Jaroma, but this is the first time that I've heard of a Ave Maria faculty member speaking out against the Jackson Lab deal. Bravo, Professor! Please keep up the fight!
"All three of you are in favor of it. You have nobody up there on that panel that is against it. May I join you," town resident and Ave Maria University Professor John Jaroma said to applause from several in attendance.
After the forum, Jaroma reiterated his deep beliefs in how the project concerns those within the town.
"Ave Maria means something," Jaroma said, adding that worries over research that will be conducted near a place carrying "the name of the blessed mother," is difficult for some to comprehend.
Town resident Brian Lawe then confronted Jaroma.
"You are the rudest man I ever met. You came for your own self-centered gratification," Lawe said, then described Jaroma and others as "unreasoned people that will wish their own aggressive position on others, irrespective of reason or logic."
The panel consisted of a representative of Jackson Lab, a representative of project developer Barron Collier Cos., and theologian, author and Ave Maria University Professor Michael Waldstein, who began the opening remarks.Oh, this is good, right? I generally have a positive impression of Professor Waldstein, due to his good work on the new translation of JPII's Theology of the Body.
Waldstein said his thoughts were not focused on the project's finances, which is not his background, but were instead on how the project should be thought of from a Catholic perspective.
If allegations that Jackson Lab is involved with human embryonic stem cell research, developing male birth control or other projects considered immoral to Catholics were true, Waldstein said the organization is still less reprehensible then, say, President Barack Obama.What!?!? What kind of nonsensical claptrap is this? Is Waldstein saying that Catholics shouldn't be concerned about the moral problems with the Jackson Labs deal because (1) Jackson Labs is not as bad as Obama and (2) this is a chance to engage the cultural "mainstream"? Don't tell me that a presumably thoughtful theologian like Prof. Waldstein is stooping to the level of the embarrassing NCBC and the hogwash it passes as moral analysis.
"He is in a different category," Waldstein said.
Catholics must do what is right for themselves first, Waldstein said. He said the actions of others are secondary, but later added that Catholics are justified in protesting acts they find immoral.
"This is a gift of God, this is an answer to prayer," Waldstein said of his thoughts on the project. "Why? Because we will have people to talk to who stand in the mainstream of American culture."
Maybe I'm being too hard on Prof. Waldstein, considering I wasn't at the forum and I'm probably relying on a unreliable news excerpt. Can anyone at the forum tell us what happened? Do I have to add Prof. Waldstein to my list of "Catholics who unsuccessfully try to justify the Jackson deal as morally acceptable"?
UPDATE: Ave Maria News has a video of the forum here.