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Sunday, November 13, 2005

"Catholic Jonestown"

The Wall Street Journal on Friday ran this story, "Bringing a Law School Down:  Should Ave Maria be part of 'Catholic Jonestown'?", reporting on the rumblings and dissension that (apparently) surround the question whether Ave Maria School of Law should "relocate to rural Florida," where the school's primary financial supporter, Tom Monaghan, is planning to create (what he regards as) a Catholic community, "Ave Maria Town."  According to Monaghan:

"We'll own all commercial real estate," Mr. Monaghan declared, describing his vision. "That means we will be able to control what goes on there. You won't be able to buy a Playboy or Hustler magazine in Ave Maria Town. We're going to control the cable television that comes in the area. There is not going to be any pornographic television in Ave Maria Town. If you go to the drug store and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won't be able to get that in Ave Maria Town."

I'm all for Catholic distinctiveness, but I'm inclined to share Ann Althouse's take on Monaghan's vision.  (On a more pedestrian note, I wonder if it could even be implemented, legally).  Lior Strahilivitz talks about the Town's "exclusionary vibes" in this excellent paper, "Information Assymetries and the Rights to Exclude." 

My own take -- which is consonant, I think, with Althouse's -- is that (a) although it is not "creepy" to care about the enterprise of sustaining a distinctively and authentically Catholic law school, (b) it is big mistake to think that the enterprise is well served by retreating to a homogenous, planned community without an established, rich university environment.  As Althouse puts it:  "You can't retreat and purify yourself.  You have to become involved with the complexities of life, not shrink away from them."  (It sounds like many of Ave Maria's faculty and students agree.)

Posted by Rick Garnett on November 13, 2005 at 03:51 PM | Permalink


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One aspect of the Catholicism noted in "Catholic Jonestown," and of religions more generally, is to shun or ostracize those who think differently or hold different views. The motivation to do so is I believe to reinforce faith-based beliefs and to avoid their dilution or challenge, in the absence of verifiability. The core problem with this very common approach, however, is the concurrent veneration of truth by those doing the ostracizing, which is the Achilles heel of most religions or religious thinking, as Nietzsche well noted. Lies become lived, layered and compounded. We see this now substantially on a national political scale in the United States among those in power. Too few seem to recognize the central problem identified here or much care.

Kimball Corson
Ensenada, BC, Mexico

Posted by: Kimball Corson | Nov 14, 2005 1:29:09 AM

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