Former Domino’s Pizza founder and right-wing philanthropist Tom Monaghan announced that he will spend $200 million to build a new Roman Catholic university in Florida. Ave Maria University will join Monaghan’s two Ave Maria colleges and the Ave Maria School of Law. Monaghan, who has actively participated in and sponsored anti-abortion causes, plans to have no coed dorms and no gay support groups at his college, which is scheduled to open in 2006, the New York Times reports.
Numerous Catholic educators have shown opposition to this new highly conservative college. Richard P. McBrien, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the Times that “Tom Monaghan has the agenda of a right-wing Republican, and he happens to confuse that with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Many feel that his money would have been better spent helping those less fortunate or in support of an existing Catholic college.
According to The Guardian, Monaghan’s decision to build this new college was prompted by the belief that many Catholic universities have become too liberal. In a statement to the New York Times, Monaghan said “A university has a big impact on the church and society.” Monaghan’s previous colleges have drawn support from ultra-conservative, right-wing forces, such as Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and former Ambassador and presidential candidate Alan Keyes. The chancellor of the new college, Father Joseph D. Fessio, has spoken out in the past against hiring openly gay administrators in Catholic institutions, according to the Times.
Monaghan’s plans to build Ave Maria come at a time when the Catholic church is under scrutiny in the United States. There have been numerous lawsuits across the nation charging priests with sexual abuse, and the church has been paying out millions of dollars in damages. Fall-out from the scandal has led to declining enrollment in Catholic primary schools, and a recent Gallup poll indicated that roughly 40 percent of US Catholics were planning to contribute less to the church.