The Ave Maria Chronicles: Responses and Addenda
I'm getting responses to my material -- for a change, to my own site rather than Mark Shea's.
In fact, Ambrose brought up a very good point: "To my knwoledge there are only two econ professors on staff at AMU Naples at this time: Gabriel Martinez and Guillermo Montez. I confess I know almost nothing about these gentlemen, but some quick searches reveal some rather esoteric works with few sniffs of a 'neo-conservative laissez faire' bent - whatever that is." (Well, if you don't know, how could you "sniff" it out if it was there?) "Given that the econ departments of many Catholic schools are overrun with Marxists and socialists of various stripes, I'm wondering what a Catholic econ department should look like, and whether the Holy Father would find AMU's any more exceptionable than, say, Georgetown's. If I didn't know better, I'd think that your ideal would be one filled with distributists..."
As a matter of fact, Ambrose, I do think so. So would several popes of the last century. After the fall of communism, John Paul II was quick to remind the West of the excesses of capitalism, in the rush to rebuild the East.
Closer to home, there was a lot of word on the street that Michael Novak, and one other gentleman of that ilk, was going to be on the economics faculty. Maybe so, but I took the time to check the economics course of study at the AMU website: "Because the ultimate goal of economics is to understand the truth about the economy and to suggest ethical and appropriate courses of action, the study of Catholic Social Teaching is crucial. Understanding that the economy is a means for the fulfillment of the human person and not the converse, we guide our study of economics by the three pillars of the Social Magisterium: human dignity, solidarity, and subsidiarity. Thus our courses emphasize the primacy of labor, the right to private property, the right to economic initiative, the just regulation of the economy by government, and the role of intermediate organizations."
Now, that's more like it (and they do include Belloc on the reading list, by the way), and if they can live up to that, I'm happy to stand corrected. In fact, I'm more than happy, I'm damned delerious, if the project as a whole reflects that philosophy.
You see, in a classic sense, a university is not merely an isolated enclave. It draws a segment of the larger society to itself. That's why college towns have a certain characteristic about them. This is more than just building an educational institution. Mr Monaghan and those who assist him have a unique opportunity to inculcate a Catholic way of life on the larger society.
To that end, the original plans for the Town of Ave Maria, Florida, appear to resemble a "Catholic suburb," with all segments of land use carefully segregated, and accessible to one another mainly by automobile, as opposed to pedestrian traffic. This post-war phenomenon of urban planning has led to a waste of resources, and a push toward material excess that is characteristic of the "cultural Calvinism" that is American life. That is, you have to be a two-car family with a big house on a half- or one-acre lot to have "the good life" -- to say nothing of living the Catholic vision, as made manifest in this case. On the other hand, the proposal from the Notre Dame architecture students shows a careful mixed-use approach, more in keeping with traditional neighborhood development, and thus more conducive to various segments of the local culture interacting, and thus learning from, each other. One would hope for more emphasis on alternative forms of housing, including affordable options such as townhouses and garage apartments, to allow for a more balanced social structure in the town.
In other words, I should be able to walk from my home at one end of town, to work or shopping or whatever, in about ten minutes, or half a mile. How can you share the Faith with your neighbor, if the setting does not lend itself to meeting him? It's easier to do so on the sidewalk, than from a car. It's also easier if the wife doesn't have to put the kids in day care and work full-time, just so the family can afford to live there.
Mr Monaghan, to his great credit, left behind much of his career ambitions, to devote his life to using his fortune for spreading the Faith. If I were in a position to advise him (and I don't tend to move in those circles), I would suggest he spend less time reading Frank Lloyd Wright (who deserves more credit as an architect than as an urban planner), and more time reading Thomas Storck and Peter Maurin. The latter was influential in Dorothy Day's establishment of the Catholic Worker movement, and told of how both the rich and poor should help, and learn from, each other.
Will the "smoke-filled room" consist of shopkeepers and bricklayers as well as bankers and lawyers? Has Mr Monaghan ever heard of a concept known as "co-housing"? Can his vision of a Catholic society make room for subsidiarity at the neighborhood level, from the grassroots?
If he can expand his braintrust just enough to think outside the box, I promise to take back all the pizza jokes. Until then, the mere mention of an unsubstantiated rumor of theft was indeed imprudent, and shall be removed from this site.
He knows where to find me.