02 March 2006

Monaghan's city on a hill

Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan is well known in conservative Catholic circles for having begun a Catholic university in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which he is in the process of moving to Naples, Florida. To further advance the vision of his university, he has now begun building an entire city, as indicated in this Toronto Star article: On a mission from God. Given that I teach at a similar christian university started from scratch scarcely 25 years ago, I naturally find the project of creating a Catholic university appealing. Nevertheless, I find myself wondering whether it is run by a board of governors sufficiently distant from its principal (or only?) donor. If not, then it may not have staying power over the long term.

As for the city of Ave Maria, this seems like an enterprise more typically associated with protestants, ranging from the New England Puritans to the Rev. John Alexander Dowie's Zion City on the shores of Lake Michigan north of Chicago. My hometown of Wheaton, Illinois, some 40 km west of Chicago, had some of the features of a confessionally-based city, with its prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages within the city limits well into my adulthood.

As for precedents on the Catholic side, Monaghan's lawyers might wish to look at the University of Notre Dame, which is its own municipality – Notre Dame, Indiana – complete with its own post office and postal code.

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