Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More on Ave Maria Town

A few weeks ago, in the Wall Street Journal, an editorial -- "Bringing a Catholic Law School Down" -- appeared about the debates going on at Ave Maria about the possibility of a move to Florida.  The editorial prompted, among other things, a ton of comments over at Volokh's blog, and also this post (with some important clarifications) by Professor Althouse.  Now, Professor Andy Morriss, at the (very interesting) blog, "St. Maximos' Hut," weighs in, and writes:

The interesting issue here - i.e. the one I haven't puzzled out yet - is why people with whom I usually find myself in agreement think it is a bad idea to move the law school into Ave Maria town independently of whether they think that moving the law school at all is a bad idea. Those who find it "creepy" (like Juan) seem to do so because they object to the closing off of the community from the wider community. The very idea of a university, however, is to some extent a place where people are to a degree sheltered from the "real world" to allow them to focus on learning. What's particularly creepy about people wanting to be in an environment free from pornography, etc.? This doesn't strike me as any different from, say, people at a law school in a rural town touting the atmosphere available from rural living. Given UPS, the internet, Amazon.com, Netflix, and so on, I don't think "Ave Maria town" is likely to be particularly more closed off from the "real world" than most small towns in rural areas are today. What will be different is that it will be a community that shares values, Catholic values as it turns out, and that, in turn, strikes me as sounding a bit like what you might find in a monastic community.

And, in response, Althouse has revisited the debate:

. . .  Morriss is missing one huge thing. There is an existing community of scholars in Ann Arbor that is not volunteering to move. They like it where they are, in a lively university town, where they've established lives for themselves and contributed to the building of an institution. (Don't believe me? Ask them!) The move is to be imposed, top-down, by one man who happens to have the money.

Now (thanks to Juan Non-Volokh for the link), the Dean of the Ave Maria School of Law, Bernard Dobranski, has weighed in with a letter to the editor of the Journal.  (The letter itself is available only to subscribers).  Here is a taste:

Ave Maria University and the Barron Collier Companies have agreed that the town will promote the traditional family values that prospective residents are seeking. We believe this can best be achieved by attracting retail establishments that share this commitment to, for example, an environment free of the degradation of women that pornography represents. Retailers who know their market can be expected to stock only those products that sell. Although restrictions on both pornography and contraception effectively will be imposed by the marketplace, it is Ave Maria's fervent hope that Catholics will shun both of these. It is an outrage that this sincere desire to help fellow Catholics live in accord with their faith invites a comparison with Jonestown's infamous Jim Jones. . . .

Ave Maria University includes . . . on its board of trustees and board of regents (advisory) such prominent clerics and Catholic intellectuals as Father Benedict Groeschel, Prof. Robert George of Princeton, Prof. Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School and Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute. The idea that any of these people would countenance the sort of Catholic ghetto Ms. Riley imagines is patently absurd. Ave Maria seeks to be no more than mainstream Catholic; meaning, of course, unreserved fidelity to the teaching of the Catholic Church. This may be offensive to the secular left in the culture wars now raging, but it ought to be applauded even by a dissident faculty member of a Catholic law school, even if he prefers to remain in Michigan.

UPDATE:  D'oh!  I just realized that Rob already blogged about this letter.  Sorry!


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