Three of my five sisters live together in Naples, Florida and one of them mentioned that they recently took a 50-minute, curiosity drive to visit the planned community of Ave Maria (Hail Mary). Intrigued, I did a little research.
American entrepreneur, Tom Monaghan, now 83, founded the Domino’s Pizza chain in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1960. The humble pizza chain grew to be a national corporation with 17,000 locations. Monaghan retired in 1998 and sold Domino’s for a reported $1 billion dollars.
Monaghan is one those pious, conservative Roman Catholics who takes their legalistic works-religion very seriously. Among other projects, he founded the Ave Maria Catholic Radio Network in 1999. There’s also Ave Maria Mutual Funds. In 2006, Monaghan broke ground in former-tomato farm fields for his planned Catholic community of Ave Maria, northeast of Naples, Florida, which would include Ave Maria University, a commercial/business district, and 11,000 residences, all clustered around the mammoth Ave Maria Catholic church in the center of the community. Monaghan envisioned the college campus and residential and commercial areas being totally free of contraceptives and cable television pornography via restrictive town ordinances, which prompted the Naples press to begin referring to Ave Maria as the “Catholic Jonestown.”
There’s been slow growth and Ave Maria currently has about 30,000 residents, but it’s still considered more of a giant housing development than an actual town. Monaghan had hoped the new community would attract other like-minded, pious Catholics and become a center of conservative American Catholicism, but people of all religious beliefs have moved in and the town could be mistaken for any other large Florida development, except for the Catholic university (1100 students, 80% Catholic) and the ostentatious church building sitting smak dab in the center of town, like something out of Medieval Europe.
Conservative Catholics like Tom Monaghan still pine for the pre-conciliar, militant Catholicism of the 1950s. They haven’t gotten the message yet that their popes and prelates now grant that all works-religionists and even atheists may also merit heaven if they are “sincere” and “good.” Catholicism covers a wide range of beliefs and preferences, from progressive to traditionalist, but nowhere in sight is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The most dangerous places in Ave Maria are actually its centerpieces; the Ave Maria Catholic church and Ave Maria University, both of which propagate Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.
Postscript: It’s quite revealing that Tom Monaghan is ALL ABOUT worshiping Mary, with the “Ave Maria” moniker attached to EVERYTHING he creates.