Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Catholic's Paradise: No, Not Heaven, Ave Maria, Florida!

Perhaps you have heard that the founder of Domino's Pizza, Tom Monaghan, is developing a Catholic planned-community called Ave Maria in Naples, Florida to exist alongside the new Ave Maria University. The general idea is to provide a place for good Catholics to coexist with other good Catholics. But, this raises quite a few legal questions.

How exactly can one enforce "good Catholicism" in a community? Monaghan has suggested that commercial leases would not be given to anyone who would distribute contraceptives, pornography, or perform abortions, prompting a quick response from the ACLU. I imagine the community will try to find some sort of loophole to ban these things, but the ACLU will be watching them closely.

The town is planned to have two schools: one private parochial school and one public school. I imagine the ACLU will be keeping an eye on that public school, as well. After all, if parents are insane enough to actually drag their children into a planned Catholic community but for some reason can't send them to the parochial school, they will still want the same "character education" (read: prayer in classrooms) that the parochial school instills. I don't doubt that this public school will raise First Amendment concerns.

Beyond legal questions, this poses some sociological and philosophical questions. Is this kind of living appropriate? Is trying to make believe that the world is Catholic healthy? How will this kind of community affect children? Will this make issues of tolerance even worse in this country? I think the answers are no, no, badly, and yes. I see nothing wrong with wanting to be around similar people, but that is what clubs, organizations, and churches are for. If Catholics want to be around Catholics, go to Church. Don't drag your families to some sort of Catholic utopia. I don't compare people to Nazis very often because it is generally a dirty trick, but this seems rather Nazi-esque. Sure, there is no genocide, but the goal is the same: eliminating people who are different. It's not healthy. Not at all.

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