Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Trouble in Naples

Months of tension at the Florida campus of Ave Maria University, the private Catholic institute founded by businessman Tom Monaghan, have come to a head.

A one-line report from points south said it all:

"Fr. Fessio asked by Tom Monaghan to resign. Protest forming by students."

An hour ago (2pm EDT), the following e.mail from Fessio was sent to the university community:
To the Ave Maria University community:

I have been asked to resign my position as provost and leave the campus immediately.

I will miss Ave Maria and the many of you whom I hold dear.

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
An impromptu protest of students numbering about 50 -- a quarter of the school's student body -- formed in front of the office of university president Nicholas Healy. As the students prayed the Rosary, the group then headed in the direction of Fessio's cabana. Shortly thereafter, their number was placed at 100.

According to a source on the ground, Fessio gave a "tearful" address to the students, then departed.

The Jesuit academic, founder of San Francisco's Ignatius Press and a doctoral student of Joseph Ratzinger was said to be informed of Monaghan's decision this morning. Reportedly, no reason was given for the move.

Background/local coverage here.

SVILUPPO (4.26pm): Ave Maria's PR firm has issued the following statement from the university.
March 21, 2007 -- Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. was asked to step down as Provost of the University as a result of irreconcilable differences over administrative policies and practices.

There has never been any difference in our commitment to our mission or to the Magisterium of the Church. Nor is there any diminishment in our commitment to maintaining the highest quality of scholarship.

We are grateful for the enormous contributions Father Fessio has made to the development of Ave Maria University, especially to the liturgical and intellectual development of the institution. We look forward to him serving the University in an advisory capacity in the future.
A general meeting of faculty and students is slated to begin at 4.30pm local time. Staff have been asked not to speak with the media.

SVILUPPO 2: Further developments in a new post.

SVILUPPO 3: (Thursday, 22 March) "As a sign of... esteem for his great gifts and abilities," AMU announces Fessio's agreement to a "continuing association" with university "in a non-administrative capacity."

Ave Maria University