Matt C. Abbott
March 5, 2010
The Ave Maria University, Tom Golisano controversy: Deal Hudson, Keith Fournier vs. 'The Wanderer'
By Matt C. Abbott

Controversy is nothing new for Ave Maria University otherwise known as the Tom Monaghan Empire.

Recently, Deal Hudson of InsideCatholic.com wrote (the first few paragraphs of his article are reprinted below; click here to read the full article):


    'Last November 5, Ave Maria University celebrated a generous gift of $4 million from Tom Golisano, chairman of Paychex, the second largest payroll processor in the United States. Given that Golisano is the owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team and Buffalo Bandits lacrosse team, his gift will go to build a field house, where the school will hold wellness programs and where its sports teams will compete.

    'Golisano is a well-known public figure in New York, having run three times for governor on the Independent Party ticket. Most recently, he moved to Florida to protest the high state taxes in New York.

    Some of Golisano's political affiliations and statements have led to criticism of AMU for accepting his gift. The controversy erupted immediately after the November 5 event and culminated in an article in The Wanderer on January 28. The piece questioned the relationship between Golisano and the university it was titled, 'AMU Patron Golisano... Super Generous to Anti-Life Dems.'

    'The Wanderer cites three main pieces of evidence to back its criticism:

      1. a 1994 New York Times article in which Golisano describes himself as pro-choice;

      2. a $1 million donation to the 2008 Democratic National Convention; and

      3. his millions in support of the William J. Clinton Foundation.

    'At their board meeting in November, shortly after the controversy began, AMU's board and committees discussed the Golisano gift. According to Paul Roney, the school's chief financial officer, members of the board asked the administration to further verify its initial understanding of Golisano's pro-life position. Following the meeting, the administration was 'satisfied' that the New York Times article was inaccurate and that Golisano was indeed pro-life; this was then conveyed to the board. Among those present at the meeting were Adam Cardinal Maida, Rev. Benedict Groeschel, Ambassador Michael Novak, and board chairman Michael Timmis. The issue was not brought up again at the February board meeting, other than to report on the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the field house.

    'AMU president Nick Healy told me that the board had relied on what Golisano had personally confirmed, but 'since we continued to receive criticism, we decided to ask him to put it in writing.' Golisano readily agreed 'there was no resistance to that.' Golisano sent a letter to Monaghan, AMU's chancellor, dated December 3, 2009. In it, he claimed the New York Times misinterpreted him as being 'pro-choice.' 'I am pro-life now and have always been pro-life,' Golisano said. 'I believe a woman's 'right to choose' ends when sexual activity results in pregnancy. Hence, I do not believe that a woman should have a right to an abortion'.....'

Deacon Keith Fournier of Catholic Online wrote (excerpted; click here to read the full article):

    'I was recently delighted to learn that Ave Maria University was the recipient of a Four Million dollar ($4,000,000.) gift from a man named Tom Golisano. The first words which came into my heart upon reading the news were from St. Paul, 'Rejoice with those who rejoice...' (Romans 12:15)

    'I am convinced that the most important work being done in this new missionary age is the preparation of the next generation of faithful, well educated young Catholic men and women, prepared to respond to the call to every Christian vocation and to participate in the mission of the Church. It is these men and women, now being prepared at places like Ave Maria, who will carry on the work of the Church well into the Third Millennium making it into a new missionary age of the Church....

    'I have spent the last few months getting back into shape and rediscovering the essential importance of living an integrated and healthy lifestyle. This was necessary after years of pursuing a graduate degree during which I simply fell apart physically. One of the things I admire most about Ave Maria is their commitment to helping those who study there and live in the community of faith on campus to develop good habits of both body and soul. Their focus on virtue and holiness is as inspiring as it is practical. Finally, I discovered the impressive philanthropy of Mr. Golisano, much of which is done through the 'Golisano Foundation' which assists people with learning disabilities. Clearly this is a man who through his giving, his charity, has helped many of the 'poor' and is to be commended for that work.

    'However, it was what I discovered next online which prompted this article. I found petty, vicious attacks against Ave Maria for accepting the gift published in certain segments of the Catholic blogosphere. It appears that Mr. Golisano, like most of us reading this article, is a work in progress. His long life reveals that he held some positions in the past which do not comport with those which he holds today. Some within certain segments of the Catholic blogging community were only too eager to point out those positions of the past. However, they took another step; they attacked the man's motives and attacked Ave Maria for accepting his charity so as to help fund their work of forming young men and women in Charity. First, I became angry, and then I grew sad....'

I contacted Marielena Montesino de Stuart, correspondent for The Wanderer (to which I used to contribute as a writer, in the interest of full disclosure) who has been covering the Ave Maria University controversy in recent times, to ask her the following questions:

    1. Do you believe Tom Golisano has had a conversion of heart that he is now truly pro-life?

    2. What is your response to Deal Hudson's explicit criticism of The Wanderer's coverage of the controversy?

    3. What is your response to Deacon Keith Fournier's implicit criticism?

Marielena's responses are as follows (with minor edits):

    'The premise of this question that Golisano has had a 'conversion of heart' is completely false. If you read Golisano's December 3, 2009 letter to Monaghan, he stated, 'I am pro-life now and have always been pro-life.' By Golisano's own admission, he has always been pro-life. The key word is always.

    'As such: When Golisano gave $1 million to Barack Obama in 2008, he did so having always been pro-life. When Golisano supported 50 NARAL-endorsed politicians, he did so having always been pro-life. When Golisano financed ads for NARAL-endorsed politicians, he did so having always been pro-life. When Golisano became the founding sponsor of, and gave between $10 and $25 million to, the Clinton Global Initiative, he did so having always been pro-life. When Golisano ran three times for governor of New York on an abortion-tolerant platform, he did so having always been pro-life.

    'An abortion-tolerant politician is one who is silent on the issue of abortion. That silence implies that he agrees with the status quo. Those who are selflessly dedicated to the pro-life cause do not support politicians who choose to be silent on the issue of abortion.

    'This idea that Golisano is a convert to pro-life, that he has had a change of heart, is a fabrication. It is a fantasy commonly known as 'spin.' Anyone participating in this fabrication is perpetuating a lie, since Golisano has said himself that he has always been pro-life.

    'Ave Maria University and the individuals and entities that have come out in defense of AMU's honoring of Golisano are complicit in a serious and dangerous act: the erosion of the definition of pro-life, to 'I am personally opposed to abortion, but I will support pro-choice politicians and pro-choice institutions.'

    'Furthermore, Golisano has never recanted his breathtaking donations and endorsement of 'pro-choice' politicians and 'pro-choice' institutions. Golisano's so-called pro-life record is so poor that Ave Maria University had to approach Golisano and ask him to clarify his position on abortion. It took 15 years for Golisano to claim that he was 'misinterpreted' by The New York Times as being pro-choice and he finally did, in his December 3, 2009 letter to Monaghan, because he was called on it. It is important to note that The New York Times has never retracted Golisano's quote saying he is 'pro-choice.'

    'Do you know what it takes for a politician to be NARAL-endorsed? NARAL is hard-core 'pro-choice' and a supporter of partial-birth abortion. A NARAL-endorsed politician must be hard-core 'pro-choice.' Golisano supported 50 NARAL-endorsed politicians, and 47 of them got elected! Let's not forget the $1 million he gave for Barack Obama's coronation in Denver.

    'Imagine that: Obama, who during his political life in Illinois opposed the Born Alive Act! So, thanks to political activists like Golisano, we have the most extreme 'pro-choice' president that we have ever had in the White House. Golisano's background as a politician and activist is a matter of public record. But remember, through all this, Golisano has always been pro-life.'

    'Deal Hudson completely misses the point. The criticism of AMU is not based on the acceptance of Golisano's gift. The criticism is based on the honoring of Golisano, an honoring which took place in clear violation of the USCCB rules, as follows:

      The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

    'The USCCB makes it very clear: '...support for their actions.' Golisano has a clear and long-standing record of actions that support 'pro-choice' politicians and 'pro-choice' institutions. Golisano has never recanted his actions.

    'On Feb. 15, Hudson contacted me. It is important to note that I had never been in touch with Hudson before and that he initiated his contact with me. Here is what Hudson wrote to me:

      Marielena, I must say my jaw dropped when I read on your blog that Ave Maria had honored Golisano what makes AMU any different from ND [Notre Dame]? How do they defend this? Best, Deal Hudson

    'Let's remember that Hudson is a seasoned veteran of Catholic politics. My response:

      Yes, it is difficult to understand how Ave Maria University can justify honoring Tom Golisano; however, I anticipated this back in August 2009 when I wrote 'The Future: Ave Maria University, Notre Dame, Georgetown What's the Difference?'

    'Then, a week later, Hudson published a piece on InsideCatholic.com titled 'Why Tom Golisano Believes in Ave Maria University.'

    'The question for Hudson is this: What happened during Hudson's visit to AMU after his written comment to me on February 15 (when his 'jaw dropped' over the honoring of Golisano) and February 23, when he published his article?

    'This is not an issue between bloggers, AMU and Monaghan. Bloggers did not write the USCCB rules. This is an issue between AMU and the USCCB. Oh, but wait! AMU is not even recognized as a Catholic university by the Church. According to the Diocese of Venice, AMU is a 'private university in the Catholic tradition.'

    'It is a well-known fact that AMU cannot advertise or promote itself as a Catholic university the way it used to on its Web site and promotional materials. Thus, even the USCCB cannot correct AMU because AMU is not a Catholic university. (Yes, the bishop now sits on the board of trustees as a non-voting member, but he has not recognized AMU as a Catholic university).

    'But does AMU have serious intentions of being recognized by the Church? If the answer is yes, AMU should consider quickly changing the name of that building from Golisano to that of a Catholic saint.

    'Also, Hudson contradicts himself when he states:

      ...I must say my jaw dropped when I read on your blog that Ave Maria had honored Golisano what makes AMU any different from ND [Notre Dame]? How do they defend this?

    'Then Hudson writes a week later:

      ...some Catholic bloggers have used their disagreements with Ave Maria University over Golisano to cast doubts on Monaghan's and AMU's pro-life credentials.

    'To which I say: It is Monaghan and AMU who have cast doubts over their own pro-life credentials. Bloggers did not honor Golisano. Monaghan and AMU honored Golisano, in spite of AMU's public relations firm (Falls Communications) issuing a 'recommendation' indicating that Golisano's record was in conflict with the stated mission of the university.

    'This famous Falls Communications memo has been in the public domain for several months. When a philanthropist gives money to charity but then turns around and supports those who promote the culture of death, it simply means that the defense of human life is secondary for that philanthropist. That is definitely not being pro-life.

    'Which leads to the following point: Hudson ends by stating that Golisano gave his $4 million to Monaghan and AMU because he believed in them. Then it would follow that Golisano believed even more in Barack Obama, the 50 NARAL-endorsed pro-choice politicians, and the Clinton Global initiative since he has been immensely more generous with them.'

    'Deacon Fournier wrote on Nov. 20, 2009:

      I am convinced that the most important work being done in this new missionary age is the preparation of the next generation of faithful, well educated young Catholic men and women...

    'Well, then we have reason to worry when institutions like AMU honor someone like Golisano, because each time a young person walks through the door of the Golisano building on the AMU campus, they will see Golisano as the new face of pro-life, according to this new eroded definition. It is highly indecorous for a deacon to refer to those who respect the USCCB rules on the defense of human life, as 'petty' and 'the ever annoying peanut gallery of whining negative critics in some of our own circles' and then has the audacity to proceed with Bible quotes. Has Deacon Fournier considered that he may also be indirectly insulting the USCCB when he says 'ever annoying peanut gallery of whining negative critics...'? After all, it is the USCCB who wrote the rules against honoring the likes of Golisano.

    'Michael Novak just spent over a month as a visiting lecturer at AMU. He is also a member of the AMU board of trustees. After completing his latest lecture project, Novak applauded AMU in his latest piece titled Our Lady's University, in which he refers to 'the Prince of Lies' sowing a cloud of mischief trying to 'disrupt' it. Is Mr. Novak hereby referring to the critics of AMU, who happen to respect the rules of the bishops with regard to the defense of human life? Lest we forget that Novak once wrote, '[the Church] has little in common with the world. If it wishes to sanctify present history, it will have to be secularized in its mode of speech, habits of thought, ways of acting.'

    'The Catholic intelligentsia, the self-proclaimed representatives of the Catholic laity, who ignore the rules of the bishops when they defend reprehensible acts such as the honoring of Golisano, have been allowed to walk down the halls of academia far too long. What drives this Catholic intelligentsia? Many of them are selling something: a lecture series, their latest book. Are some of them receiving donations to promote their projects? Are they after power and control, which the wealthy can provide? Is their rhetoric on Catholic issues riddled with years of errors and inconsistencies?

    'It is time that this Catholic intelligentsia be brought to task; and it is time to question what values they truly hold behind their memorized Bible passages... before they continue to influence the next generation with their idiosyncratic Catholicism and ideas.'



Pertinent/related links:

InsideCatholic.com

Catholic Online

TheRomanCatholicWorld.com

The Wanderer

Ave Maria University (Official Web site)

Fumare

AveWatch.com

© Matt C. Abbott

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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