From the Naples

Ave Maria University fires Rev. Joseph Fessio a second time

As the headline clearly states, this is the second time Fr. Fessio has been fired by Ave Maria. The first time the University tried this, and fired him as provost, the outcry was so great (especially from donors) that it was forced to backtrack and rehire Fr. Fessio in some made-up position. Now it seems the other shoe has irrevocably dropped.

The cause may be embodied in the photograph above. Fr. Fessio was a student of Pope Benedict’s in his earlier days at Regensburg, and is strongly identified with the so-called “Reform of the Reform” movement. Fr. Fessio was a willing celebrant of the traditional Mass at Ave Maria, and of the novus ordo as it was promulgated by Rome– in Latin, celebrated ad orientem.

It was largely because of Fr. Fessio’s liturgical excellence, doctrinal orthodoxy, and academic reputation that Ave Maria gained a wide base of support among conservative-to-traditional Catholics.

However, his liturgical philosophy did not match the outlook of Thomas Monaghan, the Catholic pizza magnate and philanthropist, who is by far the major donor, and motive force of the University. Monaghan’s ideas on the subject of liturgy can best be seen in the architecture of the new Campus Chapel (See link for pictures and SLC commentary). Monaghan hired Nicholas Healy, a lawyer and fellow Catholic charismatic movement devotee, to run the University. Ever since, Fessio’s role was limited, his liturgical vision thwarted, and ultimately he was dispatched. Like a messy beheading, it took two strokes.

It seems that the recent issues stem from some private misgivings voiced by Fr. Fessio about the University’s financial footing. I don’t know exactly what these were, but I wonder. My wife and I were founding donors of AMU, but I wouldn’t send my children there now for free.

The whole situation is a sad one indeed.