This breaking news story is very disheartening:
Ave Maria provost fired: Father Fessio’s reaction
By Jacob Ogles
March 21, 2007
Father Joseph Fessio said he had no indication before today that he would be asked to step down as provost of Ave Maria University.
“Obviously, I think it was a mistake, but I am not in charge,” he said.
Fessio said he was asked to a private meeting this morning with chancellor Tom Monaghan. At the meeting, Fessio said he was asked to resign his position with the school, clear his office and leave campus by the end of the day.
“I asked for a reason but was not given one,” Fessio said..
Okay, University of San Francisco I could understand. Liberal Jesuits hate their brother’s traditionalism and orthodoxy…but Ave Maria? What is going on?
This is hardly the way that a professor of theology and school provost should be treated. Monaghan may have funneled millions into his school, but he has asked other Catholics to come on board to help in his effort. Father Fessio has written fundraising letters and has attracted many of the best students and teachers to the school. I would seriously question how believers can continue to routinely support him given such actions. If he wants he can call it Monaghan University, then he can do what he wants, but a truly Catholic school must respect the integrity of both its students and its teachers. It cannot merely reflect a privatized version of the faith, but that universal faith which is shared by believers around the world. I suspect that this firing reflects an extremely narrow ecclesiology. I am not talking here about friction with liberals or dissenters; rather, I am focusing upon the increased tensions within orthodoxy and on the right. Monaghan reflects a more Charismatic Christianity, akin to that of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. Some might argue that while this form of Catholicism is faithful, it has, nonetheless, adopted elements of Pentecostalism. Sometimes, but not always, associated with such a faith is an individualism that runs counter to the genuine corporate nature of the Church rooted in tradition and centered upon the Magisterium. [However, I have the greatest respect for Steubenville, where a large percentage (majority) of students participate at daily Mass and where a major is offered in PRO-LIFE studies. They also have several renown orthodox teachers, including the apologetics master, Dr. Scott Hahn.] Father Fessio is considered conservative, but much more in the Pope Benedict XVI sense, especially in regard to the liturgy. Is this where the fight happened?
The school would only offer the following statement:
“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.”
What in the world were they thinking? After all the bad press about the law school and the Michigan campus, this kind of publicity Ave Maria in Naples does not need. Fr. Fessio is a close friend of Pope Benedict XVI. How can a school claim true orthodoxy and yet distance itself from a man who founded Ignatius Press and has suffered much for the sake of the true faith here in the United States? Such a curt statement could be very damaging to this good priest’s reputation as well.
Father Fessio accepted the dismissal and rebuke with his usual humility:
“A great burden has been lifted off my shoulders. Now I can pray and work for the Lord’s vineyards in other ways. The Lord has a plan. It will be revealed.”
The article continues:
According to Catholic World News, Fessio was instrumental in attracting prestigious Catholic faculty members to the university and that his “sudden departure raised questions about the overall future direction of Ave Maria University.”
The Blog, WHISPERS IN THE LOGGIA, reports:
A senior university official said that one crux of the “irreconcilable differences” cited as the reason for the requested resignation was a divergence on liturgical tastes; Healy [university president] and much of his leadership team take their cue from the evangelical Charismatic school of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (to which they maintain close ties), while Fessio’s crowd gravitated toward a more solemn manner of ritual. The Jesuit’s Latin Masses — Novus Ordo, celebrated ad orientem — were reported to have drawn large numbers, while similar crowds were had for monthly Healing Masses celebrated by priest-in-residence Fr Richard McAlear, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
We are told that when news of his dismissal was released there were significult public demonstrations Wednesday afternoon on campus by the students in protest.
More about the story at CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS:
I may have to take back what I said about this being an argument among orthodox Catholics. The ANGELQUEEN Blog notes liturgical deviation and novelty that goes against the current rubrics of the Mass. The real tension was between Dr. Healey and Fr. Fessio. The man with the purse-strings came down on the side of his friend Dr. Healy. As far as I know, unlike Fr. Fessio, he is neither a theologian nor a liturgist. This business is worse than when Dean Dobranski fired Dr. Charles Rice from the Ave Maria law school.
Until such matters are resolved, I can no longer PERSONALLY recommend Ave Maria to the kids I know. Many of us have a great trust and respect for Father Fessio. He is an honest and holy man. Those who operate the university had better be careful. It would be a terrible mark against them if one day their history including the firing of a man raised to the highest honors of the altar and counted as “blessed” or as “saint”.