dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Fessio fired. (updated)

The following e-mail went out to the Ave Maria University community this afternoon:

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.

More coverage here. (H/T Whispers in the Loggia.)

Update: Rocco is all over this:

The hourlong general session of faculty and students took place 90minutes after a meeting of the new campus' senior staff, at which theuniversity's official statement (found below) was hammered out. Astanding-room crowd packed a hall that seats around 300, as universitypresident Nicholas Healy and other top officials offered theirreflections. As with the earlier demonstration, the crowd was largelypro-Fessio, with two standing ovations given the absent former provost-- the first of which came following a question from the audienceasking for his reinstatement.

A senior university official saidthat one crux of the "irreconcilable differences" cited as the reasonfor the requested resignation was a divergence on liturgical tastes;Healy and other top officials take their cue from the evangelicalCharismatic school of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (towhich they maintain close ties), while Fessio's crowd gravitated towarda more solemn manner of ritual. The Jesuit's Latin Masses -- Novus Ordo, celebrated ad orientem-- were reported to have drawn large crowds, while similar crowds werehad for monthly Healing Masses celebrated by priest-in-residence Fr. Richard McAlear, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Are divergent liturgical tastes really to blame for the dismissal? What else?

Update 2: This site, regretably run by an anonymous reporter, hosts a lot of information on the travails of Ave Maria University.

Update 3: Apparantly Fessio is being brought back on board. If true, this is bizarre. And amateurish.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

"Irreconcilable difference over administrative policies and practices" is pretty vague.Hmm...I think there's just enough time today for Senator Leahy and the Senate Judiciary Committee to also get a subpoena out to Tom Monaghan regarding Fr. Fessio's firing.

Maybe the university is taking its cues from the examples set by the former CDF head?I'd sure like to be the "fly on the wall" here :)

The link provided by Grant in Update # 2 mentions Ave Maria is facing a make-or-break accreditation that will determine if the university will continue to receive federally-backed financial aid for students. Perhaps Fr. Fessio's departure has something to do with the accreditation. In any event, if it's true, as the blogger at the link reports, that Ave Maria's enrollment has declined by 30%, the future of the university may be in doubt regardless of the outcome of the accreditation.

Also of note is the consultant's report which recommended that Monyiham resign since he has to much control over what should be a real college or university. Many issues appear to be present.

Whatever you think of Ave Maria itself, it's clear from this controversy that the prospect of starting a new university is daunting and dangerous. Personnel disagreements, clashes of vision, etc., can happen at any university--not just a Catholic university.In fact, I wonder: 1) What percentage of the Universities founded in the US over time actually made it? 2) Whether Catholic colleges, being run by established orders with clear chains of command and intact institutional cultures, actually had an advantage in the early years because of the stability of culture they were able ot impart to the new venture?Anyone know?

In the New York Metropolitan area a few Catholic women's colleges have folded and a couple of nonsectarian Junior Colleges for women, but I think that this is to some degee due to the increasing of tendency of men's schools to become co-educational. I don't know how many Universities have closed. Has any Jesuit University every closed in the U.S.? Many schools in the 60's simply adjusted to the changes in market and perhaps also mores.How man universities have been successfully founded by a wealthy man or woman and then run by him/her without regard to the niceties of academic life? You can't run a University as if it were a pizza franchise buysiness.