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March 22, 2007



Fessio is back. Sort of.

From: Nick Healy
Sent: Thu 3/22/2007 6:22 PM
To: Fla-Faculty; Fla-Staff; FLA-Students
Subject: Father Fessio - update

We expressed yesterday that the separation of Father Fessio from the University’s administration had nothing to do with our shared commitment to our mission as a Catholic university ex corde ecclesiae. As a sign of our esteem for his great gifts and abilities, we have asked Father Fessio and he has agreed to continue a relationship with us. This will include the following:

(i)He will be designated a theologian in residence and maintain a room on campus.

(ii)He will join us for the Commencement exercises.

(iii) He will teach the planned summer program for high school students.

(iv)He will explore a semester abroad program in Rome and how our Austrian semester abroad program might be continued. It is expected that in developing plans for study abroad programs Father Fessio will be spending a significant amount of time in Europe.

(v) It is anticipated that beginning in the spring semester, Father Fessio will assume teaching responsibilities at AMU, although the precise schedule for the teaching hours will need to be worked out.

We are pleased that we can confirm the continuing association with Father Fessio and his commitment to the ongoing development of Ave Maria University in a non-administrative capacity.

Joseph R. Wilson

I would like to hear from AMU students and faculty about the true importance of keeping Fr. Fessio. I would also like to see the administration of AMU address the anxieties of prospective students and their families regarding the future stability of Ave Maria University.

There are now great opportunities to participate in the work of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that the response of the great people at AMU is likely to start with prayer and fasting, I'm eager to see what happens next.


The email is correct. I think TM and NH realized they had committed a huge PR failure. Fessio is a tremendous asset to AMU in so many ways.



Now I will continue to contribute to Ave Maria University, but in a
non-monetary capacity.


Maybe too little, too late. Monaghan really shot himself in the foot on this, and 1000's of potential supporters learned what a waste of oxygen that man is. Interesting that Fr. Fessio's new responsibilities keep him out of the country. I expect the fallout from this will be long and hard.


I'm sorry, you guys have got to be kidding me! One day ago, they tell him to literally pack up and leave, and you are going let this pass just because they restored Fr. Fessio to keeper of the holy hand grenade.

That does not change the fact that AMU is one giant disaster and, I might add, a total embarassment to anyone committed to Catholic higher education.

Sure, we get in a fuss when this happens to one of our high profile "heros". Doesn't the fact that Monaghan threatened to fire employees of AMC if they did not retrat their reports to the Department of Education concerning fraudulent use of funds. Those folks did not get a "cush" position, I'll tell you that.


This is beyond farce. It can't be true! It is true? What kind of operation are they running down there in Naples? One day a prominent priest gets frog-marched out of the place like a common criminal. They next day he's given his own slot, made up on the spot, mind you--"theologian in residence." This might not sound like much, but given that nobody has tenure down there anyway, sounds pretty good to me. Now the question remains, either (a) who got to Nick & Tom, or (b) did someone forget to take his medication?

Fr. J

Can you say "backtrack?" Faced with the prospect of no students I guess they decided they could work with Fr. Fessio. I am still dubious.


Ave-an. Student. From what I'm hearing, Rick, probably (b). This is all a little crazy here.


"...a total embarassment to anyone committed to Catholic higher education."

Whatever one might think of the administration, there are too many great Catholic scholars at Ave Maria to make a categorical assertion like this.

"Faced with the prospect of no students I guess they decided they could work with Fr. Fessio."

That's a very reasonable take.

More to the point, Fr. Fessio decided he could work with them. Even in a reduced capacity.

He loves these kids, and I am sure that is why he did this.

Joseph R. Wilson

Fr. Fessio was not treated in a dignified manner, but I know that he wasn't "frog-marched out of the place like a common criminal." The way that this matter is discussed, and ultimately resolved, will be a highly public witness to our faith.

There are obviously some serious problems and it is our imperative that they be addressed charitably. It is crucial that constructive efforts be made to establish greater stability. Perhaps there needs to be a clear firewall between benefactors and administration. A lot of people could be hurt on the ground at Ave Maria in Naples, as there were in Michigan.

chris K

It is expected that in developing plans for study abroad programs Father Fessio will be spending a significant amount of time in Europe.

So distance will make the hearts grow fonder. Was this part of the deal ... on purpose ... by someone?

Ave Maria

Considering that yesterday it was mentioned that the good Fr. Fessio needed a place to sleep last night, I do not feel pacified by the 'rehire'.

Yes, I think that this sudden firing would have been a death knell. I know I get requests for money regularly from AMU. I gave them a ONE time donation. I will not be donating any more

The underlying problems still are there...


"...a total embarassment to anyone committed to Catholic higher education." Unfortunately I'd have to agree. Fessio will be teaching high schoolers and planning semesters abroad? Sounds like a key player to me... A fine priest here in the Diocese of Richmond was made also made an official theologian, and shortly thereafter shipped off to the boondocks without explanation as well. Just don't get the continued dopiness amongst leaders.

Meg Q

"Perhaps there needs to be a clear firewall between benefactors and administration. A lot of people could be hurt on the ground at Ave Maria in Naples, as there were in Michigan."

No kidding.

My husband talked to them last year, with my encouragement. I was keeping an open mind. But last night I forbade him from taking a job there ("forbade" - definitely a first in our marriage!). A very small thing in the whole AMU saga, but I'm sure I'm not the only Catholic scholar's spouse who felt that way yesterday.


This so clearly points to an astounding lack of judgment and management capability by the AMU administration. Much has been said about how Tom Monaghan wants to run the university like a business, but no well-managed business would do anything like this. If it were possible to work out an arrangement, it would have been thought through and agreed upon in advance and announced as if it were natural. People would see through it, of course, but it would not have been so embarrassing and might not have eroded trust and confidence (whatever of it there was) on the part of the students, faculty and supporters.


"If you want pizza, work for justice." paraphrase of quote for Paul VI

(or was it: "If you want justice, don't work for pizza"?)


"Like a common criminal" is a fair characterization, particularly if you read the bloggers who jumped to the conclusion that Fr. Fessio's undignified ouster must mean that he was involved in criminal or near-criminal conduct. May I suggest that exhortations to act and speak in ways that bear witness to our Christian faith are more properly aimed at AMU than at Fr. Fessio's defenders.

Matt C. Abbott

The soap opera continues...

chris K

An informative comment by Jay McNally over at Dom's:


Ferde Rombola

Talk about shooting from the hip! I wonder what the next volley will bring. You can bet it won't be sanity.


What has most surprised me in all the hubbub surrounding Fr. Fessio's firing has been the outpouring of apparently pent-up anger and frustration that many faithful Catholics feel toward Ave Maria and Tom Monaghan. I have to admit that my first response was such cynicism. I think, though, that this attitude is a sinful temptation. Monaghan has done great good and continues to do so. People may have personality differences with him, or they may disagree with his strategy or with the liturgical tastes of some of his followers and employees, but we must not allow those differences turn into anger or division. Such is a wile of the father of lies. We must remember that he attacks the faith not only in the "liberal" direction but in the so-called "traditionalist” direction as well. “Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another./ Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,/and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:25-27


Andrew, False dichotomy. False idea of a middle way between two extremes. Tom Monoghan is not a theologian and has no capability of attacking "liberals" or "traditionalists."

By the way, as Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and the Pope have made manifestly clear, Traditionalists are not heretics. And they are not schismatics either, unless they deny the authority of the Pope--I know lots of them. None of them do.

And yes, the Charismatic leaning honchos in charge at Ave Maria DO attack traditionalist students and priests who are in full communion with the Church.


That Father Fessio picks up his cross and follows "the way" is a tremendous act of forgiveness and a witness to the life of Christ. This Catholic educator - of the Truth - this holy priest amidst a decision so shocking - is the example AMU students will follow and love. An imitator of Christ - indeed! May God bless him and keep him - always - in His love.

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