But two related things have come to our attention, one about HoM and the other about Ave Maria University. Or maybe its just one thing, which happens to be true of both organizations independently. Either way, we have learned this: both of these seemingly ultra-Papist institutions have been subjected to some pretty scathing criticism from conservative Roman Catholics.
Please bear in mind that this post is the result of some quick surfing through the underbelly of the Net, the sort of sites run by people so passionate that they may look (or be) crazy, and who live in a world so completely self-referential that they can take for granted not only that red is blue, but that a massive conspiracy of Freemasons and Illuminati has spent hundreds of years covering up the basic facts of the prism. (Here or, here, especially the sidebar notes.) We're edging into Lone Gunmen territory here. So read this with a grain of salt.
1. The Home of the Mother is sometimes praised for its evangelical fervor, but just as often accused of "cult-like" behavior. But what does this mean? Probably something milder than old-style Jim Jones/David Koresh stuff. We have seen exactly zero reports of weapons caches or poisoned Kool-Aid. If there are any details floating around out there, we haven't seen them yet.
Our own brief exposure to the Focolare movement reminds us of an instructive fact: there is a fine line between "charismatic movement" and "cult," a line which can be extremely difficult to discern. To this day, we aren't sure which one Focolare is. Perhaps more to the point, it is unlikely that anybody knew what to make of the Franciscans in 1220 or the Jesuits in 1540; it has taken time to separate them from the Joachimites and Fifth Monarchy Men.
Still, it does seem that the Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice (Florida), where Ave Maria is located, has kept some distance between himself and the HoM people. This suggests that he may have had some reservations about them.
2. Just as interesting to us are the criticisms of Ave Maria University and its pizza-baron chancellor. The harshest of these, by far, surround Maine-based Jackson Laboratory, which wants to set up a facility near AMU. Jackson is a genetics lab, which claims not to experiment with embryonic stem cells, but admits that its seminars and meetings will inevitably include the discussion of such research. AMU considers this position to be compatible with its vision of Catholic ethics, but a few hard-liners disagree.
Perhaps just as much to the point, Tom Monaghan is a partner in the real estate company negotiating to sell some swampland to Jackson, and stands to make a pretty penny if the deal goes through. So, to the hard-liners, it appears that despite their great show of "conservative" Roman Catholicism, neither Monaghan nor AMU is conservative enough.
Coming as we do from a different school of theological ethics, we aren't especially moved by, or even interested in, the moral debate here. Nor are we surprised that the soi-disant "conservatives" always have somebody attacking them from the right. That's how purity codes work: Obama may be a socialist to Fox News, but you just know that when Ralph and Dennis and Noam get together for coffee, they call him a corporate sellout.
What interests us, really, is the Carl Hiaasen vibe of the whole story. We love that Carl Hiaasen.