Saturday, December 29, 2007

Local Media: Sun Shines on Ave Maria University

Meep Meep: Road Runner Escapes Unscathed (yet again)

The local media in Collier County neatly summarizes Ave Maria University's progress on several fronts:

The paint has barely dried at Ave Maria’s new campus in eastern Collier County, but university leaders announced in January that a fourth dormitory is needed to handle a projected enrollment surge. That project will be completed for the fall 2008 semester, and a recreational pool and cabana complex also will be ready about the same time. Academically, Ave Maria cannot make any substantial program changes until it completes an accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities. Athletics will make a push onto campus, though, as the Gyrenes expect to field teams that will compete in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Elsewhere, the local news reports that accrediation is on track for the school and federal aid for students is secure until the end of academic year 2010 (and all-but-secure thereafter):

A decision from a federal education advisory panel looks to secure Ave Maria’s access to billions of dollars in federal financial aid funding for the foreseeable future.
What is more, the same reporter notes that the recent discussion of AMU's accreditation is rooted in a national debate about federal policy and expanded federal involvement in universities (giving the lie to those who pretend the matter is one of AMU's making):

AALE’s federal status — and by proxy Ave Maria’s — has been part of a larger debate on the accreditation process and more generally higher education’s future. The Department of Education has pushed accreditors — including the country’s six primary agencies like SACS — to shift to measuring quantitative aspects of student performance, such as college graduation rates, rather than focusing on evaluating administrative processes. Accreditors have balked, arguing the department is trying to impose a one-size-fits-all model on higher education. Congress became involved in the fight and has threatened to pass legislation limiting the Department of Education’s power.
Seems that the Chickens Little (who constantly intone that "any minute now all things Ave Maria will implode") and the Boys Who Blog Wolf (whose fanciful false alarms and tiresome conspiracy theories have voided any credibility they may have had) will end up once again like the ever-frustrated Wile E. Coyote (who obsessively calculates the delicious demise of his likable arch enemy, but always causes more harm and frustration to himself).

Doubtless some are fuming mad at this news and will react by ordering a new contraption from

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christ is Born!

Chapter 1
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, 7 but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, 8 yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord 9 appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, 10 because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
11 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until

she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Sixties are Officially (Finally) Over.

Crime, Drugs, Welfare--and Other Good News

The following are fair use excerpts from a Commentary Magazine article by Peter Wehner and Yuval Levin. Click on the headline to read the full article:
Culture itself, finally, exhibits an ebb and flow as surely as economies pass through cycles of ups and downs. In The Great Disruption (1999), Francis Fukuyama cited historical examples of societies undergoing periods of moral decline followed by periods of moral recovery. In our case, too, he argued, the aftermath of the cultural breakdown of the 1960’s had already triggered and was now giving way to a reassessment and recovery of social and moral norms.

In a number of key categories, the amount of ground gained or regained since the early 1990’s is truly stunning. Crime, especially, has plummeted. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the rates of both violent crime and property crime fell significantly between 1993 and 2005, reaching their lowest levels since 1973 (the first year for which such data are available). More recent figures from the FBI, which measures crime differently from the NCVS, show an unfortunate uptick in violent crime in the last two years—particularly in cities like Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Even so, however, the overall rate remains far below that of the mid-1990’s.

Teenage drug use, which moved relentlessly upward throughout the 1990’s, declined thereafter by an impressive 23 percent, and for a number of specific drugs it has fallen still lower. Thus, the use of ecstasy and LSD has dropped by over 50 percent, of methamphetamine by almost as much, and of steroids by over 20 percent.
Then there is welfare. Since the high-water mark of 1994, the national welfare caseload has declined by over 60 percent. Virtually every state in the union has reduced its caseload by at least a third, and some have achieved reductions of over 90 percent. Not only have the numbers of people on welfare plunged, but, in the wake of the 1996 welfare-reform bill, overall poverty, child poverty, black child poverty, and child hunger have all decreased, while employment figures for single mothers have risen.

Abortion, too, is down. After reaching a high of over 1.6 million in 1990, the number of abortions performed annually in the U.S. has dropped to fewer than 1.3 million, a level not seen since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized the practice. The divorce rate, meanwhile, is now at its lowest level since 1970.

Educational scores are up. Earlier this year, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported that the nation’s fourth- and eighth-graders continue to improve steadily in math, and that fourth-grade reading achievement is similarly on the rise. Other findings show both fourth- and twelfth-graders scoring significantly higher in the field of U.S. history. Black and Hispanic students are also making broad gains, though significant gaps with whites persist. The high-school dropout rate, under 10 percent, is at a 30-year low, and the mean SAT score was 8 points higher in 2005 than in 1993, the year Bennett published his Index.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pope Benedict: Be Wary of Enviromentalist Ideology That Drives Hasty Conclusions

The Holy Father, in his 2008 World Day of Peace message, has gently rebuked the high priests of the environmentalist religion. The UK's Daily Mail -- highlighting the slightest hint of controversy -- boldly claims that Pope Benedict has:

[L]aunched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.
Of course there is much more in his message than that -- and his words are open to many interpretations, so we recommend that you read his message in its entirety yourself. Here is an excerpt:

For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations. Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good News Comes in Threes For Ave Maria University

The good news keeps flowing from the sub-tropical paradise known as Ave Maria, Florida.

1: Accreditation

It looks like accreditation for AMU is simply a matter of time, despite the (by now very tiresome and predictable) nay-saying of the school's detractors. Here is a brand new teaser from the subscription-only Chronicle of Higher Education:

The federal panel charged with panel charged with reviewing college accreditors has been advised by its staff to approve all requests for recognition at next week's semiannual review, potentially averting a showdown with the nation's largest accrediting agencies.

The Google News excerpt of this same article also includes this bit that leads one to believe the "strife" is o'er:

AALE provides student-loan eligibility to 10 small, religiously affiliated institutions, including Ave Maria College, Thomas Aquinas College...

This comes on the tail of reading last week that it was never much to worry about in the first place:

Despite AALE’s problems, Sites said the school is not worried about losing federal funding. Should AALE’s recognition be pulled, schools solely accredited by the organization will retain access to federal funds for 18 months, according to an education department spokeswoman. By that point, Sites said, Ave Maria hopes to have achieved candidacy status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the regional accreditor that recognizes Florida Gulf Coast University, Edison College and Hodges University among other schools in the Southeast.

2: Enrollment

It looks like enrollment and admissions figures are also promising. The same article from last week also reported that:

According to August student enrollment statistics, there are 447 degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students on campus and 147 students enrolled in the school’s distance learning master’s program.

Local television news also reported the good news that "Students flock to Ave Maria":

Students are flocking to Ave Maria University but the housing market may be keeping others away. The University's Founder says there are hundreds even thousands wanting to move to Ave Maria but can't until they sell their homes. Despite the housing market, the Catholic town continues to grow at a fast pace. The first restaurant opens Friday [Editor: a coffee and tea shop also opened that same day] ...It's expected 300 new Freshman will enroll in Fall 2008, representing almost half of the students attending next year.

3: Construction

All those students need somewhere to live - so we also have news of another groundbreaking on campus:

Ave Maria University broke ground Thursday morning on a new dorm scheduled to open next fall. The dorm, the university’s fourth, is part of an expansion effort that will include another dorm scheduled for completion by fall 2009. The dorm begun Thursday will be 44,453 square feet with 80 student rooms, allowing for a total occupancy of 160 students. Upon completion, the school will provide housing for approximately 600 undergraduates, a university release said.

Update: Several more google news excerpts of the Chronicle article make it clear that the professional educators advising the Secretary of Education find AALE to be worthy of accreditation:
In its recommendation for next week's review, Naciqi's professional staff has told the panel that AALE has shown that it requires colleges "to demonstrate...

Lawmakers also persuaded Ms. Spellings to abandon an effort this year to rewrite rules governing accreditation that would have given her department more...

The staff recommendations include renewing the accreditation authority of the American Academy for Liberal Education…

In its recommendation for next week's review, Naciqi's professional staff has told the panel that AALE has shown that it requires colleges "to demonstrate...

"Department staff conclude that the agency has acted in good faith," the Naciqi staff report said of AALE.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Norm for Recieving Communion in the U.S. is to Stand

For the record here is the current teaching of the Church on the matter:

In the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (IGMR) for the universal Church states that "it is up to the Conference of Bishops to adapt the gestures and postures in the Order of Mass...".

The Bishops in the United States, say in IGMR 160:

The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship Released

The US Bishops have released guidelines on sacred music. Striking a balance between reverence for the Church's treasury of sacred music and an openness to new musical forms and instruments that allow us to lift our hearts to God according to local musical genres, the document places an emphasis on participation by the congregation. It is true to the ever creative freedom of man in worshiping Christ and at the same time recognizes the enduring contributions of those who have given their gifts of music in previous times. Perhaps disappointingly to some, the document does not make dogmatic, reactionary, and exclusivistic pronouncements about musical forms or instruments, though it does note the pride of place of ancient music and the organ (not the one from your local mall). Stringed and percussion instruments are explicitly allowed, where they may be adapted for sacred music.

It is to be expected that the usual cacophony is to be heard about this just being the Bishops' Confernce, its not from Rome, not what Rome really wants, etc., ad nauseam. Whatever else it may be this argument is, however, not the teaching of the Church on the issue, as the Church has explicitly given to the Congregations this authority.

The teaching of the Church on sacred music (which is a discipline not dogma and thus is subject to change over time, so you can't rely on what Pius X said in 1903 about guitars and the piano, for example) stems from the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963). It leaves specific implementation of the Constitution and changes in liturgical music, Chapter IV, to the Bishops Conferences: "Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution." See 39. It likewise notes that some countries have unique musical traditions that may be incorporated into the liturgy: "In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason due importance is to be attached to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their attitude toward religion, but also in adapting worship to their native genius, as indicated in Art. 39 and 40." See 119. And that instruments other than the organ may be approved by the local ordinary. See 120. SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM may be found at:

The above was reiterated in the 1967, Vatican II document, Musicam Sacram, which left to the competent territorial authority decisions about incorporating contemporary music and instruments into the Church's already rich musical treasury. See, e.g., 53, 54, 55, and 62.

MUSICAM SACRAM (INSTRUCTION ON MUSIC IN THE LITURGY, promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for Rites and approved by Paul VI): may be found at:

Then in May 2001 the Congregation for Divine Worship published Liturgiam Athenticam, and mandated to the territorial conferences of Bishops to implement musical norms. See, e.g., 99.


Although, it is somewhat exasperating to have to do so, I suppose it is necessary to address the inevitable and now somewhat tiring argument that the US Bishops have been disobedient to Rome, so we should not follow their guidlines. To that I say that on a matter of faith and morals, where a bishop or priest errs, we must not follow. But on matters that do not involve eternal verities, the bishop is the apostle of our diocese and the local priest is his representative, to whom we do owe our obedience in matters of liturgical norms. To be Catholic is in part to follow them, on such matters, even if, or more precisely when, their taste or judgment differs from ours. If they have truly erred, take it up with Rome, but until Rome (and I don't mean merely the head of some Congregation speaking off the cuff) says otherwise, it simply is not Catholic to say that we should not take to heart the guidelines of the Bishops' Conference.

So, Sing to the Lord a new song, or a very old one!