Ave Maria University president slams Viganò, Cardinal Burke

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Jim Towey, President of Ave Maria University YouTube screenshot

Dorothy Cummings McLean

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Update August 31, 2018: Read LifeSiteNews' follow-up report: Ave Maria University president apologizes for Cdl. Burke hit but doubles down on Viganò

Updated at 4:41 p.m. EST on August 30, 2018 to include statement from the Cardinal Newman Society.

AVE MARIA, Florida, August 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Citing the “God of Surprises,” the president of a Roman Catholic University once known for its orthodoxy has slammed two faithful prelates for their challenges to the Pope, particularly in regard to allegations he covered for sex abuser ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.  

Ave Maria University President Jim Towey released a statement yesterday placing himself squarely on the side of Pope Francis against some “conservative members of the hierarchy,” saying that Archbishop Carlo Viganò’s call for the pontiff’s resignation and Cardinal Raymond Burke’s “challenge to the Pope’s authority” are not among the “surprises” God is “full of.”  

Archbishop Viganò’s 11-page testimony named Pope Francis and a number of high-ranking cardinals, bishops, and priests as having known about McCarrick’s predation yet continually placing him in positions of influence. According to Viganò, Pope Benedict XVI placed canonical sanctions on McCarrick, and Pope Francis lifted those despite knowing of the prelate’s pederastic proclivities. Those sanctions are now back in place and publicly known, thanks to the “credible” accusation that McCarrick molested a minor decades ago and the flood of stories and accusations about him from former seminarians and priests.

“Yes, God is full of surprises,” Towey wrote. “But the call for the Pope’s resignation by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano is not one of them. Neither is the challenge to the Pope’s authority by Raymond Cardinal Burke…” (Towey’s full statement is published below.)

Towey was particularly critical of Cardinal Burke, suggesting that the prelate bears a grudge against Pope Francis. He referred to the Cardinal as “an American prelate who has consistently opposed the direction Pope Francis has led the Church on certain matters (and may still be smarting from the Holy Father’s decision to remove him from his prominent position as head of the Holy See’s highest ecclesiastical court).”

Cardinal Burke was one of four cardinals who sent Pope Francis five dubia – official questions – concerning the pontiff’s controversial encyclical Amoris Laetitia, which seemed to allow for people in a state of mortal sin to receive Holy Communion and even to suggest that there are circumstances in which sin is a person’s only choice. The dubia asked the Pope to clarify whether his controversial exhortation is in line with Catholic morality. Pope Francis received it 710 days ago and has not responded.

Burke was appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura by Benedict XVI in 2008, and removed from the post by Francis in 2014. He was replaced by Cardinal Dominique Mamberti.   

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Towey, who heads one of the few American Catholic universities to be recommended by the Cardinal Newman Society, suggested that Archbishop Viganò’s testimony was part of a plot.

“The release of the Archbishop’s manifesto seemed timed to inflict the maximum damage possible to the Pope’s credibility, and the choreographed chorus of support by others in league with them, was just as troubling,” he wrote.

The Cardinal Newman Society weighed in on Towey’s statement via Twitter, calling it an unfair attack on credible, faithful Catholic leaders.

“This statement by Ave Maria University’s president unfairly attacks credible, faithful Catholic leaders who have rightly grown impatient with rampant infidelity. There are serious scandals that can no longer be ignored,” the Catholic education watchdog tweeted. “Attacking the sin, not the reformers, is what is needed today. The well respected Abp. Vigano is surely credible and his serious charges deserve a hearing. And the faithful deserve an immediate and transparent response from those whom he accuses of malfeasance and infidelity.”

“Cardinal Burke, our ecclesiastical advisor, has served the Church heroically in so many ways; he too is a credible voice. He has been *more* than patient and respectful in waiting for an answer to the Dubia,” the Cardinal Newman Society concluded.

Towey said that “most conservative Catholics” are not “embracing” the “defiance” of those who support the Vatican whistleblower, particularly not at Ave Maria University.

“Contrary to the popular narrative, most conservative Catholics are not following suit and embracing their defiance, and certainly not on our campus,” he wrote. “Ave Maria University is rightly known for our unqualified fidelity to the Church. We do this not because we are conservative (we are) but because this is the requirement of discipleship. This explains why our students love Pope Francis and support him wholeheartedly.”

Towey noted that Pope Francis has already apologized for his failures in response to coverups of clerical abuse, and that “we [Ave Maria University] forgive him.”

Francis’ defender pointed out that Francis was not the only McCarrick fan in the Church.

“He wasn’t the only one to be charmed by now-disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick,” he wrote. “Saints John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta also knew Cardinal McCarrick personally and were deceived by him, too.”   

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The president called for Catholic criticism of Pope Francis to stop.

“At a time when the Church is roiled by scandal occasioned by so many within the hierarchy who failed us, personal attacks against the Vicar of Christ and calls for his resignation are wildly divisive and patently wrong,” he averred. “Those so-called conservative Catholics who now challenge the Holy Father’s legitimate authority and openly undermine his papacy, are betraying their own principles and hurting the Church they profess to love. They should stop now.”

Ave Maria University was founded in 2003 by Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan, who wished to establish a Catholic university loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. It moved to its present location in Florida in 2007.

Catholic apologist Steve Ray announced he will resign as a Regent of the school over Towey’s letter.

“I cannot believe what they’re saying,” he tweeted, promising to contact Monaghan about it as well.

Under Towey’s leadership, the University nixed its Latin requirement and critics say its Catholic identity has seriously deteriorated.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is under fire for doing nothing after his office received a letter detailing McCarrick’s sexual misdeeds – he even fundraised and travelled with McCarrick after his office received the damning letter – was the commencement speaker at Ave Maria University in 2016.

To respectfully express your views, please contact:

Mr. H. James Towey President’s Office Ave Maria University 5050 Ave Maria Blvd. Ave Maria, FL 34142 (239) 280-2500

Facebook: Ave Maria University Twitter: @AveMariaUniv

Statement by President Jim Towey Regarding The Rift Within The Church  

August 29, 2018

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There is nothing new about the rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the Church hierarchy. The battle lines seemed to have formed five years ago shortly after the Pope ascended to the chair of Saint Peter. In 2013 in his first major publication, The Joy of the Gospel, the Pope described confreres who “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style.” Recently he quoted these same words in a letter to the faithful, Rejoice and Be Glad, and described “false prophets who use religion for their own purposes, to promote their own psychological or intellectual theories. God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises.”

Yes, God is full of surprises. But the call for the Pope’s resignation by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’ is not one of them. Neither is the challenge to the Pope’s authority by Raymond Cardinal Burke, an American prelate who has consistently opposed the direction Pope Francis has led the Church on certain matters (and may still be smarting from the Holy Father’s decision to remove him from his prominent position as head of the Holy See’s highest ecclesiastical court). The release of the Archbishop’s manifesto seemed timed to inflict the maximum damage possible to the Pope’s credibility, and the choreographed chorus of support by others in league with them, was just as troubling.

Contrary to the popular narrative, most conservative Catholics are not following suit and embracing their defiance, and certainly not on our campus. Ave Maria University is rightly known for our unqualified fidelity to the Church. We do this not because we are conservative (we are) but because this is the requirement of discipleship. This explains why our students love Pope Francis and support him wholeheartedly. He is the successor to Peter and our spiritual father. He bears the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Conservative Catholics may legitimately disagree with Pope Francis’ take on everything from the environment and capitalism, to marriage and family. Such dissent is healthy for the Church when properly channeled and respectfully communicated. But when Church dissent becomes openly hostile and rebellious, and some members of the hierarchy assert their opinions as if they were elected pope instead of Francis, faithful Catholics like our students will rally to the Supreme Pontiff’s defense.

Pope Francis has admitted that he failed in his own response to the clergy sex abuse scandal and its cover-up. We forgive him. He wasn’t the only one to be charmed by now-disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick; Saints John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta also knew Cardinal McCarrick personally and were deceived by him, too.

At a time when the Church is roiled by scandal occasioned by so many within the hierarchy who failed us, personal attacks against the Vicar of Christ and calls for his resignation are wildly divisive and patently wrong. Those so-called conservative Catholics who now challenge the Holy Father’s legitimate authority and openly undermine his papacy, are betraying their own principles and hurting the Church they profess to love. They should stop now.

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