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Friday, August 24, 2007

Have Catholics Found Their Heaven On Earth?

(Video from The Simpsons)

Tom Monaghan used to be the King of Pizza until he sold his Domino's Pizza empire for about a billion bucks in 1998. So with all that loose change in his pocket, he decided to build his very own town, complete with a big new university opening its doors this week. But this is not just a regular town -- it's a Catholic town, called Ave Maria, near Naples, Florida, where the streets are named after Catholic saints and popes, and a giant, shiny new Catholic oratory is going up in the center of town.

But you probably won't find any hookers hanging out on the corner of John Paul and St. Peter. This is a Catholic town, so any sinning is strictly forbidden. In fact, Tom's initial idea was to ban abortions, as well as the sale of pornography and contraceptives in his new town. But alas, he learned that just because you own a town doesn't mean you can break the law, so he's had to chalk one up for Satan on that front.

Tom says that you don't really have to be Catholic to buy one of the big new houses in his town. Why, heck, he says you can even be a godless athiest, although for an athiest to plop himself down in the middle of a bunch of religious fanatics would be a bit like me going to a Republican convention. I mean, why would you?

Is this the future of America? Does this small village represent a dismantling of the wall that separates church and state, a theocracy where the government is run according to religious principles? Beyond that, are we now going to build towns where we can all live safe in the knowledge that everyone else in town is exactly like us? Are we going to see towns sprouting up for Baptists, Buddhists, or biologists? Are we all so frightened of people who are different than us that we view uniformity as a virtue? It all seems a bit too much like Stepford for me.

I always thought that the strength of America was the idea of the "melting pot," that rich tapestry of people of different races, creeds, and political beliefs living together in peace and harmony. Of course, that isn't always the case, but shouldn't that be the goal? How is America better off if we wall ourselves off from those people and ideas that offend us?

I'm thinking that there may be an opportunity for a developer looking to build some new communities near Ave Maria. I'm thinking maybe he could build a couple of towns with some great casinos, strip joints and bars, because I have a feeling that there are going to be a lot of frustrated Catholics in Ave Maria when Saturday night rolls around and the most exciting thing to do in town is go bowling.

I'd call the new towns Sodom and Gomorrah. It has a certain ring to it.

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