The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Amid controversy, Ave Maria University president will step down in 2020

University President James Towey says he decided not to “seek or accept” a contract extension.

Ave Maria University President James Towey

The president of Ave Maria University in Southwest Florida will not have his contract renewed, the university announced this week.

In a press release issued on October 8, AMU Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Timmis announced that President James Towey will be stepping down on June 30, 2020 at the end of his contract term.

In an email sent the same day to students, faculty, and staff, Towey stated that the Board began discussing the extension of his contract last May, but since then Towey has decided not to “seek or accept” an extension. After pointing to record enrollment during his seven years as president, Towey asks in regard to the future leadership of the university, “What is in the best interests of this University I love?”

The announcement was made nearly six weeks after Towey issued a controversial statement on Archbishop Carlo Vigano’s August 22 letter claiming that Pope Francis knew about allegations of sexual misconduct against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and calling for the Pope to resign. Towey’s statement characterized Vigano as being politically motivated, and said the former papal nuncio’s letter was part of a “rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the Church hierarchy.” Towey called for an end to the undermining of “the Holy Father’s legitimate authority” by “so-called conservative Catholics,” calling it part of a trend toward “defiance” against the Church.

After the release of Towey’s statement, some supporters of the university voiced their concern. Among those voices were nearly 70 alumni who signed a letter criticizing the president for speaking on behalf of the university, and organizations such as the Cardinal Newman Society, which publicly expressed their disapproval of Towey’s attack on “faithful Catholic leaders.” Towey later issued an amended statement, and the original statement was removed from the university’s website.

Towey’s statement and the ensuing controversy came at a time of legal tumult for Towey, who is being accused of covering up scandal at the university in a pending lawsuit. Towey is being sued for breach of contract by a former AMU literature professor, Michael Raiger. Raiger alleges in his First Amended Complaint that his contract was breached by wrongful termination in retribution for reporting what Raiger claims were Title IX violations. Raiger says the violations consisted of “seriously disruptive, scandalous, and disreputable behavior” by another AMU literature professor, Travis Curtright. Raiger alleges that after he reported the “scandalous” acts to Towey, Towey told him to cover them up. In Towey’s Motion to Dismiss, Towey alleges that Raiger reported that Curtright was spreading rumors that at least one AMU professor was actively homosexual. Towey argues in the motion that neither spreading rumors nor homosexual acts are violations of Title IX. Raiger has not yet filed an Opposition.

On October 1, an article was published on the blog of Catholic author Simcha Fisher, alleging that Curtright maliciously spread rumors that a professor was having homosexual relations with a student and with another, married professor. Nearly one week after publication, the story was removed from the website and was replaced with a Cease and Desist letter, which Fisher says was sent from Towey’s legal counsel, threatening legal action.

In the press release announcing the end of Towey’s contract, Timmis announced that a national search for Towey’s successor will begin next summer.


[Editor’s note: Kate Peterson, the author of this article, is an alumna of Ave Maria University.]

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  1. Tomorrow would not be too soon, and that applies to all PF defenders. Incomprehensible. Sense of “True Religion” is lost in such minds.

    • Absolutely right. His departure should be immediate, not at the end of his contract. His attack on Vigano and other faithful Catholics, made in his official capacity as President of this self-described university, was an outrage. His cover-up of faculty homosexual acts is not only a violation of Title IX but also a grievously immoral action that differs not at all from what perverted bishops in the American Church have been doing for 50 years. Towey should be fired immediately for cause and prosecuted under all applicable federal and Florida civil and criminal laws.

      • This article has two main problems. One: Towey said years ago he wasn’t signing another and he would be done in 2020. Two: the Raiger family owes a debt. Just like any other debt, it must be paid. Jim Towey is one of the most trusting individuals. The problem is bias-reporting these days. When people get to know the Towey family they often convert to realizing he is not a demon like this professor has spewed in public, but he is in fact a true leader.

      • Because the following from Vatican II, the Decree on Ecumenism, Chapter One, section 4 makes sense: ” Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church.”

        Distinguish between dangerous heresies like that of the Manichaeans which propelled Augustine into thinking that each born child imprisoned the Divine Light
        so that they tried not to have children so as not to imprison the Light…..and far less dangerous heresies of those who average ten children and have a divorce rate of probably 1%.

        • Every heresy is dangerous. It’s dangerous to one’s soul in particular and that is why the true Catholic Church always forcefully addressed each one. In fact, the paragraph you cited from Vatican II is heresy.

  2. The rumors were slanderous. It is not true that the professor is a homosexual or was having a homosexual relationship. The accused professor is a victim of slander. When this was brought to the attention of the administration, they protected the slanderer and punished the victim.

  3. Towey stated that he accepted appointment as President of Ava Maria after some arm twisting by his Bishop….Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Now, a day after Wuerl threw in the towel, Towey decides to do likewise. Coincidence? I think not.

  4. It is a shame that you would publish such a biased and incomplete piece. This is not a news article. It is nothing more than selective mud-slinging that conveniently leaves out many publicly accessible facts such as those found in this press release:
    Clearly the author has some personal animus toward the university and its president. It’s too bad that the editors did not attempt to present a more balanced perspective. I don’t know what would motivate a news outlet to disseminate one-sided gossip but unfortunately articles like this lead readers to question anything published by the CWR.

  5. Regarding the “abuse summit” of February 2019:

    My family has been stepping into this “all out battle” each week for 8 years.

    By now taking their feet off my toes and hog-tying my feet and cuffing my dominant hand behind my back, the referees of the bout (Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis and all ordained who have refused to stop fighting their own) might better be silent.

    Then the spectators could hear the deafening whispers for justice for the Christians who feel like they are thrown into the arena with the never-sleeping lions.

  6. Visited Ave Maria several years ago. Attended Mass and left. The heat is brutal vs. home on the Space Coast. AM is built on Corkscrew Swamp. The mosquito problem is ultra severe. Check Wikipedia.

  7. Ave Maria lost a talented, moral, dedicated Catholic professor when they forced Mr. Ranger to leave simply for following his conscience and defending the integrity of his colleague. He should be apologized to and reinstated.

  8. I wouldn’t trust Curtright as far as I could throw him. He is a crafty, lying, slandering pig who thrives on making the lives of hard working people miserable. No one at Ave Maria holds him accountable, perhaps because he is a threat to them. His “brilliant acting” is reminiscent of Shakespearean seediest villains. Not to mention, he’s got a real handle on Svengalian scare tactics. What a cad! And what a shame, among the billion other Ave Maria tragedies, that he had to enter left, take center stage, and plot the demise of many good people.

  9. Religious people are some of the most hateful people I know ! Always judging others. All religion is CULT ! You’ve been brainwashed at a young age to blindly believe ONE particular way of life that your parents were forced to believe. You don’t choose it for yourself! You’re told to give money to The Church and how to live your lives, this IS the definition of a cult ! You base your life off of STORIES of ONE man, and your religion is only 2,000 years old in a world of humans that is 200,000 to 6 MILLION years old !! I DARE the editors to post this so that I may receive and read the feedback against my stance !

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