The group gathered at the Archbishop’s Palace in Vienna gasped—Mr. Monaghan, despite occasional snips in the press, has always been modest about his personal philanthropy, and even his office staff had never heard this story. I was there, and I heard the Cardinal’s heartfelt expression of thanks.
On this twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I join with Cardinal Schönborn in extending my thanks for this singularly important gift to the Church—and I offer you an inside look at the story.
I was working as conference director for Legatus, and leading the group’s annual pilgrimage to Rome. Each year there was a shoulder trip to another European destination; and this time, we planned a side trip to Vienna. Our itinerary included tours of palaces and galleries, and a Danube River cruise ending in a heurigen—a traditional Viennese celebration of the harvest, replete with the new, as yet unfermented wine.
On this late September afternoon, though, we were at the Archbishop’s Palace on the north side of St. Stephen’s Square. There we would have Mass in the Archbishop’s private chapel, then a welcome address from Cardinal Schönborn, followed by a reception and dinner. It was an evening to cherish in memory.
If I recall correctly, we sat on narrow chairs in a small room near the chapel, waiting for the Cardinal to complete his tasks in the sacristy and address our group. Finally he arrived—a popular figure, he received a standing ovation from our group of American business leaders.
And as we took our seats, he began as I wrote above: “Before we begin, I want to thank Tom Monaghan for funding the Catechism.” He explained that in the mid-1980s, Pope John Paul II had indicated an interest in developing a catechism for the worldwide Church; a commission of 12 bishops and cardinals had been put in charge of the project; but for several years, it had not moved forward. At the end of each fiscal year, various Vatican departments looked at their budgets and could not find room for such a large project. That was, he explained, when Tom Monaghan stepped in and offered the necessary sponsorship for the research, travel, staff and equipment necessary to complete the project. Without Tom, Cardinal Schönborn explained, the Catechism might never have been published.
Thomas S. Monaghan—who grew up in an orphanage, founded Domino’s Pizza, bought and sold the Detroit Tigers baseball franchise, then took what he called a “rich man’s vow of poverty”—has done much to advance the Catholic Faith in the modern world. He founded the international business leaders’ association, Legatus; provided the seed funding for the Ave Maria Radio Network; established a Catholic college and law school, which are now graduating alumni well qualified to effect change in the culture; he supported Catholic elementary, high school and preschools in the Ann Arbor area; he helped to institute the Thomas More Law Center; and he provided constant support for many pro-life initiatives, nationally and locally.
But this one project—the Catechism of the Catholic Church—has implications which reach beyond our era, offering guidance and unpacking difficult theological issues for the common reader, far into the future.
For his part in bringing this to fruition, and for all he’s done, I thank Tom Monaghan. May God continue to bless him.