Ave Maria Student Speaks Out About Homophobia, Harassment, and Death Threats

Categories: News

Michael E. Miller
Ave Maria
In 2011, New Times wrote about Ave Maria University, a $500 million Catholic catastrophe in the middle of the Corkscrew Swamp. Lawsuits, scandals, and a federal investigation threatened to ruin the pious project just four years into billionaire pizza mogul Tom Monaghan's plans.

Two years later, one of Ave Maria's students is now stepping forward to tell his horror story of receiving harassment and death threats in the small town/school near Naples.

"Somebody needs to write about this place," Ross Hemminger says. "Somebody needs to write about the lives that they've destroyed."

See also: Ave Maria University: A Catholic project gone wrong

"Mr. Hemminger clearly has an agenda, and his claims about his alleged treatment at Ave Maria University advances that agenda," the university said in a statement sent to Riptide. "Ave Maria University is proud of its warm and welcoming campus culture, and our growing enrollment is testimony to the fact that students who attend here are having an excellent experience."

Hemminger grew up in a blue-collar farming community in northwestern Ohio. He was six-foot-three and a devout Catholic. He was also openly gay.

"I had always been out of the closet, although I never really liked that term," he says. "It had never occurred to me that there were people out there who would hate me because of that."

He was in for a rude awakening at Ave Maria.

Hemminger was working at a bank in Ohio when he began receiving scholarship offers from the brand-new university. The financial aid offer was tempting enough to lure him to the middle of nowhere 1,000 miles south. "They are very aggressive about recruiting people because they have to be," he says.

He drove down with his mom and sister. The first sign that something was wrong, however, came when Hemminger was registering for classes in the library.

"The girl in front of me was seven or eight months pregnant," he recalls. "She introduced herself but then said, 'That's not my real name. I'm not telling anybody my real name because I'm giving the baby up for adoption.'

"She was in some program where, if you get pregnant, they'll give you a new identity," Hemminger says. "She told all friends she was studying in Europe for the semester. She was given a fake name and was living with a woman in the town.

"I just thought, That's insane! What that girl told me was insane!"

But that was only the beginning of Hemminger's problems.

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Jose E. Tello
Jose E. Tello

Actually, yes @kristofer; we should blame all the Jews.


Death threats--no excuse--ever!  Going to an "openly" Catholic school as an "openly" gay person--dumb.  Living a chaste gay life is no problem.  But trying to change the doctrine of the Church or the beliefs of the school is just being a trouble maker--it seems like that may have been the plan all alone.  This is the main problem I can see with the gay community--they want everyone to have to change to meet their way of life.  If this does not happen, they write nasty blogs.

Antonio De Gaetano
Antonio De Gaetano

Why in the world would you choose to go to a fairly traditional Catholic school if you're "openly gay?" That, to me, is someone (and his parents) asking for trouble. "It had never occurred to me that there were people out there who would hate me because of that." Sounds like someone who's been sheltered his whole life and is pretty clueless about the world.

drakemallard topcommenter

Catholic kids are stupid; they don't know how to handle a pedophile priest. Here's what you do: First of all, you don't get all scared and do whatever he tells you. Who wants to get sucked off by a forty-three-year-old clergyman with beard stubble? Not me. Instead, what you do is kick him in the nuts. You kick him squarely in the nuts, and you get the fuck out of there as fast as you can, and you go tell somebody right away; you tell as many grown-up people as you can––one of them is bound to believe you. That's what you do. You don't wait thirty years. You kick the priest in the nuts and say, "Fuck you, Father, I don't do that shit"... And you're out the door.

Deathray Jones
Deathray Jones

those arguments have been made at one time or another, kristofer, or you wouldn't be repeatimng them. the tower of babel story predates the circumcision of abraham, btw, and so jews have nothing to do with that, except that it's included in genesis.

Kristofer Jesus Castellar
Kristofer Jesus Castellar

This is not about Faith, or religion. You have to have respect for that. This article is about people acting in a wicked manner. Or shall we blame "All the Jews" for The killing of Christ / Rejecting The Ten Commandments / Building The Tower Of Babylon / Apartheid, & Genocide in Palestine / Power mongering Of Western Nations

José Manuel
José Manuel

Keep sending those donations folks, legal defense for that church isn't cheap. Remember, he died for your sins... SMH


@drakemallard  I like your sentiment about nut kicking, but its a bit light -footed....can think of more appropriate ones. However , theres a bit more to abuse than that ... there are many, many reasons, valid ones why an abuse victim doesn't run and tell .......its the vile nature of the beast. Disclosure can take decades.  

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