Monday, March 17, 2008

Notre Dame and the Bishop

As I previously noted, Notre Dame is going forward with plans to have the Vagina Monologues performed on their campus against the wishes of Bishop D'Arcy.

Here is a wonderful statement from the Bishop that lays out his problem with it being performed at a
Catholic University. Excerpts below:
As bishop of this historic diocese, entrusted with the spiritual welfare of all those who live within its borders, including the students at our beloved Notre Dame, I believe that, once again, I must publicly and respectfully disagree with Father Jenkins’ decision. I am convinced that permitting performances of “The Vagina Monologues” is not consistent with the identity of a Catholic university and not comparable to the long accepted academic tradition through which a wide variety of authors are read and discussed in classes at Notre Dame and in all institutions of higher learning.

In the first place, the difference between the works of authors such as Nietzsche, Gibbon, Luther and Joyce, and “The Vagina Monologues” is a difference, not of degree, but of kind. The former have written serious philosophical, theological and literary works, which have influenced Western thought. As such, their work has academic merit and is worthy of serious discussion and critique in a classroom setting. Father Jenkins believes that Eve Ensler’s play was written to shock and offend. How can one put such a play, which many consider pornographic, on the level of serious works such as the writings of Gibbon and Luther?

They can't be. Bishop D'Arcy's argument is well laid out..

Even if one could make a case that this play has academic merit, it could be read in class. When a book or play is read in class, the student expects it to be discussed and critiqued; indeed, this is an essential part of the classroom experience. This is not so when one attends the performance of a play. One generally goes to a play and leaves; staying afterwards to listen to a panel discussion about the play is not inherent in the activity of attending a play. No one who comes to the play is required to stay for the panel discussion, and Father Jenkins’ attempt to give the performances of this play an academic quality seems deficient.

In addition, unlike reading the play as a classroom assignment, the performances are themselves an endorsement of the international V-Day campaign, even if this is done without fundraising. Is this not the motivation of the departments that have asked to sponsor the play and the young women who will be acting in it? Did they not propose to have multiple performances of the play again this year because they believe it conveys an important message, and they want as many people to see it as possible? In short, people push to have this play performed year after year because they endorse the message it conveys, and they want to be part of the international campaign to promote this message. In allowing performances of the play on campus again this year, whether or not they are officially considered part of the V-Day campaign, Notre Dame continues to cooperate in advancing the campaign’s agenda, an agenda which, as I have repeatedly reflected in my several statements over the years, is directly opposed to the dignity of the human person and is antithetical to Catholic teaching.

Once again, I agree with the Bishop.
The play is little more than a propaganda piece for the sexual revolution and secular feminism. While claiming to deplore violence against women, the play at the same time violates the standards of decency and morality that safeguard a woman’s dignity and protect her, body and soul, from sexual predators. The human community has generally refrained from exposing and discussing the hidden parts of a woman’s body, preferring to consider them private and even sacred. Most importantly, the sexual sin, which the play depicts in several scenes, desecrates women just as much as, if not more deeply than, sexual violence does. The play depicts, exalts, and endorses female masturbation, which is a sin. It depicts, exalts, and endorses a sexual relationship between an adult woman and a child, a minor, which is a sin and also a crime. It depicts and exalts the most base form of sexual relationship between a man and a woman. These illicit sexual actions are portrayed as paths to healing, and the implication is that the historic, positive understanding of heterosexual marriage as the norm is what we must recover from.

Father Jenkins has informed me that after each evening performance there will be a panel discussion, which will include someone who will give an informed and sympathetic presentation of Catholic teaching. In so doing, he notes that Notre Dame “has taken stronger steps than many other Catholic institutions to put limits on the performance of this play.” While this may well be true, there are a growing number of Catholic institutions of higher learning that have permanently banned the play.

The overriding issue here is moral. The play is an affront to human dignity, as Catholic teaching understands it. If it is performed, it should be denounced. Otherwise, the university appears to endorse it as in some way good and the impression is given that Catholic teaching is one option competing among many. This method places faith in a defensive position and on the margin and is unacceptable at a Catholic university.
He states the Catholic position eloquently and then he puts the final piece of the puzzle together and the most telling point of objection about the purpose of a Catholic University (emphasis mine):
Some claim that a performance of the play followed by a panel will “engage the culture” and that out of such a discussion the “truth will emerge.” Sadly, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” is even cited in defense of this position. But what makes a Catholic university distinctive is the conviction that in the search for truth, we do not start from scratch; we start from the truth that has been revealed to us in the Word of God, the person of Jesus Christ, and the teaching of his church. The notion that truth will emerge from a discussion in which many points of view are represented both disrespects revealed truth and separates the search for truth from the certainty of faith
Good job, Bishop D'Arcy!

No comments: