John D’Arcy, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, has responded to the decision by the president of Notre Dame to allow the performance of the Vagina Monologues, calling the play “pornographic” and “spiritually damaging.”
“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,” Bishop D’Arcy said, in a written statement posted on the website of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Bishop D’Arcy said that he and university president Father John Jenkins, CSC, had been in communication about the president’s decision to allow the play.
“Father Jenkins has informed me that, while he thinks that this play is a bad play, he believes that permitting its performance under certain conditions, namely, in an academic building without fundraising and with a panel discussion afterwards in which the Catholic perspective is represented, is consistent with the identity of a Catholic university.”
According to Bishop D’Arcy, Father Jenkins compared the performance to the reading in Notre Dame classrooms of Nietzsche, Gibbon, Luther and Joyce, who in various ways put forward ideas contrary to Catholic teaching.
Bishop D’Arcy said the difference between works by famous authors and this play is “a difference, not of degree, but of kind.”
He explained that the former had written serious philosophical, theological, and literary works that have influenced Western thought. Therefore, their work has academic merit and is worthy of classroom discussion.
“Father Jenkins believes that Eve Ensler’s play was written to shock and offend,” Bishop D’Arcy wrote. “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?”
The bishop made a distinction between reading and criticizing a play in class and attending 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,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “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.”
He also said the play performances constitute an endorsement of the “international V-day campaign,” whose agenda is “directly opposed to the dignity of the human person and is antithetical to Catholic teaching.”
The bishop said that the reason some Notre Dame students and departments sponsored the event was because they supported the campaign. He said in his statement that, “…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.”
Bishop D’Arcy also criticized the play’s scheduling for Holy Week, saying, “If this play is performed on the dates scheduled, it will be held during Easter week, the holiest time of the church year… Surely Notre Dame will not prefer or even seem to prefer the requirements of the V-Day campaign to the proper observance of Easter.”
Making an analogy between the play and Nazi propaganda, Bishop D’Arcy said that just as a Catholic university in Nazi Germany should not have shown propaganda films, a Catholic university in the modern United States should not support modern propaganda. Speaking of a hypothetical Catholic university in Nazi Germany, Bishop D’Arcy asked, “Would not the university bear moral responsibility for the fact that some students who viewed the film on campus might be persuaded by the propaganda and became Nazi supporters?”
The bishop explicitly called the Vagina Monologues a work of propaganda. “The play is little more than a propaganda piece for the sexual revolution and secular feminism,” he said. “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.”
He called the play’s performance “pornographic and spiritually harmful.” He also said the play “depicts, exalts, and endorses” the sins of female masturbation, a sexual relationship between an adult woman and a child (which, he also noted, was a crime), and “the most base form of sexual relationship between a man and a woman.” He said these sinful actions are portrayed in the play as paths to healing, implying that heterosexual marriage is the wrong from which people need to recover.
Bishop D’Arcy said that the overriding issue in the controversy is moral, and if the play is performed it should be denounced. “Otherwise,” he said, “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.”
The bishop cited Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s 1986 address to intellectuals, students, and university faculty, as a reason to refuse to allow performances of the play. Bishop D’Arcy said Catholic universities were made distinctive because “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.” He said the idea 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.”
“A decision not to sponsor the play is not only consistent with academic freedom but is a right use of such freedom for it shows respect for the truth, for the common good and the rights of others,” Bishop D’Arcy said.
The bishop encouraged Father Jenkins to reconsider his decision to allow the play for this year and for future years.
The full statement from Bishop D'Arcy can be found at: http://www.diocesefwsb.org/COMMUNICATIONS/statements.htm