A theological seminar for Catholic bishops has been relocated from the campus of the University of Notre Dame in response to the school’s planned performance of the play “The Vagina Monologues,” the South Bend Tribune reports.
The seminar, a meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, includes Notre Dame faculty who act as advisors and is co-sponsored by the university’s Institute for Church Life. Instead of taking place on the Notre Dame campus, it has been moved to a convent of the Sisters of St. Francis in Mishawaka, Indiana.
Seven bishops and archbishops are members of the Committee on Doctrine, while its consultants include Notre Dame theology department chair Dr. John C. Cavadini and the Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George.
"Because of the likelihood of the presentation of the play ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at Notre Dame this year, the bishops made a collective decision to move the seminar off campus," Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend John M. D’Arcy said Thursday in a written statement.
Bishop D’Arcy publicly criticized the school in 2006 for allowing the play, issuing a nine-page critique of the university president’s decision to allow performances.
The Eve Ensler play about women's bodies and sexuality is performed on many college campuses annually with the self-described goal of raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. Performances are often scheduled for February 14, St. Valentine’s Day.
Notre Dame students performed the play on campus annually from 2002 to 2006, presenting an off-campus version last year. This year’s on-campus performance, which requires an academic sponsor, is tentatively co-sponsored by the school’s departments of sociology and anthropology.
Notre Dame University President Father John I. Jenkins, CSC, considered banning the play from campus two years ago out of concern it opposed Catholic teachings and undermined the school’s Catholic identity. After much debate, Father Jenkins permitted the play to be performed in a classroom setting that includes an academic panel discussion. He also forbade the event from raising money for community groups.
The university’s spokesman Dennis Brown issued a statement responding to the seminar’s change of venue. It read:
"We understand that not all are in full agreement about the propriety of allowing performances of this play on a Catholic campus. Because of concerns about the play and its potential performance, we have worked collaboratively with the bishops to move the conference out of respect for everyone involved.”
"Notre Dame and the U.S. bishops have worked together constructively in the past, they are working together on this current meeting, and we are sure that our partnerships will continue in the future."
The performance of the plays on Catholic college campuses has been vigorously protested by the Cardinal Newman Society and Tradition Family Property (TFP) Student Action.
"The play tramples purity, modesty and degrades women. It openly flaunts sins against nature, and thus subverts the order established by God," said TFP Student Action director John Ritchie. "This scandalous play offends every good Catholic and has absolutely no place on Catholic campuses. Students, alumni, and parents should call for the play's immediate cancellation."