The president of the University of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, CSC, announced on Monday that he has approved campus performances of the play The Vagina Monologues from March 24 through March 26.
The sexually explicit play favorably describes lesbian activity, group self-abuse, and hedonistic sexuality. One scene depicts the lesbian seduction of a teenage girl, which is described as the girl’s “salvation.”
The play is co-sponsored by the university’s anthropology department.
In a Monday press release, Father Jenkins wrote, "I am well aware that the performance of this play will upset many.” He said it was “particularly painful” for him that Bishop of South Bend-Fort Wayne John D’Arcy and many Notre Dame alumni disapproved of the decision.
"At the same time,” he said, “others are upset at the restrictions on this performance-that there will be no fund-raising, that a panel must follow each play and include a sympathetic and thorough presentation of Catholic teaching.”
"My decision on this matter,” Father Jenkins said, “arises from a conviction that it is an indispensable part of the mission of a Catholic university to provide a forum in which multiple viewpoints are debated in reasoned and respectful exchange--always in dialogue with faith and the Catholic tradition--even around highly controversial topics. Notre Dame's policy on controversial events rests on the conviction that truth will emerge from reasoned consideration of issues in dialogue with faith, and that we will educate Catholic leaders not by insulating our students from controversial views, but by engaging these views energetically, in light of Catholic teachings.”
Father Jenkins referenced a common policy he and the university’s department heads had agreed upon. The policy says that part of the purpose of a university is “to foster the free and open discussion of controversial issues.” It states that all involved in a controversial event must ensure it has academic merit, multiple viewpoints, appropriate balance, and a reasoned and respectful exchange of ideas. Event sponsors must make clear that their sponsorship is not an endorsement, and if the event is relevant to a significant issue of Catholic teaching, a knowledgeable presentation of Catholic teaching must be included in the event.
Patrick Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society, criticized the decision to host the play.
“The announcement comes as a grave disappointment given the status Notre Dame holds as America’s most prominent Catholic university—albeit not the most consistent in its Catholic identity,” said Reilly. “This play is a scandal in every sense of the term.”
“Reasonable consideration of issues—even of perversity—can hardly mean that a Catholic university should put perversity on display and scandalize its students. Catholics have been discussing and lamenting this play for seven years. It’s time to move on to both a new discussion and much better campus entertainment,” he said.