It’s that time of year again. With “V-day” approaching, the students and faculty of Notre Dame embroil themselves in an annual brouhaha over a theatrical performance. Progressive students and faculty promote the show with gusto, while more conservative Domers fervently protest. Letters to the editor pour into The Observer. Professors, students and alumni speak their minds, often with invective and venom. Emotions run high as opposing forces prepare for the battle of their lives. The war rages on over The Vagina Monologues.
Traditionally, the Office of the President, is a silent observer of the “V-wars.” Not so this year. Father Jenkins has confronted this issue head on. In an address to faculty, he called for honest intellectual dialogue about the controversy. He laid out his views and encouraged students, faculty and alumni to provide their opinions. He promised to read, during the next several weeks, every letter and to give all points of view their due consideration before making a decision about the future of the performance. He also, emphasized that this discussion is not just about The Vagina Monologues and the Queer Film Festival, “but also about the deeper issues they raise regarding academic freedom and our character as a Catholic university.” I fully agree. The conflict between academic freedom and Catholic character is a struggle for the core values of any Catholic university. It is time that struggle be brought into the light with intellectual and reasoned dialogue. In a future post I will give an analysis of the issue. In the meantime, the following is noteworthy.
Father Jenkins emphasized the need for rational thinking during this discourse, “Too often in our society discussions are characterized by polarizing and unyielding polemics, personal attacks, and manipulative appeals to the emotions or even the prejudices of an audience. Let us make this a discussion characterized by mutual respect, and guided by reasoned argument. I hope it will show this community at its best.” Unfortunately, James Parrot, in his letter to the editor, missed that point, “in its dishonesty and expectation of ignorance from the community, [Father Jenkins’] speech represents a new and devious transgression of Catholic doctrines of honesty and integrity.” But there is hope. Mary Elizabeth Walter (aka Sober Sophomore), agrees. She writes in The Observer, “I hope members of various factions, representing all sides, will take conscious measures to quell their potent emotions and come together.” That would be nice.