A Final Word on the Monologues
Father Jenkins recently issued a closing statement concerning Notre Dame's recent discussion of academic freedom. He concluded that his original decision of holding controversial events in academic environments should be the model for the future:
Thanks to the efforts of some faculty members, this year's performance of The Vagina Monologues was brought into dialogue with Catholic tradition through panels which followed each performance. Panelists presented the Catholic teaching on human sexuality, and students and faculty engaged one another and these issues in serious and informed discussion. These panels taught me and perhaps taught others that the creative contextualization of a play like The Vagina Monologues can bring certain perspectives on important issues into a constructive and fruitful dialogue with the Catholic tradition. This is a good model for the future. Accordingly, I see no reason to prohibit performances of The Vagina Monologues on campus, and do not intend to do so.
I cannot remember a time when The Vagina Monologues sparked so much discussion of the theological issues surrounding human sexuality. I was pleased to read opinions in the Observer which promote Pope John Paul's II Theology of the Body. I am also gratified to know students who heard the play on campus were also given the opportunity to hear the Church's beautiful teaching on the subject.
I agree with Father Jenkins. A Catholic university cannot shy away from controversial subjects. Notre Dame must engage the destructive elements of our culture with the Truth.
In his most recent statement about the Monologues, Bishop D'Arcy of South Bend/Fort Wayne quoted a letter he received from Lisa Everett:
The monologues have become, in fact, a cultural phenomenon, and a Catholic university could have a fine contribution to make in analyzing why that has happened, what the appeal of the play is, and why the answer to the desecration of women that sexual abuse and violence constitute cannot be the perhaps less obvious but more insidious desecration of women that many of the monologues depict
Indeed the Monologues have become a large cultural phenomenon. Thousands of women identify with its message. Tragically, it is insidiously destructive to the dignity of women. Notre Dame should challenge the message of the Monologues and promote true dignity. ND cannot do so by avoiding the play. One cannot stop to phenomenon of the Monologues by simply banning it from campus. It is out there and ND should engage it and shed light on it. Father Jenkins is right on target in saying, "Our goal is not to limit discussion or inquiry, but to enrich it; it is not to insulate that faith tradition from criticism, but to foster constructive engagement with critics."
I would love to see the University sponsor a Theology of the Body conference near V-Day. This conference could be used to raise funds for local women's shelters and could offer a beautiful alternative to the demeaning message of the Monologues.