Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Thursday, April 06, 2006

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.


  • Dear Tom, I strongly disagree with you and Father Jenkins, because one does not need to engage in crudity and filth to understand its is simply splattered by it. Prayer for women and for our culture is what is needed...but then I am just an 'ole practicing Catholic.' AC

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, April 08, 2006 12:29:00 PM  

  • O.K., let's see if I got Fr. Jenkins' reasoning down. In order to promote the use of bags to collect Fido's droppings during his walks, I should get a good look at the poop, smell it, perhaps step in it, or even a tiny taste of it before thoughtlessly scooping it up and discarding it. Dog-walking is a cultural phenomenon, and the value of discussions and panels about the merits of the use of the bags cannot be overstated. To understand why the bags are desirable, one must contemplate the subtleties and nuances and justifications of dog poop. Poop is a fact of life, and just because we are a hospital doesn't mean that a few piles of poop in the hallways are going to shut us down. In fact, as hospital adminitrators, we have a medical duty and obligation to our staff and patients to expand their microbiological appreciation of this social trend. Have I got it, or did I leave something the cute way Fido hunkers down before doing his business on the sidewalk?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, April 08, 2006 1:47:00 PM  

  • The North American Man-Boy Love Association is promoting a new play called "The Penis to Anus Dialogues" (The Joys of Traveling the Chocolate Trail). Surely Fr. Jenkins will be glad to host its performance at Notre Dame University, for all the usual reasons.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, April 09, 2006 3:48:00 PM  

  • You see, the problem with poop in today’s culture is that few people recognize it as poop. It looks kind of like chocolate ice cream and some are prone treat is as such. Many women find the poop “empowering” and “uplifting.” The people who recognize the poop for what is are considered “old-fashioned” and “narrow minded.”

    So the “narrow minded” poop detectors have two options. They can withdraw into their safe poop-free enclave and let the rest of the world play in their poop, or they can try to elevate their fellow man out of the poop. Both options have their advantages, however charity demands the latter.

    What would you say to a woman finds the Vagina Monologues empowering? How much credibility will you have if you have never heard the play yourself? How effective will you be if you don’t understand where she is coming from?

    To paraphrase Fr. Jenkins, the answer is not less speech, but more. If and when the play is performed on campus, Notre Dame should proceed to explain why so many elements of it are wrong. I would encourage students at Notre Dame to actively promote Pope John Paul’s II Theology of the Body. It answers all of the questions the VM asks. Censorship will not end the moral vacuum occurring in our culture. The Truth will.

    On another note, I know I have opened myself up to endless straw man attacks like the one an anonymous commenter posted earlier. I doubt one could find two thousand men (who are not on the sex offender’s list) who would be willing to admit, in public, that they find NMBLA’s message empowering.

    RAF and AC, your comments are always appreciated and I enjoy a lively discussion.

    By Blogger Tom, at Monday, April 10, 2006 11:43:00 AM  

  • RAF, I have to disagree with you. A university--even a Catholic one--must search for truth. To argue that the VM's are in stark contrast with Catholic teaching, both sides of the argument must be examined. The best way to do this would be to present the play, and discuss the parts of the play that come into conflict with Catholic teaching. This, to me, is a much more persuasive way to argue against it than just to say "the play is evil. You can't see it here." If I had written a paper in a theology class using the argument "because the Church said so" without digging deeper, I probably wouldn't have done very well.

    Frankly, I wish someone would just say, "You know, this play stinks. Let's put on something else." I've seen the play--all moral questions aside, it really just isn't very good.


    By Blogger elf, at Monday, April 10, 2006 8:17:00 PM  

  • O.K., let's see if this helps. The "Piss Christ" work of "art" features a crucifix submerged in a container of the artist's urine. Then there's the Madonna adorned with pictures of female genitalia, and plastered with elephant dung. Now these I MUST see for myself before I can judge that they are inappropiate for display at Notre Dame University. I haven't seen VM, but I understand from sources I trust that it is anti-Catholic, vulgar, glorifies sensuality, and gives a positive spin on statuatory rape of a girl by a woman. Did I miss the "empowerment" part buried in this pile of poop? And even if I do run across some poor lass who feels uplifted and "affirmed" by it, do I really have to endure stepping in it to engage her in a conversation about the dignity of women, and the sacredness of sex? Or that this odious play isn't worthy of serious academic consideration? Give me a break.

    By Anonymous RAF, at Saturday, April 15, 2006 6:27:00 PM  

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