Dawn Eden sent me a link to the text of a speech by the Rev John Jenkins the president of the University of Notre Dame. I had some hopes that the new president of Notre Dame would address both the performance of the Queer Film Festival and the Vagina Monologues since he has instituted other positive signs. I believe by the text of the speech that he has indeed done that – but please don’t hold me to that. This speech is long and drawn out and not as clear and precise as a similar statement of Father Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of Providence College who unequivocally called off the play (I did love the irony of a college with the initials PC well not being PC).
So I will give a modified bravo to the Rev Jenkins even though his speech is not as straight forward as one might want. He does give some good examples to parallel why these events shouldn’t be held and he did shoot down one of the excuses previously offered. One of the excuses used before was that these events were sponsored by by a unit of the University and not by the University itself. He specifically addressed this and discounted it.
Childish Fancy and Adult Ignorance: Theism as Delusion and Psychosis
The Moral Legitimacy of Infanticide and Euthanasia
The Moral Acceptability and Strategic Value of a First-strike Nuclear Attack
If a conference were proposed at Notre Dame under one of these titles, and all speakers defended the position that the title suggests, and there was no one arguing persuasively for a position compatible with a Catholic position, I do not see how the university could sponsor such an event. Again, the problem would be that this Catholic institution would seem to be sponsoring an event that supports or appears to support a position clearly and egregiously contrary to the certain central values of Catholicism.
Again, let me be clear. The university certainly can host individual speakers who defend atheism, or infanticide, or euthanasia, or a first-strike nuclear attack. It is essential to a university that there be a variety of views expressed vigorously, even those contrary to deep values of Catholicism. We are richer, and the Catholic intellectual tradition is strengthened, if a variety of views are expressed and discussed. The difficulty is that these imagined conferences either are or at least appear to be, in their title and content (as I described it), one-sided presentations of Band perhaps advocacy for–positions that are clearly at odds with deep values of Catholicism. If they are sponsored by the university, or by one of its units or recognized organizations, their occurrence would suggest that the university sponsors not merely open discussion of controversial topics, but endorses or at least considers compatible with its values the particular positions that are being advanced.
This section starts out pretty good, but it ends with the idea that you can have a conference on any topic just as long as it is balanced. The Bishop’s statement last year said "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." The problem with so-called balanced presentations is that it makes it appear that there are two licit sides to some questions. There are a lot of topics where this is true, but not when it comes to some of the fundamental moral teachings of the Church. Having a conference on pedophilia with NAMBLA arguing one side would probably never happen, so why should it happen on other moral topics that truly have been defined by the Church?
Regardless though this speech is a step in the right direction and let us pray for him to hold steady. I would be interested in the reactions of this speech by my readers as to whether it was as I characterized it.