SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame will allow "The Vagina Monologues" and a gay film festival to continue on campus, the school’s president said Wednesday.
The Rev. John I. Jenkins 10 weeks ago questioned whether the two events belonged on the campus of a Roman Catholic university.
Since then, he said he has heard comments from both sides. Many who opposed the events said they went against the school’s "Catholic character."
"To them, we must say, with all respect: ‘This is a Catholic university,’" Jenkins said in a statement. "We are committed to a wide-open, unconstrained search for truth, and we are convinced that Catholic teaching has nothing to fear from engaging the wider culture."
But he said such events must be accompanied by Catholic teaching.
"The challenge is not to do just one of these – or even to do both of them in parallel – but to promote academic freedom and affirm our Catholic character in a way that integrates the two and elevates both," he said.
As a result of the debate, students who supported "The Vagina Monologues" have proposed to produce a play, describing their own experiences, titled "Loyal Daughters," he said.
I though his original announcement back in January was a step in the right direction, but that the language that Fr. Jenkins used was not very strong and was watered down with so-called balance. It looks like he caved on this since how exactly can you have a gay film festival showing acts that are objectively disordered and also have it be accompanied by Catholic teaching? Could the KKK hold a rally just as long as they posted a statement from the Catechism on racism. The unequivocal statement of Father Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of Providence College was much better.
Update: A reader sent me a link to the full address by Fr. Jenkins. One thing to note is that it says absolutely nothing about the "gay film festival" and concentrates mainly on VM and about the student created production of Loyal Daughters.
Some of the individuals I’ve talked with are adamantly opposed to the performance or expression on campus of a work, play, book, or speech that contradicts Catholic teaching. To them, we must say, with all respect: "This is a Catholic university." We are committed to a wide-open, unconstrained search for truth, and we are convinced that Catholic teaching has nothing to fear from engaging the wider culture.
This is true as far as it goes as long as your remember that error has no rights and where is occurs should be forthrightly labeled as such.
Others I talked to were appalled that we would raise any question about the content, message, or implications of a work of art, drama, or literature here on campus. To them, we have to say, with the same respect: "This is a Catholic university." It is founded upon our belief that love of God and neighbor are eternal teachings that give context and meaning to our search for truth. As I said, Catholic teaching has nothing to fear from engaging the wider culture, but we all have something to fear if the wider culture never engages Catholic teaching. That is why the Catholic tradition must not only inspire our worship and our service on campus; it should help shape the intellectual life of the university. 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.
The statement read as a whole is a good faith effort to talk about debate in light of the truth of the Catholic faith. The question though is whether the actual application will be followed or not. I would be much more convinced about the sincerity of advocating a "Catholic intellectual tradition" if they actually started following the provisions ofEx Corde Ecclesiae and required that their theologians received a mandate from the Church. Their are a lot of positive signs concerning the University of Notre Dame, hopefully they will continue.
Update: The Cardinal Newman Society also weighs in.