D’Arcy criticizes ND’s support of film festival
Maddie Hanna | Friday, February 11, 2005
Controversy about the nature of academic freedom surfaced Thursday after Bishop John D’Arcy criticized Notre Dame’s sponsorship of the Queer Film Festival, sparking response from the Notre Dame community.
D’Arcy, who presides over the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, wrote a letter to the South Bend Tribune stating the festival was “an abuse of academic freedom” and a violation of rights.
According to D’Arcy, the festival’s organizers are at fault for not devoting enough focus to the Church’s opinions.
“In this seminar, held at a Catholic university, there is no place given to the presentation of Catholic teaching on the matter of homosexuality,” he wrote. “The rights of others are violated.”
In addition to homosexuals, who D’Arcy said are wronged by not receiving the Church’s actual teachings on homosexuality at the festival, the Church and parents are also wronged, he said.
“What about the rights of the church to have its teachings properly presented?” he wrote. “What about the rights of parents of those students at Notre Dame who find the contents of this seminar offensive?”
University spokesman Matt Storin explained how, in the case of the festival, Notre Dame’s interpretation of academic freedom differs from the bishop’s.
“The University has great affection and respect for Bishop D’Arcy as well as a good and forthright relationship of many years’ standing. The Queer Film Festival is, as its title suggests, an examination of a certain genre of film, sponsored by our Department of Film, Television and Theatre. It does not constitute an endorsement of the behaviors that might be included in the content of the films,” Storin said in an e-mail.
Storin said the festival’s topic is not inappropriate for Notre Dame.
“Indeed, an exposition of almost any cross-section of contemporary commercial films would likely include actions or behaviors that are inconsistent with church teaching,” he said. “The University carefully weighs such issues and recognizes that there are limits even to academic freedom, but we believe the upcoming festival does not cross that line.”
Furthermore, Storin said the University believed hosting the festival would benefit students.
“Within reason, we would prefer that our students encounter the secular American culture, with all its faults, in the context of their Catholic education rather than attempting to cloister them till the time they graduate, only then to confront reality,” he said.
Notre Dame graduate Liam Dacey, director of operations and co-founder of the festival last year, said he was surprised at the bishop’s reaction, especially what he identified as “inaccuracies” in D’Arcy’s letter.
“We extended the invitation [to speak] to many members of the Catholic community, especially for our ‘Future of Gay Marriage’ panel,” Dacey said.
These invitations were not accepted, he said.
The attitude of the organizers was “more than inclusive,” Dacey said, as opposed to undermining the Catholic viewpoint as D’Arcy claimed.
Dacey also said D’Arcy did not understand the message of the festival, which Dacey said was one “of tolerance and acceptance, which is consistent with the Catholic Church.”
Dacey agreed with Storin’s comment that Notre Dame has a responsibility to offer this opportunity to its students.
“As a top 20 university, we have to do our best to expose our students to different cultures, parts of American life,” he said. “We shouldn’t shun that.”
Dacey did not feel the festival violates anyone’s rights.
“If you don’t agree with what we’re doing, you don’t have to attend the festival,” he said.
Film, television and theatre department chair Jim Collins was not available for comment Thursday evening.