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D’Arcy denounces ND policy

Karen Langley | Monday, April 24, 2006

In a visit scheduled months before campus controversy about academic freedom would prompt him to issue a statement of disappointment with the University, Bishop John D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese spoke Friday to students and faculty at Notre Dame Law School about a particularly timely topic – the pastoral role of the bishop and his relationship to the Catholic university.

D’Arcy said the Second Vatican Council had a strong impact on the role of the bishop within the Church.

“We see an attempt to move the bishop from being a CEO and administrator to a pastor and evangelist,” he said.

When asked by a student about his relationship with the University administration, D’Arcy connected his pastoral role to the recent debates on academic freedom that have for months embroiled Notre Dame’s campus.

“It is important to recognize the independence of the University and its academic freedom,” D’Arcy said. “But I have pastoral freedom. I cannot refrain from preaching the Gospel.”

In his response to University President Father John Jenkins’ April 5 announcement that the “Monologues” would not be prohibited on campus, D’Arcy said he was “deeply saddened” by the decision.

He told audience members Friday that this difference of opinion has affected his connection with the current administration.

“I’ve always had a very good relationship with three [University] presidents,” he said. “It’s under stress now. I don’t enjoy that.”

D’Arcy never referred to “The Vagina Monologues” by its name Friday, calling it instead “the play.”

“This is Notre Dame,” he said. “We dare to say it is the school of Our Lady. … This place has a special obligation.”

The Feb. 2005 campus visit of “Vagina Monologues” playwright Eve Ensler was “especially painful” to him, D’Arcy said. He said he and the Diocese were originally notified by event organizers that they could have a representative on discussion panels to convey a Catholic stance on the matters discussed but that the offer was withdrawn “at the last minute.”

“Who was constricting academic freedom that time,” he said.

D’Arcy noted another time when he disagreed on religious grounds with a University action. In 1992, the pro-choice Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was awarded the Laetare Medal, Notre Dame’s highest honor. Though he planned to attend the commencement ceremony that spring, D’Arcy ultimately chose to attend only the graduation Mass.

“There was someone on that platform whose position on unborn life was unacceptable to me,” D’Arcy said. “The church’s position is mine. I didn’t want the young people to think that was OK … If the bishop is there, that is what it means.”

Throughout the disagreement, D’Arcy said he retained his respect for the University.

“I never bashed Notre Dame – because it is too elegant a place to do that,” he said. “I have great affection and love for this place.”

Though he spoke out against Jenkins’ decision not to ban the “Monologues,” D’Arcy advised students to read the play and become informed about the surrounding issues.

He said his actions and decisions have been based on the late Pope John Paul II’s definition of academic freedom. The Catholic teaching states that members of a university should be treated with academic freedom so long as the rights of the individual members are maintained, D’Arcy said.

“In all this 10 week debate did you ever heard that definition?” he said. “Did you ever hear it on this wonderful campus?”

The students present questioned the Bishop about how they should express their dissatisfaction with Jenkins’ decision to allow the continued performance of the “Monologues” and their concern that dorm Masses are celebrated improperly.

D’Arcy rejected a student’s suggestion that Notre Dame was no longer a strictly Catholic university.

“I think among the major universities it is by far the most Catholic,” he said. “I have great affection for it, and so does [Pope] Benedict [XVI].”