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Detractors should reexamine Jenkins’ statements

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It is sad to see that Father John Jenkins’ attempt to explain and clarify the discussion regarding the Vagina Monologues and the Queer Film Festival has failed to impact some of his detractors. The tired, irrelevant arguments they present do no good for Jenkins’ effort to address these issues on a rational and well-thought-out basis.

I would begin with Andrea Manka’s letter from Jan. 26. There are parts of it which are sensible. Her point that it is important to discuss “views that differ from Catholic teaching” is well taken, as well as her compromise position of a symposium regarding “the theology of the body and anthropological/ sociological ideas about sex” (though the Monologues may not have a valid place in such a symposium in my opinion). I would direct Manka’s attention to Jenkins’ own words (taken from the text on the president’s Web site): “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.” What Manka has failed to realize is that no one, not Jenkins and not those who oppose the Vagina Monologues and Queer Film Festival, wants to end the discussion of particular ideas on campus. No books will be banned or teachers censored (or censured) because they discuss ideas, theories or issues raised by Ensler’s vignettes or homosexual cinema. That point was made abundantly clear by Jenkins in his speech. The objection is to University sponsorship of events which contradict its Catholic character, not to the presence of such ideas in a proper academic setting on this campus.

Perhaps the most stubborn and intransigent failure to read/listen and understand Jenkins’ words can be found in James Parrot’s letter, also from Jan. 26. He throws out the same misguided and misdirected arguments that were never fully relevant in the first place and have surely been cleared up by Jenkins’ speech. Parrot did not or perhaps does not want to see that Jenkins is perfectly open to the discussion of issues regarding female sexuality and homosexuality, even from non-Catholic points of view (see quote above). His words, particularly his praise of the goals that the Vagina Monologues (ostensibly) promote, are proof of that.

“Frank discussion,” at least in Parrot’s terms, seems to be one-sided portrayals via theatre or an anti-Catholic biased discussion panel (as was reportedly the case for last year’s Queer Film Festival). This is not discussion. It is much closer to aggressive proselytization than reasoned discussion. If Jenkins and the University leadership really wanted no public discussion of these issues, they would have ended both events without one word of explanation to students or faculty and removed every copy of the Monologues and every bit of homosexual-lifestyle-promoting cinema from the library. Has this happened? No. Indeed, they started the discussion anew this year through their actions. I would point out the one thing that Parrot may have gotten right: Namely, that the University “has suppressed and criticized many manifestations of homosexuality.” Absolutely correct and absolutely justified, since a Catholic university has no desire and no business to promote a culture that often celebrates sinful acts.

I was extremely hopeful that Jenkins’ speech would clear the field and make it possible for us to address the most important questions: 1) If and how the Monologues and Queer Film Festival are contrary to the Catholic faith and 2) Whether their public presentation by this University is tacit endorsement of their values. I see now that it will take longer for some to go beyond misconceptions, illusions and crusades and come to the heart of these matters.

Cole MilliardjuniorLondon ProgramJan. 29