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Jenkins’ statements contradictory

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, May 2, 2007

With all due respect to Father John Jenkins, I would like to share some serious concerns that I have with regard to his recent Letter to the Editor (“Proud of strides made by gender-relations committee,” May 1). Something by which I am constantly perplexed is how statements from the president’s office concerning the production of “Loyal Daughters” never fail to contradict each other.

In his faculty address in January 2006, Father Jenkins considered the title of the proposed play, then “Her Loyal Daughters,” to be problematic. He said, “As you may know, in the Catholic tradition Mary is venerated for holiness and fidelity, and is considered a model of chastity. Though I did not doubt that the students involved were sincere in their desire to be loyal daughters of Mary, it seemed that a title like this, if there were material about sexual experiences, abortion, or contraception described in a morally neutral way, would appear intentionally offensive to Catholics who revere Mary.” I couldn’t agree with this statement more.

Then, as we all remember, in his closing statement he wrote “The student leaders of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ have proposed producing a play written in their own voices and describing their own experiences, entitled ‘Loyal Daughters.’ This production will be put on entirely by Notre Dame students in consultation with the faculty advisors they have chosen. I will do all I can to support this effort.” What happened? What happened to seeing the proposed play as “intentionally offensive?” What happened to concern that it would represent sexual immorality “in a morally neutral way?”

Well apparently he did have a change of heart, and prior to opening night in November, he retracted his endorsement of the play. According to an article in The Observer (“‘Loyal Daughters’ debuts at DPAC,” Nov. 13, 2006), University spokesman Dennis Brown said Father Jenkins was uncomfortable with the “neutral stance” on sexual behavior like premarital sex, saying it was “in direct opposition to the Church and Father Jenkins’ position on issues of sexual morality.” OK, phew. That was a close one; I thought there was a contradiction there for a second.

But now to his recent letter. Is he celebrating “Loyal Daughters” as an achievement of this year? Is he “proud” of the play itself? If not, why does he list it with endeavors that are in no way morally objectionable like the Edith Stein Project? His letter certainly sounds like endorsement to me.

Also, to use words like “consensus” with regard to the ad hoc committee is potentially deceiving; it leads the campus community to forget about the resignation of Margot O’Brien from the committee last fall. According to Letter to the Editor (“Reasons for Ad hoc resignation,” Nov. 15 2006), she resigned precisely because of the committee’s support of “Loyal Daughters.” Her concerns were similar to Father Jenkins’ – the morally neutral presentation of sexually immoral acts, its misrepresentation of University policies and stereotypes against seminarians. Even though it was less crude than the Monologues, she said, “the relative subtlety of ‘Loyal Daughters’ really magnifies the problem because the fraudulent message is masked for the unwary by the guarded prose and not highlighted by the glaring profanity.” In view of all these objections, she thought the play unworthy of both her personal support and of any institutional support of the ad hoc committee. Saying that the committee is united behind a continued effort for next year, and united in recognizing this year as a success, is a joke. Sure it’s united, one of its most loyal daughters having resigned.

I emphasize that my objection is not to the ad hoc committee, to its activities in general or to the cause of ending the horrors of sexual assault. Such a cause is a most necessary one. I simply note that the endorsement – explicit or implied – of the culture of sexual immorality on this campus will do nothing to advance this cause.

Jon Buttaci


Morrissey Manor

May 1