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Bishops take action

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The local shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy, recently informed University President Father John Jenkins that a theological seminar for Catholic bishops scheduled for Notre Dame has now been moved to the convent of the Sisters of St. Francis in Mishawaka. The reason for this change in venue is an embarrassment and a collective shame for the students and graduates of the University.

There is a crucial moral point that our local bishop and his colleagues want “the culture” to understand about this decision by Jenkins. And moving the venue away from Notre Dame is certainly a timely and an effective way to create such a teaching moment.

Sponsoring a public debate on the efficacy of abortion is a fine idea, and Notre Dame should encourage such expression on campus, even when certain pro-abortion viewpoints contradict Catholic teaching. But allowing its facilities to be used for performing abortions would be “acting” in a way that the Catholic Church condemns as unacceptable. To be sure, Jenkins, the University staff, and its board and trustees would never allow this to happen.

Similarly, sponsoring a debate on the merits of the alcohol-fueled seduction of a 16-year-old girl by a 24-year-old woman (described in the play as resulting in “salvation” and “a kind of heaven”) seems compatible with academic freedom even at a Catholic university like Notre Dame. But allowing the facilities of Notre Dame to be used for the production of simulating sex acts and orgasms on stage and presenting for an audience “graphic descriptions of homosexual, extramarital heterosexual, and auto-erotic experiences” (Jenkins spoke these words during his Jan. 23, 2006 address to the faculty) is not just speaking against Catholic teaching, it is acting against Catholic teaching.

And herein lies the big difference! John D’Arcy and his fellow bishops get it. Thank God they decided to do something about it. Jenkins needs to seriously reconsider his mistake and cancel the March 26-28 production of “The Vagina Monologues” at Notre Dame. Perhaps this might give the University, its students and alumni reason to be proud again that our university is indeed a partner with the local and universal Catholic Church who welcomes the debate but abhors the conduct.

Marc Brammer


Class of 1974

Feb. 11