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Engage in the Church’s thinking

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ms. Holmstrom (“‘Monologues’ encourage mistreatment of women,” Feb. 11) raises an interesting point: she claims that discussing “The Vagina Monologues” as an issue of academic freedom is to “woefully miss the mark.” In this, I believe Holmstrom to be correct.

I would, however come to a vastly different conclusion regarding the fate of the “Monologues.” “The Vagina Monologues” seeks to reclaim the sense of what it means to be a woman, to stop women from being ashamed of their sexuality and to raise awareness regarding violence perpetrated against women.

These goals are perfectly in keeping with the Catholic Church’s teaching on sex and sexuality. The Church does not speak of sex as evil or morally wrong provided it is exercised in the right way. Rather, the Church teaches that “sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure” (Catechism, 2362).

Do the “Monologues” present an inappropriate use of sexuality? The answer may well be yes. The play presents acts that are not well ordered to good relationships with God and others. The general ethos of the “Monologues” is, however, edifying to those who attend the play, provided they understand something about the feminist movement and approach the play with a critical eye.

Further, and this point is clear, the “Monologues” raise important questions: How do we reclaim our sexuality? What is the correct way to express that sexuality? When sexual violence has been perpetrated against a woman (or a man), how do we heal?

Our esteemed President Emeritus Father Hesburgh once said that “the University is where the Church does its thinking.” While our theology department is grounded in this philosophy, I would argue that it is not simply academic theologians who are to do the thinking of the Church.

Rather, we are all called to engage in this discussion. The presence of “The Vagina Monologues” on campus is not a question of academic freedom. It is, however, necessarily tied to our Catholic character. As the premier Catholic university in this country, it is our duty to perform these monologues.

Where else, if not at Notre Dame can we have this discussion? Where else can the Church do this thinking? I urge Dean Roche, Father Jenkins and you, the students, to join me in this dialogue: to approach the “Monologues” with a critical eye and to engage in the thinking of the Church.

Meli Barber


McGlinn Hall

Feb. 12