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D’Arcy criticizes Jenkins’ decision

Bill Brink | Thursday, March 13, 2008

As he did in 2006, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy has condemned University President Father John Jenkins’ decision to allow “The Vagina Monologues” to be performed on campus and said he hopes Jenkins rethinks his choice.

In a six-page statement released Wednesday, D’Arcy said he “publicly and respectfully disagree[s]” with Jenkins’ decision to allow the play, which will be held from March 26-28, to be performed on campus.

“I am convinced that permitting performances of [the “Monologues”] is not consistent with the identity of a Catholic university,” D’Arcy said.

Jenkins said in a two-page statement Monday that universities, including Notre Dame, are responsible for openly discussing controversial issues and finding academic platforms for those issues and so the play could be performed on campus. D’Arcy disagreed and said permitting performance of the play was “not consistent with the identity of a Catholic university.”

“… Because it depicts and endorses sinful sexual acts in direct opposition to Church teaching, I believe its performance to be pornographic and spiritually harmful,” D’Arcy said.

The Eve Ensler play, which was performed on campus for six of the past seven years, has continually generated controversy at Notre Dame. Jenkins said he would allow performance of the “Monologues” after finding the student proposal to perform the play consistent with guidelines he established in 2006, which, among other stipulations, said the play must be discussed within a Catholic context.

An academic panel discussion will follow each performance, and at least one panel member will discuss the play’s relation to Catholic beliefs.

D’Arcy called for the University to denounce the play.

“Otherwise, the University appears to endorse it as in some way good and the impression is given that Catholic teaching is one option competing among many,” D’Arcy said.

D’Arcy created a hypothetical situation to illustrate his concerns with allowing anti-Catholic teaching promoted in the play from a conversation with Jenkins about Nazi literature.

He imagined the University was in Nazi Germany in 1938 and that some faculty and students were Nazi sympathizers. He imagined there was a national movement where schools showed films advocating Nazi propaganda.

“Would not the showing of such a film at Notre Dame involve the University in providing a platform for Nazi propaganda and entail some level of cooperation with the evil of Nazism?” D’Arcy said.

D’Arcy released statements disagreeing with Jenkins’ decision to allow performance of the play on campus in 2006 and said he had been in contact with Jenkins about the decision and refuted Jenkins’ arguments in his own statement. And in February, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops moved its conference from its planned conference at Notre Dame to a convent in Mishawaka.

Dennis Brown, assistant vice president for News and Information, said the University would defer to Jenkins’ original statement when asked about the ability to perform the play on campus.

“We think Father Jenkins’ statement stands on its own and speaks for itself,” Brown said.

D’Arcy said Jenkins was incorrect to say that allowing the play was analogous to allowing students to read and discuss authors such as Nietzsche, Gibbon, Luther and Joyce, whose writings D’Arcy said are contrary to Catholic teachings.

“[Those authors] have written serious philosophical, theological and literary works, which have influenced Western thought,” D’Arcy said. “As such, their work has academic merit and is worthy of serious discussion and critique in a classroom setting … How can one put such a play, which many consider pornographic, on the level of serious works such as the writings of Gibbon and Luther?” he said.

The medium of the play also led D’Arcy to object to its performance.

Students reading a book in a classroom setting, he said, discuss and critique the work. After a play, students leave and they are not required to stay for the panel discussions, Panel discussions, he said, are not consistent with watching a play.

D’Arcy also took issue with the play’s involvement in the National V-Day campaign, an organization to stop violence against women that “promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations,” according to its Web site. The organization was created in 1998 in response to the “Monologues” and helps organize production of the “Monologues” around the country to raise money for anti-violence causes.

D’Arcy also disagreed with showing the play because of the sins inherent to it. The depiction of sins such as female masturbation and adult-child relations, D’Arcy said, “violates standards of decency and morality.”

“The sexual sin, which the play depicts in several scenes, desecrates women just as much as, if not more deeply than, sexual violence does,” he said.

D’Arcy concluded his statement by calling for Jenkins to reconsider his decision.

“I remain hopeful that Father Jenkins will reconsider his decision for this year and future years,” he said.