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"V-Monologues" on Catholic campuses:
Why won't they just say NO?

(From Voices - Pentecost 2002)

See Breaking News 01/30/2007

Click here for the List of Catholic colleges and universities that are scheduling "V-Monologues in 2003

2005 updates

 

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

Send in the Clowns.

Although continuing pederasty revelations have obscured an earlier scandal, many Catholics -- especially women we know -- were amazed by the "celebration" of Valentines' Day this year on more than a dozen Catholic university campuses - and on hundreds of others.

No hearts and flowers. Instead a porno circus masquerading as "consciousness-raising" theater.

The scurrilous "Vagina Monologues" - a particularly nasty feminist tract purportedly aimed at fighting abuse of women and "desensitizing" people to naming female sex organs in order to (inexplicably) increase respect for women - was performed on campus at Notre Dame and at St. Louis University and elsewhere (off-campus at Gonzaga), despite protests from a few Catholic students and others. We read it.

If any bishop or diocesan "women's commission" objected, we did not hear of it. Only one diocesan newspaper we saw editorialized against it (the St. Louis Review).

Why? Not opposing degrading stuff like this has contributed materially to the advanced stage of moral decadence and corruption to which our society has obviously descended.

Worse, some priests have defended the production.

Strange Support from Catholic leaders
In a letter to a student (male) who complained, Father Edward Malloy, president of Notre Dame University wrote:

"Such interactions allow students to engage the controversial topics of the day in the context of our distinct intellectual, religious and moral traditions. While there are elements of this production which are offensive to many members of the Notre Dame community because they contravene positions of the Catholic Church, a responsible academic setting is precisely the place where controversial topics should be examined and discussed...

"When the two complementary aspects of our institutional tradition come into apparent or real contrast, we will handle the situation with appropriate measures that I hope advance our institutional message. This is especially the case in those instances where views expressed are not endorsed by the University.

Jesuit Father Timothy Clancy, professor of philosophy at Gonzaga, went further in his opinion column, "Embrace Identity":

The banning of the Monologues has been justified on the grounds that their performance would violate the Catholic mission of our school. I would like to place the 'Vagina Monologues' in a spiritual context and argue that their performance rather embodies precisely what it means for us to be a Catholic University".


He says that Eve Ensler's "rhetorical device" of having women's sex organs "speak" enables women to embrace their own identity:

"And as they talk and audiences listen, people across the country and around the world have found shame turn to compassion, and rage turn to solidarity. Everyone involved comes to learn that we are not alone in our shame, and that together we can heal and liberate what we may have thought to lie in ruins beyond even God's saving reach".

Father Clancy explains (copiously using anatomical terms) that Freud "scandalized society" by giving male sex organs a voice, but until now women had no comparable champion.

"Now what does any of this have to do with Catholicism? Catholicism has never understood itself as something separate from the rest of life", Father Clancy says. And this is life?

Jesus "heralded a new Kingdom of the impure" deliberately choosing as his disciples the sick, sinners, outcasts, prostitutes, the possessed, "even a terrorist", in order to "bear witness that this is where God calls holy people to be, for these are the ones most in need of God's saving word and healing touch".
Father Clancy concludes:

"Vaginas are not used to speaking in public, and so once given the chance to have their say, everything comes out at once, pride and shame, rage and fear, ridicule and relief. But above all I suspect that what comes out from these performances will be relief, relief at having finally received a hearing. What could be more Catholic?"

We can think of a few things.

In a different voice...
WFF expressed a different view in a letter to St. Louis Archbishop Justin Rigali before the performance at St. Louis University:

"It is extremely difficult to know how one might address such a matter as 'V-Day' in the most productive way - not least because to even name this performance involves our using the very language that the perpetrators intend to desensitize us to. Thus, ironically, we are forced to participate, at some level, in the very degradation and violence against the human person to which we object. I believe this is part of the plan. It considerably compounds the difficulty of criticizing it.

"That is by no means the only irony - or contradiction - involved in the V-Day movement (of which performance of the V-Monologues is the keystone). As you doubtless know, V-Day projects claim to be fighting abuse of women. But the verbally pornographic 'monologues' are themselves abusive of women - they attack the concept of womanhood itself, and destroy the integrity of the human person. Thus it actually contributes to violence against women, while claiming to be fighting it".

"1. Reducing women essentially to one body part is hardly pro-woman. It distorts sexuality, objectifies women and, ironically, promotes attitudes towards women and sexuality precisely like those that lead to sexual violence against women.

"2. This performance does not even represent real 'voices of women', as it claims in order to give it a ring of authenticity. The author, Eve Ensler, says she based her contemptible creation on her personal interviews with 200 women - indeed, the V-Monologues are usually represented as the authentic voices of women 'telling their own stories' (e.g., Father Timothy Clancy, SJ's editorial enclosed).

"But Ensler herself acknowledges that she freely interpreted her 'data'.

"3. The stated goal of V-Day is to stop all violence against women, and the income from the plays allegedly is given to agencies that help stop 'violence' (the "V" in "V-Day" also stands for violence) against women. But this, too, is a sham. Ensler employs a full time staff of ten to manage her "V-Day" movement; and donations are often given to dubious (or worse) groups (a set-up similar to Catholics for a Free Choice).

a. Planned Parenthood groups have produced the play (e.g. Planned Parenthood, Eureka, California: the web-site notice is enclosed).

b. In at least one instance a battered women's shelter that had been selected to receive a donation from the V- Monologues refused to accept it after learning what the performance was about. (Reported in Texas A&M's News Source - Feb. 12, 2002: 'V-Day stirs controversy'.)

c. The liberation of Afghan women is one of Ensler's causes. However, as we have seen recently, the 'aid' to Afghan women has included provision of abortion services. While we were not able to establish that Ensler's 'V-Day' has actually given any aid at all to Afghan women, it is clear that not all 'aid' is beneficial.

"4. The V-Monologues promote particular sexual pathologies: lesbianism and pedophilia. One 'voice' - that of a 13-year-old girl - vividly describes how she was seduced by a 24-year-old woman. She says, 'if it was a rape, it was a good rape'. This section reportedly led to objections even by feminists sympathetic to the production, leading one reporter to wonder whether this scene might be expurgated from the version being performed on more than 543 college campuses this year. Whether or not the producers do self-censor this scene (as may be likely especially in the context of recent pedophila scandals), it is entirely consistent with the rest of the production.

"Vagina Monologues is destructive, pornographic, deforming agit-prop deliberately and cynically aimed at young women - in particular at young Catholic women - a form of victimization that it is perilous to ignore. It contradicts at the deepest level the truth of creation; it is profoundly anti-Catholic, anti-God; and a contemptible assault on the very nature of the human person".

Student voices
To their credit, a few stout-hearted men at Notre Dame defended both Church teachings and women in their entries on the student web site discussion. Alas, few women on the campus had the will (or the wit) to do so. The women students who weighed-in on the "web" discussion promoted the campus production in lock-step rhetoric reminiscent of the Stepford Wives.

Notre Dame senior, Kerry Walsh, wrote:

"The Monologues will shock you. They will make you cry. They will make you angry. But they will also make you laugh. They will inspire you. They will leave you realizing that it can be done. One day, Valentine's Day will be known, as Eve [Ensler] puts it, as Victory Over Violence Day".

Jennie Willson, a senior at Boston College who co-directed V-Ms at that Jesuit institution, was "proud to say that the support from both students and faculty was overwhelming", and chimed in with her support of the Notre Dame production:

"For those at Notre Dame who claim that 'The Vagina Monologues' are vulgar and immodest, I would have to agree. But that is exactly the point. Those in opposition to the production are ignoring the fact that the play gives voice to actual women, to real stories of love, rape, discovery, pride and shame. This play does not preach in any way, shape or form; it is not anti-Catholic, or anti-religious for that matter. Quite to the contrary, it is simply a reflection of female reality, presented to empower, educate and foster an understanding of real gender issues and the larger social issues they imply".
(Father Clancy, call your office.)

The student Knights of Columbus (God bless 'em) issued an open letter deploring "the performance of trash that demeans women and only serves to degrade the dignity of the human person.

"The Monologues will not further the mission of our University. A woman is a person, not an object. God blessed humanity with the gift of sex as a way of celebrating the love between spouses and of bringing new life into His world....

"[T]he principles of free speech or religion do not allow a Catholic University's resources to promote a portrayal of the human person wildly inconsistent with Gospel values. Notre Dame has the right to the free exercise of religion, and the 'Monologues' were not what Father Sorin was thinking of when he put a golden statue of the Blessed Mother on the Dome. And we Catholic students have the right to attend a university that respects those boundaries arising from basic human dignity...".

There really ought to be clowns.
Well, maybe next year...

(From "Other Voices" Pentecost 2002)


Click here for the List of Catholic colleges and universities that are scheduling "V-Monologues in 2003


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