Wednesday, April 05, 2006

VM at ND

That would be the Vagina Monologues at Notre Dame, where the president, Fr. John Jenkins, has decided to allow the staging of Eve Ensler's play as well as the annual gay and lesbian (and, I imagine, bisexual/transgender/queer/questioning) film festival. What a relief!

Jenkins on both allowing freedom of expression and acknowledging Catholic teaching: "The challenge is not to do just one of these—or even to do both of them in parallel—but to promote academic freedom and affirm our Catholic character in a way that integrates the two and elevates both. This university was founded on the premise that these goals are compatible and can be mutually reinforcing."

Jenkins gets points in my book from listening to the students on this one, many of whom signed a petition to keep ND open to such performances, according to the Chicago Tribune.

I must admit, of course, to a little consternation over all this hullabaloo, including the upset over Brokeback Mountain. When did we Catholics become so afraid of stories? You'd think, as a religion that tells one hell of a story about God becoming human, stories would be our stock and trade. Where else can we find God's presence except in the telling of our own stories, which we place in the bigger story of salvation history? (Remember, just because it's a "story" doesn't mean it's fiction.)

I know, I know, there's church teaching and all that. But what is church teaching except our common reflection on the story of Jesus in relation to our own stories? Jesus himself was a storyteller, and he told some pretty shocking stories. Why shouldn't we? One wonders if Jesus' own parables would be permitted at a Catholic university.

Besides, our Catholic story includes the stories found in the Vagina Monologues--stories about sex and birth and abuse and even rape--stories that have often been ignored or even supressed because they're about women. And our Catholic story includes gay people, and divorced people, and amazing saints and outrageous sinners. And we've learned from all those stories. Imagine if great Catholic writers like Flannery O'Connor or Graham Greene had to write through today's censors. We'd be deprived of some of the best modern Catholic literature.

Let's face it: The best way to make someone invisible is prevent them from telling their story because it's "dirty" or unacceptable, because it challenges us to change our attitudes, because we may realize that we've even been wrong all along.

So I'm glad that ND has decided to let these and other stories be told. But I'm sad that it's even an issue in the first place.


At 8:51 PM, Blogger Heidi said...

Amen. From Heidi, class of 88.


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