Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hillary for you and me!

"Bring back our democracy..."

I have a feeling this is going to be stuck in my head all night. Watch it, and wait for the Hill-Bill embrace at the end.

Now why isn't she winning, when she has this sort of dedicated base? Poetic lyrics, a catchy tune, matching t-shirts, and a bit of choreography...Obama probably can't beat this!

(Hat tip to the blog at!)

A Disquieting Suggestion: ESPN's Dana Jacobson to star in the 'logs?

Here is an "open letter" from an alumnus to Fr. Jenkins re: the 'logs. (reproduced below)
Dear Fr. John,

My friends at The Cardinal Newman Society informed me that after a one-year hiatus, the diabolically-inspired Vagina Monologues has made its way back on campus. Granted, I understand you are not "sponsoring" it (the Anthropology and Sociology Departments are actually doing that), so (in your mind anyway) it is not considered an "official university-sponsored activity." Still, I have to admit, Father, it sounds to me a lot like a Catholic politician saying, "while I am personally opposed to abortion, I do not want to legislate my views on others," in other words; a lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing." But maybe, as a daily Mass Catholic, I'm just overly sensitive.

Then again, maybe not. In addition to The Cardinal Newman Society, I just read that the United States Bishops Committee on Doctrine which was scheduled to have a conference at Our Lady's university starting on Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (which I trust is still a special day at Notre Dame, considering the lasting place your Lourdes replica grotto has in the hearts of both alumni and students), pulled out of their Notre Dame reservations both at their disgust of the play being held on campus, and in deference to your bishop, John D’Arcy (who called V-M "offensive to women" and "antithetical to Catholic teaching") and are instead meeting at a local convent outside of South Bend.

I know, I know. You would insist the real issue here is free speech, and just because this play glorifies lesbianism, upholds group masterbation as a dogma, and calls a girl's lesbian rape her "salvation" and "heaven," doesn't mean The V-Monologues is the equivalent of screaming "fire" in a crowded theatre, or "F*** Jesus" in Sacred Heart Church, as the case may be. And you have always preached that Notre Dame must allow free expression of ideas, even those contrary to the Faith, if it is to be a true leader in national, indeed, international university education, and thus, The V-Monologues stays—or is at least allowed to return.

Well, maybe you're right, Father, but something about that "leader" stuff still feels wrong. After all, Fr. McBrien's heresy has become old hat, and although pressure from people like the bishops and The Cardinal Newman Society have reduced the number of Catholic universities showing The V-M by almost half, there are still eighteen other allegedly loyal-to-Rome colleges presenting this decidely un-Christian play, so your presentation is no longer noteworthy in that regard. So if you really want to stand out, Father, why not keep the "Monologues" ... but hire Dana Jacobson to play the lead role? That foul-mouthed vodka-toting ESPN commentator has made a name for herself by blaspheming the sacred names of Christ and Notre Dame (again, something you thought not significant enough to personally rebuke, but your underling's statement of disagreement proved so mild that head football coach Charlie Weis finally had to step in and properly denounce the attack and defend Notre Dame's honor) and Dana would be perfect to make that play come alive. For, if Rudy Ruettiger was born to lead the Notre Dame players out of the stadium tunnel, then (according to your logic) Dana Jacobson was born to play that hateful lesbian role on Our Lady's campus. You'd have to admit, Father, that THAT would be a performance of The Vagina Monologues that no other actress on any other Catholic campus could ever live up to—and a rendition of the play that no orthodox president of a Catholic university could ever live down.

Now I've left you with much to think (and hopefully pray) about, Father, but before I go, please allow this loyal son of Notre Dame one final observation. If, on the eve of March 26 (the first day of The V-Monologues' scheduled Notre Dame performance), you look up in the sky and see the Lady on the Dome appear to cry, know that it is not due to the weather. It is Our Lady expressing Her right of free speech, in that silent manner that only Our Mother has obediently mastered.

God's grace and Mary's prayers,
Tom O'Toole, Class of '81

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We're not the only ones...

...with [Catholic] identity problems.

Hillary Clinton is making a campaign stop at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, TX this evening. Apparently the Archbishop of San Antonio, Jose Gomez, is not pleased that a Catholic university would host a political figure with her record on abortion.


The prelate affirmed: "Catholic institutions are obliged to teach and promote Catholic values in all instances. This is especially important when people look to our Catholic universities and colleges to provide leadership and clarity to the often complicated and conflicting political discourse.

"It is clear that the records of Senator Clinton and some of the other candidates for president on important life issues are not consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church."

The Catholic News Agency reports:

The archbishop of San Antonio also took St. Mary’s to task for merely stating that, “As a Catholic tax-exempt university, St. Mary’s does not endorse political candidates or their positions on issues and acknowledges the fundamental differences between those of the presidential candidates and the Catholic Church.”

“Our Catholic institutions must promote the clear understanding of our deep moral convictions on an issue like abortion, an act that the Church calls ‘an unspeakable crime’ and a non-negotiable issue,” the archbishop insisted.

'Monologues', Bishops & Notre Dame: Observer Viewpoint

Here are today's Observer viewpoint letters on the 'logs:
Monday marked the 150th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady to St. Bernadette at Lourdes. In honor of the occasion University President Emeritus Father Hesburgh delivered the homily for the Basilica's evening mass service. This beautiful sermon, which celebrated the miracles associated with Notre Dame - particularly Father Sorin's naming a (then) mere log cabin the University of Our Lady, the university's rebuilding after a devastating fire, and the creation of the Golden Dome - served as the reconciling capstone to the controversies that have afflicted the University recently.

I was deeply disturbed to hear that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had retreated from its original intention to hold its seminar on the Notre Dame campus because the timing of the event might look like support for Eve Ensler's "Monologues." I understand the Conference of Catholic Bishops' seminar is a private event and that those who objected to holding it at Notre Dame were not doing so to reflect adversely on the university, but a conference in February does not indicate endorsement of a production in March. Our Lady is loved and protected by the Father and nothing that human beings do can stain her, as some have claimed on-campus performances of the Monologues would do. What can be stained are human institutions like universities - but not by a sincere search for the truth, wherever that search leads us. Notre Dame is a Catholic university. Love and pursuit of truth, as a Catholic institution and as a university, is its absolute mission and staging the "Monologues," in an appropriate academic forum, is consistent with that mission.

The "Monologues" is not in line with Catholic doctrine. They were not meant to be. They were written from a secular perspective to explore women's identities and to acknowledge women's value as whole persons. Personally, I think the way the various skits articulate women's value is mostly (though not entirely) wrong and would be greatly enhanced by including Catholic perspectives (as Notre Dame's Loyal Sons and Daughters does). But this does not destroy the fact that the production attempts, however wrongly, to acknowledge women's experience. What remains is for Catholics to take this attempt in the right direction, not to discourage an open discussion of what the characters in each skit are trying to convey about women's experience of suffering, joy, pleasure - and the devastation that abused sexuality causes. Father Jenkins made the right decision in balancing the demands of academic freedom with those of Notre Dame's Catholic identity. His decision has been misrepresented by the national media and he has not received much support from those on either side of the controversy.

Father Hesburgh's sermon crystallized for me why I had felt this to be a particularly pernicious injustice. Father Hesburgh spoke about the reverence that Father Sorin had for Our Lady - that it was his particular love for her that channeled his faith in God into the creation of this university. The miracles that Father Hesburgh mentioned are visible signs of Our Lady's intercession, but they are not the only miracles. The repentance of hardened sinners, the healing of bodies broken by illness or sin, and the redemption of humanity by Our Lord's suffering - these are miracles. And if faith is the belief in things not seen, then faith can find Christ in the experiences described in the "Monologues." The faculty discussion panels that Father Jenkins' policy requires to be part of any on-campus production of the "Monologues" are the academic response to Christ's directive, "Seek and ye shall find." Catholic faculty and students have a duty to participate in these panels and discussions actively and whole-heartedly. We are at Notre Dame to find the

Truth: let's seek it with courage and charity, trusting that God will not mislead us. Father Jenkins is continuing the faithful leadership of Father Sorin, Father Hesburgh (the first Notre Dame President to admit women to the university of Our Lady), and Catholic leaders who, trusting in God's goodness, take on the burden of turning a mustard seed into a flourishing university. Good for Notre Dame.

Sam Cahill
English Ph.D. candidate
off campus
Feb. 11
Christina 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 may present 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, "Monologues" raises 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 Theodore Hesburgh once said: "The University is where the Church does its thinking." 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: Approach the monologues with a critical eye and engage in the thinking of the Church.

Meli Barber
McGlinn Hall
Feb. 12

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

6 Out of 7 Years?

Something that has been sticking with me since reading yesterday's Observer article on the all-but-assumed approval of the V-Logs by the dean's office is one particular quote:
In this case, Roche said, the "Monologues" has been performed on campus six of the last seven years and has been publicly criticized by South Bend-Fort Wayne Bishop John D'Arcy. D'Arcy issued a nine-page statement in the spring of 2006 where he criticized Jenkins' decision to permit the play and his rationale for doing so.
Nevermind what Bishop D'Arcy has said about it--that's not my point here (although certainly the wishes of our bishop are of prime importance).


Doesn't that seem to be a bit of overkill to anyone else? What other artistic production is repeated, over and over, by a committed posse of individuals, year and and year out, without fail?

I searched the DPAC's website, but came up with nothing. The Georgian Ballet Company (not the state of Georgia; the former Soviet Georgia) seems to have come to ND more than once. Undoubtedly musical performers return after a few years to grace our campus with their talents. And the Actors from the London Stage bring a fresh performance of one of Shakespeare's works to Washington Hall each semester. But nothing even seems to come close to repeating the exact same performance, six out of seven consecutive years.

What *is* it about the Monologues? Is it their offensive nature? Or perhaps their theatrically "innovative" presentation? Does the sexually explicit content just fit with what college students are attuned to? Is Loyal Daughters, which to my mind was the proposed 'replacement' (however inappropriate it still may be as a production approaching these issues of sexuality and violence against women), just not enough? Is it Eve Ensler?

I have do doubt that it's all about Eve. If it's not worthwhile to perform the same Shakespeare play every year during what I'm beginning to think of as "VDay Season," why does Ms. Ensler's work merit such a showing?

It seems to me that instead of finding innovative ways to actually approach the issue of violence against women--and of the true healing which every woman affected by such violence deserves--certain feminists on this campus have latched on to merely one approach. Instead of focusing on persons, they have taken up a cause. Instead of finding ways to help guide the women who need it towards resources that can bring them healing on this campus (not the least of which must be an active faith life), they are tied up in bureaucratic red tape and organizing mediocre academic panels. But why?

UPDATE (Matt): I was about to write this in a comment, but thought it appropriate to include in the body Rachel's post.

Lest anyone think otherwise, the issue of the 'Monologues' is contentious in *all* quarters of the University, not just Notre Dame's center-right.

One member of Feminist Voice -- not, perhaps, the first student group one would look to for remarks disparaging the VM -- told me yesterday that her club internally dislikes the fact that this is has turned into a perennial issue, since all it does is make them look "like crazy feminists." Indeed, I replied that the VM, in my view, bring out the worst on all sides. By raising the level of emotional intensity that people invest in the play -- either for or against its performance -- it seems that the organizers' supposed goal of reducing violence against women is only obfuscated. More damagingly, it forces students, faculty, administrators, and outside observers alike to take sides either "for" or "against" -- a decision which is too often based on existing loyalties rather than the merits of the event itself. Thus locked-in, the play must be either supported or opposed year after year, rather than be approached with fresh eyes each time that the issue arises.

"God Save the Irish"

Apparently, my "abstain" vote in the ongoing election to determine our next, illustrious Student Body President... didn't count.

From the Observer:
This is the first election in which abstentions were eliminated from the vote count so that candidates need receive only 50 percent of votes cast for a specific candidate to win the election.

Judicial Council president Ashley Weiss said the change in tallying abstentions ensures the abstaining votes could not block a ticket from receiving the necessary 50 percent, as happened in the 2007 student body elections. That election was decided by a Senate vote [ed. note: Seriously??], resulting in the election of student body president Liz Brown and student body vice president Maris Braun.

"We introduced this as a safety net to make sure it doesn't happen again," Weiss said. Weiss and vice president of elections Danny Smith expressed disappointment with posters placed in dorms and South Dining Hall encouraging students to vote "abstain." One such poster read: "Domers wants you to vote abstain. God save the Irish."

Now, Smith and Weiss (both personal acquaintances) are the candidates who were hurt most by the "abstain" votes last year, after a member of Student Government threw up posters to that effect all over campus (scandalizing the righteous within the ranks of SG). I was not unduly influenced at that time, since I have voted "abstain" in every election since I've been at Notre Dame. I do not, however, see the value in lamenting the fact that there are similar posters out there this year and, more to the point, that there are students out there who don't give a lick about the bloated, sanctimonious apparatus that is Student Government.

If there is even the merest possibility that a voting majority of students could form to cast "abstain" e-ballots and thus achieve the twofold purpose of (1) expressing our electoral contempt and (2) derailing the functioning of student government for a year, should we not be allowed to dream? My personal esteem for Ms. Weiss and Mr. Smith aside, Weiss has by this act of tyranny - qua president of the J-Board - transmuted herself into the destroyer of my anarchist fantasies.

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that, after flooding the inbox of every ND student with multiple emails telling them to vote, less than half (3,861) actually followed the link provided and cast a ballot in support of the mostly worthless institution that is the office of Student Body President (worthless, that is, if its not going on your resume). As Danny Smith rationalized, however:
"It's better than last year, and it's a higher percentage than most other [student government] programs at other schools," he said.
Notre Dame: Leading the Way in Narcissistic Bandwagonry Since 2008.

God Save the Irish.

More Observer Viewpoints on 'Monologues', Bishops

Here are two more letters to the editor that were published in the Observer today. The first is a response to Christina Holmstrom' s, which I have already reproduced below.
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that this response to Christina Holmstrom's letter regarding "The Vagina Monologues" ("'Monologues' encourage mistreatment of women," Feb. 10) is not necessarily a refutation of her ideas, but an expression of an alternate perspective regarding Eve Ensler's play.

Holmstrom references the V-Day slogan and agrees that "violence against women should be stopped." "The Vagina Monologues" initiate conversation every year about methods in achieving this exact goal. In contributing her valuable opinion about how best to stop violence against women, Holmstrom has begun this process at Notre Dame this year, and the tentative upcoming production of the play will initiate even more conversation.

In its portrayal of real women's experiences, "The Vagina Monologues" document the significance of sexuality as a part of womanhood. The women who speak of their positive sexual experiences in the play are examples of women as sexual beings, not sexual objects, as Holmstrom suggests. "The Vagina Monologues" do not condone the perception of women as sexual objects. Monologues such as "My Vagina Was My Village," in which a number of Bosnian women recount their stories regarding rape as a war tactic, and "Crooked Braid," an account of the prominence of domestic abuse in Native American communities, clearly discourage the perspective of women as simply "walking vaginas." I am unable to see how these monologues encourage women to "treat themselves as sex objects."

As a two-time audience member, I know that Notre Dame's productions of "The Vagina Monologues" conclude each year with the monologue entitled "I Was There In The Room," an account of Eve Ensler's emotional experience in watching her daughter-in-law give birth. The beauty of this marital moment is a facet of sexuality that every Catholic can embrace.

"The Vagina Monologues" value all women's sexuality and allow each audience member to decide what is best for herself. The play does not encourage sex, but discourages violence against women, no matter how sexually active they are. These accounts are relevant to every woman and man, regardless of her or his religious beliefs. As a worldwide community, we should be concerned with every woman's experience with sexual violence, not just those who practice Catholicism. I hope all those who participate in this discussion have had the fortune of seeing "The Vagina Monologues," and that those who have not will attend a production on Notre Dame's campus, if it is approved to take place, at the end of March.

Rob O'Brien
Sorin College
Feb. 11
And this one:
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

Just a few things of note today:

The first is that the temperature is a bove 0 for the first time in what seems like forever but in reality only 4 days, since Friday. Still, a hike to the bookstore wouldn't be advisable.

The second is that today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Well, it's the anniversary of the President's birth, not the actual day but whatever. We all know what he sacraficed to keep the Union whole, to keep the great democratic experiment alive. By the end of the War he was the slave's best friend. Imagine how differently Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement would have been. The tallest President, and allegedly the most eloquent, the simplicity and strenght of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC is a fitting tribute. However, I won't wax poetical or nostalgic because I could go on forever, since the Civil War is the reason I'm studying history (the movie Gettysburg, specifically), so I'll just leave this little gem I stumbled across on the intrawebs.

I hope you take the quiz and leave your results in the comment section.

Abraham Lincoln - The most brilliant president.

Mmmhmm, Abe the Babe... maybe not babelike in the traditional sense (he was definitely tall and dark, if not classically "handsome") but a mind that was hotter than Georgia asphalt. You could ask him anything, and he would probably know the answer, which could be very convenient. Abe was pretty reserved -- not so great with the romantic stuff, and he'd probably run and hide if you ever said "listen, we need to have a talk". But his waters ran deep, possibly deeper than any other president. Maybe even than any other mortal. Ever. And we suspect that as long as you were gentle and non-judgmental with him, he'd totally open up to you. And when he did, and you saw the true contents of his heart, your mind would be BLOWN.

Observer Viewpoint: Monologues Demean Women

For those who missed it (such as myself), the following is a letter to the editor that was printed in Monday's Observer:
As the Irish Rover pointed out on Feb. 7, the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine has moved its meeting from Notre Dame in response to the showing of the Monologues on campus. Every year we discuss the meaning of "academic freedom" and the extent to which the university should promote student expression, but I believe this woefully misses the mark.

The Vagina Monologues' performances are tied to V-Day, which defines itself as "a global movement to stop violence against women and girls." ( If this were the extent of the movement, I would wholeheartedly support the effort, but am saddened that the Monologues are seen as the way to make this happen. It seems fairly obvious that if one desires to end violence against women, we must attack the mentality which sees women as sex objects. Unfortunately, the Monologues mostly depict women who have simply found ways to treat themselves as sex objects without the help of men. I was appalled to see the rape of a young girl by an older woman celebrated and masturbation blatantly encouraged.

As a woman who has been a victim of sexual violence and talked to dozens of others in situations much more tragic than her own, I believe it is our duty to make sure that this does not happen to anyone else. This cannot be done if we are taught to view ourselves as playthings and we cannot be successful unless we recognize the dignity of the human body. In permitting the Monologues, we are promoting a different kind of violence toward women: One that tells us it's okay to see ourselves as nothing more than walking vaginas, yet demonizes men for doing the same.

I ask Dean Roche, Father Jenkins and all those whose decisions affect this play's production not only to uphold the Catholic character of our university, but to trust in it. We must not allow empty promises to lure us away from the witness of the saints, the Church, Notre Dame and the love of God. We cannot focus on the fight to end violence if our attention is distracted by "academic debates" and theatre which belittles the dignity of womanhood. I speak for myself and many others when I say there is no debate: Violence against women should be stopped, especially when we inflict it on ourselves.

Christina Holmstrom
Farley Hall
Feb. 10


Notre Dame may not be employer of the year in Indiana, but at least we don't have this problem:

Among dirty dishes and utensils, Harvard dining workers have been finding used hypodermic needles on trays sent to the kitchen, the Harvard Crimson reports. Officials suspect the needles are probably not being left maliciously but most likely are left over from insulin shots. In response, the school has set up a sharp objects disposal receptacle and encouraged workers to wear cutproof gloves. "People work here, OK?" said one dishwasher. "I don't know what they think. So why do they send [the needles] here? They don't care for us?"

Unfortunately, most college students don't care. Domers are guilty of this too, but fortunately we aren't that negligent.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Say One Thing, Say Another, Do Both

This article excellently demonstrates the particularly odd situation that Duke is in, for, while in horror that their own students would hire a stripper to a party, even creating a new rule which expressly prohibits the inviting or hiring of strippers, Duke University sponsored a "Sex Workers Art Show" in which "strippers, prostitutes, and phone-sex operators were given the opportunity to "disply their 'creative genius.'" Now, I won't go into the specifics of this article which explicitly relates information about the content of the "Art Show." Personally, I don't find said material to be fit for such a classy blog. But what we find here is a disconnect: strippers are bad, strippers are good.

Oh wait, one is in an "academic context."