Friday, March 14, 2008

Bishop D'Arcy fires back

We've posted a lot of long things lately, so I'll just put the link to Bishop D'Arcy's statement on the Monologues. Every year, his statements are more insightful - let alone authoritative - than pretty much anyone else's; yet every year, we more or less pretend that a Catholic university can function as such in opposition to its local head.

Seriously, read that. But if you don't have time, take a moment to reflect upon how his concluding sentence sums up so succinctly the way in which we are called to be signs of contradiction, viewing basic concepts in a radically different light than the world:

"A decision not to sponsor the play is not only consistent with academic freedom but is a right use of such freedom for it shows respect for the truth, for the common good and the rights of others."

Foolishness to the Gentiles, indeed.

Will Any Examples be Given ... Or Made?

In one corner, we have the president of Notre Dame, national rankings that cover everything from strength of academics to the Dome's toilets, and academic freedom. Over in the other corner, we've got students, alumni, donors, parents of students, and Jenkins' religious superior. Jenkins' decision is predictable, even in the face of mounting pressure from people who should be important to the University. However, with the impending Stateside visit of the Pope, things could take a turn for the interesting.

A few posts below, Rachel linked to a broadcast by Hugh Hewitt, where callers voiced their opinions on Jenkins' recent decision. One caller said that, as a general trend, no one believes in authority anymore. He pointed out that Bishop D'Arcy has the ability to flat-out refuse to allow the production of the Vagina Monologues, but he won't, for unknown reasons.

This is where the Pope comes in. Before he became Pope, he was known for enforcing doctrine. Now, he is expected in Washington next month, where he will speak to administrators at other Catholic colleges that are apparently having similiar identity crises. In the pecking order, he (obviously) has more authority than Bishop D'Arcy, so it will be interesting to see what sort of a reprimand, if any, will look like and Fr. Jenkins' response. I personally see the Monologues moving off campus or open warfare with orthodox Catholicism. True colors will be revealed and someone, somewhere, will be offended and unhappy.

We will have more coverage on that when it happens, but below is a press release from The Washington Post about the impending visit. Textual emphasis is mine.

Catholic College Leaders Expect Pope to Deliver Stern Message

By Jacqueline L. Salmon and Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 14, 2008; A01

After years of Vatican frustration over what it views as the failure of many U.S. Catholic colleges to adhere to church teachings, school leaders are intently watching for a rebuke from Pope Benedict XVI during his Washington visit next month.

The pope requested the meeting with more than 200 top Catholic school officials from across the country. The gathering will come amid debate over teachings and campus activities that bishops have slammed as violating Catholic doctrine: a rally by pro-abortion rights Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton at St. Mary's University in San Antonio; a Georgetown University theologian's questioning whether Jesus offers the only road to salvation; and a performance of "The Vagina Monologues" at the University of Notre Dame.

This will be the first papal address in the United States on Catholic education in more than 20 years, and some Vatican watchers predict that it will be the most enduring part of Benedict's visit. Before becoming pope, Benedict was known as "the enforcer" of church orthodoxy, and since taking office, he has said Catholic education must bow to Catholic "truth" and the "rule of life." Such comments have some educators keyed up.

"With people expecting his address on these issues, hopes and concerns are beginning to resurface," said Mathew Schmalz, a religious studies professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., who has researched and lectured about Catholic identity in higher education.

The Rev. Timothy Broglio, archbishop of the U.S. military services, who served in Rome for a dozen years, said Benedict's speech will be direct. "It'll be very clear and distinct ideas," Broglio said. ". . . There will be no mistaking what he wants to say."

A drumbeat for greater orthodoxy in Catholic colleges has been heard since 1990, when Pope John Paul II issued a call for Catholic colleges and universities to refocus on their religious identity.

Now educators are waiting to see how tough Benedict, a former theology professor in Germany, will be at the April 17 lecture at Catholic University and how his message will be interpreted and carried out by the bishops after he leaves.

Church officials won't give details about the content of the speech, but conservative Catholics are predicting -- and hoping for -- shock waves from Benedict, who before becoming pope was associated with public reprimands of Catholic theologians and blocked appointments of university faculty members he thought were too liberal.

"This is something that's been simmering for so long that it's reached a boiling point," said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which works to promote orthodoxy in Catholic higher education. In its recommendations to students, the society says 20 of the 235 U.S. Catholic colleges and universities are sufficiently orthodox. Reilly said a number of bishops and Vatican officials say privately that the speech will "raise a lot of eyebrows."

As pope, Benedict has not been as explicit about the limits of academic freedom as some had expected him to be, and some educators predicted that the talk next month will have a pastoral tone. However, they said, it will make clear that the pope thinks change is necessary.

"One thing the pope will emphasize is the importance for all [Catholic] schools to realize that they aren't independent contractors, they are part of the church," said the Rev. David M. O'Connell, Catholic University's president.

Catholic University is the only U.S. Catholic college founded by the nation's bishops, and it follows the Vatican line more closely than do many other schools. O'Connoll said Rome is concerned about the lack of Catholic faculty at Catholic universities and about rampant "moral relativism" -- the belief that there is no objective right or wrong -- on campuses.

Last fall, Worcester Bishop Robert J. McManus objected to a conference on teen pregnancy held on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross that included speakers from Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

And last month: San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez complained about the Clinton rally at St. Mary's University; St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke said St. Louis University basketball coach Rick Majerus should be disciplined for his comments in support of abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research; and Catholic bishops moved a theological seminar off Notre Dame's campus to protest an on-campus performance of the play "The Vagina Monologues."

Bishops have criticized Georgetown for hosting Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and allowing the establishment of a pro-abortion rights student club there. Conservative Catholics are complaining about plans to open a gay resource center soon at the school.

School presidents insist that truth-seeking is part of their institutional purpose.

"Every university is committed to the pursuit of truth," said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, "and we want to ensure that there is the opportunity for both academic freedom and for the free exchange of ideas and opinions across all issues."

But David Gibson, the author of a Benedict biography, said the pope will ask, "If you're not going to be an authentically Catholic, orthodox institution, why should you exist?"

The lecture will be attended by presidents of most U.S. Catholic colleges and universities. All 195 diocesan education directors are also invited, although the Vatican's focus has been on countering relativism in higher education.

After liberalizing moves by the church in the 1960s and 1970s, Pope John Paul in 1990 issued Ex Corde Ecclesiae, presenting his views of what a Catholic university should be. In 1999, U.S. bishops voted to require theology professors to be certified as teaching in a truly "Catholic" manner.

Since then, there has been a vigorous exchange, with most educators on Catholic campuses agreeing that they want to keep a "Catholic" perspective but disagreeing about how pervasive that needs to be. Does it mean events and courses should always come down on the side of orthodox church teachings? Or can the church's position simply be articulated and discussed? What does academic freedom truly mean under Ex Corde?

Many conservatives have complained that colleges and universities don't take seriously the requirement that people teaching theology obtain a "mandatum," or certificate, from the local bishop indicating that the coursework was approved by the church.

Although Catholic colleges and universities were originally founded by religious orders or by laypeople working with bishops, their campuses have become more diverse, and that diversity affects their mission.

"Our schools are not made up of all Catholic students or Catholic faculty and administrators," said the Rev. Charles Currie, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, who has spoken out against the mandatum and quotas on non-Catholic board members and faculty members. "And so the institution has to be respectful of differences at the same time they're trying to foster a [Catholic] identity."

Some are skeptical that anything will change.

"Whatever he says, I think, for the most part, it will fall on deaf ears," said Derry Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University. "Universities are tough institutions to turn around, and faculty are very powerful. . . . I don't think it will have much of an effect."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Brey and Harangody Take Top Honors

Congratulations to Luke Harangody who was named Big East Player of the Year on Tuesday. Harangody was a dominating force in the Big East all season, averaging 21 ppg and 10.3 rebounds a contest in Big East play.

Mike Brey was also named Big East Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year, guiding the Irish, who were picked to finish 9th in conference play, to a 14-4 conference record.

Hopefully, the men's team can continue its success far into March, and perhaps into April.

Monologues Issue Hits the National Media

The Rover's loyal blog readers might want to be aware of this development in the wake of Fr. Jenkins' Monday statement on The Vagina Monologues.

Hugh Hewitt, a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host, featured a lengthy segment on Fr. Jenkins' decision during his Tuesday show. Interested readers can access audio to the segment here. Pertinent discussion, including comments from callers who are ND parents and alums, begins about 6 minutes in to the segment.

Hewitt also blogged on the issue, and had this to say:
The play is everywhere. Anyone who wants to see it can. But a Catholic university that seeks to uphold Catholic moral teaching undermines that mission by providing a platform for a play that stands for anything but traditional Catholic moral teaching.

Monday, March 10, 2008

This just in...

Mark your calendars for the return of The Vagina Monologues to campus March 24-26.

From ND News & Info:

The following statement was issued today (March 10) by Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame:

In the spring of 2006, prompted by recurring performances of “The Vagina Monologues” on campus, I made a speech to the Notre Dame family that launched a 10-week-long, community-wide discussion about the presentation of controversial events at Notre Dame. At the end of that exchange, I drew several conclusions, which were shared by department chairs in the College of Arts and Letters and expressed in “The Common Proposal of the Chairs of Arts and Letters and Fr. Jenkins.” Among these are the following:

First, it is part of the role of a university to foster free and open discussion of controversial issues. Second, it is the responsibility of all involved in sponsoring a controversial event to ensure that the presentation has academic merit, multiple viewpoints are heard, appropriate balance among these is maintained, and reasoned and respectful exchange—the hallmark of a genuine university—is fostered. Third, those sponsoring an event must make clear that their sponsorship is not an endorsement of the views presented, and any language or actions suggesting such endorsement must be avoided. Finally, when a significant issue of Catholic teaching is touched on, it is incumbent on us as a Catholic university to ensure that a knowledgeable presentation of Catholic teaching is included.

Recently a student proposal for the performance of “The Vagina Monologues” was approved by several academic departments and received by the dean of the College of Arts and Letters. The dean has approved a final proposal and, after reviewing it, I am satisfied that the principles of the “Common Proposal” are being applied. In particular, after each performance and as part of each academic panel, at least one of the panelists will offer a thorough and sympathetic account of the Catholic tradition in relation to the issues raised in the play. Performances of the play, which will take place in an academic setting, will occur from March 24 to 26.

I am well aware that the performance of this play will upset many. It is particularly painful for me that Bishop John D’Arcy—for whom I have great respect and affection—disapproves of my decision. It also pains me to know it will disappoint some very loyal members of the Notre Dame family—alumni who are deeply committed to the Catholic identity of Notre Dame who see the performance of this play on campus as contrary to our Catholic mission.

At the same time, others are upset at the restrictions on this performance—that there will be no fund-raising, that a panel must follow each play and include a sympathetic and thorough presentation of Catholic teaching.

My decision on this matter arises from a conviction that it is an indispensable part of the mission of a Catholic university to provide a forum in which multiple viewpoints are debated in reasoned and respectful exchange—always in dialogue with faith and the Catholic tradition—even around highly controversial topics. Notre Dame’s policy on controversial events rests on the conviction that truth will emerge from reasoned consideration of issues in dialogue with faith, and that we will educate Catholic leaders not by insulating our students from controversial views, but by engaging these views energetically, in light of Catholic teachings.

While I know the decision is likely to disappoint many, and perhaps satisfy no one fully, it is, in my judgment, the action that best serves the distinctive mission of Notre Dame.

I'm one of those upset and disappointed "many". For some irrational reason, seeing the ambiguous "Statement from Rev. John I. Jenkins" headline and reading the press release managed to get my hopes up for a complete reversal his stance on the Monologues. Not seeing it opened the wound again.

In my mind, the statement could have just as easily said "Sorry, guys, I goofed, and besides, the Monologues are getting old. No go this year..." In my somewhat illogical post-Spring Break mind, that makes perfect sense. So what if his ruling two years ago virtually tied his hands and delegated his power to judge the appropriateness of 'academic events,' to the individual departments? If it's not enough that our bishop has asked that Notre Dame not allow the performance, then certainly we can all just sit back and see that the content is inappropriate and that the production itself is getting just a wee bit stale.

Seven out of eight years? Let's give Ms. Ensler a rest...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Homeschooling in California?

Personally, I'm not sure I'd ever homeschool my own children, but I do believe that our society should protect the right of parents to be the primary educators of their children.

We already knew that the Germans weren't big fans of allowing parents to homeschool. There, German police raided a home in order to seize a 15-year-old homeschooled girl and place her in state care because they determined she had a "phobia" of public schools.

Now, I'm not claiming that the situation in California is anything similar, but a recent ruling there has proven to be a major setback for the parents of 166,000 homeschooled students in that state.

"California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. "Parents have a legal duty to see to their children's schooling under the provisions of these laws."

Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said.

"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare," the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue.

It's a bit unsettling that the state of California doesn't trust parents to train their children "in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty"--much less homeschooling parents. It seems to me that if you go to the effort of developing a curriculum for your kids, and think it's important enough to keep them at home to educate them (maybe--shockingly enough--because you think you know your kids the best and might be able to educate them as whole persons better than any state-run institution ever could...) that you're going to do a pretty good job with it. Maybe some sort of minimal regulations and standardized testing would be in order, but to ban it altogether is a bit extreme.

During my time at ND I have met more formerly-homeschooled men and women than I ever had before. Apparently their parents did a good job raising not only intelligent but well-adjusted and spiritually-mature children. I guess the state of California just can't recognize that...

UPDATE: From Deal Hudson over at InsideCatholic, who's saying that there is no need to worry:

As a result, homeschoolers in California are not at risk under this ruling, although at first glance the language does indeed appear inflammatory. Under California law, parents who homeschool have created a "public school" where they have to be "capable of teaching" the required courses offered in public schools. Parents also have to keep a record of enrollment and attendance, as well as file a yearly "private school affidavit" with the state.

The Longs' case will undoubtedly be appealed, and following that appeal, whatever danger posed by the decision on homeschooling will be addressed. Perhaps this scare will provide opportunity and motivation for the homeschooling movement to push for legislation that will protect parents' right to educate from future rulings by activist judges.