Tag Archives: Notre Dame

Vaginas, Catholic universities and the fake Magisterium

There have been some occasions that I have read about, over the last few years, where Catholic universities have been disparaged because they have hosted performances of a play called The Vagina Monologues. The very title of the play, of course, says that it’s about sex and probably pushes the limits of good taste. I have never seen it, nor read the book on which it is based so I don’t know the graphic specifics of the content.

The most recent example is that Gonzaga University is hosting a performance of the play. The charge of outrage on Catholic blogs seems to be lead by a faculty member at Gonzaga named Dr. Eric Cunningham who, like Notre Dame’s own Dr. Charles Rice, has a lot of problems with the supposed “Catholicity” of his employer yet has no problem continuing to accept a paycheck.

There are two concepts that are peculiar to the Catholic Church that are involved with the current uproar. One is the Magisterium, the official teaching body of the Church, led by the Pope and comprised of the world’s Catholic Bishops. The Magisterium, either extraordinary (acting as a group as in an Ecumenical Council) or ordinary (acting as individual Bishops) is the only means by which Church teaching can be officially promulgated. The rest is just opinion. No Catholic layperson, or even a member of the vocations who is not a Bishop, can claim to authoritatively put forth Church teaching or claim to authoritatively speak on Church teaching or belief.

The other concept is that of the Catholic university. There have been numerous writings about what constitutes a true Catholic school, as universities are not, generally, connected to and operated by a diocese or parish as high schools and elementary schools are.  My school is, for example, operated by an independent Board of Directors and has always been run by the Congregation of Holy Cross (priests with a C.S.C. after their names); the archbishop of Ft. Wayne has some influence but no official capacity to tell the school what to do. What he can do, hypothetically, is say the school can no longer call itself Catholic. But, in that the word Catholic is not copyrighted, there is no real meaning to that power.

So how do these two things connect? The hysteria of the fake Magisterium, those who have appointed themselves as arbiters of who and what is really Catholic, over The Vagina Monologues is just the most recent example of how Catholic laypersons use universities not to further the goals of the Church, but to further their own personal agendas, be they economic or political. Catholic universities, like any other, exist to educate. A large portion of education is a free discussion of ideas, even many that we may find offensive. The common reason the fake Magisterium uses to decree Catholic schools as no longer Catholic is that a play such as The Vagina Monologues is harmful to the faith and conscience formation of college students like me. Of course if they were truly concerned, they would say Catholic schools aren’t Catholic if they don’t demand their students refrain from watching graphic sexual movies, or TV shows, or listen to music with sexual themes. But the reason the fake Magisterium gets so (fake) upset about this play is that the name catches attention. We don’t often hear the word vagina, a clinical term, in polite conversation. Rename the play The Girl Monologues and no one notices that it even exists. Make Barack Obama a pro-choice Republican and no one cares that he speaks at Notre Dame’s graduation.

If Dr. Cunningham truly thought that Gonzaga was no longer Catholic, he–apparently being a pillar of the faith–would no longer be materially complicit in Gonzaga’s failings by accepting financial gain. Think of it like an observant Catholic working at Planned Parenthood. The Ignatius Press blog publishes him to make money: selling books and getting ad revenue from the blog. The Magisterium, on the other hand, has no economic nor political interest in anything they teach. They don’t make money off blogs or get paid based on who stays in the Church or who doesn’t. Mostly, they just don’t get paid. The chances of any one of them moving to a position more authoritative than the one they are in is about one in a million since the only chance at promotion for any Bishop is to get fitted for the Ring of the Fisherman.

There is a reason that Jesus put Church authority in the hands of a few and made them leave their possessions and families behind. There’s probably also a reason He didn’t give them the internet and blogs (he could have!).

Is Gonzaga Still a Jesuit University

Surreal: Gonzaga VP invokes “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” to justify production of “The Vagina Monologues”

Apostolic Constitution Of The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II On Catholic Universities


Why the Catholic Church can lose us

Reading the title of this post, people may assume that I am about to write about the Church’s sex abuse scandals. At school and back at home, my President Obama at Notre Dame, 2009 Commencementcircle of friends consists mostly of serious Catholics who are also near my age (18). The abuse scandal, I assure you, is the least of our concerns and the last thing that drives a wedge between us and the Church. What does bother us is not the making of a few disturbed priests and duplicitous Bishops. We are unsure of if what we see is the pronouncements of a loud minority, or the Church reflecting what seem to be current shifts in the attitudes of Americans in general. What I am talking about is a politicization of the Church in the same manner that has undermined American Protestant evangelist churches. I see, sadly, more and more Catholics who seem to be more concerned about the words of the President or some other politician than the words of our Lord.

The Cardinal Newman Society tasks itself with keeping track of speakers at commencement ceremonies that do not fully adhere to Catholic teachings. This year, the Society proudly announced that 95% of speakers were sufficiently Catholic to warrant the Society’s approval (after the fact) as speakers. The absurdity of the fact that they actually keep track of this notwithstanding, the most famous example of the politicization of the Church, and commencement addresses came last year at my University, when President Barack Obama spoke at our commencement. The President did not speak of abortion or any other matter that even came close to co-mingling with Church teaching. He spoke to the graduates of their future and the nation’s future. But the fact that he supports abortion apparently means that Catholic institutions should act as though he doesn’t exist, even those that have a history of inviting Presidents to speak. Those offended by the invitation have dishonestly tried to use arguments about ceremonial honors (which are bestowed on virtually all speakers at graduations) as a rationale. Many also claimed that the lack of opportunity for a dialogue is the problem, but many also have used the exact opposite argument in their objections. What is left is petty, partisan politics. These objectors simply do not like the President so they, disgustingly, decided to hijack graduation, a day that was supposed to belong to our Class of 2009, to score political points.

You are going to lose us if you keep this up. I mean you, the laity who seek to use our Church in this manner and the Bishops who give their consent. We will never leave Christ and we will never leave Peter, but we will leave you. We are not asking the Church to change for us, we are telling you to stop using the Church as a proxy for a political party. Speak up about Church teaching on abortion, but do not presume to think we are so stupid as to think that watching the President speak at graduation will cause us to magically become “pro-choice.” Stop the arrogance, stop the rhetoric, and give us some respect. Your intellectual dishonesty is blatant, your attempts to claim that you are merely upholding Church teaching are self-serving. Leave the partisan politics out of our Church, and out of our school.

An update in ten thoughts


I have not been here as much as usual for the past week due to reading days and finals this week, and I probably will be here even less this week. I do, however, have some thoughts on my mind so here are the top ten in no particular order.

1. I feel much better about my classes, particularly math, than I did going into midterms. I might even end up with a C if I can do well on the final. The tutoring has helped.

2. If what they say is true, and our new football coach, Coach Kelly, lied to his players in Cincinnati and told them he would not take the job here, I do not like that. I may scowl at him if I see him on campus.

3. What happened with Tiger Woods is still none of our business.

4. I know she is not old enough to open Christmas presents and will probably not even care, but I got Mary some toys and a little bib, for when she starts eating real food, with the Irish leprechaun.

5. Speaking of Mary, I am going to write about her baptism, which is the day after I get home, and submit it to Revelife just to watch all the Prots freak out; “Eeeeeeekkkkkk you baptize babies!!! That’s unbiblical!!!” With any luck, it will present an opportunity for LoBo to tear into them. Which is always enjoyable. I am constantly amazed by how many Prots there cannot restrain themselves from telling Catholics that they are wrong about everything, call it “discussion”, then take extreme offense when their own theology is questioned.

6. The supposed commercialization of Christmas doesn’t bother me all that much.

7. I don’t support this war in Afghanistan, either. It bothers me that a good portion of the US economy seems to be built upon the need for perpetual war. President Eisenhower was so right and we didn’t bother to listen to him.

8.”Climate-gate” is the epitome of what is referred to by political observers as “the silly season.” There is no substance there at all, and it proves the hysteria and desperation of those who do not simply deny global warming, but claim to question the government but will blindly follow the whims of huge corporations.

9. When will smart, Catholic virgins be the new black?

10. One semester of college done and seven to go, at least until law school. I don’t feel any smarter.