Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Catholic group fights 'Monologues'

Though a group of Brown students staged three sold-out performances and an encore of "The Vagina Monologues" this past weekend, attempts to produce the show at Catholic schools across the country have been resisted by a conservative Catholic advocacy group.

The Cardinal Newman Society, which has been campaigning against the show since 2001, recently issued a statement claiming that their efforts had reduced the number of Catholic schools hosting the production from 32 in 2003 to 15 in 2009. According to an online press release, CNS considers the play to be "a sexually explicit and offensive play that favorably describes lesbian activity, group masturbation and the reduction of sexuality to selfish pleasure."

V-Day, a national organization founded by "The Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve Ensler, owns the rights to the play and advocates its performance in the United States to spread awareness of violence against women. In 2009, the organization will host 912 events at colleges and universities nationally.

V-Day Director of Communications Susan Swan called CNS "a fringe group," adding that many schools perform the show every year.

"In V-Day's view, 'The Vagina Monologues' is not explicit," Swan said. "It is a work of art that is very educational and liberating."

She said the number of schools that have performed the play is much smaller than those that actively oppose it.

Every year, CNS sends a letter to the presidents of Catholic schools nationwide that are planning to host performances of the play, according to David Costanzo, communications and marketing director for the organization. He said the letter serves to notify each president that a performance is scheduled at the school and states CNS's concerns with the production.

CNS's efforts have been met with mixed reactions, Costanzo said.

"We've had presidents directly contact us to let us know that they were not aware of a performance taking place and they plan to cancel it," he said. On the other hand, he said, "we've had some contact with presidents that say they are aware but aren't canceling it."

Nevertheless, the number of performances at Catholic schools has steadily declined over the past six years, Costanzo said. The organization has received support from bishops around the country and in the Vatican "who have spoken in favor of" banning the performances from Catholic campuses, he said.

CNS promotes "alternative activities" at Catholic campuses to raise awareness of women's rights and domestic violence, offering advice, suggestions and financial support for colleges that pursue other projects related to these issues, Costanzo said.

"There is no academic value to a third-rate, vile play presented to celebrate lesbian activity, objectify women and sell tickets, no matter how worthy the cause," CNS President Patrick Reilly said in the release.

"The proper way to bring about renewal and understanding about our sexuality is to look at John Paul II and his theology of the body," according to which the body is a creation of God and deserves respect, Costanzo said. "His love is far more intimate than the most intimate love between a man and a woman."

But not all Catholic schools consider the play objectionable. Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York, performs "The Vagina Monologues" each year, typically for free or for a minimal charge, according to Fordham Theatre Program Production Manager Kai Brothers.

Brothers, who has worked on a Los Angeles production of "The Vagina Monologues," said he disagreed on many levels with Reilly's position. He characterized the work as "sexual," but not "pornographic," and noted that it has "received immense critical acclaim."

"The need to stamp it out entirely doesn't make sense to me from an educational standpoint," Brothers said, agreeing that the goal of the work is to create dialogue about violence against women.

"I have a hard time believing that that agenda is not part of any religion that promotes higher education," he said.


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.