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April 11, 2006

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Stephen

This is the Notre Dame of my experience. An environment where the faith is allowed to flourish, where disagreement is civil and constructive, honest and open. We're not Boston College and Georgetown and we're not FUS and Ave Maria . . . and thanks be to God!

Michael Hugo

Stephen,

It sounds like he wants it to be more like FUS and Ave Maria, thanks be to God!

cathy

beautifully written. what a change from the other mouth of ND - McBrien

Fr. Brian Stanley

Fr. Miscamble served for several years as rector of Moreau Seminary at the university. His appointment to that important ministry was seen as a great, positive step forward in promoting faithful Catholic formation of priests. Fr. Miscamble has won the outstanding teaching award at the university, and is widely esteemed by his students and peers. His words here make me proud to be a Catholic, a priest and an alumnus. Sadly there have been less frequent opportunities for me and other faithful alumni to make that assertion. I understand that things have been improving in South Bend; Fr. Jenkins' decision here demonstrates how much farther the university has yet to go. Fr. Miscamble points out the direction for the university if the issue of the Catholic faith is to hold any significance in the future. I hope and pray that Fr. Jenkins will reconsider his position, and retract his "concluding comments."

AmericanPapist

is there any possibility that Fr. Jenkins would actually change his decision?

Christine

What a breath of fresh air and sanity. God bless his courageous stand.

Marv Wood

The History Department at Notre Dame was the one department in which I found religous orthodoxy. Father Marvin O'Connell, a non-CSC diocean priest, was head of the History Department in the '70's and 80's and an expert in Newman and the Reformation and Counter-Refromation. His lectures were spellbinding and he taught us more about our Catholic faith than I ever learned in any theology class.

Pius

At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast last week, Fr. Groeschel spoke very forcefully against the performance of this play. He spoke of women he had worked with who had left lives as prostitutes and were treated as a commodity. He said VM (which he would not name by its name) is insulting to the dignity of women. I wish I could remember how he phrased it, but he was very forceful and framed the argument in a very powerful way.

I think at a University named for Our Lady, we should expect a respect for women that would not allow the production of this play.

Rich Leonardi

Father Marvin O'Connell, a non-CSC diocean priest, was head of the History Department in the '70's and 80's and an expert in Newman and the Reformation and Counter-Refromation. His lectures were spellbinding and he taught us more about our Catholic faith than I ever learned in any theology class.

I came across transcripts of Father O'Connell's lectures via International Catholic University and indeed they are spellbinding. You can find them here. Click on the forward arrows at the bottom of the link for more of his lectures.

Glenn Juday

To repeat: Notre Dame needs to address urgently a serious top leadership problem.

A person holding that position needs to be qualified intellectually (demonstrating the ability to sort through trendy pseudo-intellectual fads, jargon, and pandering) and qualified by adherence to the Faith.

When any institution finds itself lacking two vital elements in its top leadership, it must respond. Leadership is not a right, it is a responsibility to be carried out faithfully.

One can remove an individual with acknowledged fine personal qualities from leadership without rancor or bitterness. And when an individual makes his leadership shortcomings clear, one must remove leadership for the good of the institution.

Just match the appropriate personnel with the appropriate responsibilities. There is not a lot of time to waste.

Emily of the Holy Whapping

is there any possibility that Fr. Jenkins would actually change his decision?

At this point, it is so slim as to be almost non-existant. While it is entirely possible that he will come to regret it and see the wrong-headedness of it, the manner in which the decision was drafted leaves him very little room. Months of deliberation, a clear framing of the issue, and a clear (although poorly-written, IMO) decision at the end; just saying, "whoops, guys, I was wrong," is going to make him look like an idiot. The only plausible way for him to admit he was wrong, barring some other circumstance, would be a resignation.

RP Burke

I will shock Rich by saying I agree with him. I knew Fr. Marvin -- a priest of the diocese of St. Paul, Minn. -- in my ND days. He is a good historian, and his book on Archbishop John Ireland is outstanding.

Lily

Father Miscamble,
Thank you for caring for women, esp the women of the VM, who are sexualized in a play at ND, to teach the ND students not to sexualize women.....it's a contradiction. An absurdity.

You said: "The painful reality is that much of the violence against women in our society results from a sick view that separates sex from love and genuine relationship, from the commodification of sex, from the portrayal of women as objects, from the blatant refusal of some men to treat women with dignity and respect. Yet how will the committee be able seriously to address such issues when you have approved the continued production of a play that reduces women to body parts? Surely you see the contradiction here?"

Emily of the Holy Whapping

To complete the mental picture, you really need to read this in an Austrailian accent. Anyone who has met Fr. Miscamble knows exactly what I'm talking about. Kudos to him! He tends to tell it how it is, and this was, thankfully, no exception.

Alfredo

Unfortunately, Fr. Miscamble's penchant for telling it like it is is the main reason he will never be president of Notre Dame, even though he is and has always been the best and most qualified person for the job.

Rich Leonardi

I will shock Rich by saying I agree with him.

It doesn't shock or suprise me, R.P., and until recently I found myself nodding in agreement at most of your posts. What does shock me is your ability to square mentally an admiration for both Fr. O'Connell's orthodox historicism and Fr. McBrien's dissentient theological speculation.

Emily of the Holy Whapping

Alfredo,
I'll second that vote of confidence.

John M

Interesting, Fr. Jenkins' leadership style as exhibited on major issues to date: months before he took over as president, he apparently took the bull-by-the-horns and shepherded the firing of a mediocre football coach.

He rather humiliated his predecessor by working with board honchos to get the deed done before another football season began - even though he was months from being installed as president.

Rather a forceful behind-the-scenes entrance, to say the least.

There was a striking quote from him at the time that, in spite of the fact that most agreed this coach was great Monday through Friday, winning on Saturday was an expected part of the job description.

One only wishes his actions here conveyed an equally vigorous commitment to promoting the university's Catholic identity and shielding its students from being subjected to the phoney and harmful violence-as-art which is VM.

Another interesting side-note, Fr. David Tyson, now head of the local province of CSCs in South Bend, slam-dunked VM when he was head of Universty of Portland several years ago.

If I recall correctly, his reasoning was rather plain: he read the script, saw that its contents were plainly offensive and contrary to Catholic teaching and sensibilities, and declared it was not to be performed on campus. His successor, Fr. Bill Beauchamp, CSC, affirmed Tyson's handling of VM. (Both were exec VP's under Fr. Hesburgh during his last years as president of ND.)

One final thought from this ND alum, there is (and long has been) a widely pervasive spirit that 'we are the finest Catholic university in the country and perhaps the world' on campus. (Not to mention the 'only we know what's really going on here, so keep your ND comments to yourself' sensibility.)

I find neither of these attitudes helpful - and both of them questionable.

Having said that, there are many attractive things about ND. The jury's still out for me the degree to which I would encourage any of my children to attend.


Emily of the Holy Whapping

Fr. Tyson would be my next vote for President, and a bit more likely than Miscamble.

This letter is important in that Fr. Jenkins knows that his erstwhile allies are not just going to nod and smile at this. The opening shot of the opposition has been fired, as it were.

Annon

I believe the strategy should be to make clear that this "closing statement," does not close the issue and we will not let it die, until the Monologues do.

RP Burke

Rich, can you square two statements you've made about me today ...

1. No, your point is to show up on every thread and kick sand on anything smacking of tradition.

and

2. ... until recently I found myself nodding in agreement at most of your posts.

So which is it?

Emily of the Holy Whapping

Precisely;
It has to be shown that this is not, in fact, a compromise decision, as it was framed to be, but a just plain wrong one. It can only be viewed as a compromise if you are looking at it from a secular, politically-correct framework. From a Catholic position, it soon becomes clear that it is unacceptable.

Matthew of the Holy Whapping

Bravo, Fr. Miscamble! Couldn't have said it better myself.

Hunk Hondo

When I was in the graduate department of History at ND (1978-82) it was my privilege and delight to have Bill Miscamble, then fresh from Oz, as one of my colleagues. He still honors me with his friendship today, and it is one of my proudest boasts. I, too, had hoped that Fr. Bill would succeed Fr. Malloy as President--and I, too, knew that he was far too good for that to be probable. Bonzer letter, old cobber.
Dittos to Marv and Rich about Fr. O'Connell, also an honored mentor and cherished friend, as well as one of the finest historians of our age. (R.P. is right about his status; he's an archdiocesan priest of St. Paul.)

Kevin Jones

For some reason, Aristophanes' play Lysistrata came to my mind. In it, the Athenian and Spartan women mutually declare a sex strike until their husbands make peace. It is of course incredibly vulgar, but it also reveals the limited position of women in that society: the only influence they had over society in general was sexual.

By reducing women to purely sexual creatures, it seems to me that the VM play mirrors that idea despite all its ritual invocations of "empowerment." Only it doesn't seem to notice it. So much for hip, self-aware irony.

Anonymous Teacher Person

My hope is that Fr. Jenkins' strategy is similar to that of my mother when I wanted to watch "St. Elmo's Fire" as an eighth grader: allow it, but suck all the joy out of the experience by pedantically pointing out all of its ethical shortcomings. Faced with this running commentary, I finally had to admit to myself that it wasn't a very good movie and, overall, was kind of trashy.

Perhaps enough such reminders to the VM-loving portion of the student body will ultimately wear them down in their determination to celebrate this play. I think this strategy is misguided and will backfire, but maybe that's what Fr. Jenkins hopes will happen.

Rich Leonardi

So which is it?

For the past six months or so you've mostly done (1) and little to make me do (2).

RP Burke

Rich, you need to re-read my posts on, for example, music. And how about your echo just a few days ago when I said "In media stat virtus"?
We don't disagree on everything, you know.
rpb

Rich Leonardi

We don't disagree on everything, you know.

Indeed.

Paul

*Sigh* ND is the only university to which I ever actually wanted to go. The fact that there admissions office wasn't as keen on me as I was on them didn't really change that (maybe the law school will be kinder). Growing up, I didn't even know there WERE other major Catholic universities; we were Catholic, so we loved Notre Dame, even though nobody in the family had ever gone there, or even been to South Bend. If the people on campus have a mystical sort of ethos about them in the way they think about their school, it's probably because so many American Catholics have a special mystical conception of Notre Dame too. And I think that's a good things for us to have -- I sincerely hope that we can keep that, and that ND can keep at least some justification for it.

Michael Hugo

Kevin Jones: Excellent, creative post!

Jimmy Huck

Whaddaya know?!? Father Jenkins' closing statement and Father Miscamble's open letter framing a polemical debate openly at a Catholic University. For shame to even legitimize such a debate. Perhaps we need our Catholic Universities to do some more "slam-dunking" and "door-slamming," like the University of Portland, on such open and shut cases. I wonder what Fr. Miscamble would have done had he been President of Notre Dame, slam-dunked the VM, and had received an "Open Letter" from Fr. Jenkins criticizing his decision. Think that letter would have been circulated, or would it have been "slam-dunked," too? A Catholic University's Catholic identity is no more threatened by permitting the production of the VM to take place than it is by permitting a production of Tartuffe to take place. Next thing you know, we'll be hearing cries that Catholic Universities should ban English Lit professors from assigning The Da Vinci Code in any of their literature classes.

under the dome

I can't describe how pleased I was to read this during lunch today. I coudn't help but reflect on how difficult it must have been to speak out against a good friend of his, and how he will likely suffer a backlash from his friends and colleagues for it. Fr. Miscamble is without a doubt one of the best priests on campus (I've heard him speak several times), not to mention his talents as a professor and administrator.

I agree with Alfredo. His up-front personality is both a blessing and a curse.

under the dome

I can't describe how pleased I was to read this during lunch today. I coudn't help but reflect on how difficult it must have been to speak out against a good friend of his, and how he will likely suffer a backlash from his friends and colleagues for it. Fr. Miscamble is without a doubt one of the best priests on campus (I've heard him speak several times), not to mention his talents as a professor and administrator.

I agree with Alfredo. His up-front personality is both a blessing and a curse.

Mike Petrik

"Next thing you know, we'll be hearing cries that Catholic Universities should ban English Lit professors from assigning The Da Vinci Code in any of their literature classes."

Any English Lit professor who assigns DVC for class reading should be fired, regardless whether the college is Catholic and regardless of the silly substantive claims of the book. The book is poorly written -- on par with a Grisham novel. Fine for a beach read for those with nothing better to do, but completely inappropriate for academic study as literature.

Alfredo

Multiple Choice Question:

I wonder what Fr. Miscamble would have done had he been President of Notre Dame, slam-dunked the VM, and had received an "Open Letter" from Fr. Jenkins criticizing his decision. Think that letter (a) would have been circulated, or (b) would it have been "slam-dunked," too?

Answer: (a)

Comment: It's the liberals who have had power in the Church in America for so long who are the experts at suppressing dissent to their dissent. I know. I've been teaching at Notre Dame for the past 27 years.

Sam Martin

So - when will all the good Catholics at ND start building that wall to keep the narrow-minded thinking in and the world-at-large thinking out? The VM is just one person's thinking and providing fodder for discussion. Get over yourselves and your self-righteousness already. PS - And get your misguided religious thinking out of my sexual life.

Christine

"get your misguided religious thinking out of my sexual life."

If you don't want religious influences at the academic level -- don't attend a school with the name "Notre Dame" or any other religious affiliation.

Very simple.

The VM isn't about *your* sexual life. It's something very much centered on women's issues.

Jimmy Huck

"Comment: It's the liberals who have had power in the Church in America for so long who are the experts at suppressing dissent to their dissent. I know. I've been teaching at Notre Dame for the past 27 years."

With all due respect, if that is what you believe, then you are not paying attention. First, I'd ask you to define what you mean by "suppression." Then, let's move to the subject of simply suppressing dissent, before we get to the next level of suppressing dissent to their dissent, whatever the heck THAT means. Let me remind you that it is not the "liberals" who are telling the orthodox "dissenters to the dissenters" to leave the Church, or Notre Dame, because of their "dissenting" views. Furthermore, I challenge you to provide me one instance when the "dissenting" views of the "conservatives" of the Church of America have ever been "suppressed." The myth of conservative persecution by intolerant liberals continues.

Ferde Rombola

"And get your misguide religious thinking out of my sexual life."

I think you mean 'sex life.' Either way your post is tiresome, dreary and decidedly sophomoronic.

Pass and go.

F.

Ferde Rombola

Jimmy Huck:

If you don't know what "supressing dissent to their dissent" means you're not equipped to discuss the subject. Especially with someone who's been teaching at Notre Dame for 27 years.

F.

Jimmy Huck

Ferde - Of course, I know what Alfredo means, but let me tell you what it really means:

1) The conservative "authority" comes out with a definitive policy or statement.
2) The liberal critics removed from any position of authority react with a statement of dissent.
3) The conservative "authority" publishes a "dissent to the dissent."
4) The liberal critics somehow, magically, use their power over such originating conservative authority to crush the "dissent to the dissent."
5) The original conservative authority is henceforth suppressed.

The logical fault lines occur between #s 3 and 4, and again between #s 4 and 5. How so? First, the dissenters, no matter how loud or obnoxiously they shout, really have no power or authority to suppress anything. Second, it is not a question of "suppression" if the originating conservative authority does not stand up to liberal dissenters, but rather a question of political will. Call it self-suppression, if you want; but at least be honest about it.

Alfredo

Dear people at the end of this thread,

I apologize for my intemperate remark. This is the busiest time of the year for me, I haven't had enough sleep lately, and I'm feeling grumpy.

Why don't we call a truce in honor of Christ crucified and spend the next couple of days contemplating his suffering face? Have a blessed Triduum. Pax.

Ferde Rombola

Jimmy: Maybe I read you wrong, but when you write "whatever that means" I get the impression you are in some doubt about what it means. But let that go.

Your scenario is your spin on 'dissent of dissent.' But it's a little broader, and a little more serious, than mere intramural squabbling. How about this?

1) The Church reiterates a point of doctrine or dogma;

2) The secular media reports it with commentary from the dissenters, lay and clerical, who howl to the heavens and wail about how egregiously oppressed they are by these medieval monsters in the Vatican (or wherever);

3) The secular columnists flog the Church and deify the dissenters;

4) The Church's defenders, the conservative authority of your scenario, reply point by point;

5) The secular media ignores the reply while continuing the attack on the Church, i.e., suppressing the dissent to the dissenters' dissent.

I live in Massachusetts. I'm ashamed to say I subscribe to the Boston Globe. (I absolve myself by telling myself I must know what the enemy is up to.) I have seen the above described process repeated at least a dozen times a year in that odious rag. The Globe and its columnists are rapacious in their hate for the Catholic Church and when it comes to what gets out in the press, they're driving the bus.

So it's not the power or authority of the dissenters that is the determining factor. All the dissenters have to do is provide the material. The Globes of the world will take care of the rest.

Alfredo knows what he's talking about.

F.

Ferde Rombola

Intemperate remark?? I read no intemperate remark from you, Alfredo. Truth is never intemperate. I may have been speaking about the world at large while you were speaking of the ND campus, but it's all of a piece, isn't it?

Thank you for your Triduum blessing. May you be blessed as well.

F.

Jimmy Huck

Alfredo, I agree with Ferde that your remark was not intemperate. It was provocative. I responded. As someone sometimes characterized as a "liberal dissenter" in the Catholic community, and who often feels the heavy weight of an inflexible orthodox judgment and sometimes a stifling feeling of impotence that there is no space for me to breathe within the Catholic communion, I just wonder about the fairness of labelling liberal Catholics as suppressors. For me, it so often feels just the opposite. But I, too, am a member of the academy (though not at a Catholic institution and not for as long as you have been), and so can relate to the peculiar pressures of the moment in our profession that make even the best of us prone to some testiness.

But I can heartily echo Ferde's thank you for the Triduum blessing, and likewise wish you both also a joyous Easter.

Jimmy Huck

Ferde - I was taking issue not with the Globes of the world, but with the notion of "liberals in the Church of America" being the suppressors and stifling dissent. We do no such thing. In fact, within the Church, it appears to me that whenever dissent gets suppressed, it usually comes in the other direction. And I point to the Thomas Reese affair at the Jesuit magazine Americas as just one example.

But that is neither here nor there at this point. I'd like to end on the note that we all rejoice in the Paschal Sacrifice this weekend.

Ferde Rombola

I'm with you on that, Jimmy. I do have a lot to say about dissent, but I'll save it for another time.

A blessed Triduum and Happy Easter to you.


F.

David

Alfredo is not specific about what kinds of conservatism are suppressed at Notre Dame. One wonders what opinions he holds that cannot be expressed in public. Notre Dame even has a chaired Creationist professor.

Many departments are dominated by political conservatives, and most are decidedly conservative in terms of their intellectual discipline. The Law School, for example, could hardly be more conservative without breaking with the Catholic Church.

Bill Miscampbell is distressed that the Notre Dame he loves is changing. He says that he is concerned about the sexualization of young women. I believe that he believes that. He is a painfully sincere man.

Yet neither he nor the other critics of Father Jenkins address the issues of male sexuality on campus which the performers of the VM have raised, year after year. Father Miscampbell has spent much of his life at ND living in men's dorms. Where is his criticism of the pornographic posters or the habitual drunkenness, of the knowing acceptance of rape or the degrading images of women presented every year in the Keenan Review?

The VM is not an admirable piece of drama, but if its performances encourage a serious discussion of the campus culture, it will have achieved at least one good thing. Unlike the critics of the VM, Father Jenkins took the time to listen to the women who performed the play, to discover why they thought the issues worth raising.

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