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'Monologues' on Campus Under Fire


Originally published in:
Baltimore Sun
02/18/2005

A group that promotes conservative values at Catholic universities and colleges is targeting several Maryland schools in its nationwide protest against the controversial play The Vagina Monologues.

A full-page advertisement in Tuesday's USA Today is headlined: "Scandal! Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College, Holy Cross, Loyola, DePaul and 24 more Catholic colleges to host X-rated 'play' that glorifies child seduction and other horrors."

The advertisement also criticizes by name secular colleges it says are planning productions of the Monologues by Eve Ensler in the next four to six weeks, including the Johns Hopkins University, Towson University and University of Maryland. The ad lists the addresses and phone numbers of school administrators, and urges parents and alumni to write, call or e-mail in protest.

The Vagina Monologues is a collection of interviews by Ensler with women of varying ages and ethnicity. The women use explicit language to discuss their own experiences of sexual-abuse, self-pleasure and sexual awakening. Productions typically are staged as benefits for local organizations combating violence against women and children; the organization's Web site (www.vday.org) claims that $20 million has been raised for these community groups.

The Cardinal Newman Society, a Falls Church, Va.-based advocacy group, seems to especially object to a scene in the Monologues in which a teen-age girl recounts her seduction at the hands of an older woman.

"I am appalled and embarrassed that any Catholic institution would present this play, especially in the midst of the clergy sex abuse scandal," Patrick J. Reilly, the society's president, said in a statement. "Whether the perpetrator is a lesbian woman or a wayward priest, seduction of a minor is no one's 'salvation.' " (The society's Web site is at www.cardinalnewmansociety.org.)

Ensler's organization says that the monologue merely reflects the actual experience of one of the women interviewed by the playwright, and should not be interpreted as endorsing sexual relationships between adults and teens.

The Newman Society protested presentations of Ensler's work last year. It also has lobbied against commencement speakers who support abortion rights, including former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and U.S. Congresswomen (and sisters) Linda and Loretta Sanchez of California.

Loyola College has received a handful of protests from alumni and parents of students in response to the advertisement. But it has no plans to cancel the production, scheduled for March 10-11 on the campus at 4501 N. Charles St.

The Rev. Harold Ridley, Loyola's president, conceded that the Monologues are "in questionable taste" and that the work "is not the vehicle I would have chosen" to raise awareness of domestic violence.

But, after talking to female students, professors and administrators, he decided that the piece raises legitimate issues that should be heard. "The concerns of our students who are producing this play deserve our attention," he said.

Proceeds from the production will benefit the House of Ruth, a Baltimore shelter for abused women.

Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun