The Cardinal Newman Society Would Like to Silence Vaginas

by Intern Arielle

Catholic colleges around the country are making it damn near impossible for students to stage the Vagina Monologues. Since 2003 Patrick J. Reilly, president of the group Cardinal Newman Society, has rallied thousands of CNS members to oppose the play on Catholic campuses using straight-up stalker tactics like hardcore e-mailing and letter writing. The CNS, a group dedicated to renewing Catholic traditions in Catholic colleges, sends letters urging alumni to freeze funding until the administration agrees to ban The Vagina Monologues. Sadly some alumni agree. Patrick J. Reilly claims the campaign has actually reduced the number of performances each year, all in the name of upholding traditional Catholic values. The CNS calls the V-Day movement “radical” for encouraging students to take part in a play that promotes “lesbian rape” and masturbation. Oh and they also have a problem with the students “chanting obscenities”. Personally, I think they just don’t like the word vagina.

Despite the fact that V-Day is a movement dedicated to ending violence against women and girls globally, the CNS seems more concerned with the content of The Vagina Monologues than the mission behind the organization. Proceeds from college campus performances go directly to building international safe houses for women as well as local anti-violence groups. By not supporting The Vagina Monologues, the CNS and college administrations get in the way of stopping violence against women. The topic of sex may be uncomfortable for a Catholic colleges but if they can’t talk about sex, then how are people going to speak up about rape?

Most American Catholic colleges seem to be struggling to respond to pressures from the CNS in order to maintain some sort of respect for student rights. A large portion of Catholic campuses allow individual students to produce the play but not as a specific club- i.e. they can’t use club funds. Although these restrictions add more legwork, they certainly don’t stop production. The Cardinal Newman Society actually ends up inadvertently benefiting the V-Day movement as they encourage  healthy debate over the play’s controversy and the issue of violence against women. The Vagina Monologues is a play that tells real stories by real women, not some conspiracy to upset Catholic institutions. In an attempt to silence women experiences the CNS only affirms the necessity of plays like The Vagina Monologues. According to V-Day’s website over $20 million dollars has been raised in the last 13 years; that’s $20 million dollars given to communities to end violence against women. If fewer colleges are allowed to produce The Vagina Monologues that’s less money we can use to keep women and girls safe. Do the math CNS.

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