When Catholic Education Gets ‘Ludacris’


When Pope Benedict XVI addresses
Catholic college presidents and diocesan superintendents in Washington, D.C., on April 17, his topic will be the importance of Catholic education.
He is likely to urge universities to remain faithful to Catholic teaching, preserve the unity of faith and reason, and prepare young people for the challenges and the suffering that may accompany their vocations and their efforts to evangelize American culture.
Chances are he won’t be talking about foul-mouthed rap artists.
But yesterday in Fairfield, Connecticut, that’s what was on the minds of Catholic college students. Ludacris, the Grammy Award-winning “gangsta” rapper, gave a concert on the campus of the Jesuits’ Fairfield University.
Ludacris’s lyrics are sexually explicit, violent, obscene, and demeaning to women — so much so that both Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and talk show queen Oprah Winfrey have strongly criticized him. In 2002, Pepsi dropped Ludacris from its advertisements, noting that “not all [artists] are compatible with our brands and what consumers have come to expect from us.”
Not compatible with Pepsi, but acceptable to a Jesuit university? He’s more than welcome, it seems. Despite a concert budget of $33,000, Fairfield pledged to pay Ludacris $85,500 for the performance, hoping that ticket sales would cover the shortfall.
Meanwhile, 19 Catholic colleges and universities are scheduled this year to host Lenten performances of The Vagina Monologues, a lewd and offensive play that celebrates the lesbian rape of a 16-year-old girl as the victim’s “salvation” that “raised her into a kind of heaven.” The number of Catholic campus performances has declined steadily since they peaked at 32 in 2003, but the idea that nearly 10 percent of America’s Catholic colleges would allow this trash is, well, ludicrous.
Some readers are getting nervous. What about academic freedom, popularly defined as the absolute right to on-campus anarchy that has become sacrosanct to American faculty and students?
It’s irrelevant. These are performances. A Catholic institution — or any public or private institution, for that matter — still has the right to insist that extracurricular activities remain within the realm of standard decency.
Entertainment is not an academic function — but leave it to the wise anthropology and sociology faculty at the University of Notre Dame to declare The Vagina Monologues essential to their teaching. They plan to sponsor this filth during Easter Week on March 26-28, the sixth year the Monologues has been performed at Notre Dame since 2002. Each performance will be followed by a panel discussion with faculty who are apparently eager to analyze chants, moans, and obscenities from an anthropological or sociological perspective.
As of this writing, Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., has not yet formally approved the performances. Nevertheless, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine protested the plans announced by the campus newspaper, and upon receiving no satisfactory response from Father Jenkins, publicly embarrassed Notre Dame by moving an important theological seminar off campus.
Think about it: The Vagina Monologues on Catholic campuses, and the Catholic bishops compelled to stay away. Ludicrous.
Fortunately, on April 17, the Holy Father will be visiting the Catholic University of America, where president Rev. David O’Connell, C.M., has banned the Monologues.
We can be very thankful for that. One can hardly imagine the Holy Father’s speech interrupted by female students’ sexual moans — or street-crime rap.

Patrick J. Reilly

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Patrick J. Reilly is founder and president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization to advocate and support the renewal of genuine Catholic higher education.

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