Spring Mainstage to tackle controversial play



By Emily Lataif
Contributing Writer






Next semester’s Mainstage play, “Candide,” has sparked debate and opened up discussion on what it means to be both a Catholic and a liberal arts school.

The project gained attention from the student body when at least two students confirmed that they had declined to participate in the play, citing moral reasons. The University News interviewed the students and confirmed their stories, but the students asked to remain anonymous.

The production is an operetta version of Voltaire’s 18th century French Enlightenment novel “Candide.” Known for its biting, satirical nature, the novel earned a place on the Catholic Church’s list of banned books in 1762 for its harsh portrayal of Catholic clergy. In the mid-1950s, acclaimed composer Leonard Bernstein set the novel to music with lyrics by poet Richard Wilbur, among others. The production was initially a flop, but underwent a series of successful revisions with various “librettos,” or scripts.

The drama and music departments will be collaborating in the production and will be using a libretto by John Caird written in 1998. As a novel, “Candide” is seen as one of the Western world’s greatest artistic works.

Drama professor Stefan Novinski. -Photo by Elizabeth Whitfield
Drama professor Stefan Novinski.
-Photo by Elizabeth Whitfield

This is the first time that the drama and music departments have collaborated on a production. Stefan Novinski, assistant professor of drama, will be directing the play. He cited several reasons as to why he chose “Candide” as next semester’s Mainstage. According to him, it is an important work of the Enlightenment; it is a mainstream musical; it raises fundamental questions relevant at the University of Dallas; and, at its core, it contains a truth about human nature.

He believes that UD students can handle watching their faith, along with other weighty topics such as rape and prostitution, treated satirically.

“I would say the university is mature enough to handle it. If we’re not, then we should be very worried,” said Novinski.

The satire tells the story of a naïve young man named Candide whose philosophical tutor tells him that our world is the best of all possible worlds. After he and his love, Cunegonde, undergo every possible kind of physical and emotional torment, Candide — disillusioned — rejects his tutor’s optimistic outlook on life and decides to settle down and base his life on work.

At the center of students’ concerns is the anti-clerical and anti-Catholic nature of some scenes in the operetta. These scenes include suggestions of a cardinal sleeping with a prostitute and a pope having a daughter, and the insinuation of a homosexual priest.

After being raped by Bavarian invaders, Cunegonde is sold into prostitution to a Jew named Don Issacar. The Grand Inquisitor — described as a corrupt cardinal — discovers Cunegonde’s beauty and threatens the Jew with a visit from the Inquisition if he does not share Cunegonde with him.

Cunegonde’s friend, the Old Woman, is described as the daughter of a pope. In a later scene, she references a friar with whom she slept.

Cunegonde’s brother, Maximillian, becomes the Reverend Father Colonel of an order of rebellious warrior Jesuits after, “the Father Superior conceived the most tender affection for me.” Maximillian recounts a time when, “I happened to meet a young fellow one night—extremely good-looking—who wanted to go for a swim…I had no idea it was a capital offence for a Christian to be found stark naked with a young Muslim boy.”

Priests of the Inquisition are shown torturing and killing innocent people.

Some students felt that though the operetta casts the Church in this negative light, these events have happened and still do today. Others, however, did not see the value in mocking actions of members of the clergy that is deemed sinful by the Church.

When it came to members of the faculty, they fell on both sides of the spectrum.

Dr. Scott Crider, associate professor of English, believes that the University of Dallas’s religion should not be used to censor.

“UD is a Catholic, liberal arts school, and it has nothing to fear from Voltaire or Bernstein,” he said. “Our curriculum and culture presume faith, reason and imagination, the dialectic among which defines our vibrant culture.  UD’s wonderful Catholic character should not be used to prohibit speech deemed by some to be mistaken.”

However, Dr. Susan Hanssen, associate professor of history, said that she found it “embarrassing” for UD to perform “Candide.”

“I have always found adolescent displays of rebellion against the Christian tradition like Voltaire’s in the eighteenth century to be based on an appallingly shallow knowledge of what it is that they are trying to ‘execrate,’” she said. “If the University of Dallas is not a place of peculiar and surprising fidelity to the Catholic Church in a wasteland of banal secularism, then it is nothing.”

Father Thomas Esposito, a Cistercian priest of the theology department, sees both sides of the issue.

“I consider myself a monk of mercy, and in that sense, I see both sides of this argument,” he said. “If the drama department and music department want to collaborate with a composer as great as Bernstein, that’s fine. The fact that they would insist on a play such as this is somewhat strange to me … The church that is portrayed there is — I would hope — very different from the church that exists today.”

He is also concerned about the individual feelings of students and professors.

“I also see from an individual student’s or faculty member’s perspective the conscience question about how we feel offended by this,” he said. “And if feelings trump all else in today’s society, then they should be listened to by the departments.”

Dr. Theresa Kenney, associate professor of English, also brought up the issue of conscience, questioning, “the responsibility of Christian teachers toward their students.”

“If they believe their role is to loosen up the young people’s tightly-wound consciences, they are wrong,” she said. “To make another’s conscience less sensitive is to seduce, and not to teach.”

Also of the English department, Dr. Eileen Gregory expressed concern about the proper perception of UD’s identity.

“I am distressed to feel … the sense that many people think that we are first a Catholic school and secondly a liberal arts school,” she said. “I think that will destroy us. We are hospitable to the Catholic tradition … but we are aiming at a liberal arts education first, not a Catholic education first … And it ought to be characterized by hospitality.”

President Keefe also weighed in on the play’s controversial nature.

“We must be able to acknowledge worldviews of others, and Voltaire’s 18th century satire provides an opportunity for students not to feel attacked, but rather to respond with poise, patience, and wisdom,” he said in a written statement. “Candide is in no way representative of The University of Dallas’s enthusiastically Catholic spirit, but it is a small piece of a larger conversation you may encounter outside of the classroom.”

However, Dr. Joseph Piccione, Catholic moral theologian from Peoria, Ill. noted the disruptive impact on student cast members.

“I was struck by the witness given by the cast members whose discomfort rose to the point in which they left a project in which they were so hoping to participate,” he said.  “That was an act of heroic virtue.   Perhaps a future calculus of future productions would include the impact on student-actors. As a part of campus life, theatre productions should foster inclusivity.”

Dr. Kristin Van Cleve, chair of the music department and Novinski will be collaborating in the directing of the play. They assured The University News that students who do not want to participate “will not face any punitive measures.”

Novinksi believes that the controversial topics must be dealt with and that satire is one way of doing so. He explains just how some of these difficult subjects will be treated in the play.

Regarding rape, a topic that has been gaining attention in today’s society, Novinski said that he will not show rape on stage, but that it will also not be ignored.

“Rape happens. The word rape will be said. People will be referred to as having been raped because this is about the horrors of a certain period of time,” Novinski said.

Concerning implications of homosexual clergymen, Novinski said that those will be treated carefully. There will be no obviously gay priests.

“I know where I work. I am very sensitive to the community as my track record shows,” he said.

Van Cleve and Dee Donasco, vocal director for the operetta, each of whom have a role in Candide’s production, stressed that the music was especially compelling to them.

“The thing about Candide is that it’s rarely done in colleges because of the difficulty,” said Donasco. “It’s time to step outside the box and do something different.”

At the same time, Donasco is aware of what is at stake. “We have to be careful, too, because the administration could shut us down.”

Novinski stated that he is surprised by the controversy his decision is raising. The drama department did, however, bring the play beforehand to Dr. Charles Eaker, Dean of Constantin College, who is in charge of approving potentially provocative events on campus.

“What we ask faculty to do is if they are going to host a speaker or put on a production that they feel is controversial, they’ll bring those things to me and we can discuss them. So in this case, it was recognized that this … was something that could be misunderstood on campus,” said Eaker.

Regardless of whether or not students or faculty believe in the virtue of producing a play with anti-Catholic sentiments, according to Novinski, UD is “100 percent going to do the musical” and students can judge the morality of “Candide” themselves when it comes to campus.


  1. “President Keefe also weighed in on the play’s controversial nature….
    “‘Candide’ is in no way representative of The University of Dallas’s enthusiastically Catholic spirit, but it is a small piece of a larger conversation you may encounter outside of the classroom.”

    The full-stop should be here: Candide is not simply not representative of our Catholic identity, but openly hostile towards it. The problem with the rhetoric supporting the staging of Candide is that it could be used almost wholesale with little changes to support such horrific productions as The Vagina Monologues, which have themselves been produced at nominally Catholic universities with great criticisms by the Cardinal Newman Society (one of our great supporters). One can’t simply wave liberal arts around as a label to suggest an absolute academic freedom without responsibility to the community. While Dr. Crider is right in saying that UD’s culture allows a vibrant realm of discussion and dialectic, Voltaire is a thinker who attempts to openly disrupt such a cordial conversation by mocking many of the participants; the play is not only problematic because of our Catholic identity, but because by subjecting the faith and allegiance to the Church of many of the students and faculty to ridicule, it undermines our ability to have civil discussion, and undermines the exercise liberal arts themselves.

    While the Enlightenment is a necessary object of study for a Catholic school (who at least needs to know about the philosophical influences which were problematic for main currents of modern theology) and for a liberal arts education (which needs to understand the schools of thought which caused it to be a minority on the educational scene rather than the presiding magister), there are many better Enlightenment thinkers to study than Voltaire, who is stridently anti-Catholic and hated the Church. (sure, many Enlightenment thinkers hated or disliked the Church, but not as many of them wrote horribly immoral clerics into their works). In any case, it’s quite different to study such thinkers in a class, where students may maintain their own points of view, rather than enfleshing their ideas on stage, where students are used as vehicles directed to ram against the Church. Clearly, some students understood this difference, and chose not to participate.

    Now, I’m no stodgy old codger who has no sense of humor and can’t appreciate a joke; G.K. Chesterton once wrote that “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it” (Spiritualism: http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/20607/). However, he was referring to using the everyday and having a childlike sense of humor, which loves first, and because ones loves, one is able to see things as funny. This is quite different from the caustic satire of Voltaire, who views the Church and Catholics as objects of hatred, and seeks to demean and diminish them.

    There are quite a number of lovely, challenging musical/theatrical combos; some of them might not be as popular, but that might mean that our students have to be a bit more creative, a task they’re well prepared for. Art is not an excuse for mockery.

    • I feel it is easy to say that the Catholic opinion is being undermined at UD when the truth is, 80% of our populous is Catholic. They are not being undermined, and the discussion is in no way against them in fact, its quite the opposite. How can you suggest people keep their own points of view if what you are suggesting is censorship in the church’s favor?

      it seems that your argument is for discussion, so long as it favors you. the question I pose to you is this:

      is art only art when it agrees with you? If so, since no art agrees with everyone, what are we doing here?

      art is outside of your religion, and yes, it will criticize it. As someone who values education you should also value opposing viewpoints. We must not be afraid of dissenting opinions because it is then that we become closed, obtuse, and the mistakes that are discussed in this work of art stand to be replicated.

      • I said nothing about Catholic opinion being undermined; if you reread my comment, you will see that I wrote that the insulting nature of this play as a mockery undermines the ability for constructive dialogue.

        I am not suggesting censorship of anyone’s personal opinion; I am rather asserting that it is inappropriate for a department of the University of Dallas (which is bound to support the University’s mission statement and contribute to that mission) to show a play which belittles the Church and mocks the faithful for their faith.

        The problem also is that the performance of a play is not oriented towards discussion: to quote Bishop John D’Arcy’s criticism of Notre Dame’s permitting the performance of the Vagina Monologues (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8075):

        “Even if one could make a case that this play has academic merit, it could be read in class. When a book or play is read in class, the student expects it to be discussed and critiqued; indeed, this is an essential part of the classroom experience. This is not so when one attends the performance of a play. One generally goes to a play and leaves; staying afterwards to listen to a panel discussion about the play is not inherent in the activity of attending a play.”

        I didn’t make any claim about the play not being art – what I did say is that “artistic expression” is not a expression which gives one carte blanche to do whatever one pleases.

        Artists can do what they may, and criticize those whom they wish. I’m not going out to an external venue and complaining that what they have chosen to do is offensive, and petitioning Barack Obama to shut them down. What I am opposed to is mockery by a subset of the University of the Church from which it draws its life, vigor, and inspiration, and to which a majority of the students and faculty are loyal to.

        Sure, my mother may have her flaws; but those are a subject for close personal care, not open mockery in the street. The same goes for Mother Church; the University has a responsibility to personally address problems in the Church, by seeking to work within the Church to pursue truth, virtue, and justice. But such care must come in the context of love, which builds up, rather than hatred, which simply tears apart and ruins. Sponsored open mockery of the Catholic Church has no place at a Catholic university, especially one which is oriented towards teaching truth and virtue.

        • “One generally goes to a play and leaves; staying afterwards to listen to a panel discussion about the play is not inherent in the activity of attending a play.”

          Actually, every main stage production at the University of Dallas has this thing called “talk backs” meant to facilitate exactly that, a discussion. The actors, the director and occasionally the designers come back on stage and dialogue with the audience about the piece. Theatre is always meant to provoke a conversation and the practice of talkbacks is inherent to the way the University of Dallas approaches theatre.

          • Again, the last part of the quote is important.

            While talk backs are regular, they are not a necessary part of the event for the audience members, which means they are not inherent. I’m sure an interested minority of most productions stay for talk backs – but it is an interested minority.

  2. Hanssen’s comments are brushed over to this article’s detriment. This isn’t just anti-Catholic satire, this is *bad* anti-Catholic satire. This is the 18th century equivalent of a Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer movie. If you’d asked the faculty whether Candide was any *good*, most would have likely responded in the negative, or at best admit it was occasionally humorous.

    Of course, this is the department that put on Big Love, which was essentially two hours of teenagers shouting at each other “CONSUMERISM!” “FEMINISM!” so we shouldn’t expect them to have anything resembling good taste when it comes to satire.

    The production will look very pretty, as it always does, I suppose, so the department’s reputation will remain intact.

  3. I am shocked, yes, shocked, that the Drama Department is putting on such an anti-Catholic play. They NEVER have done ANYTHING mediocre just to push people’s buttons before and frankly, I cannot believe that they would do such a thing.


    Oh look, they’re trying to be edgy again.

  4. A balanced and interesting article which will hopefully foster a better informed discussion of this issue in the UD community. Well done, Emily Lataif.

  5. I’m not sure why anyone is questioning whether it is artistically “good.” Of course it is. It has won and been nominated for numerous Tony Awards. Bernstein and Wilbur are two of the greatest American artists of our time. The Candide overture has “become one of the most frequently performed orchestral compositions by a 20th century American composer.” If you want to argue against Candide on a theological or moral level, I understand. But it is ignorant to argue against it as a work of great art.

    • Well, Hanssen’s comments were (obviously) about the novel, as were mine. The music may be quite good; that doesn’t change the value of the satirical content. Citing the Tony’s is a bit odd; transformers 3 was nominated for several Oscar’s, (and its technical, visual effects were quite good), but it would be obviously silly to cite these nominations as evidence of it being a “work of great art.”

      The only hope this play has for being good is if it diverges massively from its source material. The above article indicates that this is not the case.

      • The aim of Hanssen’s comments and the morality of the satire aside, this libretto is artistically beautiful. The vast majority of music critics would agree with that statement. There is a reason it has gained such acclaim from the music and drama world. Any arguments against the play should not be made from artistic point of view. To do so would be, as C said, ignorant.

        • “ignorant” they said. “ad hominem” I said.

          Going against critics doesn’t make you ignorant, categorically.

        • Ok, but again, it would be ignorant to claim that the special effects of something like Avatar were anything other than beautiful. That doesn’t make Avatar a good movie. It means a beautiful thing was attached to something completely banal.

          What it sounds like is that the music department would be entirely justified in showcasing the music. Mainstaging the play on the other hand is just a waste.

  6. If UD students and faculty aren’t willing to even recognize the fact that some within the Catholic Church are still guilty of some of these horrible, despicable acts (e.g. rape), then I don’t even know why we call ourselves “independent thinkers”. It seems that through our staunch disapproval for the production of this play, we are biased and unwilling to recognize (in this case, through a play) that these issues even exist. That frankly is much more childish than satirically representing these issues.

  7. CJ, everyone knows the faults of the Church and its past wrongdoings. The Church is routinely ridiculed in the media. The problem with Candide is that it doesn’t seek to spark a discussion; its objective is to paint the Church as a hypocritical and predatory institution. There is a fundamental difference between pointing out flaws and having a constructive discussion of how to address them versus outright denigration of another’s core values.

    • If we adapted it exactly as Voltaire did, then we would have to paint the Church as “a hypocritical and predatory institution”. The beauty about adapting a play is that we can take the issues presented in this play and tackle them with an interpretation befitting a Catholic institution. By doing so, we acknowledge these problems still exist as they did in medieval times, and thus can start a fruitful discussion on how to tackle them. To run from that task because it is controversial seems very childish and immature

  8. And all–just a reminder of what Dr. Gregory pointed out: UD is a LIBERAL ARTS school–not a Catholic school that happens to promote the liberal arts. And the Catholic spirit–the Holy Spirit–that walks these hills is not one with the tactics of fundamentalists of other ilks that circle the wagons. As St. Paul said–nothing will separate us from the love of God! Geesh, folks! We ain’t Ave Maria or Steubenville for a frikkin’ good reason!

    • Randy,

      UD is a Catholic, liberal arts school – neither of the two is dispensable, and each must coexist. UD is a school in the line of Dawson’s “Crisis of Western Civilization” (which I assume you may have read). We’re not Ave or Steubenville – but we’re also not Notre Dame or Georgetown. Both types of schools are discussed by Dawson, and he suggests that they are both problematic.

      From the University of Dallas’ mission statement:

      “The University as a whole is shaped by the long tradition of Catholic learning and acknowledges its commitment to the Catholic Church and its teaching. The University is dedicated to the recovery of the Christian intellectual tradition, and to the renewal of Catholic theology in fidelity to the Church and in constructive dialogue with the modern world.”

      The problem with the presentation of Candide, and specifically with it being performed rather than read in class, is that it in no way contributes to constructive dialogue; Voltaire was stridently anti-Catholic, and used his God-given gifts to mock the Church and ridicule believers as morons.

      Also, I’m sure a large group of UD students would be dissatisfied with you labeling them as fundamentalists – while it’s a great way to avoid an argument, it’s ultimately an ad hominem, and not helpful to rationally speak about this issue.

    • Dr. Gregory’s comments are erroneous because the University of Dallas is catholic prior to its being an institute of Liberal Education. It is not merely hospitable to the Catholic Tradition; rather, the Catholic tradition transcends, and permeates the very fabric of each effort of the University. It is, therefore, capable of Sin. It should not shy away from teaching against sinful things, but it should never glamorize evil. This play is evil. There is a difference between portraying it and reading it as study. The greatest problem is that some students have felt that such a production would compromise their consciences. If these students wanted to compromises their conscience, then there are public universities for them to attend at half the price.

  9. As a recent graduate of the University of Dallas, I was rather surprised to read about this controversy.

    With the debate as to Candide’s artistic merit aside (I know very little about this particular play and thus cannot add anything useful to the conversation), I confess, I’m confused why people have responded so strongly against the play.

    Although UD is well known for its staunch and faithful Catholicism, we still read the works of John Calvin and Martin Luther (both of whom were intensely anti-Catholic) as a part of the Core. We never questioned whether reading Calvin’s Institutes would destroy students’ faith, or impugn UD’s honor as a faithful Catholic university. We read these works in order to know the ideas which led people from the Truth as embodied within the Church. To learn the differences so we can develop appropriate answers.

    Clearly, UD is not uncomfortable with writings that are contrary to Church teaching, nor does it ban authors who are vehemently anti-Catholic.

    Condemning Voltaire and Candide for these reasons would seem to propose a very inconsistent attitude, namely, that we can study *ideas* which have led men and nations astray in the name of our liberal arts education, but that viewing *experiences* which have done exactly the same thing is somehow morally unacceptable. The experience of a corrupt 18th century clergyman did no lesser harm than the rationalistic and postmodern philosophies we study in the Philosophy Core classes. Allowing one but not the other seems to me inconsistent at the very least.

    Perhaps the controversy stems from questions of content, as has been suggested frequently in the article. Rapists and prostitutes and corrupt church leaders? Surely we cannot allow such shameful characters on our beloved campus. Even though Christ himself dined with such sinners, while it was the Pharisees who turned them aside.

    In that case, I cannot help but wonder how students who cannot even allow the rapists, the corrupt leaders, and the prostitutes of a literary work into their experience expect to be able to face and serve the harsh realities of such people in the world.

    • There is a difference between valid, constructive criticism of a thing and a disrespectful mocking of it. I think students are trying to figure out where the production of Candide will fall on that spectrum. And then also whether all material on that spectrum is appropriate at UD or should a line be drawn somewhere.

    • Alumna,

      There is a difference in reading such authors and performing their works:

      I posted a quote earlier which suggests why. The performance of a play is not inherently oriented towards discussion: to quote Bishop John D’Arcy’s criticism of Notre Dame’s permitting the performance of the Vagina Monologues (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8075):

      “Even if one could make a case that this play has academic merit, it could be read in class. When a book or play is read in class, the student expects it to be discussed and critiqued; indeed, this is an essential part of the classroom experience. This is not so when one attends the performance of a play. One generally goes to a play and leaves; staying afterwards to listen to a panel discussion about the play is not inherent in the activity of attending a play.”

      The point of Candide (as Voltaire wrote it, strong elements of which seem to be preserved in the script to be used) is not simply to suggest that there are sinners in the Church, but to paint the Church as a hypocritical, predatory institution; in an age where the media and organs of society fester in a pool of such opinion, our University does not need to promote such vitriol which precludes discussion rather than invites it, presented in such a way that encourages that tendency.

      Also, your comparison to Christ dining with sinners is ill-fitting; he did so in order to bring them to himself and redeem them. Showing and discussing horrid acts of sin on stage and imputing them to priests does not serve the same end, but rather is a smear against the hierarchical Church.

  10. The Univeristy does not need to condescend to the theological level of the popular media (with which this production is clearly on par, as it seems nearly indistinguishable from a New York Times article on the Church set to music) to prove that it is an inclusive, “open-minded” institution.

    Instead of pressing any further in this argument, I’d rather point out that this discussion is in no way new or revolutionary, and has probably faced every Catholic university in the country at some point in time. Let’s pray that UD does not disappoint those who chose this school with the hope that the univerity’s fidelity to preserving the rich, truly educating instruction of the Catholic Church would surpass the watered-down religiosity at nominally Christian colleges.

  11. So, we can’t have a rich liberal arts college unless we put on plays that are outrageously anti-Catholic?

    Why do we have to do this? I wouldn’t want an outrageously anti-protestant play performed at a protestant University. It’s mean. And dumb.

    • “Outrageously” is quite the overstatement. Look at the anti-Catholic examples given in the article. Would you really say that they’re “outrageously anti-Catholic?” Have you even read the play? Because those examples given are basically as anti-Catholic as it gets. I would say most of the anti-Catholic sentiments are actually quite subtle.

      ex) “The Father Superior conceived the most tender affection for me” is anti-clerical because it suggests a possibly homosexual love between two clergymen. Pretty subtle if you ask me.

  12. If this work of art, as mocking as it may be of the Church, must be performed on any college for its artistic merit, let it be UD. As a devout Catholic and a fan of great music, I do not find it troubling to see this musical come to UD. I may be troubled, however, if it came to a nominally Catholic school such as Georgetown. I am confident that this student body, armed with the intellectual equipment of a core curriculum embracing Truth and a deep love for our Catholic faith, will give Candide the appreciation and criticism it’s due. I have complete faith, that the discussions that must surround this performance in order for it to be a healthy event for UD students will occur whether they are sponsored by the university or not. While I do not celebrate the rise of Protestantism under Martin Luther, I do celebrate his criticism and rejection of the corruption within the Catholic Church concerning the use of indulgences. I am sure there are aspects of Candide that I will favor, and others that I will reject. I feel prepared to read Martin Luther’s 95 theses, just as I feel prepared to view Candide. As much as I reject the nihilism and anti-Christian sentiments of Nietzsche, I cannot deny that the style of his rhetoric was admirable, poetic and at times even beautiful. But I would be apprehensive to study Nietzsche at any school other than UD (along other likeminded Catholic Institutions), just as I would be apprehensive to embrace Candide at a school other than UD.

    I am also sure that there is line that must be drawn for events that may be seen as attacking or mocking the Church. The V Monologues is an obvious example of crossing this line. I look forward to further discussions about where the line should be drawn.

  13. Sure UD students are mature and such a play would probably not (hopefully not) cause any to lose their faith.

    Discussion of student maturity, artistic merit, academic freedom, and liberal arts aside, at the end of the day the question we have to ask ourselves is: would the performance of such a play at our beloved university (which is first and foremost a Catholic one) be pleasing to Our Lord and to Our Lady? I think not.

    • It’s embarrassing (but hopefully not telling) that it took this long for someone to make this point. Thank you, David Ramirez!

  14. This quote from a friend may sound naive, but I think there is a lot of truth in it. And I think St. Thomas More and St. Thomas Aquinas — good company for any traveling the road of true learning, as both were much more intimate acquaintances of truth, goodness, and beauty that any of us can ever can hope to be — would strongly agree.

    “To the extent that something waving the flag of the ‘liberal arts’ forces us to do anything other than love and honor Our Holy Mother, the Church, we have mistaken the way of truth, goodness, and beauty. For He Who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty would not have us mock His Bride to learn His ways.”

    And I would add: It is only in the service of truth, goodness, and beauty that the much-vaunted “liberal arts” have any value.

  15. Dr. Eileen Gregory’s comments are concerning to me as a UD parent. To say that “We are hospitable to the Catholic tradition … but we are aiming at a liberal arts education first, not a Catholic education first,” makes it sound as if Catholicism is merely tolerated at UD, rather than embraced and celebrated. Catholic families have very few choices of colleges with authentic Catholic identities, and we were thankful to have found UD on the Newman list of colleges that pledge to stay faithful to Church Teaching and promote those same Teachings. Liberal arts colleges, particularly ones that are more than happy to denigrate Christian moral values at every opportunity, (including those which are Catholic in name only), are a dime a dozen. On the other hand, a liberal arts college that is authentically Catholic, is a treasure to be valued and protected. If even a small minority of the staff feels the same way as Dr. Gregory, I’m fearful that UD will no longer possess Catholicity at its foundation and core. I’m also concerned that efforts to promote among students, the joy of actually living the Catholic Christian life on a daily basis, will be thwarted by those who seek to relegate UD to the category of a liberal arts school that, by the way, speaking in a whisper, happens to be catholic, with a lower case “c” and followed by an embarrassed clearing of the throat. Any student or staff member that is ashamed of the vibrant Catholic identity of UD, would most certainly be happier on another campus. UD is Catholic. UD is first and foremost, Catholic; it is Catholic in education, in words AND in deeds. And thank God for that! Lastly, Louis Hannegan, what a beautiful quote you have chosen. The saints, as always, nail it!


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