It’s Valentine’s Day, and time once again for right-wing Catholic groups to denounce academic freedom at Catholic colleges. But it’s also time for them to celebrate a victory in making The Vagina Monologues the most-censored play in America.
The far-right Cardinal Newman Society reports that nine Catholic colleges will be presenting the play this year: “While it is disturbing that any Catholic college would host such filth and present it to their students under the guise of doing it for a good cause, there is some hopeful news in that the number has dropped to nine from a high of 32” in 2003.
Performances of The Vagina Monologues appear to be as popular as ever, with 1038 events in the United States (including hundreds at colleges) happening around Valentine’s Day. So there’s very good reason to suspect that the Cardinal Newman Society’s campaign for censorship has been highly effective in causing Catholic administrators to turn their back on free speech. The wave of repression on campuses extends beyond one play, since the Cardinal Newman Society also takes credit for a sharp decline in “scandalous commencement speakers” at Catholic colleges.
What’s most interesting about this censorship is how little noticed it is. There are no stories I can find in the press this year about the repression. That’s how censorship works in the long term: if a play is banned once, that repression is often visible. But after that, no one bother to stage a play that’s going to be banned, and the censorship lies beneath the surface.