Copy of VRJ vs. The Space: The Battle of Semantics

Majo James, Staff Writer

Most campuses across the United States ensure that their students have access to safe sex by providing contraceptives. However, this is not the case with most Catholic universities, including Villanova. 

According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the use of artificial birth control is a sin, as the goal of sexual intercourse is procreation. Rather, the Church promotes abstinence outside the realm of marriage as the ideal way of life. 

The reality is, that this is not a view shared by the majority of college students. Instead, sexual education via promoting contraceptive use and other safe sex practices has been shown to decrease rates of unplanned pregnancies and STDs. 

Villanova is an Augustinian Catholic institution that abides by the teachings of the Vatican, and as a result, contraceptives are contraband on campus. In response, a group of students have banded together in an attempt to lobby for University support in their quest to ensure access to contraceptives on campus, initially naming themselves Villanovans for Reproductive Justice (VRJ). 

Despite general support from the University, the student group ran into several problems. For one, it was strictly prohibited from operating under the title, Villanovans for Reproductive Justice. Nor could it include the distribution of contraceptives as one of their main goals. It is important to note that the reason behind this is not the Villanova administration, but the Catholic Church as a whole. 

The Catholic Church has the ability to revoke the title of “Catholic” from any institution if the Church deems that it has strayed from Catholic doctrines to the point where the two no longer align. So, even if the University shows a degree of support for The Space (as the group is now called), it is unable to allow the students to do the work they would like without jeopardizing the Catholic status of the University as a whole.  

Student opinion on this is split.

“I don’t understand why they’re getting hung up over this when students can just buy the stuff they need from nearby pharmacies, especially if something like that would get us in trouble with the church,” an anonymous student said.

However, nursing student Katie Pichanick disagreed.

“I think we should definitely have contraceptives on campus,” Pichanick said. “If it was just condoms, that’s one thing, but birth control is really inaccessible and it would be so much better if the University were to give them out.”

This issue will continue to be hotly contested on our campus and across the country, but unless the Catholic Church revises its position on contraceptives (which it has shown no intention of doing) Villanova will find itself continuing in this deadlock. 

For now, the administration should reconsider allowing the organization to name itself Villanovans for Reproductive Justice. Yes, the name is indeed bold, but that’s precisely the point. Contraceptive availability has been directly linked to women empowerment. An article from the National Library of Medicine states, “women’s decision making power and their autonomy within the household is the most important factor affecting contraceptive use.” 

Villanova’s administration being unable to allow contraceptives to be distributed on campus is understandable. However, approving Villanovans for Reproductive Justice would show the University’s commitment to women’s empowerment. VRJ has a place in our University where other student organizations, like Villanovans for Life, operate as well. 

On a campus with an administration that has made great progress with acceptance regarding pronouns and racial awareness (note, however, that this does not necessarily mean progress has been made in the student body or alumni), it is high time we make a commitment to supporting our female students, as well.