PARIS, France, October 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A group of Parisian Catholic students was beaten by riot police during a protest in front of a theater during the premiere of a blasphemous play by Italian playwright Romeo Castellicci, on Thursday evening.

On the Concept of the Face of the Son of God is a scatological representation of an old man wracked with diarrhea whose son wipes and cleans him repeatedly on stage under a large reproduction of a Face of Christ by Antonello da Messina. Brown feces fill the stage - synthetic odor included -, the two actors leave the stage, then a dozen children carrying schoolbags make their appearance and throw plastic grenades at the image of Christ. The image later appears to crack up and a dark liquid similar to the feces seen earlier invades the face which is then covered with the words, “You are not my shepherd”.

For the first night at the publicly subsidized “Théatre de la Ville” in Paris on Thursday, several unrelated groups organized public protests. One group had bought tickets and disrupted the show with stink bombs before climbing on the sage with banners proclaiming “Cathophobia : we’ve had enough”. Riot police entered the theatre to move out the protesters, some of whom were arrested.

Another group of young activists of the historic French royalist movement, l’Action française, chose to organize a peaceful demonstration in front of the theatre. A few dozen young French Catholics chained themselves to the railings of the theater under the noses of three vanloads of riot police (“CRS”) who quickly closed in to dislodge them. Heavy-handedly using their bats and teargas, the armored police forces beat up the young people, handcuffed them and forced many of them flat on the ground.

One young man who was lying handcuffed, with part of his body on the street, unable to move, was injured at this point when a police van backed into him, riding over his foot. The injury appeared to be severe as he was in great pain, and he was quickly evacuated by emergency services to the nearby “Hôtel-Dieu”, the historic Parisian hospital near Notre-Dame. As it turned out there was only a severe flesh wound. A complaint is being lodged against the police force responsible for this brutality.

Seventeen other young demonstrators were arrested and kept in police custody for 24 hours, at the end of which three of them were charged with “rebellion”. One of the young men has also been charged with “theft” as one of the police force’s caps was missing…

At the beginning of the week the rights defense group AGRIF (Alliance against racism and for the respect of French and Christian Identity) used an emergency procedure to obtain an order to block the showing of On the Concept of the Face of God. The request was rejected on the ground that some scenes were undoubtedly offensive and violent, but that they were susceptible to many contradictory interpretations.

The judge, Emmanuel Binoche, made clear that there is no anti-blaspheme law in France.  Although the judge was correct, anti-hate-crime laws nevertheless make it an offense to dishonor and ridicule believers through the most sacred aspects of their faith. Still Binoch ruled that AGRIF must pay the “Théâtre de la Ville” 1,200 euros in costs.

The judge’s stance aided by the fact that a few priests have been applauding Castellucci’s play for its thoughtfulness and insight.

On the other hand, a growing number of French bishops have publicly voiced their dismay at the rising number of anti-Catholic shows and plays: cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris and the spokesman of the French bishops’ conference, Mgr Bernard Podvin, both called on French Catholics to make their indignation public and to question public funding of the shows.

In December, Paris will be hosting a Hispano-Argentinian play called Golgota Picnic which outraged Spanish Catholics when it opened in January this year in Madrid. Like Castellucci’s work, it is obsessed with the image of Christ and heaps insults and accusations on the Church. Typically, it accuses the traditional representations of the Crucifixion of planting the seeds of pedophilia within the priesthood.

Another Catholic group which launched a petition (defendonslecrucifix.org) against these plays, “Civitas”, received support from a French bishops including Mgr Aillet of Bayonne and Mgr Aumonier of Versailles who encouraged Catholics to react against these “insults to our faith”.