Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

Paris Cardinal, several other bishops defend anti-Christian play

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
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PARIS, November 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Since On the Concept of the Face of the Son of God opened in Paris on October 20th, young French Catholics have peacefully but relentlessly organized nightly prayer vigils in front of the two theaters showing what they consider to be a grossly blasphemous play. Several hundred people, mostly young adults, have participated every night, with many arrested and taken into 48-hour or even 72-hour custody.

Dozens of the protesters have been charged with “interfering with freedom of artistic expression using violence,” the “violence” being defined as “praying and singing religious chants,” according to their lawyers. Three have lost their jobs when their employers noted their presence at the demonstrations in photos or videos posted on the internet.

Romeo Castellucci’s 55-minute “contemporary art” play features a blubbering old man wracked with diarrhea, whose son regularly comes to change his nappy and clean up his mess, until the incontinent father ends up covering the scene with pints of brown feces. All the while a portrait of the face of Christ by Italian Quattrocento painter Antonello da Messina covers the back of the stage.

Versions of the play differ from one night to the other. It included young children bombarding the portrait with plastic hand grenades when it played at the Festival d’Avignon this summer. All versions climax with the old man leaving the scene to climb a ladder behind the portrait, which is being torn open to violent and strident sounds, and then pouring brown liquid out of its eyes. At this point a strong smell of feces invades the theatre. The words “You are my Shepherd” then appear to cover the portrait in letters of light, with the word “not” flickering on and off to belie the statement. At the end, the portrait of Christ reappears intact.

The play was produced in Paris in two heavily subsidized theaters and will shortly be moving to the provincial towns of Rennes, Toulouse and Villeneuve d’Ascq, where more demonstrations are being organized against what is being criticized as sacrilege and a scandalous use of tax-payers’ money.

Since the first night, when unrelated groups organized protests inside and outside the theatre, and were subject to police brutality, access to the show has taken place under heavy police protection.

On one occasion, 150 people, mostly girls aged 18 to 25, were apprehended by the police as they were coming out of the busy central Metro station “Châtelet”, which is near the “Théâtre de la Ville”, to join the protest. They were then whisked away in police vans to stations in the North of Paris and charged after a two-day wait. Most police officers are reported to have indicated they were unhappy with the task and told the young Catholics that their orders had come from very high up.

A few young people bought tickets to attend the play and were promptly moved out by police when they got up and protested against the desecration of the Face of Christ.

The prayer vigils, as well as a demonstration organized on Saturday 29th October - over 5,000 attended at the call of “Civitas,” a lay movement associated with the traditionalist Fraternity of Saint Pius X - were overwhelmingly peaceful and prayerful. One isolated incident involved two students throwing eggs and engine oil at theatergoers as they entered the building.

By that time the mainstream press had already been piling criticism on the young Catholics, accusing them of violence and extremism. They are being portrayed as Christian “fundamentalists” and lowbrow reactionaries incapable of entering into an intellectual “dialogue” with the modern world of art.

Christine Boutin, leader of the French Christian Democrat Party, was quick to disassociate herself from the protesters, labeled “Catholic integrists,” alleging they had been “manipulated” by political or extreme religious movements into protesting against a play which is in no way a “sacrilegious provocation” but “a message about compassion.”

Especially discouraging for the protesters has been the fact that several bishops, including the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, and the bishop of Rennes, Mgr Pierre d’Ornellas, were publicly interpreted Castellucci’s dung-carting “work of art” as a legitimate portrayal of human decadence and a thought-provoking show.

The cardinal, referencing a term coined by Lenin, named the protesters “useful idiots” and called for the public demonstrations to stop. Mgr d’Ornellas asked Catholics to “take time to understand” the play: while the stage-play is “provoking”, he wrote, no “christianophobia is involved” and should only help remind everyone about “the most ordinary of trivial sufferings: man’s comedown in old age” answered by the “profound manifestation of love” on the part of the son. The old man “emptying himself of his dignity” should remind us of Christ “emptying Himself ‘unto death, and the death of the Cross’”, he added.

The bishop’s text made no mention of the omnipresent feces: he asked all Catholics to see Castellucci as someone who is on a quest for God. “Dialogue between the Church and contemporary art is a necessary (if difficult) approach to evangelization”, he wrote.

Many ordinary Catholics have found this intellectualism hard to swallow. They have been asking the Church hierarchy not to brush over the fact that an image of the Saviour is being deliberately covered with what looks and smells like human feces in a heavily subsidized public play.

The protesters also felt strongly betrayed when three Catholic priests of the Paris region, a philosophy master, a TV producer, a well-known blogger, as well as a Christian pop group, co-signed an op-ed in the mainstream, strongly anti-Catholic Le Monde newspaper last Friday. 

While asking for “respect” for the “symbol of Christ”, the op-ed assured that demonstrations against Castellucci’s play have given a caricatural image of Catholics when they should have been choosing to show a “desire for dialogue” instead of “withdrawal”. They added that the bishops should “have the upper hand when it comes to discerning” at what point Christian beliefs are “really being insulted”.

However, a dozen French bishops did give their written support for the actions against “christianophobia.” Mgr Centène of Vannes wrote a firm letter invoking the example of persecuted Christians in the Near and Middle East.

“I congratulate and encourage all those who, consistently with their faith, do not hesitate to act publicly, and who, although never using violence, either verbal or physical, are apprehended by the police force and kept in custody, when they demonstrate, in all justice, their disapproval of performances which are appalling beyond belief”, he wrote on October 27th to “Civitas”, the group organizing the large demonstrations in Paris, Rennes (next Thursday) and Toulouse in two weeks’ time.

Catholic journalists are analyzing Romeo Castellucci’s other works and his fascination with bizarre scenes and inverted beliefs.

On the Concept of the Face of the Son of God is said to have obvious Freudian associations with its obsessive portrayal of excrement. Previous plays include Gènesi, which shows God as an ineffectual Creator of an evil world of horror where Lucifer symbolizes art, and a trilogy from Dante’s Divine Comedy, where Heaven is a depersonalizing place in which all identity is lost to the unending boredom of eternal worship and Hell, a place where horror is rife but man is himself and finds “paradoxical sweetness”.

A former adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil shocked the London public a few years ago with a scene showing the main character pushing shards of glass into his anus while saying the name of Our Lord. This play will shortly be showing again in Italy.

The AGRIF, (Alliance against Racism and for the respect of French and Christian identity) filed two emergency lawsuits against public authorities for having funded and displayed “On the Concept of the Face” in two Parisian theaters. Both were lost, and in both cases it was decided that no attack against Christian’s dignity and religious rights was involved.

Public disavowal of Catholic protesters by certain members of the Catholic hierarchy are suspected of influencing the decisions. But the AGRIF, which gets little or no publicity in the mainstream press, has been receiving letters of encouragement and e-mails by the hundreds.

In spite of the odds, the AGRIF is preparing for a new legal battle against Golgota Picnic, which will open shortly in Toulouse before coming to Paris in December. This show by Hispano-Argentian contemporary playwright Rodrigo Garcia is considered even more blasphemous and obscene than the Romeo Castellucci play.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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