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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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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