Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Paris Cardinal, several other bishops defend anti-Christian play

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
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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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Princeton Professor Robert George speaks at the Legatus conference. Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Princeton’s Robert George: Are you ready to pay the price? The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over

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ORLANDO, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- “It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel,” said Princeton Professor Robert George to a large crowd at the Legatus Summit in Orlando, Florida last weekend. Professor George added that people can still safely identify as “Catholic” as long as they don’t believe, or will at least be completely silent about, “what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.”

He said “the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call ‘political correctness,’” will still grant a comfort to a Catholic ashamed of the Gospel, “or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed.”

The Princeton professor, who has been a leader in the fight for life and marriage, reminded his audience of Christ’s words: “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.” “We American Catholics, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless Gospel truth. There will be no ignoring it now,” he remarked.

Are we “prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism do not wish to hear spoken?” he asked.

For Catholics, and Evangelicals in America, he said, “it is now Good Friday.”  To a rousing standing ovation Professor George concluded:

The memory of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded.  Yes, he had been greeted—and not long ago—by throngs of people waving palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’  He rode into the Jerusalem of Europe and the Jerusalem of the Americas and was proclaimed Lord and King.  But all that is now in the past.  Friday has come. The love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over.

Fearing to place in jeopardy the wealth we have piled up, the businesses we have built, the professional and social standing we have earned, the security and tranquility we enjoy, the opportunities for worldly advancement we cherish, the connections we have cultivated, the relationships we treasure, will we silently acquiesce to the destruction of innocent human lives or the demolition of marriage? Will we seek to ‘fit in,’ to be accepted, to live comfortably in the new Babylon? If so, our silence will speak.  Its words will be the words of Peter, warming himself by the fire:  ‘Jesus the Nazorean? I tell you, I do not know the man.’

The saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes, integrally, the teachings of His church on the profound and inherent dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage as a conjugal bond—a one-flesh union….

The question of faith and fidelity that is put to us today is not in the form it was put to Peter—“surely you are you this man’s disciple”—it is, rather, do you stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife?  These teachings are not the whole Gospel—Christianity requires much more than their affirmation.  But they are integral to the Gospel—they are not optional or dispensable.  To be an authentic witness to the Gospel is to proclaim these truths among the rest. The Gospel is, as St. John Paul the Great said, a Gospel of Life.  And it is a Gospel of family life, too.  And it is these integral dimensions of the Gospel that powerful cultural forces and currents today demand that we deny or suppress.

One day we will give an account of all we have done and failed to do. …

One thing alone will matter: let me say this with maximum clarity—whether we stood up for the truth, speaking it out loud and in public, bearing the costs of discipleship that are inevitably imposed on faithful witnesses to truth by cultures that turn away from God and his law. Or were we ashamed of the Gospel?

If we deny truths of the Gospel, we really are like Peter, avowing that “I do not know the man.”  If we go silent about them, we really are like the other apostles, fleeing in fear. But when we proclaim the truths of the Gospel, we really do stand at the foot of the cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John the disciple whom Jesus loved. We show by our faithfulness that we are not ashamed of the Gospel. We prove that we are truly Jesus’s disciples, willing to take up his cross and follow him—even to Calvary.

But lest we fail the test, as perhaps many will do, let us remember that Easter is coming.  Jesus will vanquish sin and death. We will experience fear, just as the apostles did—that is inevitable. Like Jesus himself in Gethsemane, we would prefer not to drink this cup.  We would much rather be acceptable Christians, comfortable Catholics. But our trust in him, our hope in his resurrection, our faith in the sovereignty of his heavenly Father can conquer fear.  By the grace of Almighty God, Easter is indeed coming. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel.  Never be ashamed of the Gospel.



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Planned Parenthood investigator Daleiden refuses plea deal: ‘What we really want is an apology’

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URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - This morning, Harris County prosecutor's office offered David Daleiden a plea deal. His legal team, in turn, made a counter-offer.

"The only thing we're going to accept right now is an apology," said Terry Yates, one of four attorneys who flanked Daleiden down the corridors of the courthouse as he visited two court rooms to face felony and misdemeanor charges.

He confirmed an offer had been made but was unlikely to be accepted.

Instead, Yates said that a hearing before Judge Brock Thomas of Texas District 338 had been scheduled for March 28. "At that time, we anticipate filing a couple of motions" asking that all charges be dismissed at once. "We believe the indictments are factually and legally insufficient."

"The old Texas expression 'all hat and no cattle' - that's what we believe these indictments are. There's not much to them," he said.

Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society reiterated that stance during a press conference co-hosted by LifeSiteNews at 11 a.m. local time.

When asked if Daleiden would plead guilty to lesser charges offered by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Breen replied, "At this point, no."

"What we really want is an apology," Breen said, standing next to fellow counsel Briscoe Cain, Texas attorney for Operation Rescue. "He deserves an apology...He is innocent."

His legal team felt certain he would prevail on the substance of the charges without admitting guilt to any of them.

"The reality is David is a modern day hero," Jared Woodfill, another Daleiden attorney, told LifeSiteNews inside the courthouse. "He has exposed the wrongdoing that has been occurring at abortion clinics all across this country. And the fact that he's here today is a miscarriage of justice."

"He will be vindicated," he said.

The 27-year-old Daleiden appeared unflappable - smiling, well-groomed, wearing a black jacket, blue shirt, and black tie as he spoke briefly with reporters, including LifeSiteNews.

"I'm very grateful for all the support from the public, especially from the people of Houston," he said, some of whom held handmade signs that said "I Stand with Sandra and David" as he presented himself for booking and paid bail this morning.

Attorneys did not disclose the terms of the agreement prosecutors had offered. If convicted, Daleiden and fellow pro-life investigative journalist Sandra Merritt face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

However, the charges could be dismissed at any time. LifeSiteNews delivered the first batch of signatures, more than 106,000, on its petition to the DA's office asking that all charges against Daleiden be dropped at once.

If that fails? "We're ready to go to trial," Woodfill told LifeSiteNews.

URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.



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First 100K petitions to drop charges against Daleiden delivered: ‘let’s double that’

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LifeSiteNews reporter Lisa Bourne and the Christian Defense Coalition's Patrick Mahoney deliver LifeSiteNews' petition to the Houston DA's office.
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URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Pro-life leaders have presented more than 106,000 signatures to the Harris County district attorney's office, demanding that charges be dropped against David Daleiden.

It was the first batch of signatures to be dropped off in LifeSiteNews' ongoing petition. It asks prosecutor Devon Anderson to dismiss the charges facing Daleiden and his fellow investigator Sandra Merritt, which could result in 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"Houston, we do have a problem," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition at a press conference at 11 a.m. local time.

"We are standing in solidarity and say, 'When you attack David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, you are attacking us and our community,'" Rev. Mahoney continued. "Do not proceed with these unjust indictments."

Congressman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, sent a statement to the gathering saying, "Instead of society persecuting the truth tellers, Planned Parenthood needs to answer for their gruesome practices," as well as apologizing to adoptive families like his own, which the abortion provider has "prevented from being whole."

The local indictment, made by the Houston-area grand jury last Monday, has drawn national coverage as the first skirmish in a war between Planned Parenthood and those who sought to expose their practices.

"In delivering these petitions, I am representing more than 100,000 people who demand that these charges against this 27-year-old man and his fellow investigator be dropped at once," said LifeSiteNews reporter Lisa Bourne.

"The next move is up to the Harris County DA's office," she said, reading a statement prepared by LifeSiteNews. "These petitions prove that the world is watching."

"The indictment is another example of Planned Parenthood's bare-fisted intimidation tactics," she added, similar to campaigns taken against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Andy Parrish, PR director for LifeSiteNews, who was in Houston with Bourne, said he was honored to tell David of the 106,000 LifeSite petition signers who were standing with him. "These signatures are just the beginning. The coalition standing behind David is growing. We've got 100,000, but let's double that."

David Daleiden addressed the crowd alongside two of his attorneys, Peter Breen and Briscoe Cain, and thanked all those who showed their support for him during his latest legal showdown.

"I just want to say thank you to everyone at LifeSiteNews and everyone who shared the petition, who signed it, and made it possible to deliver that today," Daleiden told LifeSiteNews. "It means a lot to me, and to Sandra, and to the Center for Medical Progress. Thank you for your faithfulness and for standing up for us."

URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

He hoped everyone would remain united in demanding justice be done - and, like Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, hopes that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast be indicted.

"I firmly believe that if we stay the course, if we stay together, we will bring about a day when there is no longer a price tag on human life," Daleiden said.

During the windy 45-minute-long press conference, speakers at the rostrum defended Daleiden's undercover journalism tactics in the face of sometimes hostile questions from the established press.

"No one can deny that this was the number one investigative journalism story of 2015," Rev. Mahoney said, citing statistics of the story's impact on the mainstream media.

In the new media environment of 2016, someone does not need a degree from Northwestern or Columbia to be a journalist, he said.

"He broke one of the biggest stories of the year," agreed John Hawkins of Right-Wing News, who sent in a written statement to the conference. Pressing charges against him sends a message to conservatives and Christians: "Sit down and shut up, or this just might happen to you."

"If this were a meat-packing plant investigation, there would be no question about his integrity," said Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. "He would be universally lauded as a hero. I think he's a hero...for getting the truth out."

"In the meantime, we're going to do everything we can do to stand with David," she said, "and see justice prevail."



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