The protesters were very young, very angry, and very well-dressed.

No, this is not about the Occupy Wall Street idiots, with their roasted beat with goat-cheese and spinach salads.

A friend sent me a note about this fun story from Breitbart.

You know that something has gone dreadfully wrong when young people are defending the image of Our Lord from desecration and their bishops seem to prefer to stand back and defend free speech.

French far-right Christians besiege Jesus excrement play [Well… there it is!]

Paris police have arrested around 20 Christian fundamentalists [Oh, really?  Hugonots?  Nah… read on.] who burst into a theatre and threw stink bombs to protest against a play featuring the face of Christ drizzled with fake excrement.

Police made the arrests at the Theatre de la Ville, on the banks of the Seine near Notre Dame cathedral, during a performance of “On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God”, directed by Italian [figures] Romeo Castellucci. [Coward.  He didn’t write a play about the desecration of an image of Mohammed, did he.  Feeble attempt to shock the middle class, as I take it.  But the protesters, were perhaps not so middle class.  Read on.]

The play, which runs until October 30, is the story of an incontinent man being looked after by his son.

A copy of a huge portrait of Christ by Renaissance artist Antonello da Messina [Wonder which.] hangs at the back of the stage and appears to be covered in excrement towards the end of the performance.

After days of trying to get in, the protesters on Wednesday “entered the theatre and threw stink bombs into the auditorium, shouting: ‘Enough Christianophobia!‘” a police source told AFP.  [Wonder what that was in French.]

France’s ministry of culture blamed the demonstration on members of the Institut Civitas, which in April protested US artist Andres Serrano’s renowned “Immersion Piss Christ” photograph in the southern papal city of Avignon. [Good for them.]

Civitas head Alain Escada said: “Our mission is to spread the word about this performance and to organise a response.”

[Here’s the money quote….  and it just gets better every time you read it!] A spectator described the protesters as “very young people who are very angry but very well dressed.” Faced with a police cordon, they throw eggs and oil at the theatre and those going in, chanting in Latin or praying on their knees.  [They were, therefore, not French bishops.]

The association of French Roman Catholic bishops on Tuesday condemned “the violence perpetrated during recent performances… France’s Roman Catholic Church is neither fundamentalist nor obscurantist (opposed to enlightenment).”  [Who else but French bishops would use the word “obscurantists” to distance themselves from defending images of the Lord even as they are being desecrated.]

Dramatic luminaries including Juliette Binoche and Michel Piccoli have joined a committee to support the theatre, while Civitas has called for a mass demonstration “in Christ’s honour”.  [I will never like Juliette Binoche movies again!]

It’s insulting at the end of a scatological play to sully the portrait of Christ by making people believe that it’s faecal matter that has dirtied it, wounding so many believers,” the Insitut Civitas said on its website.

You decide.

Let’s first look at it this way:

I am in favor of the...

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Now let’s see it this way:

Concerning desecration of the image of Christ in public for the sake of art.

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Chose your best answer and give your reasons in the combox, below.

DO NOT engage each other in the combox.  Let everyone have their say.
Do not respond to them or engage them.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. skull kid says:

    Good on the Catholics. This play is totally unacceptable. Just imagine if there was a play and crap was thrown at a picture of a homosexual. It would immediately be labelled a hate crime. And that’s fair enough. Or the Islamic ‘prophet’ – there would be hell to pay. But Christ: anything goes.

  2. Frank_Bearer says:

    More evidence that members of the episcopacy should be classified under invertebrates.

  3. Phillip says:

    I am generally not in favor of censorship, even of blasphemy. The exceptions would be things like public displays of obscenity (in the legal sense of the term), or child pornography, or something along those lines. So for the second poll, I voted for the first option, albeit reluctantly. I am, however, in favor of vigorously protesting those who choose to blaspheme Christ in such a way (though perhaps throwing stink bombs was going a bit too far).

  4. Phillip says:

    …either the poll has changed, or I need to check my glasses prescription. I voted for “freedom with limits.”

  5. jbas says:

    “They were, therefore, not French bishops.” Funny, Father!

  6. wmeyer says:

    I sincerely doubt that there may be a government on the planet prepared to tolerate similar behavior with respect to any image of Mohammed; I support only a single set of standards on desecration.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    is obscurantist and proud of it, the so called enlightenment was the start of the attack on the Kingship of Christ

  8. Choirmaster says:

    Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12)

    (My java security doesn’t allow me to vote in these polls, but I would like to comment anyway) I say total freedom with no limits, with one qualifier: if the State (in its ineffable wisdom) would protect desecration of Christian imagery as a form of “free speech”, then it must uphold the same standard for the desecration of Islamic imagery, for the proponents of natural marriage against any real or perceived “homosexual” agenda, and for anti-abortionists’ display of imagery of the results of that procedure.

    For the record, I’m not the biggest fan of the anti-abortion images, I wouldn’t have any part in desecrating Christian imagery, and I don’t really care to possess Islamic imagery long enough to desecrate it. Also, I don’t mean to group anti-unnatural-marriage advocates with those who desecrate religious imagery or display the gruesome results of procured abortions, I just wanted to point out that they would need to have their “free speech” protected, as well.

  9. asperges says:

    They shouted,«Christianophobie, ça suffit !», and the perturbateurs were part of France Action Jeunesse, Action française, Renouveau Français and Institut Civitas.

    A report in French from Le Figaro for those interested, is here:

  10. Peggy R says:

    From what I’ve read, the protestors do not appear to be Catholic, but I saw a large crucifix being held by one. Good on these young people. I figure the French bishops have long ago made their “peace” such as it is, with secularist France. Shameful, indeed. Perhaps the young people may awaken a passion for the faith in the bishops…okay one can hope!

    As for the artistic freedom poll, I said freedom with limits. The limits should ideally come from a wholesome and moral society’s sense of decency, not from legislation. Society should reject such blasphemous art. I recall noting to my PSR students that until about the last few centuries, almost ALL European art (music, painting, sculpture or architecture) was for the Church (or the King). I think the change might approximate to the French revolution. Paris has historically been the most avant-garde and outrageous HQ of secular offensive art as well as traditional art back in the day.

  11. asperges says:

    Well, they were certainly not Protestants! See also (in English half way down):

    “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.”

  12. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Methinks the oft-convicted Brigitte Bardot is telling herself, “What gives?!” If France can police “hate speech”, not not police it all, or are Muslims the only group deserving of protection?

    My conclusion for the inconsistency: The “authorities” are afraid of violent Muslim retaliation. The French bishops are just as cowardly, of course. God save us.

  13. BaedaBenedictus says:

    *why not police it all

  14. Sam Urfer says:

    I think that artists should be free, but that protestors should be free to egg them in public and whatnot.

  15. Ralph says:

    We have free will. We must allow others an opportunity to act on their own free will, even when it disappoints us. They must work out their own salvation.

    By the way, I am assuming that the person is desacrating an image that they, themselves, own. I do not think we can allow vandalism.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    Freedom, with the traditional limits — creating a clear danger (shouting “fire” in a crowded place is the classic example), obscenity, or incitement to violence.
    While this borders on obscenity, it’s probably not there.
    And ‘free speech’ refers to inherent limitations on the government’s power to block speech.

    I am not familiar with the French law, but for years in England the Lord Chancellor could censor private plays that he considered detrimental, even in a most general way (I think that the production of The Mikado was halted while a Japanese delegation was in town, for fear it would offend them.) Of course that is “prior restraint” and hardly ever seen in the U.S.

    If there is no such discretionary restriction in France, then the way to deal with this is — the artist has the freedom to produce the work, and the people (including bishops and priests, particularly!) have the freedom to protest, shun, picket, boycott, interfere (legally) with the artist’s and the theater’s funding, and otherwise give them a serious hard time. Stink bombs, however, are probably falling into the “danger” category.

  17. eulogos says:

    Certainly I wouldn’t have police break into private art galleries and arrest the perpetrators of such things. However no public money should support them, and they should not appear in any venue supported by the taxpayers.

    I don’t know-that may mean that this desecration would be permitted by my rules. Protestors should also be allowed, but they should only be able to carry signs, not disrupt exhibitions or plays.

    Do we know that the descration was not meant to represent that ill treatment of an old man was like desecrating Christ, because the face of the old man is the face of Christ? I worked as an aide in a nursing home and saw my fellow aides abuse the elderly not by hitting them but by mocking their incontinence, their physical characteristics etc. I tried to see the face of Christ in the face of each of these old people. What you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done to me, right? I can see saying in words that offenses against these old people are offenses against Christ. Could the play be meant to demonstrate that?

    If it were, you could see the bishop’s point of view. You could still see the protestor’s point of view. But it is the kind of thing which makes me hesitant to say that we ought to have a law against ….. and how would you even write the law? It wouldn’t fly in the US, under our constitution, now would it?

    Susan Peterson

  18. Long-Skirts says:


    Took a glance
    In October
    Paris France

    Not from other
    Stange-gods’ creeds
    But Catholic young
    With Rosary beads

    Took a glance
    In October
    Paris France

    Not from mousy
    Mitred men
    But youth for Truth
    Tradition again

    Took a glance
    In October
    Paris France

    And though these men
    Are faintheart craven
    It’s “Nevermore!
    Quote the raven.”

    Took a glance
    In October
    Paris France

    You’ve had the best
    You show your worst
    The Catholic Faith
    Is still the first

    In October
    Paris France
    Still have a chance…
    …in Christ!

  19. JMody says:

    I do support the well-dressed and righteously angry protestors who form cogent thoughts, identify a specific action or group they oppose, and act decisively on it. This rules out everyone but the cops and poor Bruce, the overworked-chef-occupier, in the OWS situation.

    And should this be illegal? YES! Free speech does NOT cover things that are clearly meant only to offend. Can a play discuss religious disillusionment? Sure. Can it portray the hero as an apostate and better for it? Sure. But this, or Serrano >spit< and his ilk, is not saying something good or bad about religion in an adult fashion — this is saying "Ha! I can offend! And you can't touch me!" It is worse than libel or slander, and those are actionable. This is pornography of a very twisted sort — it serves no edifying cultural benefit, unless we are dung beetles, and rolling excrement in different ways at different times is a cornerstone of our lives.

    And not only that, the Church USED TO SAY that the State has the duty to defend the One True Religion …

  20. brjeromeleo says:

    I am surprised that no one has objected to the violence of the protest: throwing eggs, oil and stinkbombs, throwing eggs and oil on both theatre and people? That’s out of line. I support their objections completely, but the violent approach did harm to their cause and such violence ought never to be a part of Christian protest.

  21. pinoytraddie says:

    There was a recent exhibition,that showed a crucifix with a phallus(Only in The Catholic Philippines)


  22. PatrickJude says:

    All I have to say is to quote one of the promises made by the Redeemer to St. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque “I will bless the homes where an IMAGE of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.”

    May the Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on The Bishops and people of France and of the world..

  23. Gail F says:

    Aside: “Vingt-Trois” (“twenty-three”) is an amazing name.
    I said freedom with limits. Throwing excrement (real of faux) is past those limits. I could deal with throwing mud, depending on the message of the play. Theoretically, one could write a play in which a person who is NOT blaspheming throws mud at an image of Christ as a dramatic symbol of frustration and anger, but comes to grips with that anger. I don’t know if this play does so or not. But excrement is right out.
    When I was in college I saw a production of “J.B.,” a retelling of Job, which had no excrement or (as I remember) bad language but ended with the conclusion that God was cruel and terrible. The fact that there was no excrement doesn’t mean that it’s not an anti-God play.

  24. jlmorrell says:

    I’m surprised at how many classical liberals we have in this thread. I haven’t read a comment yet supporting, ideally, the complete suppression of this type of speech. How easily we all have abandoned the traditional Catholic approach to these matters and have adopted the ways of the enlightenment. Does the truth of certain speech, ideas, philosophies and religions not matter anymore? Or are we all content to allow error to mingle freely with truth in the public square.

  25. Ezra says:

    I’m reminded of when The Last Temptation of Christ was released in France. As Robin Riley describes in his study of the controversy:

    At the film’s September 28 opening in Paris, violent demonstrations broke out… At the UGC Odeon in the Latin Quarter, assailants attacked the entrance to the theater amid a rally of praying demonstrators. The attackes broke windows and lobbed tear gas canisters at the entrance… French resistors, in may cases led by Catholic clergy, assaulted theaters in several cities and towns, throwing firebombs, rocks, eggs, and tear gas. Thirteen policemen were injured in the Paris demonstrations alone and one theater was burned to the ground. In the face of persistent tear gas and incendiary attacks, five Paris theaters dropped Temptation after its first week.

    The French get a lot of stick for being “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”, but their traditionalists seem to put the lie to the epithet. I hope the young people who engaged in non-violent protest are treated with the same lenience that is usually shown to non-violent protesters for fashionable causes, but I won’t hold my breath.

  26. frjim4321 says:

    Even as the honorary Lunatic Fringe here I must say I don’t really understand the “Piss Christ,” and find it quite objectionable. Maybe there is some art scholar who can explain it. I did see the artist who appeared on the Colbert Report during a remarkably clever piece with Steve Martin on modern art, but he struck me as being a bit perverse. To me that piece was intended to be disrespectful. I can see elephant dung as being sacred in some cultures (e.g., the “Madonna,”) but I don’t see where urine is seen as being sacred in any culture.

    pinoytraddie: I think that was a worthy attempt at the San Damino crucifix which later someone said, “hey, that looks like . . . ” and unfortunately the image stuck even though it was never intended by the artist!

  27. frjim4321 says:

    piece meant to be disrespectful: I meant the art work, not the Colbert piece.

  28. marytoo says:

    There’s a great video of this protest – search for “french Catholic youth” and you will find it. These young people stretched a banner across the stage that said “Christophobie, ca suffit!” (I believe that means: Christian hatred, that’s enough!) while being roughly handled by security people. After several minutes of chaos, they linked arms, knelt and started to pray, a rosary by the looks of things.

  29. threej says:

    I’m reluctant to make a judgement on the matter until I know the content of the play itself.

    I seem to recall a story of a priest in a concentration camp who refusing to give up his rosary, was forced into a pile of his excrement. Depicting this in a play about his life would not be disrespectful, but to his glory.

    Likewise, why is the image of Christ covered in mock excrement at the end? Perhaps they are trying to state Christ is willing to be found in even the most brokenness of humanity, as the son cares for his sick father.

    Dunno. Could be a terrible play. But, I don’t know anything about it, so I can’t really jump to a conclusion.

  30. Hidden One says:

    From one Catholic youth (perhaps not so well-dressed) to other youth:

    Latin prayers and suchlike are a good way to protest this sort of thing. Next time, please stick with that. Jesus cleared out the Temple, not the theatre.

  31. Legisperitus says:

    Here’s the way I see it:

    All human acts have a moral dimension; i.e., they are subject to moral standards.

    Making art is a human act.

    Therefore, art is in no way exempt from the moral standards that apply to all human acts.

    So there is no more a right to desecrate an image of Our Lord for the sake of “art” than there is for the sake of sheer hatred.

    And, no matter how much we may forget it in this post-Christian world submerged in American-style pluralism, every State owes a duty to protect and uphold the true religion.

  32. HyacinthClare says:

    This is GOD these people are mocking and dirtying. If it’s time to choose to be on the side of the mockers or those protesting the mockery, I’m with the protesters.

  33. Martial Artist says:

    Yes, there should be freedom to do so, provided:

    (1) That no one doing so is initiating the use of force, fraud or coercion against any other person;
    (2) That it is not being done at public expense;
    (3) That there is equal freedom publicly to protest such desecration; and,
    (4) That there is freedom publicly to pray for the misguided wretches who think doing so is artistic, whether those persons are desecrators or paying spectators.

    Why? Because it is preferable to know who is so desperately in need of prayer for the salvation of their souls than to be ignorant of that need.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  34. Former Altar Boy says:

    [They were, therefore, not French bishops.] Too funny, Father!!

  35. cainech says:

    Freedom without responsibility is license.
    We are free to do as we please provided we behave responsibility within the context of respect for the opinions, points of view, beliefs and culture ways of others in our community.
    The persons responsible for the desecration of the image of Christ did not exercise freedom but license and they paid the price.
    The persons protesting this desecration were completely free to do so and, if these reports are accurate, did so with great style and grace: Bravo!

  36. mrose says:

    Error has no rights.

    As Legisperitus eruditely points out, for “art’s sake” is a non-sequiteur because the “doing” of art is still subject to the Moral Law. One cannot do anything just because it is art and be exempt from natural and Divine Law. This is a bastardized notion of freedom, for how can one be free when one blasphemes?

    May God bless those who stood up for Him in public. How despicable that the French bishops distance themselves from them, let alone condone the production. They are not worthy of their high office.

    And I too enjoyed your funny commentary on kneeling, Latin, and bishops, Father!

  37. wchoag says:

    Blasphemy is always mortally sinful as it is an offense against the majesty of God and a public scandal.

    Bring back to France the blasphemy laws of Charles X!

    “It is quite unlawful to demand, defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing or worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man” – Leo XIII, LIBERTAS PRAESTANTISSIMUM (42)

  38. Peggy R says:

    Institut Civitas’ web site does indeed indicate they are Catholique. Several encyclicals and documents produced by the institut are posted. One discusses the French Revolution, inspired by Satan, himself.

    The mayor, however, and most translated headlines called them “Christian fundamentalists.” Huh? In the US, that would not refer to a segment of the Catholic faith.

  39. Public blasphemy should not come under the aegis of free speech. Freedom does not mean freedom to do what we please, but freedom to do as we ought. At the very least, public blasphemy ought not to be protected by law.

    But the best way to deal with public blasphemy and sacrilege, in my judgment, is via social sanctions rather than legal ones. Social sanctions are very powerful things, and in some situations may be more powerful deterrents than fines or jail time. Blasphemy and sacrilege ought to be socially unacceptable. There should be a cultural and societal atmosphere in which people who want to do these sorts of things will be deterred by fear of public obloquy. The same societal disapprobation that we now apply to things like smoking or littering or failing to recycle should be applied to things like this play. Plus, in addition to being more effective than legal sanctions, which may serve only to create “martyrs” to freedom of speech, I think resorting to social sanctions is more in line with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity.

  40. Nicole says:

    Didn’t vote; couldn’t find a suitable option. The fact is, we can’t do evil that good may come of it. While I can sympathize with the sentiments of the young, well-dressed protestors, I cannot communicate with their actions. Same with the action of desecration of an image of Christ, we cannot do evil that good may come of it…and art has NO sake of it’s own :P Its purpose is to serve OUR sakes :)…

  41. Kathy C says:

    I voted for freedom with limits, in spite of my basically libertarian stance. It’s a matter of respect for peoples’ deeply held beliefs. I really think that it’s a horrible thing, but I can’t forbid someone to do it. If they had the real body of Christ or his Blood, it would be different. Legally they would have the right to do so, but I’d fight to keep them from it anyway.

  42. Joshua08 says:

    Well my answer is two fold.

    Certainly as a matter of principle such things should not be allowed. Let us not cloud our reason with cheap slogans like “well people have free will” yes they do, and for many acts of “free will” they can and ought to be punished. The Church has been very clear in the past that public acts of desecration and blasphemy should be outlawed by Christian rulers. Indeed, law is for the sake of virtue and, as St. Thomas taught, all vices are subject to human law- though not all specific acts. Those acts that are grave and hurt the public good are proper objects of prohibition. So perjury is outlawed, but not white lies told to one’s mother (she can deal with that!). Likewise, merely unbelief or private hatred is not subject to human law, but public acts against religion are. “Even” Vatican II called allowing such things a perversion of religious liberty.

    In the TLM yesterday was Christ the King. We are remind that all nations have a duty to recognize Christ. They also have a duty to the true religion. So certainly such acts are matter not of freedom, but public depravity

    That said, St. Thomas also taught us, and the Church allows, that evils be tolerated under the law when outlawing them would be more detrimental to the common good (through loss of respect for law, through the burden of enforcing it, etc). Considering, in the USA at least, the political situation it may do more harm than good, from a legal and political perspective, to outlaw such depravity in that in our society such a law would be used against good as well. Further, laws must be proportioned to the virtue of the majority of citizens, otherwise it will simply be ignored and held in contempt. Still, of course, it goes without saying that such things cannot be in anyway supported by the government. It is gravely sinful, then, to allow use of public venues or to fund such depravities

  43. tzard says:

    Freedom exists only that one may do the good. Evil has no rights. We shouldn’t confuse civil law with moral law – moral law calls on us to speak the truth, even if civil law prevents us from disrupting the wrongly-called freedom to do blasphemy.

    The civil law may call us to account but in the end we answer to God.

    I’m not calling for anarchy – I’m admiring measured freedom of action against evil. Violence, if created for anything – is there to act against evil. Let not the mores of the enlightenment or the rules of the committee prevent us from protecting the Honor due God.

  44. Phil_NL says:

    There’s moral freedom, and legal freedom; what you’re morally free to do is a substantially smaller category than what one should be able to do without running afoul of civil law.

    We should be very careful when it comes to the urge to thighten the restraints of civil law to encompass everything that’s morally reprehensible, as the government is a very imperfect tool when it comes to morality. (Roe vs Wade, anyone?) Chances are that the government – any government – will massively stray, and use its power to drastically curtail legitimate freedom. I’d rather not take that risk, no matter how grevious the insult to religion.
    First of all there’s again no guarantee that government will stick to the proper religion (imagine democracy turning the tables and using such laws in an islamic context, which is hardly a disutopian fantasy anymore in Europe), secondly: God can take care of these creeps himself, if need be. Pray for the souls of these lunatics, but keep government out of it.

    Protest, fine (stink bombs and throwing stuff are not methods to be used though, in my opinion); prohibition, never.

  45. Aethelfrith says:

    To those who champion blasphemy being outlawed, I suggest that you have a look at what is going on in Pakistan. If you want to get rid of a neighbour, accuse her of blasphemy. If the state doesn’t kill her, the Bearded Ones will.

    The situation is not exactly analogous (you don’t actually have to do anything to be killed for blasphemy in Pakistan…) but this is the logical endpoint in a world where religious sensibilities are sacrosanct. I’d much rather be able to demand that critics of Islam (or Hinduism in parts of India) be tolerated, and demonstrate our forbearance as a demonstration of a better way, than to fall back on the non-sequitur that it’s OK for us to punish blasphemy, but not people from other religions.

    As for this play, it sounds horrible, and I applaud a piquet outside. I’m not sure that assaulting police with eggs is helping much. And Action francaise, a Royalist group, is not unproblematic. It is conservative in the blood-and-soil sense, which is the worst kind of brittle conservatism. And I write this as a monarchist and a conservative (Australian, you can all breathe easy!)

  46. NoraLee9 says:

    Hubby is an art teacher at a prestigious NYC HS. Every week he has been subjected to meetings around some “assessment” the students must pass. Somehow it has been decided that they must write an essay either attacking or defending the stance that Serrano’s and Ofili’s works, as well as others, be funded by the government. When the students were given a trial run through this assignment, many students became upset and some actually cried.
    Our kid attends a Jesuit/Ursuline school (Sister Mary No-Habit). As heterodox as that joint is, I still don’t think they would stoop this low. (Stay posted). In sum, I think we have to protect women and children from this stuff. Same reason to get rid of porno…. Free speech didn’t always mean what it currently does.
    Also, Long Skirts, in my opinion, your best poem yet.

  47. Clinton says:

    If public funds are being used to produce or reward such “art”, then the public should also
    have a voice in whether or not the people responsible for giving sacrilegious “art” a venue
    get to keep their jobs. The director of a theatre that accepts public funds to produce such
    a work as On the Concept of the Face… should be somehow accountable to public
    opinion– that person should have his contract renewal subject to a popular vote. I daresay
    a lot of the trash being forced upon us by our cultural betters (at our expense) would never
    again see the light of day, at least in venues that accept public funds.

  48. chcrix says:

    I’m an old fashioned unreconstructed Murrican on this.

    I believe in absolute free speech – no limits, no speech codes, no hate speech prohibitions, no group-think hurt feelings, and especially no state enforcement.

    I also believe that if you are insulting someone’s girlfriend, mother, or deeply held beliefs you must risk the knuckle sandwich.

    From my point of view, stink bombs and raw eggs are just about the right level of response here.

    Unlike most theater goers, I have booed performances on grounds of their being artistic garbage. We need more theater scenes like those seen in the Paris Opera in the 19th century.

  49. marytoo says:

    They got on stage and prayed a rosary! Go to and search “french Catholic youth defends Christ!” for the video. They struggled to stretch out their banner across the stage which said “Christophobie ca suffit!” – Christophobia, that’s enough! – while they were pushed around by security. Then they linked arms, knelt and prayed a rosary until the police came. The video ends at that point.

  50. Imrahil says:

    Sorry: 1969.

  51. Dan says:

    “Faced with a police cordon, they throw eggs and oil at the theatre and those going in, chanting in Latin or praying on their knees.”

    A couple things:

    -The object of this protest was obviously disgusting and sacreligious. No self-respecting Catholic (or any other Christian for that matter) would be caught dead patronizing it (one would hope…). That said, it is probably attracting the types [OSW personalities, garden variety leftists, etc.] who would not be dissuaded from attending because someone is praying in Latin and throwing eggs at them. If you’re trying to convert the masses, try something else.

    -The public demonstration of faith is admirable, but they could have done without throwing eggs at people. That kind of behavior reduces the protesters to the type of behavior that they are allegedly demonstrating against. With this in mind, the police crackdown was understandable [even if overblown].

    -There’s something about these right-wing movements that you occasionally see [and yes, there is a distinction between being a faithful Catholic and being a neo-monarchist, not that there is anything objectivly wrong with monarchy] that seems very pharisical. The big banners, bagpipes, drums, latin chants, etc. seem quite analogous to the pharasees in this past Sunday’s gospel:

    They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
    They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
    greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’

    I would be much more content to get on my knees with my rosary at home than make a big show of it on the street and throw eggs at passers-by. Sometimes we have to ask…are we making a public display of faith in order to garner esteem for ourselves [i.e., “look at me, I’m such a martyr!”] or to give true honor and glory to God. Sounds like there should be some solid discernment by both sides in this controversey.

  52. daveams says:

    Couldn’t there be a parallel between this and the violence used by our Lord against the money-changers in the temple? Maybe some things need to be strongly—even violently—opposed…even by the meek and humble of heart. Maybe?

  53. albizzi says:

    The protesters may have the following excuse for throwing stink bombs:
    “Our aim was to make the play more realistic. So the spectators could not only have the sight of excrements but also their smell”…
    I wonder what may draw crowds to see such a crap. Which kind of parisian pseudo “intellectuals” are interested to see so a decadent show, unless, yes, perhaps some french bishops ?

  54. Corinne says:

    I too was upset and appalled at this play and artist when I first heard about it. I reacted. However, since then I have read an interview by Mr. Castelucci, the playwright. He explains his perspective and intention. He was NOT, repeat NOT being “Christian-phobic” or intentionally descerating the face of Christ. He has a very odd point of view and is expressing it through this play. I’m with Juliette Binoche (one of my favorite actresses!) Here is a bit of the Google translation of the interview. Here is the link to the original french:

    How do you react to disturbances and threats against your show?
    I feel a terrible misunderstanding. On the concept of the face of the son of God is nothing blasphemous or Christianophobia. But these activists can not know because they have not seen. We can even see the show as a song of love for Christ, which is for some viewers.

    You place under the gaze of Christ, a trivial and challenging situation, which sees an old man was immediately defecates on several occasions …
    It is obvious that this is a metaphor. I set up a spiritual strategy, a trap, which is to start with a hyper-realistic scene for arriving to metaphysics. It must pass through this area, this narrow gate, for going to another dimension. It is a theological matters: same shit was created by God, we have the accept if you stay in a one-dimensional aspect of God. A basis of this hyper-realistic, the show is slowly becoming a metaphor for the loss of tissue, loss of self, which is put in parallel with the condition of Christ, who has agreed to dump its divine substance integrate the human condition to the end – including the shit.

    You seem to direct a question with this sentence taken from Psalm 22 of the Bible, “You are my shepherd” (“You are my shepherd”), which becomes “You are not my shepherd” …
    Even Jesus doubted, on the cross (“My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”). We are far from the caricature offered by these terrible extremists who show a certain form of purely ideological. Now faith is a far cry from the ideology is something purely personal and intimate, fragile, intermittent, which is to believe in the unbelievable – the resurrection, which is contrary to reality.

    What is your relationship to the Christian religion, which occupies an important place in your work?
    In my shows, I speak of the devil or God is always speaking of the man. On a personal level, it’s so intimate … One day I think, the next day not, but I’ve always been fascinated by the image of Christ, the mystery of this beauty, this “Ecce homo” makes Jesus a man.The face of the son of God, through the history of painting, has shaped the man. The invention of the face painting is Christ.

    Your show is far, too, to give rise to a unique interpretation …
    I am a theater of questioning, anxiety, who plays on the ambiguity. And everything is ambiguous on the concept of the face of the son of God, Jesus, the shit, which is also light … What I seek is to split into two consciousness, opening a wound that matters could go deep in us. The art is all about this condition pose problems, otherwise it is purely decorative. In our world, we are force-fed information, but just what information we need to continue to live ? Today, religion has lost its ability to ask questions, and art has taken its place. I believe that these extremists are jealous of the deep spirituality that has taken refuge in art.

  55. Dr. Eric says:

    Anathema sit!

    I would suggest reading the Canons and Anathemas of the 7th Ecumenical Council.

  56. Dr. Eric says:

    In case I wasn’t clear, the anathemas are against those who do not salute (hail- in Greek “chaire” which is the same word used to greet Our Lady by St. Gabriel) the sacred images.

  57. ContraMundum says:

    Humanly speaking, I think this is a no-win situation. To fail to respond would seem to be tacit acceptance, which is unacceptable. Letters to the editor or picketing is basically lame and ineffective. Throwing things (stink bombs included) is also lame; it is also counter-productive in terms of public opinion. Faithful Catholics do not make up a large enough part of society to ostracize the malefactors.

    This kind comes out only with prayer and fasting.

  58. AnAmericanMother says:

    I was simply talking about what can be done within the law in these United States.
    Blasphemy used to be banned, just like obscenity, and you can still find it in the older cases (such as Pavesich v. New England Life, the seminal Georgia case on privacy rights). Nobody has said in so many words that it is no longer viable, but Justice Douglas used to rail in dissents against the criminalizing of blasphemy and much of his thinking has (sadly) been adopted sub silentio. Primarily because of liberal attempts to rewrite “freedom of religion” into “freedom of worship” — i.e. so long as you don’t let your religion contaminate the public square.
    As for “giving a hard time” — I meant strictly within the bounds of the law, as in working to cut off funding, involve the city council, etc. A creative bunch of activists can get a lot of mileage out of the First Amendment.

  59. twele923 says:

    As long as the actual image is protected from permanent damage – say, if there were some kind of transparent covering over the image so that the performance art is not obscured but the piece of art in question remains intact – I can see justifications being made for this.

  60. mike cliffson says:

    I can’t vote.
    And haven’t checked the other comments yet.
    I commented on another combox, that while I don’t want to shout” murderer” outside an abortion clinic, if we were ALL (all catholics and most of us imperfect sinners,) involved in prolife, there would be MORE messy quarrels , some body would shout” murderer” and I don’t think that would necessarily be a bad thing. Even an atheistic quite virulent(yet antiabortion) anticlerical socialist like G.Orwell said( in the essay “benefit of clergy”, on the pass the left give trendy artists, filmmakers etc) we ought be capabable of at least the outraged feeling that a particular painting is so disgusting that it should be handed over to the public hangman, (even while, he said, believing any censorship mechanism is bad policy.He thought it healthy that a french crowd had rioted in the cinema and burnt the film l’age d’or on its opening night.)
    When ill or traumatized kids start getting better, they get fractious and naughty, its a healthy sign. Passivity isn’t usually Christian, but a bad sign of lifelessness. At the neighborhood stationers some years ago , one book rack of books, and two or three with postersized cardboard ads placed
    one of which was advertized in some such terms as “Yet another fraud perpetrated by the church etc etc”. I objected strongly, saying I found it offensive and either it went from public view, perhaps just edge outwards if anyone came in specifically wanting to buy it, or at the least they would lose my, myfamily’s and anyone i could influence’s custom. I added that removed or not, had such advertizing been used about a religion hailing from mecca, how many hours would it be before the shop was ashes?
    I don’t know if these French guys action is right, but it is a healthier sign than legs spreadopen public comatose posture.

  61. Charlotte Allen says:

    I found the poll very difficult to respond to–but in the end I had to go with Option #1. That’s because once you start writing anti-blasphemy laws in a liberal society, you’ve greased your toboggan for a quick ride down into Muhammad cartoon territory. Naturally I wish we lived in some other society–a civilized society that viewed with horror (and ostracized the perps of) any desecration of an image of Christ. But we don’t. We live in a society that is determined to eradicate all vestiges of its Christian heritage (you can’t even say “A.D.” anymore), looks the other way when Christians are persecuted ruthlessly in lands where blasphemy laws are a reality, and fawns over Muslim terrorists and their sympathizers. Nonetheless, kudos to the well-dressed French youths!

  62. pm125 says:

    Voted the first category for NO, even for art – bodily waste adding insult to injury to both art and audience. Agree with prayer and fasting- how can there be reasoning?

  63. Gail F says:

    Few people have mentioned that this is happening in France, not the United STates, and their laws are different. I don’t know what is and isn’t protected speech in France, but I do know that they have hate speech laws and people including Brigitte Bardot have been convicted of hate speech against Muslims for saying things that, here in the US, would not be considered hateful (not nice, perhaps, but not hateful). So the fact that this was okay and not considered hate speech is interesting. Also, none of us have seen this play or read a review of it. Again, I would like to know what the point of the play is and what it concludes about “the face of Christ.”

  64. Gail F says:

    Never mind. I have read about the play now and nobody overcomes anger at Christ. My goodness, what is wrong with Europe? Why do they hate life so much over there?????

  65. awcoppelia says:

    I had to vote no, this shouldn’t be allowed, even in art. I dont think bishops should be standing back and saying its ok. Here is the main reason: Do not give to dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.Matthew chapter 7, verse 6

  66. Supertradmum says:

    Have some on this blog forgotten that Christ is God?

  67. tealady24 says:

    Yes, you may desecrate, you may smear in words or in “art”, you may do anything you please.
    Jesus told us we have freedom; only what we believe as Catholics is the freedom which sets our hearts on fire for following the way (the very narrow way) of our Lord.

    Do as you please in this life; only remember, that for whatever you do, you will answer in the next.

  68. Leonius says:

    We must ask ourselves, I think, what is more is more sacred to us, personal licence to do whatever we may please, or Almighty God.

    We are doing “artists’ no favors by allowing them to do such things without a word of protest, rather to allow this and do nothing is to stand idly by and watch another man walk into hell.

    And in truth we will not be far behind them if our love of God is so lukewarm that when we hear of such sacrilege we do not get angry and do all we can to stop it.

    “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.”

  69. Paulo says:

    I had to think a lot about this one. My first and natural impulse was to opt for the “No, there should not be any freedom at all to do that, even for art.” However, the Lord himself was subjected to much abuse in our hands, which included a very undignified death on the cross. Our redemption came from this death. A desecration of His image is, by extension, yet another indignity that we, fallen race, offer Him. Such acts of desecration rightly inflame our hearts, and should be met with our own very visible outrage (such as the one from these young folks), but not forbidden. Instead, we should hope (and pray) that one day we won’t need to have this discussion, because no one would ever contemplate doing such a thing!

  70. AnnAsher says:

    The Image of The Holy Face must not be mocked.

  71. Simon_GNR says:

    (with apologies to Father Ted…)

    “Down with this sort of thing!”

  72. Ezra says:

    It occurs to me that it might be worth pondering these words from Pope Gregory XVI’s Mirari Vos:

    [The] shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say. When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit” is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws — in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.

  73. The Egyptian says:

    I do not like it anymore than anyone else, however it is a failing of our own making, the church, in the spirit of V2, has so denigrated the idea of sacred that it is coming back to haunt us. educate defend, convert, pray, lead, but to make it illegal will never work, we are still a free country and I hope we remain free, our duty is to raise the public morals by example not force, remember the British and the catholic persecutions, let us not go that way even if we “know” we are right

  74. Hooksdoc says:

    The play’s author tells us that (belief in the) Resurrection is impossible, because it is against reality.
    Consider the Aristotelian (therefore Greek, not in origin Christian) concept of God (see Antony Flew’s ‘There is a God’): God is omnipotent, but omnipotence does not stretch to the logically impossible: God can not make 2 + 2 =5. Is Resurrection a logical impossibility? Michael Brooks’ ’13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries Of Our Time’, explains in chapter 9, Death: Evolution’s Problem with Self Destruction, that current Science can provide no satisfactory explanation of death. Popper tells that you cannot disprove a scientific theory (an explanation which takes into account all the known facts) you can only falsify it (by establishing that there are facts that the explanation does not include); in Scholastic logic, you can deny a general statement simply by producing a counter-example. If Death is inexplicable, it might be a counter-example to evolutionary theory, and you cannot therefore argue that it is logically impossible for someone to recover from death, ie Resurrection; since it is not logically impossible, (however statistically unlikely) it is possible to an omnipotent God, and one can rationally accept the historic evidence for an occurence of it. ‘If Christ be not risen, then your Faith is vain’.

  75. AvantiBev says:

    “directed by Italian [figures] Romeo Castellucci.” So Father Z, I suggest your comments should also read: “…protested US artist Andres Serrano’s [son of a Honduran father and Afro-Cuban mother – figures!] renowned “Immersion Piss Christ” photograph”

    Now to the point, as an Italo-American [figures] and an actress [good figure], I believe the answer to speech one disagrees with is MORE speech. It certainly is NOT thrown eggs, oil and absolutely NOT stink bombs. I had worked for close to 7 years as a house manager of a legitimate theatre. I know how crowds react to smoke or a sudden loud noise. The result can be injuries or even death from being trampled by people rushing to get out. NO to Islamist tactics. Use your talents and time to produce a better, more uplifting play.

  76. AvantiBev says:

    Should have read: Use your talents and time to produce a better, more uplifting play. AND THEN CAST ME TO STAR IN IT!

  77. Ezra says:

    “Islamist tactics” would be beheading the playwright. slaughtering the cast, and bombing the theatre. I don’t see any Catholics proposing such tactics. Throwing eggs and oil at people who’ve decided to spend their evening funding and applauding blasphemy may be counter-productive and a waste of good food, but it’s hardly comparable.

  78. lgreen515 says:

    This is loathsome. But God gives us the freedom to choose Him or reject Him. The “trial” and crucifixion of Christ was ugly too.

  79. Ulrich says:

    Fr Z, you have asked which portrait of Christ has been used. La Croix, the newspaper of the French Bishops, shows this one:

  80. Ulrich says:

    The demonstration was, according to this report in La Croix, organised by Civitas Institute, which is linked to the SSPX.

  81. asophist says:

    I voted for no freedom on the subject. Such freedom will probably never be restricted, though, until we have a Catholic state. Our Lord did say, though, that “He who blasphemes will be forgiven.” I wonder why? Is it because blasphemy is always a sin of ignorance?

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