Catholics stand in peaceful protest of blasphemous play in Charlotte
CHARLOTTE — Under the bright lights of the Queen City, the faithful of the diocese gathered peacefully to pray in reparation for all those involved with a blasphemous play being performed Feb. 2-18 at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte.
Pictured: More than 100 people prayed the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet, lit candles and held signs that read "Father forgive them; they know not what they are doing" in front of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte Feb. 2. Men, women and children of all ages joined in the peaceful prayer in opposition to a blasphemous play being performed by Queen City Theatre Company: "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told," which retells the Creation story with two homosexual couples, portrays Mary as a lesbian and mocks the Virgin Birth. The play continues through Feb. 18. (Photos by SueAnn Howell, Catholic News Herald)
"The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told," an off-Broadway play written by Paul Rudnick in 1998 and being performed by the Queen City Theatre Company, retells the Creation story with two homosexual couples, portrays Mary as a lesbian and mocks the Virgin Birth.
The play "presents a gleefully outrageous reinterpretation of Creation. Adam and Steve begin their journey in the Garden of Eden. After being banished from Eden, they encounter Jane and Mabel, who insist they were the earth's original couple," according to the promotional information on the Queen City Theatre Company and Blumenthal Performing Arts Center websites. The two homosexual couples are then portrayed in various Old Testament stories, ending up in Central Park in modern-day New York, where Steve is suffering from AIDS and Jane is nine months pregnant. The irreverent play questions the existence of God, features homosexual acts and bestiality, and lampoons heterosexual fidelity.
More than 100 Catholics stood in peaceful witness against the sacrilege the play represents on the sidewalk in front of the Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square in uptown Charlotte Feb. 2, praying a Rosary of Reparation, singing hymns and a Divine Mercy Chaplet immediately before the opening night performance. The crowd grew quickly from 60 people to start with about 7 p.m., then to 85, and then to 105 by the time the prayer vigil concluded around 8 p.m.
They gathered in part in response to a letter released by Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis, which explained the gravity of the blasphemy involved with this play.
"The implication that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a lesbian is gravely offensive to Catholics and to all Christians, who hold Mary in the highest regard as the Mother of the Savior," Bishop Jugis wrote in his Jan. 31 letter to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
To those who say the play has nothing to do with insulting Mary, Bishop Jugis pointed out that the playwright Rudnick himself was quoted in explaining his play: "I wanted the Garden of Eden in Central Park, and Mary as a lesbian mother, which would certainly help me comprehend immaculate conception." (Note: The playwright confused the Immaculate Conception, which refers to Mary's conception without original sin, with the Virgin Birth and the Nativity, which refers to Jesus' birth.)
Bishop Jugis wrote in his letter, "Please do not allow this play to be performed. Please cancel these performances out of consideration for the religious sensibilities of Christians and all people of good will."
A prepared statement from the Queen City Theatre Company's artistic director, Glenn T. Griffin, emailed to a Catholic layperson last week, defended the play and refused to cancel it, stating, "QCTC will strive to create theatre that not only entertains but enriches, educates, and challenges our audience. We are a theatre company that is known for producing works that make people think. ... This show will not be closed down."
A statement on the Queen City Theatre Company's website further stated, "QCTC will not further engage in any controversy regarding this production of Paul Rudnick's play and neither will comment on the author's points of view or released statements. We will focus solely on our mission and the creation of art."
Charlotte area Catholics have organized a Holy Hour of Reparation during all the days the play is being performed in Charlotte.
An Act of Reparation is prayer, sacrifice or devotion offered to make amends to Our Lord and Our Lady in response to sin, in this instance the sin of blasphemy. Catholics also organized prayer teams to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration Chapels, for one hour, during the times this play is being presented on stage.
It was standing room only at the St. Gabriel Church Perpetual Adoration Chapel on Providence Road during the opening night prayer vigil on Feb. 2. The chapel was so crowded that adorers even had to sit on the bench in the hall looking in the glass door at the Most Blessed Sacrament to participate.
Both prayer ideas were apparently sparked following an alert from the blog America Needs Fatima, which has a history of peacefully opposing blasphemy in art, theater and film and is a campaign run by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, an organization of lay Catholic Americans. According to Robert Ritchie of America Needs Fatima, his organization has opposed this play when it has been performed in other U.S. cities, starting with its debut performance in New York in 1998. In mid-January, America Needs Fatima began an e-mail protest campaign for the Charlotte performance that has "18,283 people signed on to it," Ritchie wrote in an email to the Catholic News Herald on Feb. 2.
Despite the controversy, local Catholics say all they want to do through their actions is to pray for understanding and awareness of Christian values and respect for the Catholic faith.
Kelly Rusk, who recently moved to Charlotte from Wisconsin with his wife and now attends St. Ann Church on Park Road, came out to pray during the Rosary of Reparation on Feb. 2 and participate in the peaceful witness.
"It's about defending what's right. It's freedom of speech ... We've got the right to spread the word and to pray for those people ... This is not about hate or anything of that nature. It's about love and saying, 'OK, we understand you have a position, we'd like to let you know about an alternate position and we're going to pray for you and do it in a calm, civil manner in hopes that it gives you some thought.'"
Another prayer vigil participant, Joann Ruff, a parishioner from St. Gabriel Church, shared her reason for attending: "I'm happy to be here. I think we need to stand up for the Blessed Mother at this time."
Wrote one Charlotte Catholic layperson, involved with organizing and gathering support for the Holy Hour and Rosary of Reparation, in an email preceding the rosary prayer vigil, "Please remember, the people for whom we are praying are, in many cases, unaware of their sin. They have never heard the Gospel of the Lord or they have been raised in an environment that was either hostile to Him or which distorted the message of His Love. What we seek to bring them is the message of hope, love, mercy, forgiveness and healing."
For details about the nightly Holy Hour of Reparation, go to www.signupgenius.com/go/9040F4FAEA72D6-holy. As of Feb. 3, more than 125 people had signed up to participate.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle and SueAnn Howell
Blasphemy sounds like an outdated term. One might ask, why is this such a big deal?
Because it's unjust – denigrating God damages us, His creation, and our connections with each other.
Father Robert Barron of Word On Fire Ministry explains in this YouTube video below why even a countercultural activist like Bob Dylan understands why reverence is good: (When asked why he sung a Christmas album so reverently, Dylan simply replied, "Isn't there enough irreverence in the world?")
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