March 01, 2007

Pioneer Press story on The Pope & The Witch

UPDATE (2:20 p.m. March 1st): THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA-TWIN CITIES IS CLOSING AT 2:30 TODAY BECAUSE OF INCLEMENT WEATHER. No events or classes will be held tonight. This includes the play. I just called the box office to confirm. Opening night will be tomorrow night, March 2nd instead. Tomorrow night's performance is at 8:00 p.m. Tickets for tonight will be honored. Go to the box office anytime tomorrow before the show and exchange them. I can still go tomorrow night, no problem.

U theater department's staging of 'The Pope and the Witch' has angered some Catholics [I ask myself why not ALL Catholics? but I realize some Catholics probably don't care]
Byline: Paul Tosto

Janice LaDuke [that's me!] bought a ticket for tonight's opening of "The Pope and the Witch" at the University of Minnesota. But don't expect her to applaud [cry is probably more like it].

She plans to say the rosary, [Rosary. Capital!] silently, during the performance. For her, the play isn't a political satire — it's the university ridiculing her faith. [Mr. Tosto asked me if I planned to do "anything" like jump up during the play and make a scene. I told him I have no intention of doing so and I mean it. I'm not a fan of disruptive protest. Protest, yes, but not disruptive. Furthermore, I stated my wish that all Christians at the play and/or at the U would behave the same way.]

"As a Catholic, you can't separate the hierarchy … from the traditions and scriptural teachings of the faith," LaDuke said. That doesn't mean you can't be critical of some facets, she added, but "I'm not convinced this play is respectful in its criticism."

Months of boiling controversy come to a head tonight as the U's theater department opens a week of "The Pope and the Witch," a play that depicts the pope [Pope. Capital!] as a paranoid, heroin-addled idiot and the Vatican as corrupt.[and they wonder why folks are upset?!?]

U officials don't expect any disruptions during the run. But they are adding more security for the performances and will take the rare step of checking bags at the door [I was going to bring a digital camera. I won't, now, because I have a feeling they will confiscate it].

The performances, which go through March 9, cap a debate that has played out in Internet blogs [Mr. Tosto told me he found the blog exchanges interesting. I told him that blogs kept the story from dying. Of course, the U can only be pleased because we also gave them a lot of free publicity. Oh, well, I can't be silent] and on editorial pages the past few months and that has opened a small window on the tensions of religious and secular life playing out in the Twin Cities and worldwide.

Critics have ripped the play as anti-Catholic [IT IS!]. In November, Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis called on the U to reconsider its staging; University President Robert Bruininks declined to cancel it, arguing the school must be a place for many views.

The play's director says it's a political and social farce, not an attack on the faithful [A farce that just happens to attack core Church teachings as well as clergy and religious. Sorry, I'm not buying that it isn't an attack on the faithful when the faithful, generally, love and respect their clergy and religious and agree with all of God's teachings disseminated thru His Church via the Magisterium].

Written by Nobel Prize winner [Thanks for the reminder. For some reason, I keep forgetting about his Prize win] Dario Fo, the play includes a pro-abortion witch [disguised as a Catholic nun], revelations of evil in the Vatican hierarchy [I know that's a big shocker to all you conspiracy buffs. I hope you were sitting down] and a paranoid pope [Pope. Capital!] who is convinced that thousands of orphans massing in St. Peter's Square are part of a plot by birth-control supporters to embarrass the church [Church. Capital!].

The play is purposely outrageous but deals with "real things, real tangible issues," [Let me guess...if only that pesky Catholic Church would "get with the program" and allow abortion, contraception and euthanasia the world would be a better place, right? We should probabably legalize drugs, too, so we will be too stoned to realize we are all headed straight to Hell.] director Robert Rosen said. "Sometimes when you do that, take an extreme view of something, you can say, 'Gosh (He really said: Gosh?) it made me look at that a certain way.' "

Rosen said the play isn't about the Vatican [Finally! You're right. The play does criticize the Vatican but at its core the play is an attack on Church teachings] and disagreed with those who don't see the Vatican as a political body [Hmmm....As a "citizen" of the Vatican, I must have slept thru the last election. I don't remember the current Holy Father's campaign for the Papacy or voting. Ok...Ok...I know what Mr. Rosen really means. To that I say, we are all, individually and collectively, "political bodies". All of us have the right to try and influence policy. But, I think we should do so in a respectful and persuasive manner. I realize persuasive rhetorical skills are impossible for some people so they have to beat us over the head with their opinions with works of art that have all the sublety of an whip across the back.]

[Brace yourselves]

On Monday, P.Z. Myers, [per his blog he's a self-proclaimed God-less liberal] a University of Minnesota-Morris biologist who writes Pharyngula, an internationally known science blog, castigated people who are angry at the U for producing a "blasphemous" play.

"Blasphemy is highly educational [Next time you drop your kids off at school, be sure to ask the teacher if they are learning enough blasphemy.], and I hope our university can do more of it," [Way to promote your institution! That'll send their international reputation straight into the toilet.] Myers wrote. "We are not here to reassure you that your ignorance and prejudices are alright, we're supposed to shake up our students." [Mr. Tosto must not have spoken to Professor Myers because this quote is on his blog. But, the Professor is referring to the play. So, the people who don't like this play are ignorant and prejudiced? Or the beliefs we hold are ignorant and prejudiced? Oh, if only those Catholics would allow babies to be sacrificed for stem-cell lines the world and my job would be in a better place.]

Where one person sees satire, another sees sacrilege.

The Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, [Mr. Tosto told me he tried to reach Father Zuhlsdorf for comment. It looks like Mr. Tosto used Father's blog posts for the following] moderator of the Catholic Online Forum and a graduate of the U's theater program [Mr. Tosto asked me if Father Zuhlsdorf really was a U theater grad. Am I my Father's keeper? I've never even met Father Z, but I'm positive he's no liar. Father's even franker then I am, if that's possible], posted a letter to Bruininks last week suggesting that "Pope" — a rarely performed play — is so vile that the university president should report himself to the U's equal-opportunity office on grounds of religious discrimination [Heh-heh. Good one, Father, good one!].

While the university says it's open to all views, LaDuke and other critics don't believe the university would take on a similar project that, say, Muslims would find offensive [Now, here I have a big problem, because I think I was misunderstood. I told Mr. Tosto that I would never rejoice at another group being offended. I said I did not want to engage in a whining contest of along the lines of "You love them better then me" The U does many other things that can be construed as offensive to someone. I know that. My point was that the U seems to try harder when they have other forums to find representation from the group saying they are offended. They did this recently for a panel on Islam. They had actual Muslims on the panel. I'm really upset that the panel discussion on the 8th will have no Catholics on it and I said that to Mr. Tosto. Perhaps, I did not make myself clear. It was a phone interview. I'm not going to make a big deal of this. I'm just mentioning it here]. University leaders counter that the U takes on many controversial subjects and speakers from a wide range of social and political thought.[True]

Said Rosen: "I'm not interested in … poking fun at any religion or culture just to poke fun at them. For me this play deals with a lot of social issues." [ what? Overpopulation? The unwanted children must never be born? Religion is the opiate of the masses? What exactly are you saying? All of the above? If you want to make a point about any of this, write your own play. I dare you not to put the Church in it. The Church just happens to espouse a lot of unpopular social issues. The plays of Wilde deal with social issues. Mr. Fo's play must have social issues that you feel need to be shown, with a presentation that you enjoy, or you would not be staging it.]

A forum for people to discuss the play is scheduled following the March 8 performance [This is open to the public. I will post what time I think it will start based upon how long the play is on tonight]. The archdiocese [Archdiocese. Capital!] doesn't plan to participate in the "talkback" session, which will be led by a trio of U professors with expertise in literature, culture and theater [Tell me again how this trio is acceptable?] — but not anyone connected to religious [Hey, wait a minute, I think a Hindu scholar should be on the panel!] or Catholic studies [How about Catholicism. Period?.]

Julie Olson, another Twin Cities blogger [Adoro te Devote!] who has kept close watch on the issue, said that while it's normal for Catholics and others to question their religion, it's not acceptable for the moral teachings of the church to be skewered as political.

She worries that what's intended as humor will bring ridicule and lead to Catholics on campus feeling a backlash similar to the scorn she said Catholics encountered from people who read "The Da Vinci Code" and considered it factual. [Good point.]

"Our concerns just haven't been answered," she said, "and I think our concerns are legitimate." [AMEN!]

If You Go

"The Pope and the Witch" by Dario Fo opens tonight at the Rarig Center's Stoll Thrust Theatre, 330 21st Ave S., in Minneapolis on the University of Minnesota's West Bank campus. Performances run through March 9. The talkback session, following the March 8 performance, is open to the public.


Dominic Papatola, Pioneer Press theater critic, will review the play. Mr. Papatola's review will be in late editions of the Friday paper or online at

Cathy's additional comments:

We are experiencing really bad weather today. Many schools are closing for the afternoon and evening because of expected near white-out conditions. We had some wet snow last night but not bad. However, it's still coming down. Watch, after all this brouhaha, the thing will be postponed, canceled, or I'll get stuck in the snow on the way. Pray to St. Christopher and St. Joseph for me will you? Also, St. Michael's Prayer seems to be a good choice today.

Mr. Tosto told me that there will be additional security at the play and purses, bags etc. will be searched. WCCO AM said the same this morning. They should watch out for what I'm packing! The Rosary is a powerful weapon for Truth. Millions have been converted by its power. I have one, I'm bringing it, and I will use it.


Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

Cathy - thank you for defending our Holy Religion. May God bless you abundantly. Remember, if you experience persecution, you will be rewarded greatly in Heaven!

March 01, 2007 10:46 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wonderful job of analyzing the article, Cathy!

I'm torn between wanting to see the performance cancelled tonight (an "Act of God" quoth "The Ironic Catholic" on my blog) and having to miss Father Reidy at St Helena's on Friday night if that turns out to be the opening night for TP&TW.

March 01, 2007 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will be joining you in spirit tonight from Connecticut. Where were you and the other MN bloggers when I lived in St. Paul 10 years ago? It is so great to read about the growing Catholic Church there. I spent years thinking I was the only Catholic in a land of Lutherans, and looking back I have to admit that I lost a good deal of my faith in the 7 years I lived there. I'm back now and loving it!
Thank you for posting this info. Do you think you should conceal your Rosary so it isn't confiscated when you enter the theater? Now that you wrote about it being a powerful weapon, they might misconstrue that into thinking you would use it to strangle someone. judy

March 01, 2007 1:45 PM  
Blogger Our Word said...

Great job by you, Julie and Ray, Cathy. (Or may I call you Janice now?)

This story has now been picked up by Candace de Russy at National Review Online - Muzzling Catholics at the University of Minnesota. More great publicity for the state of Minnesota...


March 01, 2007 2:17 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Judy from CT: I know what you mean. This area is very liberal. It's easy to feel alone here. Well, now you know some folks you can hang out with if you come back for a visit, right?

Mitchell: Cathy of Janice is fine. Hey, you, works too!

March 01, 2007 2:33 PM  
Blogger Our Word said...

Well, I was called a demagogue in public once, so I'll answer to just about anything myself!


March 01, 2007 3:48 PM  
Blogger Adoro said...

Great post! I love your analysis.


Glad the play is cancelled for tonight. That's not a coincidence.

March 01, 2007 5:27 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I don't think so either.

Weren't we just talking about that last night?!? Hmmmm...

March 01, 2007 7:37 PM  
Blogger Adoro said...

I've got my post up on this, too. It's a little crabby.

March 01, 2007 7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God bless you for doing all this, Cathy!! God hears your prayers, as apparently the opening night was cancelled. Should we pray for snow storms all during the month of March...hopefully they'll take the hint from the Heavens and cancel it altogether!

I bet I know how much the cost of admission was-- thirty pieces of silver?

March 01, 2007 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes MN is very liberal, but CT isn't much better. This is a predominantly Catholic state, yet the legislaure is now debating how much money to give a scientist at the public university to clone human embryos! We are nearing the bottom of the slippery slope.

If I'm back in MN we can go for dessert at Cafe Latte!! Is it still open?

May God be with you tonight. There are many united with you in spirit around the country.
Judy M.

March 02, 2007 9:50 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Judy: Yes, Cafe Latte is still open. I was just there a week ago! MMMMM

March 02, 2007 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmmm Cafe Latte....haven't been there in a very long time. We used to go to Ciatti's (which is no longer there) and then cross the hall to Cafe Latte to buy desert to take home. They have a wine bar, too, now.

~ Adoro

March 02, 2007 1:59 PM  

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