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Catholic extremists descend on opening of 'Corpus Christi'
QSanAntonio.com, June 18, 2011

About 65 Catholic extremists organized by the Archdiocese of San Antonio descended upon the San Pedro Playhouse on June 17 to protest the opening of Terrence McNally's play 'Corpus Christi' which portrays Jesus and the apostles as gay men. (Click here for related story.)

With rosaries, crucifixes and other religious ephemera in hand, the group prayed several rosaries and sang hymns and shouted "Viva Christo." Some fell to their knees while praying. In a scene that was reminiscent of protests by the Westboro Baptist Church, there were about a dozen children holding protest placards.

One woman who was with the group told QSanAntonio that the protest had been organized by the Archdiocese which had sent out letters to all the Catholic Churches in San Antonio urging people to attend.

Members of the San Antonio Community of Congregations, representing the largest religious organizations in the city, held a press conference in Main Plaza on May 17 to denounce the production. At that press conference Auxiliary Bishop of San Antonio Oscar Cantu called the play "vulgar." (See related story below.)

Among those in the crowd were familiar faces including professed homophobe and City Council gadfly Jack Finger, and Edmundo Vargas of the Defenders of the Magisterium, an ultraconservative Catholic group that has been circulating petitions condemning the play.

In attendance also was a Catholic group from Houston, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property whose leader, Cesar Franco, led to protesters in praying the rosary. Franco's group, which was composed of men only, had bright red banners and each man wore a dark suit and a bright red stole.

According to their web site, "The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) is an organization of lay Catholic Americans concerned about the moral crisis shaking the remnants of Christian civilization. . . The TFP was born from the idea of a Counterrevolution, a reaction that would embrace every field of of human activity, but especially art, ideas and culture."

Catholic protestors were in for a surprise when members of the Direct Action Network of San Antonio, a GLBT protest group, infiltrated the prayer group and unfurled a banner which read, "Transphobia and Homophobia Kills," then began shouting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia's got to go!"

The Catholic group did not know how to react especially when DANSA members actually joined in the prayers. One woman reacted to the DANSA group by squirting holy water on the gay protestors and at the QSanAntonio reporter.

Some people in the Catholic group tried to initiate arguments with some of the gay people but the scene was by and large peaceful. The protest began around 6:45 p.m. and ended around 8:45. After the prayers ended an announcement was made that protests were being organized for every night of the play's run.

Corpus Christi cast photos
QSanAntonio.com, June 17, 2011
The San Pedro Playhouse has released a new set of production photos for "Corpus Christi."

Video: DANSA at Corpus Christi Opening Night
YouTube.com, June 17, 2011
The Direct Action Network of San Antonio countering the hateful message of an extremist ultra-conservative hate group that hides behind the guise of religion at the opening night of Corpus Christi. DANSA is not anti-religion, just anti-hate.

Controversial Play Comes To SA
www.ksat.com, June 17, 2011
Dozens gathered outside of the San Pedro playhouse Friday evening for the opening night of Corpus Christi, a controversial play about Jesus Christ, but these weren't people awaiting the show.

Play Depicting Gay Jesus Draws Protesters
Fox San Antonio, June 17, 2011
A controversial play depicting Jesus Christ as a gay man opened tonight at the San Pedro Playhouse. The play has drawn the ire of a large number of people who consider the play blasphemous.

Playhouse opens controversial 'Corpus Christi'
San Antonio Express-News, June 16, 2011
When the folks at San Pedro Playhouse asked Greg Hinojosa to direct “Corpus Christi,” he had some doubts. Terrence McNally's play takes the story laid out in the gospels of the New Testament and sets the events in contemporary Corpus Christi, with a gay Christ figure named Joshua who is followed by 12 gay disciples.

'Corpus Christi' playwright reaches out to local cast
QSanAntonio.com, June 11, 2011
Award-winning playwright Terrance McNally has reached out to the director and cast of the San Pedro Playhouse production of his controversial play, "Corpus Christi" which opens on June 17. "Tell the cast how grateful I am to them," writes McNally in an email. "I won't pretend the next weeks are going to be easy but I am confident they will be rewarding."

Interfaith leaders condemn "Corpus Christi"
QSanAntonio.com, May 18, 2011

Members of the San Antonio Community of Congregations, representing the largest religious organizations in the city, held a press conference in Main Plaza on May 17 to denounce the production of "Corpus Christi" which will be staged at the San Pedro Playhouse beginning on June 17.

The play, written in 1998 by gay playwright Terrance McNally, portrays Jesus and his followers as gay men. (Click here for related story.)

Those attending the press conference included Rev. Oscar Canu, Auxilliary Bishop of San Antonio; Jeannie Goodlin, Executive Director of San Antonio Community of Congregations; Rev. Tom Heger, Pastor of Beacon Hill Presbyterian; Rev. Dr. Charles Price, Executive Director of the San Antonio Baptist Association; Rabbi Ayreh Scheinberg of Rodefi Shalom Synagogue; Imam Omar Shakir from Masjid Bilal Ibn Ra'bah; Laura Shaver, Communications officer for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas; and Rev. Dr. Paul Ziese, Pastor of MacArthur Lutheran Church.

Rev. Dr. Paul Ziese, Pastor of MacArthur Lutheran Church. Imam Omar Shakir from Masjid Bilal Ibn Ra'bah.

The press conference consisted of Bishop Cantu reading a statement sent to the San Pedro Playhouse by the Community of Congregations. However, prior to reading the statement, the bishop said that "art must not only imitate life it must elevate it." "Corpus Christi," he added, "is just vulgar."

"It would be easy, but inaccurate, to dispose our concerns as a homophobic response to the depiction of Jesus as a homosexual leading a band of homosexual apostles. While many may find this characterization troubling, we feel that the crude portrayal of the homosexual men is this play is at best, as exaggerated caricature that is insensitive also to our gay and lesbian community," reads the statement.

Rev. Ziese, pastor of MacArthur Lutheran Church, told QSanAntonio that five members of the Community of Congregations had met with the artistic director and board president of the San Pedro Playhouse. The group decided to make their complaint public only after theater officials said they had no plans to cancel the play.

Auxilliary Bishop Cantu being interviewed by Valerie Fitzgerrald, a reporter from La Prensa. Rabbi Ayreh Scheinberg of Rodefi Shalom Synagogue.

After Bishop Cantu read the statement, reporters were allowed to ask questions. One reporter asked if going to the play was a sin, would he have to confess it? Cantu said it was between God and the sinner.

When asked how many of the religious leaders who signed the statement had actually read the play, only about half of the hands went up.

QSanAntonio asked if religious leaders were concerned that speaking out against a gay play would create a backlash against gays in the city. Rev. Ziese replied that on the contrary, it is the play which will create the backlash.

Abe Levy, religion writer for the San Antonio Express-News, Edmundo Vargas of the ultraconservative Defenders of the Magesterium and losing mayoral candidate Rhett H. Smith stand on the sidelines as Bishop Cantu reads a statement sent to the San Pedro Playhouse. Click here for more photos.

Among those at the press conference were some "fringe element" types like Edmundo Vargas of the Defenders of the Magisterium, an ultraconservative Catholic group that is circulating a petition against the play in local parishes. Vargas was distributing a flyer titled, "Corpus Christi is Hate Speech" on Catholic League stationary.

The flyer read in part: "The basic message of 'Corpus Christi' is this: Jesus was no more divine that the rest of us and the reason why he was crucified was because he approved of homosexuality. That is why he is branded King of the Queers."

Also on hand was losing mayoral candidate Rhett H. Smith who told QSanAntonio that he thought the play was a direct slap to the Catholic Church.

The mood of the press conference was best summed up by Vargas who arrogantly told QSanAntonio, "We have Catholic beliefs and we know that we are right."

Text of letter send by religious leaders to San Pedro Playhouse re: "Corpus Christi"
May 17, 2011

San Antonio Community of Congregations
1101 W. Woodlawn, San Antonio TX 78201
210-733-9159
sacommchurches@sbcglobal.net
www.sacoc.info

To: The Board of Trustees and the Executive Director of the San Pedro Playhouse

Dear President Gonzales and Ms. Sneed:

It is clear that freedom is fundamental to the creative energy and talent that shape the performing arts into an important exchange of ideas and belief. Artists from every form of media have enhanced our society from the beginning of recorded history. At the same time, we must not forget that freedom, without responsibility and respect diminishes and demeans.

With that in mind, we as leaders of many varied faith traditions of our community, write to you to reconsider the San Pedro Playhouse's scheduled production ol Carpus Christi by Terrence McNally. lt is difficult to understand who would be served by such a profane and disrespectful depiction of Jesus Christ, who is the object of love and worship in a community whose religious roots run deep.

The play frequently places vulgar and obscene words on the lips of Jesus (Joshua in the play) and his disciples. The play's reference to the character's name change to Joshua because "Jesus" sounds too Mexican is a further affront to our Hispanic population and hurtful to those who carry that name with honor and reverence. The tasteless picture of Mary would also be offensive to Christians as welt as our brothers and sisters of the Muslim Faith who hold her as a significant figure in their religion. Finally, the Last Supper scene shows great disrespect for a moment and a teaching that is so sacred to Christians. There are, many other examples of this portrayal that seems to be done only for its shock value.

It would be easy, but inaccurate, to dispose of our concerns as a homophobic response to the depiction of Jesus as a homosexual leading a band of homosexual apostles. While many may find this characterization troubling, we feel that the crude portrayal of the homosexual men in this play is, at best, an exaggerated caricature that is insensitive also to our gay and lesbian community.

Regardless of one's religious beliefs, when any group's doctrine or understanding of God is treated with such disrespect, all people of faith are ridiculed. There are current examples of people being murdered on the world scene because of thoughtless, irresponsible actions of one group toward another's sacred texts. In a recent review of the play, Fr. John Leies of the St. Man/s University Theology Department wrote: "lt would be a terrible breach of friendship and civility to present such a play that would be so disrespectful and hurtful to so many in the city, a play that would engender animosity and anguish because of its nature."

Art in all forms should lead our society to a better understanding of all persons, not simply reinforce coarse stereotypes that fail to enlighten, but instead lead to disrespect and misunderstanding. It is our hope that an arts institution of the stature of the San Pedro Playhouse will reconsider their decision to promote this highly offensive play.

As leaders of the faith community in San Antonio, we offer this letter to you for your consideration. Thank you for your kind attention to this very important matter.

Rev. Dr. Charles Price, Executive Director, San Antonio Baptist Association
Rev. Dr. Ray Tiemann, Bishop, S.W. Texas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
Most Rev. Gustavo Garcia-Siller, Archbishop, Archdiocese of San Antonio
lmam Omar Shakir, Masjid Bilal lbn Ra'ba
Most Rev. Oscar Cantu, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of San Antonio
Jenne Goodlin, Executive Director, San Antonio Community of Congregations
Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Bishop James E. Dorff, San Antonio Area of the United Methodist Church
Rt. Rev. David Reed, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of West Texas



Production to offer hope against injustice
By Greg Hinojosa, San Antonio Express-News, May 21, 2011
Initially, when the San Pedro Playhouse contacted me about directing Terrence McNally's controversial play, “Corpus Christi,” I had some reservations. I was familiar with McNally's work. I had read his plays and wondered if the time and energy needed to mount this particular production would be worth the possible controversy. After re-reading the play, I decided it was worth it.

Play deeply offends, shows no new insight
By Jeanne Goodlin, San Antonio Express-News, May 21, 2011
I hadn't heard of the play “Corpus Christi,” by Terrance McNally, until a friend called my office to ask me to read the script and give my opinion. He wondered if he was crazy to be offended by it. Five pages into my own reading of the script, I knew my friend was not crazy. I also knew most people of faith, especially Christians, would be deeply offended.

Religious leaders denounce controversial play
San Antonio Express-News, May 18, 2011
Like-minded interfaith leaders stood in solidarity Tuesday on Main Plaza to denounce a local theater's scheduling of a controversial play that portrays Jesus and his disciples as gay men.

San Pedro Playhouse stages controversial "Corpus Christi"
QSanAntonio.com, May 18, 2011
This summer, San Antonio will see the first local staging of "Corpus Christi" a play which portrays Jesus as a gay man. The controversial drama will be performed at the San Pedro Playhouse in a production directed by Greg Hinojosa beginning on June 10. However, local religious leaders are protesting the production.

Religious leaders criticize Jesus gay play
San Antonio Express-News, May 17, 2011
Concerned about a drama that depicts Jesus as gay, a diverse collection of the city's religious leaders has banded together to denounce the play, scheduled to begin next month at the San Pedro Playhouse. “Corpus Christi,” written by Terrence McNally, has ignited controversy in other cities for its coming-of-age story about Jesus growing up in that South Texas city during the 1950s. In the play, Jesus is curious about same-sex attraction, is bullied and later presides over a gay wedding at which he's dubbed the “King of Queers.”