Scandal over play with statue of John Paul II. © N.N. (CBA)
Scandal on a Warsaw stage: In the play "The Curse," a woman performs oral sex on a statute of the former pope. Prosecutors are investigating for hurting religious feelings.
It has been a long time since Warsaw has seen such a provocative play. An actress from the "Teatr Powszechny" simulates oral sex with a statue of the canonized Pope John Paul II for about a minute in one scene. (1978-2005), who is revered in his native Poland. Another is about what a hitman should be paid to assassinate the leader of the ruling national conservative party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Feelings of Catholics hurt
At first it looked like Poland's bishops didn't want to stir up the ie. At first, they only sent forward the press officer of the episcopate, who called for prayers for an end to the "blasphemy," but did not speak up themselves. Finally, on Thursday, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the former secretary of John Paul II, also condemned the performance., "the disgusting disparagement of the person of St. John Paul II". It was a "gross injustice" to accuse the former head of the church of bad things. "Sadly, I must state that in the name of the alleged freedom of art, the feelings of Catholics are deliberately hurt," complained the former archbishop of Krakow.
The head of the church's John Paul II.-Center in Krakow, Jan Kabzinski, started a collection of signatures against the play. "I demand that the financing of the theater with public money be ended and the theater director be recalled," the petition appeals to Warsaw's liberal mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. "Particularly scandalous" is the fact that the capital maintains such a theater. "There is no doubt that this kind of provocation, namely pornography, blasphemous scenes, mockery of the Church – and for this purpose the abuse of a figure of St. John Paul II. – as well as incitement to political hatred, should not be allowed to take place."
For an end to "blasphemy"
Signatures are to be collected on Sunday after each Mass at Krakow's St. John Paul II Church.-Kabzinski announced that the collection would be collected at the sanctuary. In addition, he said, prayers are being offered at church services for an end to "blasphemy". Poland's Catholic Action lay movement also insists that the theater remove the play from its repertoire. "The performance is nothing more than a deliberate provocation with clear characteristics of hate speech," their spokesman said. "Both the director and the actors have crossed the line of common sense."
Theater invokes artistic freedom
The "Teatr Powszechny" (General Theater) in a first statement invoked the freedom of art guaranteed by Poland's constitution. "Everything we do in the theater is fiction.
Fiction can hurt and wound feelings in a society. But it continues to be fiction." Thursday night was to be the fourth performance of the play since Saturday's premiere to a sold-out crowd. The theater is one of Poland's most prestigious theaters, receiving two million euros in taxpayer funding annually.
In the production of the Croatian director Oliver Frljic (40) the church is denounced among other things for sexual child abuse. In one scene, the statue of the Pope is hung on a rope and the sign "Defender of Pedophiles" is attached to it. The performance of "The Curse" clearly deviates from the original by Polish playwright Stanislaw Wyspianski, who is also famous for the stained glass windows he designed in Krakow's Franciscan Church.
Public prosecutor's office starts investigation
The city of Warsaw is not yet thinking of dismissing the head of the theater or otherwise intervening, its spokesman said. Whether the theater makers had hurt religious feelings would be for a court alone to decide. The prosecutor's office had begun investigations into the play on Wednesday.
Earlier, a politician from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party announced criminal charges. The play incites hatred, calls for murder and desecrates Christian symbols, said the deputy Dominik Tarczynski. "No one would dare to treat Muslims or Jews in this way."A party colleague and the right-wing populist Kukiz movement condemned the stage's use of public funds to desecrate Christian symbols.
Liberal opposition MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, however, liked the play so much that she immediately watched it a second time. For them it is art and not a crime.
The Minister of Culture, Piotr Glinski, has so far refrained from saying anything about the scandal. In November 2015 – shortly after taking office – he had taken action against the performance of Elfriede Jelinek's "Death and the Maiden" at a theater in Wroclaw. Reason was alleged sexual acts on stage. In Glinski's view, the staging violated "principles of social coexistence". But the stage held on to the play with success.