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Bishop calls for ‘offensive’ posters to be removed

By on Friday, 15 April 2011

Bishop Arthur Roche

Bishop Arthur Roche

The Bishop of Leeds has urged a theatre to withdraw an “offensive advertisement” for a play about incest which features a Pietà.

Bishop Arthur Roche wrote to Ian Brown, the artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse, to protest against the poster, which uses an image of a statue of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ to advertise a play about the incestuous relationship between two siblings.

A huge banner displaying the poster on the side of the theatre has now been replaced with a banner that reads: “Judge the Play, Not the Poster.” But hundreds of posters around Leeds have not been taken down.

In his letter to Mr Brown, Bishop Roche wrote: “You will undoubtedly be aware of the considerable disquiet and outrage that your company’s advertisement of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore is causing to Christians.

“I feel sure that such a profound insult to people of Christian faith and sensibilities was not intended by your company, but I would urge you now as a matter of courtesy to remove the offensive advertisement from public view.”

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore is a controversial 17th-century tragedy which offers an uncritical account of incest.

A spokeswoman for the theatre said that it was “discussing all possibilities”. She said that the West Yorkshire Playhouse had replied to the bishop personally as well as issuing a public statement on the matter.

She said the theatre “regrets any upset that the image” may have caused which she said was never the intention. The scene was intended to depict a sacristy.

She said: “Originally set in 17th-century Italy and in our production Italy of the 1960s, the religious faith of the characters is integral to the development of their stories and we felt it was important that this was reflected in any image chosen to promote the production. The poster is intended to represent a sacristy. The focus of the image, and therefore at the centre of the poster is the picture of the children holding hands, the suggestion being that candles are being lit and prayers given in the sacristy for these children.

“All complaints received by the Playhouse regarding this issue are being dealt with accordingly and we are taking all enquiries into this image very seriously. As with any campaign when rehearsals start we begin looking at alternative images, these will be used for other promotional material and on our website. It is testament to the power of this play that nearly 400 years later, the title ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore can still cause such controversy.”

John Grady, the diocesan spokesman, said the Playhouse’s line was that the diocese misread the poster and would not take the posters down. He said the poster featuring Our Lady with the crucified Christ juxtaposed with the play’s title was a marketing ploy.

He added: “The poster is offensive. The approach of Holy Week makes it calculated”.

  • AgingPapist

    The publication of bishop Roche’s letter is worth far more to the playhouse than free advertising alone could ever have given it.

  • Anonymous

    If this had been offensive to the Mohammedan heathen then it would have been taken down without question.

    Oh, how this country has fallen.

  • SOSJ

    Regrettably so, but he could not let such a thing go by without comment. Whenever a Christian offers comment these days he or she is likely to be mocked or even vilified, particularly so if a Catholic too. We just have to speak out and put up with it.

  • Whapgra

    If it was an Islamic image no doubt they would be told to take it down.

  • Anonymous

    Freedom of speech is important. I think it is fair of the Bishop to make a public complaint, but I think to ask for it to be taken down is too far.

  • Anonymous

    At least Bishop Roche had the courage to put his name to a letter and try to do something about this matter. Having The Pieta on the poster during Holy Week is insensitive to say the least.

  • J Hutchinsonmbe

    Had this poster been refering to any thing about islam there would have been out rage and demos all over Leeds

    John Hutchinson MBE

  • ms catholic state

    Christianity is the only religion allowed to be abused and insulted. That’s discrimination.

    And secularists should learn……that controversial doesn’t equal genius. I don’t think they know the difference to be honest.

  • Bernard

    BY POST:
    West Yorkshire Playhouse
    Playhouse Square
    Quarry Hill
    LS2 7UP

    Administration: 0113 213 7800
    Box Office: 0113 213 7700


    BY FAX:
    Administration: 0113 213 7250
    Box Office: 0113 213 7210

  • Vince

    Excatly the same schema of provocation used in Avignon, France, for an art exhibition. It was planned to make big poster of “Piss-Christ”. Very difficult not to fall in the trap of provocation : I liked very much the tone of Leed archbishop’s letter : it forces the other party either to comply, if they are of good faith, or to reveal their imposture and their wicked intentions. Apparently they choose the second way.

  • Chjklnps

    Mary Whitehouse was right. Now that sodomy has government backing, the pedophiles and incestuous are next in line. After that there is only really bestiality and necrophilia – the media industry (which was never Christian) leads the way to hell.

  • SW

    The poster has now been covered with a white sheet which says “Judge the Play Not the Poster’”. It would be good if you updated the story.

  • The Catholic Herald

    SW – Thank you for pointing that out. It has now been updated.

  • Chjklnps

    If it offended atheists they would take it down because athesists are not restrained by a coherent moral code – they would take direct action against those whose behaviour they don’t like. In this way, the offensive poster demonstrates that Christianity is the one true faith – they are free to express their hate because they have no fear that their evil will be met with evil. As Christ said, “Return no man evil for evil.” They will be judged by those who share their own atheistic attitudes and values – it will flop.

  • Anonymous

    Take it cool. Let us take it cool.Living one’s religion in the Spirit of Christ is the right thing and not trying to protect it or preserve it by protest or appeal.

    Let people do what they want: that is expressing freedom may be in the wrong way but never mind. Nobody becomes better or perfect without making mistakes or even committing sin.

    Let us not come on the way of freedom, right or wrong. after all who is responsible for whom?

    Let us live our faith responsibly following Christ the Lord who told us, “Love your enemies, pray…..” It is true religion.

  • Anonymous

    Can we not have the intelligence to look at this case based on its own merits – to discuss the balance between art, free-speach and censorship? Instead all I see is an ‘its not fair’ attitude towards other religious groups that have perhaps thrown their weight around more forcefully.

    I don’t condone reactionary responses by other religions, nor paranoid councils who are worried of fallout. However, I fail to see how it is constructive to ‘blame the Muslims’ for a poster campaign nothing to do with them.
    Is it really too hard to concentrate on the substance of the matter – for it is not being discussed here whatsoever.

  • jng

    Whether it be the theatre or rather doubtful accounts of history portrayed on TV., it seems to be accepted that insulting Christians either with images or invented “facts” is a risk free way of attracting attention to oneself and for one’s product. I well remember a Channel 4 programme decorated with crucifixes, sinister music and references to paedophile priests, which had virtually reached its end before it was clear that the complaints of the resentful, sad faced people interviewed were, in fact, about not being funded to visit the UK whence they had been sent as orphaned children. It was clearly a contrived attempt, rediculous had it not been so malicious, to incite religious hatred: but Christians are a soft touch, as the producers and presenters of many factually erroneous, yet unchallenged, TV programmes have already demonstrated. The theatre has been at it a little longer. Probably no-one on mainland Europe did more to protect Jews during World War II than Pius XII, as Golda Meir’s admiration, and Hitler’s condemnation of him as an enemy of National Socialism, demonstrated. Yet, he was well trashed for being the opposite on the stage, and has been since by TV historians. So, in defence of the West Yorkshire Playhouse, no matter how sick their taste is, they got there first.