Breaking the Silence

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Breaking the SilenceNearly two thousand Catholics gathered in front of New York City’s Lincoln Center to express their outrage at the controversial film, Dogma’s October 4 debut at the New York Film Festival.

It was the first of the many protests organized by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP).

Director Kevin Smith and the film’s cast, who attended the premiere screening, may have expected cameras and rave reviews but not the crowd near the theater entrance. They seemed to be caught off-guard by the speeches, prayers, and hymns that marked the two-and-a-half hour rally of reparation. Figures like the Most Rev. Francisco Garmendia, Auxiliary Bishop of New York, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel addressed the crowd and applauded efforts to combat blasphemy.

“Public acts of reparation for blasphemy are appreciated by everyone who loves Jesus and His Church.”

“I am grateful for all the faithful gathered to protest this film.”
Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss, Bishop of Omaha

Indeed, Catholics all over the country have protested this Disney/Miramax production. The film’s plot revolves around two fallen “angels” trying to get back into heaven. The TFP’s protest flyer notes that the film’s script mocks “everything we hold sacred—God, the Church, the Mass and Mary’s virginity. It condones what we condemn—murder, obscenity, profanity, drugs, drunkenness and rebellion!”

The film has proven a cultural hot potato for Disney/Miramax. The former family entertainment giant “distanced itself” from the film by selling it to Miramax co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein who, in turn, distributed it through Lion’s Gate. This distributor released it to over 1,200 theaters nationwide.

A Symbolic Rally of Reparation

The rally opened with the solemn entrance of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima where, amid Marian hymns and applause, she took her place of honor near the speakers’ platform. “This protest in New York represents a groundswell of reaction that shows Catholics are willing to rally around the Blessed Mother,” said TFP speaker Robert E. Ritchie, addressing the crowd that stretched far down the street before him. Banners, signs, and pictures made the rush-hour protest particularly visible off Broadway. Bishop Garmendia, representing the Archdiocese of New York, spoke and led a rosary. Also speaking were Father Groeschel and Father Andrew Apostoli, both Franciscan Friars of the Renewal; Fr. Peter West of Priests for Life; and Fr. John Trigilio, a program host on Eternal Word Television; and Pennsylvania pro-life activist Mrs. Betty Caffrey.

Raymond Drake, President of the American TFP, offered the closing remarks. “We must protest,” he said. “We must tell God we have no part in this. We must tell the world how much we disagree with it. We must tell our fellow Catholics that they, too, should take a public stand of peaceful and lawful opposition to it.”

Letters and Prayers

Many from across the country who could not attend the rally promised their prayers and sacrifices during it. Inspiring letters of support for the rally were received from Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha, Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, Bishop Thomas Dupré of Springfield (Mass.), Bishop James Timlin of Scranton, and others.

“I am grateful for all the faithful gathered to protest this film,” wrote Archbishop Curtiss. “Public acts of reparation for blasphemy are appreciated by everyone who loves Jesus and His Church.”

Several letters also arrived from Capitol Hill. Senator Bob Smith (I-NH), Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Congressmen John Hostettler (R-Ind.) all expressed their dismay over the screening.

“How sad that our artists feel obliged to degrade our Savior and His Blessed Mother,” wrote Senator Smith. “However, as Catholics and Christians we must expect and willingly accept the insults and abuse of this world, for before they hated us, they hated the Savior. I am glad to stand up against these instances of sacrilege, even to the point of speaking on the floor of the United State Senate.”

Enough Is Enough

The TFP campaign against Dogma was launched last May with a postcard protest addressed to Producer Disney-owned Miramax Films, and owners Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Nearly five million “Stop Blasphemy Now!” protest postcards have circulated nationwide, distributed by a network of 17,000 volunteers.

Amid the growing number of blasphemies eroding the Faith, the American TFP stands firm in the cultural fray, calling on millions of Catholics to rise up in defense of the honor of Jesus, Mary, and the Church, and to proclaim that enough is enough with a resolute “No!” to blasphemy.

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