New plays on Broadway need all the help they can get, and sometimes nothing helps quite like a good old-fashioned protest. That’s just what the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has registered against Diane Shaffer’s debut work, “Sacrilege,” (see review, page 78), which opened last week at the Belasco Theater under the Broadway Alliance plan. The play stars Ellen Burstyn as a devout nun convinced she was born to be a priest, a sentiment not shared by her male co-religionists.

“‘ Sacrilege’ is not an anti-Catholic exhibition,” reads a statement from William A. Donohue, president of the league, a watchdog group on the lookout for Catholic bashing. In a gesture that put him way out in front of most would-be censors, Donohue actually attended the play in question before making this pronouncement: “(‘ Sacrilege’) is a carefully crafted political statement, and it is one not designed to flatter the Catholic church.” Oh, for a little less restraint.

I would argue with Donohue’s assertion that “traditionalists who uphold the church’s teachings are seen as authoritarian and unenlightened.” In fact, the play’s most moving speech comes from a cardinal who defends the church’s record fighting for human rights and giving succor to the poor around the world, almost rendering Sister Grace’s complaint trivial.

Actually, the point I would most dispute is Donohue’s claim that “Sacrilege” is well-crafted (oh well, everyone’s a critic). Still, isn’t it refreshing to find at least one soul exercised about the notion that a play these days actually would risk being political? The headline of the Catholic League statement read, “Broadway’s ‘ Sacrilege’ Makes Political Statement.” We are shocked, as they say, shocked

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