Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Just Clowning Around

April 8th, 2011, Promulgated by Abaccio

Such that everyone is aware, I call your attention to something that is again happening at Peace of Christ parish, the first performance of which is one week from today.

Passion Mime

The Passion Mime is a prayerful dramatization of the Passion of Jesus Christ performed by eighth graders and alumnus (sic) of Siena Catholic Academy. This moving portrayal of the events leading up to, and including, the crucifixion of Christ is done through Mime and Music via Narration. The Passion Mime Presentations will be Fri., April 15 at noon, Tuesday, April 19 and Good Friday, April 22 at 8:00 p.m. We truly hope that you will make the Passion Mime apart of your Lenten Journey.

Rich posted about this the past three years, here, here, and here.

Jesus Christ, Superman?

This occurs, once again, despite heavy criticism in years past.  Of course, this has been vehemently defended by Fr. Brian Carpenter, and obviously allowed by Fr. Bob Schrader, pastor of the parish.

Some issues:

1) The sanctuary is used as a performance stage.  Fr. Carpenter insists that it is not fundamentally a performance, but a prayer.  Clearly, miming in a Superman t-shirt and suspenders does not fit into the tradition of Catholic prayer.

2) The music used comes from Godspell and Jesus Christ, Superstar.  This is not sacred music, nor is it appropriate music to ever be played within the church proper, let alone as accompaniment to a mime performance in the sanctuary.

3) The use of mime in general is an unacceptable means by which to present the passion.  Mime is, by definition, “an ancient dramatic entertainment representing scenes from life usually in a ridiculous manner” Instead, why not do something whose origin is not farce, such as living stations of the cross.  This is something that could at least be considered “prayer.”

4) The use of children, who do not know better, is disheartening.  I personally know some previous passion mimers, and can tell you that their understanding of the faith is astonishingly limited.  Telling them that this sort of cockamamie absurdity will help them grow in the Catholic faith is hogwash.

Now, to head off the complaints that will surely come in:

1) No, I am not blaming the children.  This, much like previous posts about children hanging around the sanctuary, is really about the adults.  They’re using kids to push their agenda.

2) This is not a prayer.  Don’t even bother claiming that it is.

3) I don’t care if sixty-six children are involved in this.  Might does not make right.

4) Don’t bother telling me I just haven’t experienced it, so I shouldn’t comment until I have.  I also haven’t experienced jumping over Niagara Falls in a barrel, nor do I intend to do so, but I will still tell you that it ought not be done.

Who came up with this?

5) Don’t bother explaining that Fr. Shrader has competent authority here.  Just because it is not explicitly stated that a passion mime in the sanctuary of a Catholic Church is unacceptable does not make it acceptable.  As head of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger got the nickname “Cardinal No,” since so many people wrote into him, asking “Cardinal Ratzinger, can we do this?” And, almost invariably, when presented with something goofy, he responded, “No.”  I can picture his facial expression upon seeing something like this in the sanctuary.  It’s probably much like his facial expression  upon being presented with shirtless acrobats.

As always, if we had bothered with Catechesis these past 4 decades, and had a sense of sacred space (non-wreckovated), and taught children actual prayers, we would not be resorting to this silliness.

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40 Responses to “Just Clowning Around”

  1. Kevin says:

    I honestly don’t know what to make of this whole thing, aside from “NO!” Why oh why? I would have no problem whatsoever if this was done ANYWHERE else, but in the church itself, even in the sanctuary and upon the altar?

  2. Abaccio says:

    Fr. Carpenter claims that this is NOT the altar, but rather a table *makes a Cranmer’s table joke* I assume he’s telling the truth, and that the altar is moved or covered or some such.

  3. Fr. Carpenter claims that this is NOT the altar, but rather a table *makes a Cranmer’s table joke* I assume he’s telling the truth, and that the altar is moved or covered or some such.

    It’s a table placed in front of the altar so that it resembles … an altar.

    Fr. Carpenter, an otherwise sensible and decent man, does himself and his flock a disservice by defending this lunacy.

  4. John says:

    This is pure blasphemy.

  5. Don’t go. Then you won’t have to see it or be offended.

    Aside from suggesting that Catholicism boils down to matters of taste, this piece of advice implies that St. Ambrose is a club, not a parish in the universal Church. It is wrong on both counts.

  6. Ink says:

    Not really, no. It’s not as simple as that. See, what’s happening here is a blatant disrespect for Our Lord. I don’t really know about anyone else here, but I will defend my family and friends to the death if anyone disses them: even more so will I defend God. Therefore, something so obnoxiously and flamboyantly rude, which shows such disregard for the dignity of Our Lord, must be denounced–preferably publicly, so that others may see why the error is wrong. Ignoring a problem will not make it go away. Like a medical issue, heresy and disrespect for Almighty God must be treated immediately or it will fester and worsen.

  7. Gilbert says:

    This is absolutely terrible. This amounts to a performance, an exhibition, in the middle of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass… At the very least, the Mass should be the one place where we can get away from mortal flesh hogging the spotlight, gather together as one Body under our Head, and adore our King with no vanities or distractions to stand between Him and us.

    It doesn’t look like this is what’s happening in those photos, does it?

    And most grievous of all to lead children into this, who above all deserve wholesome examples of right living ordered to the worship of the Lord.

    True, we go to Mass to meet our Lord, no matter what its celebration lacks. However, surely we can honor our Lord with worship that’s a little more reverent, a little more beautiful.

  8. Dr. K says:

    The performance takes place outside of the Mass.

  9. Gilbert says:

    Well, thank you for the corrections, Dr. K and Anon 11:14, and please pardon the hasty comment– I am relieved to know it’s not during the Mass.

    That said, while I thank you for the justified rebuke, Anon 11:14, that this miming practice is inappropriate is fact enough… Thank Heaven it’s not performed in the Mass, yes– but the matter stands that the practice is an inappropriate use of the sanctuary, the music is not worshipful, and the miming is irreverent. This isn’t a question of intention, of course– I’ve never meant to bring that up. Even provided all involved have the best intention, that doesn’t make wrong things right.

  10. Ink says:

    I’m in theatre. I know what “mime” means. I also know the difference between a people-centric show and a God-centric live reenactment. I was a narrator for a Live Stations, back in middle school, as well as the Assistant Stage Manager for Godspell a couple years ago at Aquinas. The difference between the two is astonishing. Let me pick on the music used here, since I have in fact seen BOTH Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar and can tell you that they are theatrical productions, not Passion Plays. By the way, in the Middle Ages? There were no mimed Passions. There were pageants, sure–travelling pageants, which were a huuuuge part of Holy Week. But no mimes. Go back to your freshman-year-of-high-school Intro to Theatre class–that’s where I learned MY theatre history. I think you need a refresher.

    As for the music: Godspell is highly exaggerated, dramatized, and cartoonized. It is primarily a comedy in the first act, and the Crucifixion in the second act is rather poorly done. Traditionally the “apostles” are in clown makeup, and Jesus wears a shirt with a superman-style G on it. Mockery much?

    Jesus Christ Superstar is flat-out heretical, since it implies that Jesus had a relationship with Mary Magdalene, which He did not. (Ex: her song: “Close your eyes and relax, think of nothing tonight”) Again, it is a stage production of the Passion–not particularly sacred, since it revolves around the actors and not the story. It also attempts to justify Judas’ choice (song: Judas’ Death)–which is impossible. In addition to all these, it implies Jesus is not the Son of God (song: Superstar; lyrics: “Jesus Christ Superstar / Do you think you’re what they say you are?”)

    As for the altar, I never mentioned that in my comment. As an aspiring sacred-architect, however, I would like to note that as far as I know, the entire sanctuary is set apart for the purpose of the Sacrifice–hence why it is the “sanctuary.” The sacred space. (According to the GIRM, it is still supposed to be set apart and delineated as “special,” since it is where the Eucharist takes place. This mime is defilement of the sanctuary.)

  11. Gen says:

    @ Anon 11:23 – You say “it is done VERY SERIOUSLY.” Forgive me, but seeing a bunch of eighth-graders in facepaint dancing in the sanctuary is not “very serious.” Seeing Our Lord depicted as a clown with a Superman shirt is not “very serious.” Using the trite and emotionally-castrated music from Jesus Christ Superstar is not “very serious.”

    Indeed, the only that is “very serious” is your obvious, persisting, and misinformed defense of a disrespectful, tasteless, and profane act. I would rather see our children sing a rousing chorus of “O Sacred Head” than flit around the sanctuary like crazed French entertainers. And I think the majority of informed Catholics would agree with me.

  12. Scott W. says:

    Is this Fr. Carpenters personal project? Or is he possibly being used as a pawn to defend this? I am certain he has no choice but to tow the line, even if he personally objects…

    Nope. Fr. Carpenter came on Rich’s blog last year and defended it. Not well mind you, but defended it nonetheless and thus we can conclude it has his full formal support.

  13. Rich Leonardi, the performance is not mandatory. No one is implying that the Church is a “club”. But the performance is strictly for those that want to go. If it bothers you that it is in a church, that’s your issue.

    That’s exactly what you imply. Your advice — “Don’t go” — and your subsequent rebuttal — “Again, don’t go” — amount to little more than “Butt out.” Which is something we say when someone is interfering with activity that doesn’t concern them, e.g., the goings-on of a private party or clubhouse.

    Passion Mimes are done in many dioceses across the country–in churches. they are also done during Holy week in many European Catholic Churches…I have gone to two in Europe.

    “Everybody’s doing it — why can’t we?” My four-year-old can come up with a better defense.

    There is absolutely no disrespect shown…it is not a comedy…it is done VERY SERIOUSLY and there are some children who actually leave the Church in tears because the passion of Our Lord touches them so deeply.And they leave in silence.

    Oh yes. The greasepaint, suspenders, and superman t-shirt convey an unassailable seriousness.

    Tick tock, folks. 2012 is right around the corner.

  14. Fr. Savanarola says:

    Every Catholic, a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, has an interest and a part in every act of the Church and Her members. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether one is a member of a particular community or not. Further, one doesn’t have to actually witness a thing such as a Passion Mime to offer structural criticism.

    The serious concerns seem to boil down to whether or not a sanctuary is the proper place for this and that the ‘mime conceit’ in general and the attire of the character of Our Lord are incompatible with the seriousness and solemnity of the Passion. With both of these I concur. My suggestion to the folks at Peace of Christ, go ahead an do a mime-like silent Passion play, but outside of the sanctuary and without the greasepaint and Superstar suit (the 70s are over folks).

    Also, you might try to listen to the offered criticism with a little humility instead of offering a knee-jerk and ill-reasoned defense.

  15. Ludwig says:

    Hey, aren’t we turning the cathedral into a prayer-maze again his Lent?

    I don’t think that’s a tangent…

  16. Dr. K says:

    Yea, they did the prayer maze again at the Cathedral.

    By the way, the Chrism Mass is quickly approaching. Can’t wait to see what offense liturgical prancing display they choreograph this year.

  17. I’m sorry that you can’t or won’t accept some realities regarding the students involved in the Passion Mime. Perhaps it is more uplifting to view the Poster-Child for Catholic misbehavior’s film, “The passion of the Christ’.

    When the facts don’t support you, argue the law.
    When the law doesn’t support you, argue the facts.
    When neither supports you, pound the table.

  18. Irondequoit Mom says:

    Anonymous- What??? Your arguments are like those of a mother who can bear to know her children are wrong…or as in this case, your parish. Just be the bigger person here, make everyone happy and take up bandwidth elsewhere.

  19. Irondequoit Mom says:

    Sorry I meant “cant bear to know”…

  20. Ludwig says:

    I found it very easy to leave Protestantism because a majority of Protestant churches I saw had devolved into what I have repeatedly described as “a circus.”

    Visually, this strikes me as the type of literal circus that many Protestant churches only figuratively transform into.

    That’s my admittedly knee-jerk reaction.

    I am inclined to reconsider that reaction given that it is defended by Fr. Carpenter. His tree is one that tends to bear good fruit. It seems as though he isn’t feigning ignorance of how inappropriate is to do this in the presence of the tabernacle or on the altar. I tend to recoil at the thought of this happening in the sacred space of the sanctuary, but I also tend to trust Fr. Carpenter’s judgment.

    Perhaps it really is done in a more reverent manner than the visuals would lead one to believe. But there’s no denying that the visuals here are unsettling. I showed them to a Protestant friend of mine. Her reaction was an immediate, “holy crap!” (I suspect the pun was not intended).

    Those perceptions may be worth considering.

  21. Ink says:

    Dear Anon,
    I love how you are arguing with a teenager (me) and then making assumptions that teenagers “like this sort of thing.” Or “don’t like” good music. At the Hands of Christ awards this year at Mother of Sorrows, they imported the “Faith on Fire” group from St Pius X. When they announced they were going to sing again at the end, and encouraged everyone to sing along to “Go Make a Difference,” there was a very audible collective groan from the entire section of seniors in high school. My mom reports that the hippie-era people around her were totally into it. This was supposed to be “for the kids,” but the older generation liked it much better. Go figure.

  22. Abaccio says:

    It could’ve been worse, Ink…I was the confirmation sponsor for my cousin out in Buffalo, and they played Go Make a Difference on an organ. Not only was it stupid, it sounded like a car that wouldn’t turn over crossed with a cat with laryngitis

  23. Scott W. says:

    I am inclined to reconsider that reaction given that it is defended by Fr. Carpenter. His tree is one that tends to bear good fruit. It seems as though he isn’t feigning ignorance of how inappropriate is to do this in the presence of the tabernacle or on the altar. I tend to recoil at the thought of this happening in the sacred space of the sanctuary, but I also tend to trust Fr. Carpenter’s judgment.

    I believe even Rich, the sharpest critic of the practice, has acknowledged Fr. Carpenter’s essential gooodness, just spectacularly wrong on this. You can read his defense from last year on Rich’s blog. Unfortunately, it boiled down to “please don’t eat the daisies” (or what I call the monkeys-in-the-sanctuary approach–or that which is not explicitly forbidden is permitted), and the good intentions and sincerity of the participants, which isn’t in dispute.

  24. MD says:

    I think Fr. Carpenter is one of the better priests in the diocese, and says a good Mass. He has a great zeal for the faith, and an above average respect for tradition. However, I continue to believe that he is wrong about this. That said, one wrong sentiment does not erase all of one’s good, just as one good sentiment does not erase all of one’s bad.

  25. Dr. K says:

    I agree with MD, he is one of the better priests of our diocese. Don’t forget that the Mime has been going on since long before his ordination, so it would be wrong to place the blame on him. Peace of Christ plays host to the event, but I don’t believe they are the ones who organize it.

  26. Ink says:

    Yes, hippie-era. 55-65. The baby boomers… they were teenagers in the 60s. And songs may be a matter of taste, but in the context of Mass or other sacred ceremony, it should be appropriate.

    By the way, I do know that Jesus WAS Jewish, I am not Protestant. The Renaissance depiction of Jesus varies, by the way, according to what time of the Renaissance you look at it. Or maybe you prefer Byzantine icons? Or medieval depictions, before perspective was invented? But whichever way you look at it, He was NOT a mime. Just saying.

  27. Abaccio says:

    Uh, because Our Lord is so often portrayed as clean shaven, with a bald head, wearing a track suit? That comment was absolutely idiotic, Anon 6:20 Amazing Grace isn’t a Catholic hymn, anyways, and bagpipes are not a liturgical instrument, so…she’s probably right in disliking it. But again, this is neither here nor there. Ink’s point here is this: Those things which are supposedly appealing to young people, are often times much more appealing to those of a much older generation, who seem to be convinced that they understand the youth. I work with young people, and can assure you that she is 100 percent correct. Liturgical goofiness doesn’t appeal to kids, and i abhor the use of “appealing to kids” as an excuse to push an agenda.

  28. Scott W. says:

    Or medieval depictions, before perspective was invented? But whichever way you look at it, He was NOT a mime. Just saying.

    Correct. Elsewhere Rich pointed out that when the facts or law is not on your side, pound the table. To that I’d add: “or imply your opponent is a racist.” Anon6:20 has hit rock-bottom and is starting to dig.

  29. Ink says:

    Scott: Or better, invoke Hitler.

  30. Ink says:

    Anon, please give it up. You clearly need a course in Good Music. I’ll put up a Plato-style post on just that some time during Holy Week. You might want to read it.

  31. Scott W. says:

    racist? Who is implying that anyone posting is racist?

    “I am sure that many people would have a heart attack if they found out that Jesus was a dark skinned Jew who looked more like the Muslim fanatics that bombed the World Trade Center than he does their sweet little Irish grampas.”

    Really, now. Who are we trying to kid?

    I perceive that the main objection is not only that it is done in sacred space, but that it is done at all.

    As usual, your Magic-8 into opponent’s souls needs to be taken to the shop. That IS my main objection. If it was in the social hall, I would still think it silly, but would not really object.

  32. RochChaCha says:

    It really pains me to see these photos every year during lent as we approach Easter. There is no valid excuse for turning the sanctuary of the church into a performing arts stage. I’ve heard all the excuses thus far, from how it is done in a ‘respectful manner’ to how the altar is removed in order to be respectful, to how the crucifx is removed as well. You can remove it all you want, but this is a sacred space reserved for Christ, not for some ridiculous passion mime. How hard is it for parents to explain to their children what the Passion of Christ is? Do they really need to see this in some sort of ridiculous mime play? I am really dissapointed that Father Carpenter allows this to take place.

  33. RochChaCha says:

    Anon 11:35,

    I bet they don’t.

  34. Scott W. says:

    RochChaCha, The pictures don’t tell the whole story. Go and see and then make your decision.

    As Rich put it, one does not have to drink the whole gallon of milk to determine if it is spoiled when one whiff will do.

  35. Ink says:

    *sigh* “Good” in the philosophical sense. In that it participates in the divine nature by being inherently… well, good. Or true or beautiful. Transcendental. Music, according to Plato, is the sum of influences upon a person, often media. Good music, therefore, is a positive influence which encourages a rightly ordered soul.

    Of course I’m going to be on CF during Holy Week. I get the week off school, and I’m a writer for the site. Plus, posts like the one I’m planning on writing are rather educational.

    By the way, Annoying Anon? I may hide behind a screenname, but at least you have a name by which you can address me. Just addressing “anonymous” is starting to get old.

  36. Gilbert says:

    But saying “you can’t judge the performance until you’ve seen it” is a bit like saying “you can’t say it’s dangerous to dance on the freeway until you’ve tried it”– not, of course, that watching this performance will get you run over, but it should be clear that in not all cases must one be “on the inside” of a thing to make a reasonable assessment of its relative merits.

    In other words, it’s reasonable to assess by what’s apparent in these photos that this performance is an abuse of the sanctuary.

  37. Scott W. says:

    Taking a “whiff” is the same as seeing the Passion Mime for oneself..

    No it isn’t. Mime passions simply do not belong in the sanctuary.

  38. Ink says:

    You’re making judgments based on hypothetical situations, Anon, and I can speak for my Gilbert when I say that’s not going to happen. But the point still stands: of course those pictures would be cause for judgment. Let’s say they existed. Would I have questions? Absolutely. Would I disapprove? Absolutely. So if you saw those photos and said that there’s something fishy and bad going on, you are completely justified, because that is what was happening. Similarly, we see the photos of the Passion Mime and see something fishy and bad going on.

  39. RochChaCha says:


    A few questions for you. 1) Does St. Ambrose have a gymnasium? 2) Does St. Ambrose have a parish hall? 3) Is there a reason why this ridiculous ‘mime’ could not be performed in a space outside of the sanctuary?

  40. Porcupine says:

    Is anyone else disappointed that the passion mime thread has 50+ comments on it and Ben’s excellent post on a local pastor stealing sheep has just 3?

    I know his post is pretty new but still, bear with me here for a moment.

    I’m amazed we have enough youngsters still left in the church around here to run a mime show.

    As people have mentioned above that they are offended by this show, are we not as worked up at Pastor Vince leading souls away from the church? While both issues are wrong in different senses, do we not have more power to rectify the Pastor Vinny issue than the mime issue. If not, what can we do beyond just complaining about it. Is a petition being formed or something tangible?

    Isn’t there more each one of us can do (not just the priests) in the pews to educate the people next to us than putting an end to a passion mime play (which by the way I think is wrong to have in the church).

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