An Emotional Reaction from Audience Members

By Michael Paulson
Boston Globe
June 10, 2004

ARLINGTON -- They had read about it in the newspapers or seen clips on TV, but for many people in the audience, watching a dramatization of the deposition of Cardinal Bernard F. Law brought the clergy abuse crisis home in a whole new way.

The several hundred people who last night attended the Boston premiere of "Sin: A Cardinal Deposed" greeted the production at first with somber silence, and then with sustained applause.

At a post-production talk with the artistic director, playwright, and actors, audience members offered universally positive feedback about the play, which intersperses adapted scenes from Law's deposition with dramatized readings of documents in the abuse cases and re-enacted interviews with key players.

"It was halfway through the first act before my heart stopped beating so fast," said John Harris, who says he was a victim of abuse by Paul R. Shanley, who was then a priest but has recently been defrocked. Harris told the actors in "Sin" that he considered the abuse scandal "pure evil" akin to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that "I'm grateful to you for keeping it alive."

The play is the first of what are likely to be several dramatizations of the scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church since the Boston Globe published a series of stories on abuse by priests in 2002. Showtime has agreed to make a film about the scandal, based on the book "Our Fathers," by David France of Newsweek.

Playwright Michael Murphy told the audience he decided to adapt the depositions for the stage because he thought they helped explain why the abuse crisis happened, but that, "I didn't know who else would be willing to read 1,000 pages of deposition." But Murphy said the play is not a literal reenactment of the depositions, because "our job is to show you what was going on under the skin, behind the masks."

One member of the audience called the production "an indictment of what organized religion can be," while another noted the "diminishment of the power of prayer."

Murphy said that was not his intent.

"This is not an indictment of organized religion," he said. "It's management issues, rather than spiritual ones."

One of the characters portrayed on stage -- victims attorney Mitchell Garabedian -- attended last night's performance and pronounced it "very powerful."

Another attendee, Voice of the Faithful executive director Steve Krueger, said "the dramatic presentation of these transcripts is something every Catholic must see. It's a reminder that there is so much work to do, and that we cannot forget the story of survivors." The play is scheduled to run through June 27. The company is holding benefit performances in Arlington on June 14 and in Manchester, N.H., on June 21 to benefit organizations that assist abuse victims.


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