Tuesday, September 19, 2017

An open letter to a Bishop, who, like many of his fellow Christians, wants to ban my play

Dear Dom Tomé,

Forgive me for being so presumptuous as to write to you directly when we have not met.

I just wanted to tell you that I listened to your radio broadcast yesterday

The one in which you attacked my play “The Gospel According To Jesus Queen of Heaven” for offending Christian values, and spoke so eloquently of the need for responsibility in the use of our right to free speech.

Dom Tomé, I so absolutely agree with you. I so strongly believe that we have a moral responsibility for what we say; and that in particular we should not speak in public in order to spread prejudice and hatred.

As a Christian like you, I believe very strongly that our public words should try to spread Christian values of forgiveness and love.

You never mention the content of my play because I suspect you have not read it. I imagine the idea of a trans woman, a travesti, portraying Jesus on stage outraged you too much. 

Forgive me for causing you distress.

But you’ll be aware, Dom Tomé, that when the Son of God came down among us He did not take human form among the powerful and great but among the rejected and despised.

As a trans woman myself, I have spent my life among the rejected and despised, and so I am sure you’ll understand how profoundly this moves me.

And so I wanted to find a powerful way of bringing this profound truth onto the stage.

Never for a moment did I intend to attack the Church or Christian values, as you suggest.

So it saddens me to hear you say that any Catholic who sees my play has committed a sin and should go to confession afterwards.

There is an excellent translation of the play, dear Dom Tomé, and it has been performed all round São Paulo for over a year now. Many Christian ministers and lay people have seen the play in your country and in mine and agree that it is absolutely in accord with the truths of the Christian faith.

I would happily send you a copy as a gift. I would so love to be able to talk to you about my re-telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Woman at the Well, the Woman Taken in Adultery, and the Prodigal Son.

I expect we would disagree on some things, and I would imagine you would find my interpretation of Holy Communion very unorthodox.

But I know we would also agree on the profound beauty, love and wisdom of the words of the Gospels and their importance in our troubled world.

Lastly, Dom Tomé, I also wanted to say how sorry I am to hear of your troubles and difficulties.

I gather that in 2015 there were allegations that you had been in  a loving relationship with your chauffeur and that in order to give him presents you took money from Diocesan funds.

And that when you were explaining matters to your fellow priests you wept. You must have been suffering so greatly. I imagine that you are still suffering, Dom Tomé, and I can only offer you my profoundest sympathy.

Of course I wouldn’t dream of judging or condemning you. As my play says, we are all here on this earth to love and to be loved. And:

“We all of us stumble over our Mother Earth. All of us stumbling together. We have no right or business to condemn”.

And as Someone infinitely wiser and more loving than both of us said:

“Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone”.

I quote Him in my play. Of course. Like you, I hold Him in the greatest reverence and respect.

I am glad your fellow priests found it in their hearts to forgive you and that you are still in post.

I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive us too. Like you, we are trying in our imperfect way to spread a Christian message of peace and love.

I hope that one day we can work together.

In the meantime, I wish you well.


Jo Clifford.

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