Religious leaders from several traditions have stepped up attacks on the new Monty Python film, "Life of Brian," calling it "blasphemy" and "sacrilege."
"Life of Brian" depicts a fictional contemporary of Jesus who spouts obscenities and has a mother who is a prostitute. "Brian" is a reluctant messiah born on Christmas night, who joins the People's Liberation Front of Judea and is crucified by the Roman army.
The Warner Bros. release opened in New York on Aug. 17, where it grossed $140,806 in its first 12 days, according to Variety, a trade journal. It also is playing to large audiences in Los Angeles.
The Rev. Msgr. Eugene V. Clark, director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York's communications office, condemned the film because it "holds the person of Christ up to comic ridicule and is for Christians an act of blasphemy."
The interfaith antiobscenity organiztion, Morality in Media, announced it "will support and participate in any and every effort mounted to prevent this outrage from seeing the light of day in other cities, and to work toward its closure in New York."
The group's director, the Rev. Morton A. Hill, called the production a "direct, aggressive, deliberate violation of the rights of believing persons by Warner Communications and by the producers and exhibitors." Hill said, though, that he did not know any law that could be invoked to close the picture.
Warner Bros. denied the charges, saying "It was never our intention to offend anyone's beliefs and we certainly regret having done so. The film is a satire, a spoof, and should be viewed in that context."
The first groups to denounce "Life of Brian" were three Orthodox Jewish organizations. They labeled the film "an incitement to possible violence" and a "crime against religion."