Huh: fundamentalist Catholics protest provocative art

Sometimes we come across a story that could be called "The Onion, GetReligion style." It's so strange that you're not even sure where to begin. We have a story like this from AFP, and it appears the media outlet released two versions of the same story yesterday.

Initially, the headline read "Catholic extremists target Champs Elysees theatre" but many of the websites hosting the AFP report later changed it to "Catholics picket Champs Elysees theatre." Not only was the headline changed but the first few paragraphs were rewritten. Here's the version that runs on Breitbart (bolded words are my own):

One of Paris's top theatres was bracing Thursday for a showdown with Catholic extremists vowing to disrupt the opening of "Golgota Picnic", a virulent on-stage attack on consumerism and religion.

French fundamentalist Catholics have been waging a sometimes violent campaign of protests in recent months against works they perceive as blasphemous, picketing plays and pelting theatre-goers with eggs.

Again. Where do we begin? Picketing plays and egg pelting just don't seem to go with the "extremist" description. And you know how we feel about using the f word.

Let's go through portions of the rewritten piece, looking at some of the reporter's choice of words.

The Champs Elysees theatre was braced for a showdown after Catholic fundamentalists -- who have been campaigning in recent months against works they perceive as blasphemous -- vowed to disrupt the play.

Two men linked to the fundamentalist Catholic movement were arrested in the basement of the theatre Saturday as they tried to disable its alarm system.

"These people are crazy," theatre director Jean-Michel Ribes said before the play began.

How, as a reporter or an editor, do you let that quote stand by itself?

The Catholic Church had distanced itself from those protests. This time, however, mainstream Christians have also voiced offence.

Answering a rallying call by the Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, some 4,000 Catholic faithful, including some 200 priests, joined a prayer vigil at Notre Dame Cathedral in protest at a play which the archbishop says "insults the figure of Christ".

It's helpful to distinguish between the official church leaders and those who have gone rogue. But why does AFP focus on the fringe group instead of the main one? It's not as fierce to write about? A vigil of 4,000 people at Notre Dame Cathedral sounds like a story by itself, at least stronger in numbers than the "dozens" at the theater.

"Golgota Picnic", a hard-hitting critique of consumer culture as well as religion, is peppered with provocative references to Christanity, with a musical epilogue performed by a naked pianist.

We went from words like "vowed" and "crazy" for the protesters to "peppered" and "provocative" for the artwork. Where's the phrase "the artist perceives" in this sentence that we saw earlier about the protests? This piece was made for GetReligion.

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