The 1963 play by German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, which provides a critical take on Pope Piux XII's efforts to stop the Holocaust, is part of the 19th annual Baeumler Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration held at the school to raise awareness of the persecution of Jews and others by the Nazis before and during World War II.
The Rev. Richard Kunst of Duluth told the Duluth News Tribune he asked UMD Chancellor Lendley Black Monday to call off the production, which starts Thursday and runs through April 19. Other Catholics made similar appeals, the newspaper said.
Black cited academic freedom when telling the newspaper the play will be staged despite the criticism. He said in an e-mail the play and lecture series "work to inform people, foster broad discussion, and create understanding."
"The events of the Baeumler Kaplan lecture series, including the staging of part of the play 'The Deputy,' will continue as planned, and we look forward to hearing diverse perspectives and involvement by the broader community during the talk back that is being held after the performance," the chancellor said.
Critics also expressed displeasure with the postcard invitation for the Baeumler Kaplan events, which included a faceless bishop and a Nazi officer standing on a Holocaust victim and an image of Pope Pius XII above a death camp crematorium.
Kunst called the play and the postcard "nothing more than hate speech against Pope Pius XII and Catholics," the News Tribune said.
"All of the allegations raised in this play have been debunked by scholars. ... This has little or nothing to do with history and more to do with attacking the church," Kunst said.
"If they wanted to have a serious academic discussion about the history of the pope at that time of history, and invited Catholics to be part of it, we could have had that conversation based on facts. But the postcard, and the play itself, go beyond any academic freedom issues. This is simply hate."