The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project

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Father Roger Schmit is the Catholic priest in Laramie at the time of Matthew Shepard’s murder. Unitarian minister Stephen Mead Johnson considers Father Roger to be the next left-most minister in town after himself. Father Roger holds a vigil for Matthew without hesitation after his beating, and generally seems to be accepting of LGBT people despite the fact that the Catholic Church officially disapproves of homosexuality. He condemns all violence against LGBT people—which, according to him, includes homophobic slurs and hate speech—and in doing so he expands the readers’ understanding of what violence can mean or look like. Father Roger shows how the same religious doctrine (such as Catholicism) can be read in many different ways and models the possibility of taking part in a traditional religious community while also being an ally to LGBT people.

Father Roger Schmit Quotes in The Laramie Project

The The Laramie Project quotes below are all either spoken by Father Roger Schmit or refer to Father Roger Schmit. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dramatists Play Service edition of The Laramie Project published in 2001.
Act 2: Two Queers and a Catholic Priest Quotes

I thought, “You know, should we…call the bishop and ask him permission to do the vigil?” And I was like, “Hell, no, I’m not going to do that.” His permission doesn’t make it correct, you realize that? And I’m not knocking bishops, but what is correct is correct.

Related Characters: Father Roger Schmit (speaker), Matthew Shepard, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Father Roger discusses his thought process as he was deciding to host a vigil for Matthew after his attack. Father Roger initially wondered if he should ask a higher ranking member of the clergy whether he could hold a vigil, but then decided that, whether he had the permission of the institution of the Church or not, holding a vigil was the right thing to do.

Father Roger, who is Catholic, follows his own philosophy of acceptance of LGBT people, despite the fact that the Catholic Church is officially anti-homosexuality. While the Catholic Church as an institution condemns non-heterosexual sexualities, Father Roger’s own experience of Catholicism seems to deviate from these official policies, suggesting that the same religion can be interpreted in different ways. Father Roger is more concerned with promoting the ideals of compassion and nonviolence than with judging other people’s identities, and he views that moral hierarchy as “correct” regardless of the politics of the church. To Father Roger, the word “correct” seems to mean “morally right” rather than “accurate.”

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You think violence is what they did to Matthew—they did do violence to Matthew—but, you know, every time that you are called a fag, or you are called a…dyke…Do you realize that is violence? That is the seed of violence. And I would resent it immensely if you use anything I said…to somehow cultivate that kind of violence…Just deal with what is true. You know what is true. You need to do your best to say it correct.

Related Characters: Father Roger Schmit (speaker), Matthew Shepard, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti
Page Number: 65-66
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Father Roger explains his philosophy of violence and his own reservations about appearing in The Laramie Project.

Father Roger explains that he views hate speech as violence in itself, thereby expanding the normal view of what is considered violence beyond the solely physical. (This idea is also Biblical in nature, as Jesus taught that cursing at one’s neighbor was the same sin as striking or killing him.) Father Roger’s radically inclusive understanding of violence allows the reader to see how more subtle examples of LGBT discrimination in Laramie can be linked to outbreaks of extreme violence like Matthew’s murder.

Because Father Roger sees any hate speech as violent, he worries that, by representing physical violence and violent speech in theater, The Laramie Project could serve as a model for (or even enact, through repeating slurs) the very kind of violence that it is trying to condemn. Father Roger’s concern suggests that, while theater is capable of tackling social issues, is also could be capable of exacerbating them. Father Roger implores the playwrights to portray Laramie in a way that is “correct,” a word he uses elsewhere to mean not only true, but also morally righteous. Father Roger’s words draw attention not only to more useful ways of thinking about violence, but also to the precariousness of theatrical representation itself, and the care that needs to be taken to make sure it affects communities in positive ways.

Act 3: A Death Penalty Case Quotes

I think right now our most important teachers must be Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. They have to be our teachers. How did you learn? What did we as a society do to teach you that? See, I don’t know if many people will let them be their teacher. I think it would be wonderful if the judge said, “In addition to your sentence, you must tell your story.”

Related Characters: Father Roger Schmit (speaker), Aaron McKinney, Russell Henderson
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, which follows a series of quotes revealing different characters’ opinions on the death penalty, Father Roger talks about what he sees as appropriate punishment for Aaron and Russell’s actions. Rather than supporting the death penalty like the Baptist Minister, Father Roger hopes that Aaron and Russell will be kept alive and required to tell their stories.

Father Roger describes the need to allow Russell and Aaron to be society’s teachers, suggesting that they help Laramie answer the question “what did we as a society do to teach you that?” Father clearly implies that he believes that society at large shares the blame for Matthew’s murder, and he suggests that Laramie must try to discover exactly how they are complicit in order to change. Father Roger, worries, however, that people will not “let [Aaron and Russell] be their teacher,” suggesting that people may be afraid to confront their collective culpability and may prefer instead to act like the case is an open-and-shut issue. Father Roger’s insistence on the importance of listening to Aaron and Russell’s story emphasizes the importance of stories in general to change social values and norms, and it also suggests that the use of the death penalty as punishment may prevent essential changes from being made in the Laramie community.

Father Roger’s view of storytelling also suggests that storytelling can serve not only as a source of knowledge for the Laramie community, but also that it could be a kind of atonement for Aaron and Russell. Considering The Laramie Project’s role telling the story of the entire community, the play might itself be considered to be a kind of collective atonement for the Laramie community’s collective responsibility for the homophobic culture that indirectly caused Matthew’s murder.

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Father Roger Schmit Character Timeline in The Laramie Project

The timeline below shows where the character Father Roger Schmit appears in The Laramie Project. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: The Word
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...from left to right. Furthest left is the Unitarian Church, and then next leftmost is Father Roger Schmit and the Catholic parish. Stephen says that, immediately after Matthew Shepard’s attack, Father Roger... (full context)
Act 2: Two Queers and a Catholic Priest
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Leigh Fondakowski and Greg Pierotti, who both identify as gay, go to speak with Father Roger Schmit, Laramie’s Catholic priest. Father Roger tells Leigh and Greg that Matthew Shepard has done... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
Father Roger Schmit tells Leigh Fondakowski and Greg Pierotti that, if they do intend to write a... (full context)
Act 3: A Death Penalty Case
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
...and so she has a hard time with the idea of putting him to death. Father Roger talks about the importance of learning lessons from Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney and letting... (full context)
Act 3: Departure
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Theater and Representation Theme Icon
...for good to go to Denver for their flight. Andy looks in the rear-view mirror. Father Roger Schmit appears and repeats his earlier request that the playwrights tell the story of Laramie... (full context)