Read through our 21st century eyes, this text appears bizarre. Yet, when we remember that in 1813 the theatres were generally centres of anti-religious sentiments and of loose moral values (how many operas of this period, for example, have marital infidelity as their theme?) we can understand Eugene’s concern:
All members must therefore renounce ever setting foot in the theatre. This school of immorality and impiety cannot be frequented by people who profess to be Christians.
Règlements et Statuts de la Congrégation de la Jeunesse, 1813, p. 20
He was trying to form the minds and consciences of impressionable adolescents to live by Gospel values. As a young man in Palermo and in Aix, before his focus changed with his conversion, he had regularly attended the theatre and dances, and so he knew what he was talking about from firsthand experience.
ART. 13. They will never go to irreligious entertainment or theatres, temples of the demon where the Gospel and all its maxims are scorned; where morals are always offended and vice is honoured, and where the danger of seduction is inevitable and a fall almost certain.
Statuts, Chapitre XII §1
Times and sensibilities have changed, but perhaps this text can still question us today about the occasions and places where the Gospel and its maxims continue to be publically scorned – and the influence this has on us.