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DISNEY GETS CALL TO CUT MOVIE LINK GROUP SAYS 'PRIEST' IS INSULT TO CATHOLICS

The president of a Catholic organization said Friday he wants the Walt Disney Co. to distance itself from a movie depicting troubled priests, despite a decision by the film's owner to shift the film's opening date from Good Friday.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said he welcomed the change in the release date but still wanted Disney to dissociate itself from the movie.

He said he contacted Disney chief Michael Eisner and would wait until next week to decide the group's next move.

Bowing to what it called vehement objections by a Catholic group, Miramax Films said Friday it will change the release date of its controversial movie "Priest."

The nationwide release of "Priest," which opened Friday in New York and Los Angeles, will be moved to Wednesday, April 19, from Friday, April 14, said Mark Gill, Miramax marketing president.

The secular Catholic League, saying the film "insults" the church and its members, had threatened a boycott of Walt Disney Co., parent of Miramax. It had asked the release date be changed and Disney dissociate itself from the movie.

"We think their concern about the release date is valid," Gill said at a news conference. "We clearly expected a debate but this was a total surprise."

"Priest" features five fictional priests, two of whom are sexually active -- one gay and one not.

Miramax is autonomous, Gill added, and Disney was not involved in the decision to change the release.

Disney officials declined comment, refering queries to Miramax.

Donohue also said he was angry about a statement Miramax released by director Antonia Bird.

In her statement, Ms. Bird defended the film and said she had "gained a huge respect and sympathy for Catholicism and the priesthood as a result of researching and making the film."

But she lambasted the Catholic League for what she called "transparent attempts at moral blackmail" and "the blinkered, indeed totalitarian, view that the rest of us should share its assumptions."

Donohue said releasing Ms. Bird's statement "shows they want to continue the war."

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