Saturday, March 4, 2017

Why Does HBO Understand Things the Pope Doesn't?

The Young Pope is not a good show. Not in the least. It is everything bad about foreign films: long scenes with no dialogue and no action, few camera shot changes, a cursory understanding of religion, and an excessive interest in sex (although American television has caught up with that in recent years). The show could be halved by eliminating redundant, do-nothing cinematography and still have the same content. Yet The Young Pope, first brought to my attention by Fr. Zzzzz's blog, has a better grip on the current state of things in the Church than the Vatican itself does.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Young Pope is that unlike other films, which show Latin chant and other things from the past in order to create a more serious view of the Church, this show is very aware of the current ways and conscientiously rejects them. The liturgical depictions are thoroughly pre-Conciliar, with the Missal on the Epistle side, altar cards, the chalice veil, the burse, and priests wearing the maniple. The namesake "young pope," Pius XIII, even goes as far as to order the papal tiara to be shipped back to Rome from Washington DC (Paul VI sold it off to some Jewish fellow through the UN before Cardinal Spellman bought it back to avoid embarrassment). The Machiavellian Pontiff tells his cardinals that the Church has been too open to the world, that henceforth people will come to the Church and not the other way around. If this is not a repudiation of every papacy from Pius XII to Bergoglio I do not know what is.

The other fascinating aspect of this program, betwixt long shots of inaction, is that it believably depicts how a genuine reform movement might be received in the Vatican. Between breaking the seal of Confession and sexual temptation, Pius XIII manages to send a pederastic prelate into exile in Alaska, only to shock the liberal establishment into attempting to blackmail the Pontiff. There is a scene when the Camerlengo attempts to bring the pope to submission to which the pope replies (words to the effect) "Past pontiffs gave in because they were concerned with losing consensus. I don't care about consensus." In between long, gratuitous prayers and stiff production there is a truth here that resonates with the Gregorian and Tridentine reforms to the papacy: that affairs will only change when the fellow in Rome wearing a white cassock cares more about the Church than about the conniving red suited mediocrities around him.

As Fr. Capreolus noted in a side discussion, there really is not any holy character in this show, no depiction of fundamentally good people. Still, Pope Jude Law is interesting in that he is a very "rigid" person who adheres to discipline because "something is wrong with him": he is an orphan, whose ecclesiastical discipline gave him direction in life. Contrary to the usual depictions of the Vatican establishment as old fashioned, narrow people, the Cardinals are loose in morals, absent in discipline, thoroughly liberal, and completely corrupt. The "conservatives" in the show are not the "good guys" necessarily, but HBO does seem to have a grasp on how the Vatican has been run for several decades.

On the whole I do not recommend the show, but these points are notable. Why does a blood and sex network like HBO understand the Church better than contemporary churchmen?

Meanwhile, Bergoglio is advocating population controlAgain.


  1. Why does a blood and sex network like HBO understand the Church better than contemporary churchmen?

    Having watched a few chunks of the show - to see what the fuss was about - I've decided that the answer may be as simple as this: a traditional pontiff, and a traditional Church, is simply much more interesting to the showrunners and their backers than a liberal one is.

    By "interesting," of course, I don't mean they necessarily approve - on some level they obviously do not, and can not - but merely that it makes for a more interesting drama, and more striking visuals. Maybe it should say something to the present Progressives running things that such thoroughly secularized media lords find baroque chapels and vestments to be worth depicting in a way that would not be conceivable for a mincing priest in banal polyester in Meier's barren Jubilee Church, with treacly Haugan-Haas hymnody limping off the walls.

    Jude Law's Pius XIII doesn't seem to be a hero or even an anti-hero of the show, and this is not surprising. What is surprising, as you say, is that the progressive prelates (especially the gay ones) surrounding him are painted in such black tones. Perhaps they simply can identify this sort of corruption all too quickly, having seen so much of it in their own world in various forms. It doesn't hurt that they're mostly Italians.

    P.S. I cannot recommend the show, either, though I did find Pius's speech to the College of Cardinals (but *not* the vesting scene beforehand) worth showing to a few traditionalist friends.

    1. P.S. I think it's interesting to contrast THE YOUNG POPE with THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN, released at the height of the Revolution (1968). Its outsider pope also likes to sneak out of the Vatican at night to explore Rome, but works busily to sell off the patrimony Pope Jude Law tries so hard to reassemble (even to the point of wearing a business suit!). Even with the obvious liberal impulse inherent in adapting Morris West's work, Michael Anderson could not help allowing his cinematographer to allow the camera to linger in one baroque setting after another of the Vatican.

      The movie was a complete flop at the box a year when the cultural wind could not have been more strongly at its back.

    2. The comparison of The Young Pope with Shoes of the Fisherman is really inspired I think. It bookmarks two secular views from outside the Church, one rooting for her to be the greatest NGO and the other, having seen it, finding that view wanting.

      Shoes of the Fisherman, a terrible film, was a flop for the same reason eventual Oscar winner Moonlight was a flop. People subconsciously want to be bothered a little when engaging dramatic stories; Quinn's film gave everyone exactly what they expected with no interesting twist to it.

    3. Agreed on both points.

      We might also look at Fellini's ROMA (1972), which features a (very) surreal Vatican fashion show that just cuts the legs out from the liturgical and aesthetic faddism then in full cry in Paul VI's Church.

      Well, one might say, that's Fellini: Cynicism was a stock in trade for him. Which is true, but it wasn't his only stock; and earnestness like SHOES employs requires careful handling if you want compelling drama out of it (this is, in fairness, lethal to so many second-rate Christian dramatizations). SHOES failed in that respect; but I think the reduction of the Church to pastel Good Works NGO simply lowered the stakes too much for audiences to care much about it in the way they had cared about past big budget Biblical and Church historical pics. Just as they increasingly seem not to care about the present live-fire exercise in NGOism by FrancisChurch, if dwindling papal audience numbers (and collapsing membership numbers in various realms abroad) are anything to go by.

    4. On a superficial note: I can't understand why the HBO Pope went to the trouble to get Paul VI's tiara back; I would definitely have used B. Pius IX's (last seen at John XXIII's coronation)--but that would be a little over the budget for this ten-part somnambulism. They did, I have to admit, have a beautiful recreation of the Sistine Chapel. Too bad "Pius XIII" was such a weirdo; it would have been much more interesting (in my opinion) to see an updated version of S. Pius V, a true holy "terror" to the Curia of his time and a veritable force of nature.

  2. Anyone with an Internet access can understand the Church better than contemporary churchmen.

  3. The solemnity and grandeur of the Real Mass actualised in a Real Church tends to directs one's intelligence and will the pluperfect Salvific Sacrifice of Jesus Christ and to the Four Last Things and Gregorian Chant bears one soul aloft.

    However, during the revolution within the form of Catholicism of V2, the revolutionaries chose to supplant Theocentrism with anthropocetrism and, thus we get all the dreck and bull shit but why did they do such a thing?

    Haughty arrogance; they truly did believe they were there most intelligent and holiest Catholics to have ever lived and that they knew what must be done (as Lenin liked to say) and they were confirmed in their delusionary haughty arrogance by Pope Paul vi who, during the council, publicly confirmed that the fathers of that council were the best and holiest catholics ever.

    1. ....Pope Paul vi who, during the council, publicly confirmed that the fathers of that council were the best and holiest catholics ever.

      And with that, ultramontanism did the trick for the rest.

  4. Athelstane. Yes, and, sadly, ABS was raised that way and he remained faithful to that schooling until the latter days.

    It was only after he became a trad autodidact that the ultramontanism scales began to fall from his eyes with the result being that the security and peace of Jesus Christ began to supplant ultramontanism which is, as the saints say, way mo'better.

  5. "Still, Pope Jude Law is interesting in that he is a very "rigid" person who adheres to discipline because "something is wrong with him": he is an orphan, whose ecclesiastical discipline gave him direction in life."

    The fruits of "The Authoritarian Personality", by the Frankfurt School. To this day one hears that accusation that if you like structure, order, etc, that something is wrong with you. Acquaintances of mine (most of whom weren't even "traditional minded", only "conservative") expelled from seminaries were told they had psychological problems; my wife and I were accused of the same by a member of my diocese's episcopal curia; in a Portuguese newspaper recently, in an editorial on the FSSPX (which amazed me, given how unknown they are in Portugal), a sociologist teaching at the Catholic University was quoted implying the same thing - that those attracted to structure, sound doctrine, etc., are "vulnerable" people...

    When will we hear the end of this?