I’ve been watching The Young Pope, an intriguing TV series on HBO about, well, a young Pope. He’s a suave and dashing figure, entirely unlikeable, serious parental issues, hovering somewhere between closet atheist and bonafide saint.
When I first started watching the series I thought it was anti-Catholic porn. The ultimate progressive fantasy, imagine a Pope who was an atheist and tries to bring the whole thing crashing down. But then it admixes real deep spiritual, ethical, and ecclesiastical textures, I liked it by the end.
My favourite scene is from episode five where Pope Pius XIII addresses the cardinals in the Sistine chapel and it can only be described as the Benedict Option meets a Vatican I.
Here are the words:
Brother cardinals, from this day forward, we’re not in, no matter who’s knocking on our door.
We’re in, but only for God. From this day forward, everything that was wide open is gonna be closed.
Evangelization. We’ve already done it.
Ecumenicalism. Been there, done that.
Tolerance doesn’t live here anymore. It’s been evicted. It vacated the house for the new tenant, who has diametrically opposite tastes in decorating.
We’ve been reaching out to others for years now. It’s time to stop! We are not going anywhere. We are here. Because, what are we? We are cement. And cement doesn’t move. We are cement without windows. So, we don’t look to the outside world. “Only the Church possesses the charisma of truth”, said St. Ignatius of Antioch. And he was right.
We have no reason to look out. Instead, look over there. What do you see? That’s the door.The only way in. Small and extremely uncomfortable. And anyone who wants to know us has to find out how to get through that door.
Brother cardinals, we need to go back to being prohibited, inaccessible and mysterious. That’s the only way we can once again become desirable. That is the only way great loves stories are born. And I don’t want any more part-time believers. I want great love stories. I want fanatics for God. Because fanaticism is love. Everything else is strictly a surrogate, and it stays outside the church.
With the attitudes of the last Papacy, the church won for itself great expressions of fondness from the masses. It became popular. Isn’t that wonderful, you might be thinking! We received plenty of esteem and lots of friendship. I have no idea what to do with the friendship of the whole wide world. What I want is absolute love and total devotion to God.
Could that mean a Church only for the few? That’s a hypothesis, and a hypothesis isn’t the same as reality. But even this hypothesis isn’t so scandalous. I say: better to have a few that are reliable than to have a great many that are distractible and indifferent. The public squares have been jam-packed, but the hearts have been emptied of God. You can’t measure love with numbers, you can only measure it in terms of intensity. In terms of blind loyalty to the imperative. Fix that word firmly in your souls: Imperative.
From this day forth, that’s what the Pope wants, that’s what the Church wants, that’s what God wants. And so the liturgy will no longer be a social engagement, it will become hard work. And sin will no longer be forgiven at will. I don’t expect any applause from you. There will be no expressions of thanks in this chapel. None from me and none from you. Courtesy and good manners are not the business of men of God.
What I do expect is that you will do what I have told you to do. There is nothing outside your obedience to Pius XIII. Nothing except Hell. A Hell you may know nothing about but I do. Because I’ve built it, right behind that door: Hell. These past few days, I’ve had to build Hell for you, that’s why I’ve come to you belatedly. I know you will obey because you’ve already figured out that this pope isn’t afraid to lose the faithful if they’re been even slightly unfaithful, and that means this Pope does not negotiate. On anything or with anyone.
And this Pope cannot be blackmailed! From this day forth, the word “compromise”, has been banished from the vocabulary. I’ve just deleted it. When Jesus willingly mounted the cross, he was not making compromises. And neither am I. Amen.
Photo from HBO.