Not Like a Rolling Stone — The Final Miracle of ‘The Young Pope’

Not Like a Rolling Stone — The Final Miracle of ‘The Young Pope’ February 14, 2017

Young-PopeEvery now and then, someone in the secular media has a revelation. This time, it’s courtesy of HBO’s fantastical, occasionally heretical and yet compellingly Catholic “The Young Pope,” which ended its first season on Monday, Feb. 15.

The “progressive” takeover of entertainment is nearly complete, with competing viewpoints — especially those of the Catholic Church — being steadily pushed to the margins. Anyone watching awards shows knows that a particular strain of politics has infiltrated almost all areas of show business, and alternate views on certain subjects, and those who hold them, are no longer to be tolerated.

Certainly, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for characters and stories that don’t toe the line to ever be seen as sympathetic.

It’s such a delicious irony, though, that a series about just such a character could capture the imagination of a writer in, of all places, Rolling Stone. Perhaps, just perhaps, you don’t need to see yourself reflected back to you in every story.

We know that God writes straight with crooked lines. It’s entirely possible that He could use an HBO drama to work a small miracle.

From the review of the finale:

All of the Church’s retrograde teachings on abortion, birth control, marriage, divorce, women in the priesthood, celibacy and so on are presumably left intact. In other words, that dream homily from the pilot does not come true. Sorry, folks: We have still forgotten to masturbate.

And that’s a good thing. A pat conversion of Pius XIII the dashing fundamentalist dictator into Pope Lenny the Kinder Gentler Catholic would be a lie; it would say, falsely, that only art about people who reflect our values can itself reflect our values, or that only art about empathetic people can have an empathetic message. Better to grapple with contradictions and flaws, with the hard-to-swallow and the tough-to-bear. Look at the miracles he’s said to have performed: He saved a sick woman’s life and helped an infertile couple have a child. He struck a criminal dead. (His friend and rival Voiello reflects this in miniature: He’s in love with Sister Mary and he adores his disabled young friend Girolamo. Still, both he and the show are keeping the fate of rogue prophet Tonino Pettola under wraps anyway.) The Pope is still the same smug bastard he started as. He could well be crazy. But in his presence, characters feel God’s presence. Couldn’t he be a madman and a mystic, a sociopath and a saint all rolled into one?

As the Holy Father himself puts it, “Goodness, unless it’s combined with imagination, runs the risk of being mere exhibitionism.” The Young Pope trusts our imagination – our ability to handle its narrative leaps, cinematic risks and characters with views far different from our own – and has faith that we’ll see the goodness all the clearer for it. That’s where its greatness lies.


Here’s a bit of what had to say:

 … this was a show about love and what we choose to fill in its place in the absence of love, and I for one can sit here and tell you that it took me until the last seconds of the show to figure that out.

For Lenny, anger and resentment took the place of the love his parents were never there to give him. For Sister Mary, her own orphan upbringing caused her to fill that void as a caretaker of others. For Voiello, it was both politics and loyalty to those above him no matter the cost. For Dussolier, it was sex, and for Gutierrez it was shame of self-image. If The Young Pope was about anything, it was what we choose to do when that love isn’t there and how we choose to treat others despite its absence, and it was given to us in one of the most astonishing and beautiful series in quite some time.

If you haven’t seen the finale  yet, here’s a peek … (and you should probably stop reading now and go watch it) …

Near the end of the finale episode, the hippie parents who abandoned the 8-year-old former Lenny Belardo to a Catholic orphanage apparently again turn away from him as the pope. As Voiello had observed, parents who discarded a child without a backward glance would also be able to reject him again as an adult because he doesn’t share their views.

As to what appears in the clouds at the end, some say Mary, and some say Jesus. I thought Jesus, but I can see where the Mary people got that idea. But what does it matter? If it’s her, she leads straight to Him, so it’s all good.

Amen, indeed.

Image: Courtesy HBO

Don’t miss a thing: head over to my other home, as Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions; also like the Patheos Catholic FB page to see what my colleagues have to say.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment