Friday, February 17, 2017

The Incredibly Disappointing HBO Series "The Young Pope"

The Incredibly Disappointing HBO Series "The Young Pope"

Since I am already a cultural Christian and have twelve years of Catholic education I could get into the language and concepts that this extremely well written series presented in the Roman Catholic Pagan traditions and ritual that go back to the sun god Alexander the Great several hundred years before the common era on the calendar. 

Being a distant none-Catholic makes it easy to understand what the actors in their impeccable dress and fabulous stage sets were attempting to do with "The Young Pope" starring actor Jude Law as Pope Pius XIII and his search, a learning curve (really), for God even after he has been elected the youngest pope in centuries of the crusty old Vatican business HQ.

The opening premise has all the old men, the cardinals, wondering how they elected such a young, and American pope (British actor Law doing this w/an American accent) as Lenny Belardo, a cardinal somehow of one of the dioceses of NYC. In episode nine, the best episode of the series, Belardo had somehow at one time "Shared power" with pedophile archbishop Kurtwell of Queens. (Queens is not a diocese but part of the Brooklyn-Queens Diocese) Kurtwell now under investigation for the Vatican in New York in the person of almost falling down constantly drunk Monsignor Father, soon to be cardinal, Gutierrez, one time rector of St. Peter's Basilica and its passages and crypts below. It is Gutierrez who Pius XIII befriends and talks and walks around at night in the basilica to find out the down and dirty of everything political in the Vatican. 

Pius imports Sister Mary to be his gatekeeper. Sister Mary was the nun who was in charge of Lenny in the orphanage when his hippy parents dumped him there in order to travel lighter on a "trip to Venice". This is a background theme of the whole series episodes 1-10 - both the separation anxiety of being dumped by his parents and the floating protection of the substitute mother figure of Sister Mary, played beautifully by actress Diane Keaton.

The old men, the cardinals, stand around in the Vatican gardens after the papal election and decide that the holy spirit actually elected this young pope because the two main contenders Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Voiello and American Cardinal Spencer of NYC (actor James Cromwell), a mentor of Lenny Belardo, out maneuvered each other in the papal voting and Belardo wins the prize by implied default. 

Pius XIII from the start is in over his head, not unlike a current American president. He also imports, with infallible pontiff orders, the secrets of the confessional of confessor of the many of the Vatican hierarchy from Reverend Father Don Tommaso, soon to be cardinal. 

That in many ways, the Vatican is like modern American business, where the over rewarded CEO makes all his cronies Senior Vice Presidents instead of cardinals. Same reason I think why American business now stagnates using its Vatican Hierarchy Success Model.

Pius XIII does not want to give interviews or have his picture taken or sold. This is a sign, like his name Pius XIII, that he wants the pope to return to the role of not seen or heard in public and only a holy card icon to remind the rank and file who is in charge. Pius XIII holy card sans an image btw. 

This ruins the front gate take on Sundays, when the new pontiff gives babbling homilies and a blessing facing his apartment and not to the now diminished, almost nonexistent crowds in St. Peter's Square.

The old guard cardinals are willing to let this new pope hang himself in the hope that in the case of massive failure in administration, he will turn to some of them to unburden himself of duties and give the jobs and perks to some of them like a lot of pontiffs eventually do and settle into delegating the hard work of pope to others. 

Pius' first speech in the dark, on an unlit balcony, goes off like a bomb ending up with Pius berating the crowd and their sinful use of cell phones to try and capture an image of him. 

The cardinals are all in the Vatican from the recent election and want to go home. But Pius keeps them waiting. 

All the while Secretary of State Cardinal Voiello plays cat and mouse with the new pope trying to find out what the Pope's new vision is for the Church. Also Sister Mary and Marketing Director Sofia who has no job except to deny audiences are present in most scenes as Cardinal Voiello pleads with the new pope to play some of the traditional crowd pleasing money making papal roles. 

Voiello even forces the young wife of a Swiss Guard to try and seduce the pope so he can get photos to blackmail the pope. He threatens to ruin her husband's career if she does not conform to the SOS's wishes. 

Esther, the wife of the Swiss Guard ( probably some biblical significance in her name ) is in a loveless marriage because she cannot conceive and have a baby. I don't think they make it clear in the series why the couple is sterile. But in all things Catholic, the woman always seems to be at fault etc. 

Well anyway Esther has access to the papal gardens where she organizes the children of other Swiss Guards in play activities and roller skating. This is how she gains access to the pope in a covered architectural alcove in the garden where the pope usually sits, reads and prays. She invites the pope to touch her breast in which she guides his hand to. All the while Voiello is standing by as a photographer snaps away. The thing about a naked breast goes back to Pius' youth and the nudity of his parents did while bathing in public beaches and parks. 

Of course some Catholic archbishops go screaming out of a room like archbishop Chaput in Philadelphia and his hissy fit with MSNBC news in 2011 over naked female breasts and the feminist protest in a state owned chapel in the state owned Complutense University in Madrid regrading violence on campus towards women uninvestigated by the police. Chaput also hates all things female especially lesbians. I am getting slightly off topic I think...

Pius touches the breast and has no reaction. 

Later that night, while Voiello babysits a severely disabled young man in a wheelchair who has some reactions to Voiello's non-stop stream of telling the young man many of his secrets, a young man so disabled he can only smile and make occasional guttural responses that indicate intelligence in his prison of a body. Sister Mary stops by who has been spying on Voiello in a motherly cause to protect her living saint of a man of Lenny Belardo turned pope. 

More on the saintly thing later on here. 

Voiello supposedly has an attack of conscience and hands a thumb drive of his intended blackmail photos of the pope to Sister Mary as a gesture no doubt to show his potential for mischief and a way to continue as Secretary of State. 

Finally Pius XIII gets the Papal three tiered Tiara from the Knights of Columbus shrine in Washington DC and arrives in the parting speech to the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. He arrives on a chair on a platform carried by eight adult men bearers and he is in full papal regalia with Tiara not seen in the Vatican in half a Century.

Pius XIII tells the cardinals to not be available to the media, that the church is not worldly but spiritual and there will be no compromise on sin etc. The old party line. 

He then has each Cardinal kiss his foot in recognition of the new mission statement of Pius XIII.

This series has elements that seem to be cobbled together from various history items that I find similar or at least was reminded of them when I saw the modern version of them in an HBO papal soap opera. 

I saw on the credits that the writer has an Italian name. So I assumed that maybe this was the typical stereoptype ex-priest Vatican expose that is a cliche in many Italian movies. 

Right about here is where I want to mention that the powerful woman at the right hand of the pope goes back to Pius XII's nun gatekeeper and rumored mistress (yeah right) Popess Pascalina I .

The whole Cardinal Voiello going out of the Vatican on most nights to babysit his disabled friend reminds me of and I am going to be perhaps be accused of not being PC in being reminded of the strange Pius IX Pet Jew-ish Project of abducting and sponsoring a male Jewish child in the Vatican as his ?"adopted son" - I did say abducted but if the Pope is the king of the Papal territories before Italian unification in 1870, the king and or the pope can have anything and anybody he wants - etc. 

I must say the actor Silvio Orlando gives a stellar performance as the stone faced fox in (sheep's) cardinal's clothes as the Vatican Secretary of State.

Which leaves me to go on and deal with some of the issues underlying the dogmatic premises of this whole entertainment enterprise. 

Let me say this about the magic mojo thing in Christianity and or Catholicism. 

Decades ago I saw some main stream media film clip about John Paul II in his private chapel and him getting into some trance like state staring at the Exposed Eucharist Wafer on an altar and the dude looked tuned out to this world. All well and good but the verbal commentary on the film clip, of the diction in the balloon in the comic book S/H/B version representing it - represent it as proof of "divine presence" and or "Proof" that that road and or vehicle is the only way to Paradise and the STD encrusted virgins etc.or some other version of it somewhere. Meditation and yoga in other parts of the planet sometimes produce similar results to gain trance like attention to whatever.

The Young Pope shows what are supposedly three miracles of Pope Lenny Belardo. Three miracles is the old way to get sainthood in case the writer of these scripts was working with some background book like Catholicism for Dummies. Three miracles has been in recent decades reduced and fast tracked to two miracles under JPII and BXVI in order to pack heaven with a lot of clergy cronies as saints. Because sainthood is the best a human being can hope for in this life before that great time share in the sky, after purgatory and all that other good shit. 

First so-called miracle is Lenny doing the kneeling thing, with outstretched arms and demanding his god who he rarely talks to, shades of crisis of faith etc., and demands that Esther the Swiss Guard's wife finally fulfills her destiny as a female and becomes pregnant by her husband. She gets preggy. Not a real miracle in my book. Just the usual Tyranny of Chance, the foundation of the Universe. 

Second so-called miracle. He finally climbs out of the Vatican and visits a Mother Theresa like con woman, a nun, Sister Antonia, who runs hundreds of missions in a poor African country ruled by some warlord dictator and coincidentally the nun's missions are all in military hot spots and the missions give stability and or a political thumb down on the local population by rationing local drinkable water resources to the point of possible death in drinking the locally polluted waters. Pope Lenny finds out about this con and only mildly rebukes the holy mother at a dinner with many guests present. It is only when Lenny's jet, because of bad weather, on the way back to Rome, gets off his jet in Naples and is motorcaded to Rome - so that in the middle the night he stops the car and gets out onto the asphalt and knells and outstretches his arms and prays to his god for an answer on how to deal with this case of corruption in Sister Antonia's missions.

So traffic is blocked and truck drivers turn on their high beams as they watch the pope pray in the rain. Must be an Italian thing etc. Well anyway, the scene changes to Sister Antonia waking in the middle of the night coughing. She goes in the dark and opens a small refrigerator, the refrigerator light silhouetting her as she drinks from a cold liter sized plastic bottle of spring water. She collapses onto the floor and drags herself to the separate bed in the room of her lover, a young pretty nun from previous scenes. Sister Antonia gets up and collapses, drops dead onto the bed of her lover. Fade to black. 

So - called third depicted miracle but in fact the first big miracle of young Lenny's life about age twelve and in the Orphanage. Lenny, another boy from the orphanage and Sister Mary visit the ground keeper's cottage where the mother of another boy, Lenny's age and a friend, his mother is dying presumably of cancer. Lenny asks to be left alone to pray with the dying woman, and again seated this time, outstretches his arms, a beatific light, and the woman is cured. This is witnessed by all in the house and is why Sister Mary from episode one is so convinced that Lenny is destined for greatness even though his doubts his way through his young papacy. 

This is what is so queer ( old connotation ) of the RC Church and their worship of tricks of nature that can revive or resuscitate people or cure disease in the form of the classic Saint scenario to be prayed to and worshiped instead of a simple unitarian God.

That Lenny is lazy and spiteful. That he does not want to do the usual baptizing on occasion of 50 babies non-stop of rich important people and diplomats. That he does not know how to treat children with respect as in the last episode as he is supposed to lead a third grade class of students through the Vatican Museum. His "sarcasm" about hell and damnation in response to a catechism question of one of the Catholic school class sends the mood of the children into a tailspin and some into tears. 

This inability to touch or deal with people even stretches back to his ability to make out with a "girlfriend" in high school is supposed to be a sign of holiness and not one of cold feet and or closeted homosexuality. 

The pedophile archbishop Kurtwell even tries to blackmail Lenny by threatening to release his love letters to his high school sweetheart to get out of his Vatican Trial for Sodomy. As it turns out a publisher laughs at the idea of this as a threat because the letters were never mailed. "They are merely literature." the publisher announces as Cardinal Gutierrez arrives to take Kurtwell to the airport to Rome, take the archbishop by subway, the limousine has been confiscated by the Vatican... The love letters of the Pope are published and become a best seller and proves that Lenny is human (?). More media reinforcement of Christian myth(s). 

In fact Lenny's party line against homosexuality is not hotly debated. It is church dogma and he makes any known homosexual in charge of a Vatican department step down especially with the bureau responsibility of recruiting priests worldwide. In his place he puts his childhood friend from the orphanage Reverend Father, soon to be Cardinal Andrew Dussolier, a missionary stationed in Honduras, to head that Vocations Dept. 

After Dussolier gets upset that a bright young Italian man is denied entry into the seminary because of suspected homosexuality, the young man commits suicide in St. Peter's Square. Dussolier is so disillusioned with Lenny and the Vatican and his new job that he quietly leaves the Vatican and returns to Honduras. He is met at airport by his mistress who in turn they are both joined by the mistresses husband who is the head of a local drug cartel. (What cheap paperback writing here!) After some unkind words from the husband in the back of his limousine riding along some highway, Cardinal Dussolier is dispatched by one of the drug dealer's bodyguards, his body is tossed out of the limo by the side of the road. 

Homosexuality is not greatly attacked in The Young Pope as the Church teaching is accepted as written in stone. The ink on the parchment is sacred. Tome-a-philia, worship of the book like fundamentalists is more important than the people involved in the implementation of the writing, ink on parchment - only following orders - just like the guards at Auschwitz. (shades of the old Nazi regime under Benedict XVI who once took an oath of loyalty to Hitler in the German Army) and (shades of the survivor, perhaps Nazi collaborator, but surely KGB rubber stamped clerical stooge in Poland for all acceptable clergy in the form of John Paul II)

Little wonder the hippy couple dumped their son, so saintly, at the orphanage in the first place. They were putting the child where he should be happy and function well as opposed to their clandestine life style. Love(s) comes in all shapes and sizes sometimes, not to be understood immediately. Something that in the end even Lenny could not fathom.

The Young Pope was refreshing like a new cocktail while on vacation. But more like Chinese Food an hour after its eating - leaving you wanting real home cooking that sticks to your ribs.

Don't buy the DVDs. Buy a house plant.


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