The Young Pope, HBO’s series about an arch-reactionary successor to Pope Francis, is often boring and occasionally blasphemous, but its images are splendid: Jude Law, dressed in papal white, reclining with a cigarette, as menacing as Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt. Jude Law, standing on the sedia gestatoria, arms outstretched like Pius XII. Jude Law, celebrating the Tridentine Rite as if Paul VI had never reigned.
Each of these images affords the thrill of transgression. Just as AMC’s Mad Men offered its viewers the frisson of watching natty and unpleasant people smoke and drink in the office (a relief from casual Fridays, anti-smoking campaigns, and corporate sponsorship of every enlightened cause), The Young Pope depicts a Church that no longer seeks the favor of the world—and is all the more fabulous for it.
Young people really do desire structure today. Call it “rigidity” if you like, but they have had occasion to learn the value of rules. Some of them would have been spared a great deal of misery if our Church and society had been more rigid on certain points.
[Showrunner Paolo] Sorrentino understands this. The young pope is an orphan, you see, having been abandoned at a young age by his parents—two freethinking hippies. It is because he has lacked a mother and father that he has come to see the value of traditional authority. An exchange between him and an old cardinal is telling:
“You surprise me, Holy Father. You are young, and yet you have such old ideas.”
“You’re wrong about that. I’m an orphan, and orphans are never young.”
“But the majority of churchgoers are not orphans.”
“Says who? You really think the only orphans are those without a mother and father?”
With a single line, The Young Pope hits on what life has been like for the children of the baby boomers.
Read the whole thing. The last paragraph is devastating.
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