Despite what I’m going to write here, I would dissuade any readers from watching anything on HBO. It’s a very lewd channel and I don’t want to go to Purgatory for extra time for you watching The Young Pope or anything else on that channel on my account. What I put together below came after talking to friends and researching the episodes.
The Young Pope was a TV drama series produced in Europe in 2016. When the liberal Pope dies, a controversial and conservative young prelate named “Lenny”(Jude Law) from the U.S. is elected to the throne of Peter. He takes the name of Pope Pius XIII. His rallying reform is immediate, disruptive and transparent. This rigid Pope Pius XIII has no tolerance for homosexual bishops or half-hearted laity. In fact, this draws the ire of the Cardinals who know Lenny is a heterosexual, so they try to entrap him with a woman. This backfires when Lenny avoids her snares. Imagine that: A bishop in the Vatican who is young, straight and celibate!
It’s interesting how liberal, secular Europeans who produced this TV series somehow knew that only a straight, North American conservative Pope could really counter all the child-molesting and/or homosexual hierarchy in the show (who strangely thrived under the former liberal Pope in this fictional TV show) by re-introducing a militant Catholicism. In fact, the secular viewing populace of Europe “bought it,” too: The two hour premier on the Italian TV network Sky drew the highest rating ever in Italy TV, with almost a million viewers that first night.
“Lenny” was designed by European secular writers to be a bit of an American Clint Eastwood who doesn’t care about the PR of the Vatican. But it’s against the backdrop of his harsh personality that his visit to the missions of Africa in episode 8 wins the people. Or, consider episode 9, when Archbishop Kurtwell (a suspected child molester) attempts to use blackmail to overthrow the Young Pope. This backfires on the Archbishop because the newly-discovered letters of the Pope are so warm and orthodox that they become an instant sensation among the people. The Young Pope is a man found to be authentic and indomitable by both the fictional and real viewers. Now, I don’t agree with everything that the mean fictional Pope Pius XIII says below, but I find it fascinating that secular Europeans projected an American bravado and quasi-traditionalism into a fictional Pope who felt called by God to disrupt a corrupt Curia of Cardinals.
The fictional Young Pope‘s speech to the Cardinals is in italics (with my commentary in bolded orange):
Young Pope: <<Knock knock! Knock knock!>> We’re not in. 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.
This is a clear reference to aggorniamento. Aggiorniamento is an Italian meaning “bringing up to date.” Aggorniamento was the main buzzword echoed by both the clergy and the laity attending the official sessions of Vatican II. Everything that was wide open is gonna be closed. Ironically, I believe it was in my Jesuit high school that I first heard a teacher say: “Vatican II was supposed to open the Church’s windows to bring light to the world, but really just let the bugs in.”
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!
The Old Evangelization worked better than the New Evangelization. This is just a statistical fact. The US experienced a nearly unprecedented renaissance in baptisms, vocations and Catholic education before Vatican II but an immediate tanking after the Council. (Yes, I used to blame this on the sexual revolution, too, but my blog post here disproves that.) Notre Dame grad Kenneth Jones shows indisputable statistics in his book Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II that the ecumenical approach to Catholicism not only does not win converts, but is diametrically opposed to keeping Catholics in the Church. Notice the strong growth before Vatican II and the nosedive afterwards:
I can already hear a response to the above graph: “Ah, but none of those pre-Vatican II women had a relationship with Jesus. They were just becoming nuns because they were all afraid of marriage and afraid of going to hell.” Ok. Well, then why were all the 1950s priests and lay Catholics attending the Latin Mass in the USA making more “spiritual multiplication” converts under the Old Evangelization than the New Evangelization? Also from Kenneth Jones:
Young Pope: 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.
Men aren’t attracted to ecumenical Catholicism because men aren’t attracted to a team that says, “We used to fight for this team, and we hope you do too, but nothing too extreme, please, because we actually believe any competitor-team will do to get to heaven.” Men are looking to build their families on rock, or, as the Young Pope says, on cement. It is again interesting that secular European writers designed a straight, mean, chaste American traditionalist-of-a-Pope to say to a group of effeminate Cardinals: We aren’t going anywhere… Only the Church possesses the charisma of truth. (This was not very tolerant of him to say.)
[the cardinals look to the middle of the room to see a tiny door]
Pope: What do you see? That’s the door. The only way in. Small and extremely uncomfortable.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”—Our Lord in Matthew 7:13-14
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.
This is a sociological, not an ecclesiological, fact. Every young American boy who reads about the military wants to be a Navy SEAL precisely because he knows he probably won’t. This is why the early Catholic Church under the Roman Empire grew at a rate of 40% a decade under the persecutions. (But by God’s grace, the early and modern martyrs frequently sustained tortures greater than BUDS.)
That is the only way great love 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.
We 21st century Americans remind me of the Spaniards of the 16th century, for better or for worse: We’re making world records; we’re pushing the human body to the limits; we’re willing to die for fame or for love. The difference is, we don’t have the saints of Spain, even as we’re willing to try the extremes of free-solo rock-climbing or hot-dog eating contests for earthly glory. But 16th century Spain not only produced the conquistadors who pushed the human body to the limits for money, but also St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. F. Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. These were the men and women who pushed the human body and spirit for the greatest love story ever told: Jesus Christ on the cross. All four of those saints were essentially fanatics of love for the whole world to see. It is no wonder, perhaps, that European writers today envision a dogmatic North American (one capable of self-conquest) as the one called to make Catholicism singular in its outlook again.
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.
Now, which papacy could this fictional character be referring to when he says he received plenty of esteem and lots of friendship with the general populace of a secular world but made no lasting converts?
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?
We should probably admit that the only reason for a smaller Church is to lead to a bigger Church (if we actually believe Catholicism is for the whole world.) If Christ doesn’t return soon, we should pray that a large amount of people will follow a small group of people who have absolute love and total devotion to God.
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.
Jesus started with 12 men who (after the crucifixion and Pentecost) became extremist fanatics of love, charity and mercy. That’s what he’s trying to make out of some flabby Cardinals here: Filled hearts, so those hearts filled with love would again fill the public squares with by preaching an unmeasurable loyalty to Jesus and Mary.
And so the liturgy will no longer be a social engagement, it will become hard work.
The maniple was a sign of hard work. The sacrifice of the Mass used to take work: to memorize, to follow perfect steps. A social engagement, on the other hand, only takes a funny (or pious, if you please) entertainer facing the people.
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.
I don’t like his line Sin will no longer be forgiven at will since confession truly does forgive sin at will (cf John 20:23). But perhaps The Young Pope is getting at the fact that some real penance might increase firm resolution of amendment. This is true! Let’s also consider this line from Lenny: Courtesy and good manners are not the business of men of God. This also doesn’t gel with Scripture, as the Apostle Paul exhorts us to “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people”—Titus 3:2. However, what he is getting at (I believe) is that we can never choose the Second Great Commandment at the expense of the First Great Commandment. Such a violation is the perennial hallmark of every smily Monsignor who overuses the word “pastoral…” and this is what Pope Pius XIII is pushing against.
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!
I thought that the blogger Ann Barnhardt had invented the term “blackmailable,” but it appears it is an actual word. Ann uses “blackmailable” in the actual title of at least three blog posts here, here, and here to assert that the hierarchy of Rome is all “blackmailable.”
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.
Jesus made no compromises to love in saving your soul when He mounted the cross to pay for your sins that He did not commit, and so the Church should return a singular love without compromise. Amen.