13 Thoughts A Young Catholic Had Watching 'The Young Pope'

13 Thoughts A Young Catholic Had Watching 'The Young Pope'

Jude Law is good, but he can't work a miracle.

The HBO miniseries The Young Pope premiered in Italy last October of 2016 to generally favorable reviews and, as you might expect for an atheist-directed show about the papacy, not inconsiderable consternation from Catholic blogs and news sites. To do it justice, the production looks great: beautiful settings, St. Peter’s Square packed full of people, and Jude Law absolutely resplendent in papal garb. Director Paolo Sorrentino delivers the quality viewers pay to see from HBO.

But like Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII, underneath the surface something feels off: clunky dialogue, bad theology, and the almost complete lack of humor turns at times the plot from the surreal to the unbelievable. The petulant, borderline sociopathic behavior of Pius XIII takes willing suspension of disbelief to its limits, and some unfortunately written lines given to Diane Keaton almost hurt to listen to. These and other minor details may detract from a viewing experience of the The Young Pope: “Episode 1.” But these are small concerns. The star-studded cast manages to shine in spite of the stubbornly superficial characters and heavy-handed exposition. Best of all, the series prompts young Catholics to ask interesting questions about their faith, some trivial, some less so. With that said, here are 13 thoughts a young Catholic had watching The Young Pope:

1. What is the age of the youngest pope actually?

The record, held by Benedict IX in 1032 A.D., is 11 years, 36 years younger than Jude Law’s Pius XIII. At least three other popes also beat out Pius XIII for youth: Johns XI and XII and Gregory V. All became pope within almost a century of one another, and not for good reasons.

2. How is the pope chosen today?

Popes today are chosen by papal conclave, an electoral process requiring a two-thirds majority vote of cardinals in favor of a willing candidate. This practice developed over time in the Church, largely in response to the election of so many popes by secular rulers, a process that lead to problems of its own.

3. Could someone like Lenny Belardo (Pius XIII) ever become pope?

See the above two answers. The saeculum obscurum, or dark age, refers to a period in Church history when powerful Italian families greatly influenced papal elections, resulting in a crisis with rival claims to the papacy. 13th century reforms insulated papal elections from influence by secular rulers to prevent further controversy. So to answer the question, yes . . . but no.

4. Is this how people imagine having an American pope would be?

First off, the current pope is not from America. He’s Argentine. Second, yes, probably. Mr. Sorrentino claims to have come up with the character while Obama was in office, but one can’t help but feel he had another president in mind when creating him. It doesn’t hurt that Pius XIII hails from New York and his actor happens to be wearing a wig.

5.Were those nuns just waiting outside Fr. Spencer’s bathroom for him to try to kill himself?

In a shocking scene, Pius XIII’s mentor tries to commit suicide in despair because his pupil became pope instead of him. Fortunately for him, a couple of passing nuns stop him before he can slit his wrists. Why they were outside his bathroom to begin with is never adequately explained. It’s one of those minor details that keeps The Young Pope from ever truly being great.

6. Am I allowed to be on my cellphone in the confessional?

If you wanted to write things down so you know what to say to the priest, that’s perfectly fine. If you’re the kind of person who finds it difficult to resist the urge to Snapchat everything you’re doing, you might reconsider it.

7. So the pope can order confessors to tell him people’s sins if it concerns the security of the Church?

Absolutely not. Under no circumstances can a priest break the seal of confession. Canon law lists the penalty for such an act as latae sententiae, excommunication. This sounds cool, but it’s just the Latin way of saying you are automatically booted out of the Catholic Church, which, for a committed priest, is the worst possible punishment. No one, priest, bishop, or pope, can ask a confessor to reveal someone’s sins that have been revealed in the sacrament of penance.

8. Jude Law does a great American accent.

This is not related to Catholicism nor is it a question. Yes, yes, he does.

9. Is there really a papal tiara in D.C.?

Yes, and Pope Paul VI really did donate it in 1963 and give the proceeds to the poor. He did so as a symbol of renouncing the worldly power commonly associated with the tiara, something his fictional successor comments on as a mistake. This remark is one of many that reveal Pius XIII is perhaps less pious than he lets on.

10. Do people really make life or death decisions based on what the pope says?

In a disturbing opening scene, Pius XIII declares in his inaugural homily that Catholics everywhere should embrace a multitude of practices that would go against their conscience and Church doctrine. Mr. Sorrentino clearly intends this scene to force introspection in people who heed so fervently the words of the Holy Father. Of course, the pope is not the Church, and should anyone ever advise someone to act in any way contrary to their conscience, that person’s words should in no way be heeded.

11. Pius XIII isn’t that funny.

No, not very often. The worst is when he lies and covers himself with, “I was only joking.” It’s a trait that shows both his Machiavellian, dishonest streak and his stark lack of any joy or humor.

12. Does God live in the Big Dipper in a half duplex with a private swimming pool?

No. See above.

13. Are they making another one of these?

Just this month, Mr. Sorrentino announced a sequel series, titled The New Pope. I only hope the new series and the new pontiff learn from their predecessor’s mistakes.

Cover Image Credit: cdn1

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.

When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...


"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"


Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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