America's Dirtiest TV Network Takes On Catholicism's Holiest Man
After all, the signs of God's presence are strewn throughout the Old and New Testaments, and the struggles of faith when God seems absent also feature prominently in the stories of Abraham the Patriarch, David the King, and Elijah the Prophet. Even Jesus on the cross asked, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
The Apostle Paul deals with the inability not to sin (Romans 7:19-20) and how the Holy Spirit works in us despite our yielding to temptation.
The fascinating part of the description -- and the one that gives me the most hope for its faithful portrayal -- is the frank admission that Catholic "dogma and moral imperative is the renunciation of power and selfless love toward one's neighbor." This is why Christianity has always had a strained relationship with government -- Jesus explicitly said, "My Kingdom is not of this world," and encouraged love and service over ruling.
While Game of Thrones has portrayed gruesome death and graphic sexual content, it has arguably gotten many religious themes correct. Believers who witness miracles are certain that their God worked through them -- as the miracles happen when they are weak in faith. This echoes the Apostle Paul (author of much of the New Testament), who wrote, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27)."
To see a pontiff wrestle with these points may cast doubts on the head of the Roman Catholic Church, except for the fact that he is an entirely fictional character. Lenny Belardo becomes the first Italian-American pontiff, named Pope Pius XIII (the last Pope Pius was the XII).
Furthermore, while much stress has been placed on the fact that Catholics believe the pope to be "infallible," their actual belief is that the pontiff is only perfect when speaking ex cathedra, from his official seat on matters of faith and morals. Popes very rarely do this, and when they do they are naturally extra careful not to mess up.
Furthermore, any good Catholic can tell you that when popes do speak ex cathedra, it is to officially declare something already believed by the majority of Catholics and developing clearly from scripture and tradition. Those of us who are not Catholic can disagree with these doctrines, but there is no reason to assume that showing the Holy Father smoking or praying at the bottom of a swimming pool would violate Catholics' trust in the holy office.
There are a few warning signs, however. The IMDB cast list includes Delaina Mitchell from Inherent Vice (2014) as "Lenny's Ex-Girlfriend." Her role could be limited to flashbacks or to scenes before Lenny becomes pope, or even to limited post-relationship encounters (wouldn't you seek out the pope if he was your ex?), but her presence on the cast list is suspicious, if only because the infamous HBO agreed to distribute the series.
It will be fascinating to see Pope Francis' response to the miniseries. Some have called this fictional Pope Pius XIII "a highly conservative character," and Francis is notoriously liberal. Then again, the pope explicitly calls for a "revolution" in the trailer.
See the trailer on the next page!