Which may require an explanation.
I don't watch The Simpsons, and I'm not likely to.
That's not because I hate the series.
I don't think it's intolerant, anti-American, racist, un-Biblical, or any of the other words and phrases that folks in various American subcultures say when they mean "I don't like this."
I don't watch hundreds of television series: including The Simpsons. Even if I wanted to, there simply isn't time to experience everything.
I am aware that The Simpsons has been around for decades - and is supposed to be remarkable in several ways.
Homer Simpson is a Cartoon Character, and Other InsightsEarlier this week, I started noticing remarks about the Holy See ("Vatican" in American English) and Homer Simpson, one of the major characters in The Simpsons. I gathered that the Vatican had said something about Homer being a Catholic.
Also that Homer Simpson was a cartoon character - and comments that showed great emotion, without shedding much light on what was at issue.
'Homer is a Catholic' is still ricocheting off the walls of online social networks today - and it turns out that there's something to the story.
And no, the Pope hasn't gone crazy and baptized a cartoon character.
What happened is something at least as remarkable: somebody in America's entertainment industry featured Catholicism in a story. And got it right! According to Father Francesco Occhetta, anway.
"Vatican paper lauds 'Simpsons' for realistic portrait of faith"Does this mean that
Catholic News Agency (October 18, 2010)
"L'Osservatore Romano marked the 20th anniversary of 'The Simpsons' in its Oct. 17 edition by lauding the popular television show for taking religious faith seriously, although often irreverently.
"And, although 'few know it, and he does everything to hide it ... it's true: Homer J. Simpson is Catholic,' according to newspaper.
"The newspaper cited an analysis in the Oct. 16 issue of the Italian Jesuit magazine, La Civilita Cattolica.
"In it, Father Francesco Occhetta examined a Catholic-themed episode from 2005, 'The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star,' in which Homer and his son Bart are befriended by a priest named Father Sean, and consider conversion to Catholicism.
" 'The Simpsons remain among the few TV programs for kids in which the Christian faith, religion and the question on God are recurrent themes,' Father Occhetta wrote...."
- The Simpsons is now something that Catholics have to watch?
- Matt Groening in league with Vatican assassins and the Illuminati in some kind of plot?
- Shape-shifting space-alien lizard people really rule the world?
Why Would a Catholic Priest Say Something Good About The Simpsons?I've noticed what seems to be a pattern in how the Catholic Church deals with the world we live in. With exceptions, of course, it's likely that the Church will find something good to say about what the contemporary culture is doing - and say it.
That doesn't mean that I think The Simpsons would be a good choice as a curriculum resource in Catholic youth ministry: although I think we could do a whole lot worse.
I'm not surprised that The Simpsons got it right. I know enough about the series to know that its creator and directors have bothered to look at the real world. Another excerpt:
"...The show's 'skeptical realism' does not lend itself to any easy moral lessons, the paper suggested. But it does tend to deflate false illusions about the world. And, the paper added, 'a world devoid of easy illusions is more human and, perhaps, more Christian.' "No wonder a few folks went ballistic over that article.
I may look up that episode, "The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star," just to see how the writers and director handled it. No guarantees made or implied, though, about whether or not I'll actually do so.
The Catholic Church isn't 'General Religion, Inc.'It's my opinion that the sort of "skeptical realism" with which decidedly irreverent shows like The Simpsons approach Catholicism may do less damage (and/or more good) than 'nice' programming like the charming Father Dowling Mysteries series. When Father Dowling was running, my wife and I enjoyed watching Tom Bosley play the part of amateur sleuth, assisted by a spunky nun.
I'd have enjoyed the show more if Father Dowling had been, say, the editor of a small newspaper; or a grocer; or just about anything except an allegedly-Catholic priest. The impression I got was that the writers and directors had heard of the Catholic Church and knew that it was sort of big. Like General Motors or IBM. Or maybe even MGM.
The "Catholic Church" that Father Dowling worked for seemed to work a great deal more like a large American corporation than the Church. And, although the costume department and set designers had clearly done their research - Tom Bosley had Father Dowling making procedural gaffes. But that's nitpicking.
The Dowling version of Catholicism may have been 'nice,' even 'reverent:' but I think that the Church fares better with more realistic portrayals. Like Whoopi Goldberg's "Sister Act." (January 24, 2009)
- "St. Mary MacKillop and Another News SNAFU"
(October 19, 2010)
- "Weak-Minded: Like Copernicus"
(October 3, 2010)
- "Clerical Narcissism - Something You Aren't Likely to See in the Washington Post"
(February 4, 2010)
- "The Bells of St. Mary's and the Movies: The 'Good Old Days' had Problems, Too"
(March 19, 2009)
- "Vatican paper lauds 'Simpsons' for realistic portrait of faith"
Catholic News Agency (October 18, 2010)
- "The Simpsons" (TV Series 1989– )