Thursday, October 21, 2010

From Father Dowling to The Simpsons: Somebody Finally Got it Right

I'm not a "Simpsons" fan.

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 Insights

Earlier 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"
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...."
Does this mean that
  • 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?
No. Or, at least, I really doubt it. Let's say that any of the above are about as likely as me really being Elvis.

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)

Related posts:In the news:About The Simpsons:

No comments:

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.