The Young Pope “Fourth Episode”

As much as I often get a wee bit perturbed when something like House of Cards veers into less realistic territories, I don’t mind when The Young Pope does it, for two reasons:  1) it’s aesthetically beautiful when this show does it, and 2) it’s there mostly because the show itself is a character study of the enigma that is Pope Lenny.

What’s actually a little funny, to me, is when I watched the episode on my HBO Now, the last few minutes were a talk from the series creator/director Paolo Sorrentino where he claimed that, to him, both Lenny and Vioello are basically good men.  They just come at the whole “running the Church” thing from diametrically opposing points of view.

And both don’t always come across as good men.

But Lenny does seem to care about the members of the Church maintaining their faith.  He’s counseling Esther in his view of how faith and prayer works, though the two of them seem a bit too close.  Yeah, Vioello is pushing Esther to get the Pope in some kind of trouble, but Lenny also dispatches the alcoholic priest Vioello tried to recruit to New York to look into a sexual abuse scandal there.  Lenny wants the pedophiles out of the clergy.

Of course, he also wants all the homosexuals out.  That’s where Vioello’s own better nature comes forth as he tries to argue against such a move since being gay doesn’t automatically make a person a pedophile.  But we also saw Lenny disapprove when the prime minister of Greenland came to visit.  She’s an attractive woman, but most of the cardinals present were chatting away with her openly gay aide (except for Vioello, but he is the Vatican’s top diplomat).

If the contradiction of Lenny comes through the loudest, it’s when he hears from a nun from Sri Lanka, someone who was probably forced into prostitution as a child, that her sister is dying and she isn’t sure she can bear to return to her homeland to see her sister one last time or even attend the funeral.  As such, Good Lenny brings the dead woman’s body to the Vatican for a funeral.  Then Bad Lenny surfaces to tell the grieving nun that she cannot have faith in God if she is crying over the death of her sister because the faithful don’t cry at funerals.

So, yeah, we have one man engaging in blackmail to save the church and the other berating the bereaved.  It’s hard to see how either is a good man on the surface, but I think Sorrentino is right overall.  You just need to look a little deeper into these fundamentally flawed men to see it.


Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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