Season sixteen ends here, and this was a season where the reset button seems to be hit much harder than usual. We saw single episodes where the Simpsons got a new, modern kitchen, Moe turned his dingy tavern into an English-style pub with new co-owner Marge, and Chief Wiggum become police commissioner.
So, yeah, let’s consider Homer and Bart might become Catholics.
You know, I attended Catholic school for 12 years or so, so this episode somehow hit a good spot for me. Draw your own conclusions.
Anyway, Springfield Elementary is having a Medieval Festival. Martin’s the king, Lisa’s the queen, Bart is a cooper and apparently he had to really make a barrel (that seems a bit much), and Groundskeeper Willy is a heavily abused village idiot. As such, after Bart is banished for shoddy barrel-making and threats to the queen, Willy brings in a giant pie stuffed full of live rats. As the rats run amok, Principal Skinner does the only reasonable thing by blaming and expelling Bart.
The fact that, for once, Bart is innocent doesn’t help much as nobody believes him.
Since Bart still has to attend school (staying home and lounging on the couch is Homer’s thing), that means a private school, and the local Catholic school, St. Jerome’s, is within the Simpsons’ budget. So, off Bart goes to a new school in a uniform where the nun smacks disobedient kids with a yardstick. Bart’s first lesson is moving 33 inches away isn’t good enough when a yardstick is, in fact, 36 inches. And while holding up a pair of dictionaries, Bart grumbles until he meets Father Sean (guest star Liam Neeson), a pretty cool guy who’s laid back and a former hellion himself. In fact, Father Sean impresses Bart with a Lives Of The Saints comic book. Gory martyrdoms are strictly a Bart thing. Much better than those comics he gets from the dentist about the dangers of tooth decay.
But Bart saying grace in Latin disturbs Marge, so Homer offers to go down and give Father Sean a piece of his mind. As it is, Homer learns those nuns will whack a parent with a yardstick too, but before Homer can get too far, he’s suckered into Catholicism himself with the promise of pancake dinners, bingo games, and a Confessional where all sins can be confessed and forgiven. So, now there are two potential Catholics in the Simpson family.
You know, I’m writing this the same day I saw Silence, so that’s a lot of priests played by Liam Neeson.
Public shame from Reverend Lovejoy and Ned Flanders gets to Marge, though to be fair, the problem isn’t that Marge believes Homer and Bart will be condemned to Hell for going Catholic. No, her fear is that when the men leave The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism is that Homer and Bart will be in a different afterlife, and Marge has ideas on what Protestant Heaven is like as compared to Catholic Heaven.
You know, no one seems all that concerned with Lisa’s soul in that dream.
The trick is to get Bart out before his First Communion, and that means taking him to a Protestant Youth Festival. Homer doesn’t know where Marge took their son, but Lisa (after Father Sean laughs at her Buddhism) believes anyone can pick a religion of their choice and points Homer and Sean in the right direction. Father Sean needs to get Bart back, because he’s concerned if he doesn’t, he’ll be the worst priest ever. You know, except for, er…
That was an awkward silence at that moment.
Do Marge’s efforts work? Actually, yes. Bart gets enamored by paintball. But then he makes some good points that get Reverend Lovejoy and Father Sean to agree that, you know, it’s all Christianity. So, why fight? That works. Whether Homer or Bart go full Catholic is never revealed, but that seems to be a season sixteen speciality.
And then a thousand years in the future, there’s a religious war over what Bart meant, though it sounds like Bart might have been betrayed by the Great Heretic Milhouse.
Bart should watch his back.