The Young Pope ~ A Capsule Review by Allen Kopp
His name is Lenny Belardo. When he is about ten years old, his ridiculous-looking hippie parents drop him off at a Catholic orphanage, where a kind nun named Sister Mary becomes a surrogate mother to him. Fast-forward about thirty-seven years. Lenny Belardo is the first American Pope, Pope Pius XIII, Holy Father to a billion Catholics around the globe. In HBO’s ten-part series, The Young Pope, English actor Jude Law plays Lenny Belardo/Pope Pius XIII with an American accent and a sleek hairpiece.
With his youth and good looks, Pope Pius XIII could be the flashiest Pope ever, but he is just the opposite. He doesn’t care about being famous or about inspiring adoration in the masses. He is not the traditional Pope; he is many things; he is a contradiction. He smokes cigarettes. Some think he is a saint, while others fear him. In his first homily to the public, delivered at nighttime in St. Peter’s Square, he appears in very dim light so people cannot see his face. He won’t allow himself to be photographed or for his likeness to be used on Vatican souvenirs to sell to tourists. When someone asks, “What is his sexual orientation?,” the answer is, “He doesn’t have one.” He wants to flush out homosexuals and pedophiles from the priesthood. “Homosexuality and pedophilia are two very different things,” a fellow priest points out to him. “Yes,” he says, “but there is no room in the priesthood for either of them.” In his searing address to the Conclave of Cardinals, he tells them he wants complete obedience to himself and absolute devotion to God. From now he, he tells them, they will isolate themselves from the world so they might worship God in the appropriate manner. This means they must give up their worldly lives and return to the original notion of what it means to be a priest.
As we see in American politics, the Pope’s rivals will attempt to destroy him by any means at their disposal. When they try to manufacture a clandestine love affair for him with the wife of one of the Vatican Swiss Guards, it backfires. The Cardinal Secretary of State, who orchestrated the invented affair, ends up apologizing to the Pope and kissing his foot in the Vatican garden. The Pope refuses to play into the hands of the entrenched, old-guard priests who have been in the Vatican for decades and have outlived their usefulness. He refuses to resort to the old tricks that have been used for centuries. Rivalries and jealousies among the cardinals mean nothing to him. He is supremely confident. If he isn’t a saint, he seems like one at times. Someone asks him, “Just who are you?” They can’t figure him out. This makes for very interesting TV for the discriminating viewer who is looking for something a little more challenging to watch and think about than the usual TV fare.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp