'The Young Pope' Presents a Vatican Teeming with Corruption

The second episode of HBO’s The Young Pope, which aired January 16, had Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law) further reveal his corrupt self amongst an even more corrupt Vatican City.

Doing everything it can to present the Vatican as an incredibly cynical, hypocritical entity, the episode begins with a sex scene between a young woman and a man who will most likely be revealed as a Cardinal later in the series. Later, the Pope speaks with his mentor, Michael Spencer, who tells him, “I was supposed to be Pope” before accusing the Pope of accepting a deal from Cardinal Voiello, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, to betray him. Spencer tells the Pope, “Resign. I’ll win the next conclave,” before mocking the Catholic Church’s procedure for choosing the apostolic successor to Saint Peter that has been in place for almost a thousand years, stating, “The conclave is merely a place where games get played.”

The episode continues with the Pope’s usual antics. After coercing the Vatican’s confessional priest into revealing confessions, the Pope fires a Cardinal for speaking poorly about him. The Pope also asks the Vatican’s Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy if he voted for him; Prefect says he did not because he feared the Pope was too conservative. The Pope then asks him if he is homosexual and the Prefect affirms he is. The Pope resolves to fire him because “it is unacceptable that a homosexual heads the congregation that trains priests.”  

Even the Pope’s right hand woman and life-long caretaker, Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), is darker than she first appears. Similar to the Pope, she is usually shown smoking a cigarette. During a discussion with Cardinal Voiello, she tells him that she has “never truly known what love is. I've never really lived. But I've come to the right place, though, a city-state full of lost souls who have never really lived.” Later, when the Pope enters her apartment to speak with her, Sister Mary wears a t-shirt with the words “I’m a virgin but this is an old shirt” on it.

When the Pope finally gives his long-awaited address at St. Peter’s Basilica, The Young Pope replaces the pope’s usual warm address with the announcement, “Everyone is alone before God. I have nothing to say to those who have even the slightest doubt about God. All I can do is remind them of my scorn and their wretchedness.”

During the address, the Pope goes as far as to say that God “isn’t interested in us until we become interested in Him…There’s no room for anything else. No room for free will. No room for liberty…Without God, you’re as good as dead.” He ends his speech declaring, “I don't know if you deserve me. I don't know. At this point, I don't know if you're worthy of me,” before storming away from the balcony.

Fortunately, the show’s poor script and monotonous pace prevents its attempts to defame the Catholic Church from carrying any real weight.

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