'The Young Pope' Depicts a Power-Hungry, Heretical Pontiff: 'I Believe Only in Myself'

The third episode of HBO’s new series, The Young Pope, begins with an expletive-laden tirade by Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law) declaring, “I am the Lord omnipotent.”

The episode, which aired on January 22, shows the Pope reflecting with his confessional priest on the conclave that elected him. When the priest mentions the Holy Spirit’s hand in illumining a new pope, the Pope recalls praying to himself that day, “I don’t care about the Holy Spirit, whether He illumines me or not…I don’t care about your [God’s] opinions, if I’m up for the task…I don’t care about loving my neighbor as myself, I will never love my neighbor as myself.”

He then recalls maniacally chanting to himself, over and over again, “Not him, me,” and then, “Not them, me.” The Pope continues ever so reverently, ”I was praying so hard I nearly shit my pants. Had to glue my ass to my chair so as not to make a mess.”

“I love myself more than my neighbor, more than God. I believe only in myself… Lenny, you have illumined yourself! Fuck,” the Pope concludes.

Pope Pius XIII: Lord, I don't care with what means, licit or illicit-- they're all fine. I don't care about the Holy Spirit, whether He illumines me or not. I don't care about anything. I don't care about Your opinions, if I'm up for the task, or if I'm not an outsider or a long shot. I don't care if You think I'm weak or a scoundrel. I don't care about loving my neighbor as myself. I will never love my neighbor as myself. I only care about one thing, Lord, that I, not the others, can be useful to You. 

I prayed some more, harder this time. I was praying so hard, I nearly shit my pants. I had to glue my ass to my chair so as not to make a mess. I stared straight at Dussolier and I said, "God, not him, me." I looked at Spencer and I said, "God, not him, me." I must have chanted those words a thousand times before they opened the voting again, like a mantra: Not him, me, not him, me, not him, me, not him, me. And then, toward the end, not them, me. And now I'm the Pope. Not them. Me.

Sister Mary would call it a miracle. Others would call it the answer to a prayer. I don't know what to call it. They all went white when they heard the name I'd chosen. I reveled in their fear. They were beginning to realize who I am, because that is the enormous error they committed: They chose a Pope they didn't know. And today they began to understand. That is their tremendous sin. They chose a Pope they presumed they knew. 

I spoke my new name, Pius XIII, and they forgot to thank God because they thought God had failed to illumine them. I forgot to thank God, because I didn't think God had illumined them either. I love myself more than my neighbor, more than God. I believe only in myself. I am the Lord omnipotent. Lenny, you have illumined yourself! Fuck! 

Later, the Pope kneels in front of his bed, arms wide with a cigarette between his fingers, asking for forgiveness for everything he said earlier.

The show continues to unravel scandals and portray nasty clergymen so melodramatically that it’s almost comical. As a priest leads a young, married woman (seen at the start of last episode’s graphic sex scene with an elderly man) to the Pope’s quarters, he asks her if she still thinks about him. When she nods, the priest grabs her breast and attempts to kiss her. In another scene, Cardinal Voiello yells, “Are you stupid? Can’t you read?” to a little boy playing with toy cars on a fancy chair. Later, the Pope banishes an elderly Cardinal to work in Alaska for no apparent reason other than that his job is no longer needed. By the end of the episode, a group of Cardinals are working together, scheming about how to get rid of the Pope.

At the end of the episode, the Pope confides to one priest, “There are times when I don’t believe.” Likewise, I don’t believe how over-the-top this show is. 

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