At this point, there’s little that HBO’s The New Pope can do to shock audiences anymore. It’s already ridiculed the Church, propped up needless sex, and "upgraded" the Bible. Comparing “whores” to saints or revealing pedophilia in the high ranks is almost no big deal. And that’s what makes the series worse.
The February 17 “Sixth Episode” catches us up with Esther (Ludivine Sagnier), the woman who turned to prostitution to support her family at the approval of her priest. She’s still selling herself off to wealthy invalids, and the show is still trying to convince us that there’s something noble to it. They aren’t even subtle about it this time around when Esther meets with the rich mother of one of her customers. The mother literally says to her that there’s no difference between a “whore” and a “saint.”
Attanasio's mother: I have to talk to you about something, but I don't know how. Attanasio is not the only one.
Esther: I don't understand.
Attanasio's mother: Attanasio is not the only one, and I'm not the only mother who suffers. There are lots of us, Ester. Lots of well-off, unhappy parents with children no one wants to look at because nature has turned against them. They are all waiting for you, Ester. You have a gift which you are finally beginning to recognize.
Esther: What gift?
Attanasio's mother: The gift of human warmth. You are a saint, Ester.
Esther: I'm a whore.
Attanasio's mother: Do you know what the difference is between a whore and a saint? None.
I happen to think there are a lot of differences between a whore and a saint, starting with the fact that only one of those words can be used in polite conversation. Of course, considering the morality seen in this show as well as its preceding series The Young Pope, the writers probably believe that there is, in fact, no difference. It’s not like they’re looking to the actual Bible for advice.
As usual, the rest of the Church is hardly better and getting worse by the week. Sofia (Cécile de France) discovers that her husband along with two other cardinals are having sex with an underage girl. We witness this ourselves when we see a girl dancing topless in front of their unconscious forms. This is on top of the various sexual issues that the Vatican still faces along with the looming threat of losing their tax status. Predictably, the Church’s solution to this is to ignore the problem to protect their personal funds. Whatever decision makes the largest symbol of religious faith on the planet look worse.
In response to his own repositioning, Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) also assists the adjacent nuns with their own controversial issues. This includes everything from the protesting nun hoping to see her cancer-ridden mother to a sister suffering from sexual assault in the convent to the pregnant nun having to hide her exploits with a refugee. Fortunately for these allegedly oppressed sisters, corruption in religion overrides sexism.
In some bizarre, perverted way, this is how the average progressive views morality and the Church. There is no difference between the whore and the saint, but the Church is still the worst of the worst. I think I speak for all of us when I say, there’s enough evil in the world already. We don’t need HBO redefining it for us.