Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mmmm, Transubstantiation.
October 18, 2010 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Homer Simpson, True Catholic?

The Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has declared Homer Simpson a "True Catholic" with an explanation by Father Francesco Occhetta: "The Simpsons are among the few TV programmes for children in which Christian faith, religion, and questions about God are recurrent themes."

The family "recites prayers before meals and, in their own peculiar way, believes in the life thereafter".

"Few people know it, and he does everything he can to hide it, but it is true: Homer J Simpson is a Catholic," insists L'Osservatore Romano
posted by BZArcher (77 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
But ........the Simpsons are some flavor of mainstream Protestant.
posted by The Whelk at 6:41 AM on October 18, 2010 [14 favorites]


Just the sort of analysis you'd expect from people who believe that what they read in old books is literally true.
posted by rusty at 6:41 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mom, can we go Catholic so we can get communion wafers and booze?
posted by The Whelk at 6:41 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Mom, can we go Catholic so we can get communion wafers and booze?
posted by Ahab at 6:42 AM on October 18, 2010


D'oh. Preview..
posted by Ahab at 6:43 AM on October 18, 2010


Also this episode exists

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star (#GABF09 / SI-1609) 15 May 2005
Bart is expelled by Principal Skinner for a prank at a school Meideval Festival that was actually caused by Groundskeeper Willie (who was mad at having to be the village idiot), and ends up going to a Catholic school, which is more affordable than other private schools. The only person who takes a reali interest in Bart is Father Sean, who explains he acted a bit like Bart in his day, and lends Bart a "Lives of the Saints" comic book. Marge is afraid that Bart is turning into a Catholic (which, with all of the sitting, standing, and kneeling, she calls "Simon Says without a winner"), but Homer is sidetracked by the fact that the school is having a pancake dinner followed by bingo, and when he discovers that he can be absolved of all sins through confession if he converts, Marge problems are doubled, especially when she realizes that Catholics do not believe in birth control.


Don't tangle with me L'Osservatore Romano - I'm a Simpsons Jesuit.
posted by The Whelk at 6:43 AM on October 18, 2010 [16 favorites]


I think the acceptable religions in The Simpsons are canonically "Protestant, Catholic, Jewish... and Other" with the Simpsons in the first category. Of course, quizzing Homer on doctrine would be... well, possibly an exercise in hilarity, assuming they had some good writers that day.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:44 AM on October 18, 2010


Reverend Lovejoy is definitely not a Catholic. I always assumed. From the same episode that The Whelk mentions, we find out that the First Church of Springfield is part of The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism, although I always suspected that they were Episcopalians.
posted by muddgirl at 6:47 AM on October 18, 2010


I've thought for a long time that the Simpsons are the most mainstream TV family, perhaps ever. They deal with real issues in every episode. On the face, the issues are exaggerated, but they reveal a very healthy family dynamic- a family that is devoted to one another and stick together, despite their faults. The underlying message is one of the most positive on TV today.
posted by Doohickie at 6:47 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Marge : Aren't you going to perform the last rites?
Rev. Lovejoy : That's Catholic, Marge. You might as well ask me to perform a voodoo dance.



I think the acceptable religions in The Simpsons are canonically "Protestant, Catholic, Jewish... and Other"

Ned: Homer, God didn't set your house on fire.

Lovejoy: No, but He was working in the hearts of your friends and neighbors when they came to your aid, be they Christian, Jew, or... Miscellaneous.

Apu: Hindu! There are 700 million of us.

Lovejoy: Aww, that's super.

posted by The Whelk at 6:47 AM on October 18, 2010 [16 favorites]


what
posted by jquinby at 6:48 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


just today I read a 30-sec commercial on the simpsons now costs less than on family guy ($253k vs. 259k.). coincidence? I think not.
posted by krautland at 6:49 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"That's not God! That's a waffle Bart stuck to the ceiling."
"Lord, I know I shouldn't eat Thee, but.... Mmmmm......sacrilicious."
posted by Bromius at 6:49 AM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


As The Whelk says, the Simpsons are Protestant; we have seen enough of the church that they attend, presided over by Reverend Lovejoy (not Father Lovejoy) to know that. Also, I have to wonder why the Catholic Church would even want to claim the Simpsons for their own. Homer Simpson is not a role model, he is a supreme idiot. If he were a Catholic, that would hardly recommend the religion to anyone.

It is possible to argue that the Simpsons is theistic, since it has on several occasions included God as a character. However, it has also included various other fantasy elements (not even including the Treehouse of Horror episodes, which are a sort of extreme version of the Simpsons) and it does not necessarily intend to be taken literally about God (or about anything). It is obviously satirical.

Perhaps the Catholic Church is getting desperate for some way to distract people from sexual abuse scandals.
posted by grizzled at 6:53 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am going to do something for the first time. I am going to use the voice of the comic book nerd completely unironically and say what? Trying to paint Homer as a Catholic without mentioning his St. Francis Of Azzsi phase when he stopped going to church? I mean, bah it's like you don't even watch the show!
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 AM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Recuperation fail.
posted by emhutchinson at 6:57 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


So you're saying he's not a literal Catholic...
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:59 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Nobody in this family is going Catholic! Three children are enough, thank you very much." - I might be forgetting it, but Marge says something like that in "Lisa Gets an A"

In the one where Grampa needs a kidney, Rev Lovejoy is asked to perform the last rites, and says something along the lines of "That's Catholic, Marge, you might as well ask me to perform some voodoo chant!"
posted by WPW at 6:59 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


So for the record: Catholicism is a weird beast. It seems buffet-style to the average member; as long as you go to confession, you can sin as much as you want under society's radar and you're fine. As a result, the average member is a perfectly normal and nice person as much as anyone from any other walk of faith.

But above those individual members, there's a massive central authority structure looking out for itself. That means protecting the most horrifying of acts when they'd look bad for the Church. That means punishing humane behavior when it goes counter to the Church's political ends. That means shamelessly undermining tradition when it can bolster the ranks of sexist and homophobic clergy.

And it means trying to appropriate a pop culture icon (about 15 years too late, by the way) to make themselves look relevant in a world that increasingly doesn't give a shit about the moral imperatives of such an amoral and immoral institution.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:02 AM on October 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


So what they're ultimately saying is that every week Homer goes to the wrong church and makes God madder and madder?
posted by The Whelk at 7:08 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


<fatbeard>Worst canonization ever.</fatbeard>
posted by fleetmouse at 7:09 AM on October 18, 2010


Also, I have to wonder why the Catholic Church would even want to claim the Simpsons for their own.

To divert attention from their pedophile priests?
posted by sour cream at 7:10 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The beer intake alone qualifies Homer for Catholic honors.
As for his attendance at First Church of Springfield...One could argue that this is Marge's church and Homer tags along to keep the peace. I mean...does anyone really think Homer would go to church on his own accord?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:11 AM on October 18, 2010


"The Catholic Church: We've made a few ... changes."

Hey the youth of today still like the Simpsons, right? Somebody write an article about them being Catholic! That'll drive up numbers!
posted by graventy at 7:18 AM on October 18, 2010


At some point Homer was winged by a bullet and became a Unitarian.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:24 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


He took a Baptism for Bart.
posted by The Whelk at 7:26 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is the same Homer Simpson who said “I'm not normally a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman!”

Just sayin'.
posted by tommasz at 7:32 AM on October 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


“The Catholic Church: We’ve made some . . . changes.”
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:37 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


L'Osservatore must be talking about the new-edition, smoothed-over, toothless, meaningless Al Jean "Simpsons," which is stuff you sit your kids in front of on a Sunday night while you pay your bills, not the old-school rough-edged 1990s "Simpsons" (the one that most of the commenters here are referring to), which was slightly less perfectly animated and was less timid about taking potentially offensive potshots at sacred cows, on which John Waters actually had a shot at being a guest star, on which Homer did something other than make the same soundboard noises and take the same pratfalls over and over again, and which actually had differentiated characters who had distinctive personalities and opinions about something other than the cast of "Glee."
posted by blucevalo at 7:39 AM on October 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


What are you guys talking about the simpsons only had 8 seaosns what?
posted by The Whelk at 7:41 AM on October 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


I like the one where they were takin' someone to the hospital and the ambulance had a sign that indicated which hospital it was going to, kind of like some buses. Anyway, first it said something like Mt. Sinai, and Homer was like, "Hey, I'm not rich!" and then it rolled over to something like "St. Mary's" and he was like "come on, we can do a little better," so the sign changed once again to "Methodist" or something equally protestant and Homer was mollified.
posted by Mister_A at 7:48 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rephrasing the Wikipedia article on religion in The Simpsons:

The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism was formed after the Schism of Lourdes in 1573 marked the Presbylutherans' official split from the Roman Catholic Church over the Presbylutherans' right to attend church with wet hair. That right has since been abolished.

Strangely, the same phrase you can use to prove the Vatican's official newspaper wrong is also something I would use to disprove the Internet accepted fact that the Simpsons hasn't done anything funny in the past 5 years. (The whole "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star" episode is quite funny.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:49 AM on October 18, 2010


Save us, Jebus!
posted by robself at 7:50 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Whelk: What are you guys talking about the simpsons only had 8 seaosns what?

I was on a plane a few days ago and they had a recent episode of the Simpsons, Midnight Towboy from 2007, and it was really quite good. I wasn't one of the all-time greats, but it quality-wise it could've held its own in the first decade of seasons.
posted by Kattullus at 7:52 AM on October 18, 2010


This is the same Homer Simpson who said “I'm not normally a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman!”

Any moderately competent apologist could interpret that into a poignant example of man's innate hunger for union with the transcendent.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:58 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]



Any moderately competent apologist could interpret that into a poignant example of man's innate hunger for union with the transcendent.



...and tights.
posted by The Whelk at 8:01 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Lovejoy: [holding cleaning brushes] I want you to clean every one of these organ pipes that you have befouled with your popular music.
[hands the brushes out, walks off]
[Bart and Milhouse start cleaning; a door slams]

Bart: You shank! How could you tell on me?
Milhouse: Well I don't want hungry birds pecking my soul forever.
Bart: Soul? Come on, Milhouse, there is no such thing as a soul. It's just something they made up to scare kids, like the bogeyman, or Michael Jackson.
Milhouse: But every religion says there's a soul, Bart. Why would they lie? What would they have to gain?
[Lovejoy, in his office, works a change sorting machine]
Lovejoy: I don't hear scrubbing!
[Episode 3F02: "Bart Sells His Soul"]

Why would they try to appropriate a pop culture icon of enormous global influence? What would they have to gain?
posted by gompa at 8:21 AM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


"I love God, he's my favorite fictional character." -Homer J. Simpson
posted by West of House at 8:24 AM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Pretty sure the L'Osservatore Romano article is just a bit of satirical fun, and that no one is actually trying to appropriate anything.
posted by hermitosis at 8:36 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've thought for a long time that the Simpsons are the most mainstream TV family, perhaps ever. They deal with real issues in every episode. On the face, the issues are exaggerated, but they reveal a very healthy family dynamic- a family that is devoted to one another and stick together, despite their faults. The underlying message is one of the most positive on TV today.

This might be the case now, but go back to the show's earlier seasons, and Homer's a severe alcoholic who occasionally beats Bart.

It's a very mixed message, although I do suppose the current state of affairs on the show is vastly better than the sugarcoated version of the family dynamic preferred by the majority of sitcoms.
posted by schmod at 8:47 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This makes me think of the Mormon practice of baptizing the famous dead.

That, and a clutch at relevance.
posted by Eideteker at 9:20 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Relatedly.

But this is an old gig.
posted by chavenet at 9:24 AM on October 18, 2010


I don't even believe in Jebus!
posted by box at 9:25 AM on October 18, 2010


This might be the case now, but go back to the show's earlier seasons, and Homer's a severe alcoholic who occasionally beats Bart.

Homer's also a "rageaholic" as recently as 2001. The Homer-choking-Bart thing is a recurring item even in the most recent season. That never goes away.
posted by blucevalo at 9:26 AM on October 18, 2010


I'm surprised these Catholics seem not to realise that they're talking about a fictional character as though he were real.

Oh wait...
posted by Decani at 9:30 AM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've copied the original L'Osservatore Romano article here (It's in Italian and has just expired off the Vatican web site).

The article is a short notice about a--presumably much longer--article in the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica. I have very little Italian, but it appears (with the help of Google Translate) that what the Telegraph (and the OP) gives as the opinion of L'Osservatore Romano (e.g. "Few people know it, and he does everything he can to hide it, but it is true: Homer J Simpson is a Catholic.") is actually a humorous summary of the plot of the episode "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star" making use of the historical present.
posted by Jahaza at 9:43 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Officially, the Simpson's church is part of "The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism."
posted by piratebowling at 9:45 AM on October 18, 2010


The Simpsons are among the few TV programmes for children in which Christian faith, religion, and questions about God are recurrent themes.

Huh?

Anyway, my first thought was, "That's ridiculous." My second thought was, "Besides, Homer's pretty consistently an asshole and callous to his family. Seems like an odd guy to claim" My third thought was, "However, he is generally redeemed by the end of each episode with an 'I love you, Marge' or something."

"Ohhhhh..."
posted by brundlefly at 9:49 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Homer-choking-Bart thing is a recurring item even in the most recent season

Homer choking Bart as a gag started because they thought Homer actually hitting Bart would to much like real, actual violence and like a real thing and it would just make Homer instantly unwachable for a 22 min comedy show. The choking was picked because it was such an over the top way of expressing anger and was cartoonish, not real. There was a pretty hard rule from Standards that they Homer could never be seen hitting Bart in a realistic way.

I think the only time Bart ever actually got punched in the face during a Treehouse Of Horror episode "Hell Toupee" where Snake's evil hair facehugs onto Bart and homer punches it, around 2000 I wanna say.
posted by The Whelk at 9:51 AM on October 18, 2010


Tony Blair is a Catholic, too! What a perfect role model for young people considering the Church!
posted by KokuRyu at 9:51 AM on October 18, 2010


Bart: What religion are you?

Homer: You know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don't work out in real life. Uh… Christianity.
posted by dgaicun at 10:11 AM on October 18, 2010


Tony Blair is a Catholic, too! What a perfect role model for young people considering the Church!

And a recent convert too. I feel sorry for the poor priest who had to take that first confession. Or maybe they operated in shifts?
posted by Electric Dragon at 10:20 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Googling, googling... Ah! Well, that explains it: L'Osservatore Romano is edited by Father Guido Sarducci.
posted by gern at 10:22 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The choking was picked because it was such an over the top way of expressing anger and was cartoonish, not real. There was a pretty hard rule from Standards that they Homer could never be seen hitting Bart in a realistic way.

Yes, that makes sense to me. I definitely wasn't panning the choking, which is one of the best features of the early shows (in the limited and judicious doses in which it was dispensed) and now, with Homer merely a friendly appendage who often appears to be doped up on Haldol, is as rare as a penguin sighting in Cabo San Lucas.
posted by blucevalo at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2010


Standard disclaimer: L'Osservatore is the paper of the Vatican, not its mouthpiece, and it routinely enjoys doing things to get people's attention like talking about Homer Simpson or forgiving the Beatles.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:08 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know who else is a Catholic?

Completely unknown graffiti artist Banksy!
posted by Mister_A at 11:27 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am going to do something for the first time. I am going to use the voice of the comic book nerd completely unironically...

Worst. TheWhelk comment. Ever.
posted by dersins at 12:36 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I definitely wasn't panning the choking, which is one of the best features of the early shows (in the limited and judicious doses in which it was dispensed) and now, with Homer merely a friendly appendage who often appears to be doped up on Haldol, is as rare as a penguin sighting in Cabo San Lucas.

I'm not an expert Simpsonist, but it seems like the "Why you ..." choking was ramped up in the 2000s.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:58 PM on October 18, 2010


The other thing about Homer choking Bart was that it absolutely had to be in a fit of rage; Homer could not plan to choke Bart and then do it, nor could he do it while anything less than incandescent. (Though apparently he could premeditate to injure Bart but not do it, as in "Bart on the Road": "I have made my decision. I will send Bart the money to come home. Then, I will murder him.")


This may come as a surprise to some, but I actually really like the religiosity of The Simpsons. They're supposed to be a pretty normal family, and unless things have changes since the last round of stats that I saw, most families attend church. The church setting is an excellent springboard for comedy which really tends to go unmined, and the Simpsons did so much with it. Further, they manage to use it as a vehicle to make some interesting points and explore some interesting ideas, which is always good.

Of course, there's also the delicious irony in the fact that a writer's room full of atheists has managed to write one of the most religious TV shows ever.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:17 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes another attempt at a) attracting younger people and trying to appear culturally relevant, and b) taking attention away from the sexual abuse scandals the church is plagued with. In fact, I think they picked something that they *knew* was going to be a little contentious, because they'd rather have that kind of "negative" attention then "the other kind".
posted by 1000monkeys at 1:26 PM on October 18, 2010


Father Homer will fit right in in the Catholic Church, he abuses kids too!
posted by formless at 2:16 PM on October 18, 2010


unless things have changes since the last round of stats that I saw, most families attend church.

I agree with you on the Simpsons and religion, but to be fair, most American families say they attend church. I'm curious how many actually do. (With the right odds) I might bet more Americans watch the NFL than go to church on Sunday.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:48 PM on October 18, 2010


I can see the Pope looking at his Google Analytics console while he refines his Simpsons-related Adsense keywords, wringing his hands and grinning manically: "Good. Goooood."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:09 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely he goes ....." excellent" ?
posted by The Whelk at 3:18 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes another attempt at a) attracting younger people.

Haven't they learned their lesson, yet?
posted by edbles at 3:36 PM on October 18, 2010


Upon actual reflection, when I was a pre-ex-Catholic growing up nothing the Vatican or Rome did actually affected my experience of going to church. Church was very much about the parish priest's weekly sermons, which were enough in and of themselves to drive me away. But who exactly is the Vatican's audience when they do something like this?
posted by edbles at 3:39 PM on October 18, 2010


But is the Pope Catholic?
posted by ovvl at 4:08 PM on October 18, 2010


no bears are.
posted by The Whelk at 4:12 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nope the Pope shits bears, but only in Catholic woods.
posted by edbles at 5:07 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's why he always looks so angry.
posted by The Whelk at 5:23 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with you on the Simpsons and religion, but to be fair, most American families say they attend church. I'm curious how many actually do.

That's actually surprising to hear that most Americans (supposedly) attend church. Churches here in Canada are all "suffering" from lack of attendance, especially amongst young people and families. I know of many churches of several "mainstream" denominations, including historical churches of "great importance" (historically), going bankrupt and having to sell off their property or amalgamate with another church, or share space with another church, often one of a different denomination.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:59 PM on October 18, 2010


the first thing that popped into my head when I read this was Homer's instruction to his marriage enrichment class to spice up their marriages by putting a min-beret on their wang.
posted by Sara Anne at 9:28 PM on October 18, 2010


"Of course, there's also the delicious irony in the fact that a writer's room full of atheists has managed to write one of the most religious TV shows ever."

And aren't several of the cast members scientologists? Not that that should make much of a difference to the show, but it does add to the irony.
posted by sneebler at 11:47 PM on October 18, 2010


including historical churches of "great importance" (historically), going bankrupt and having to sell off their property or amalgamate with another church

This has led to the little discussed phenomenon in secularized Scandinavia and northern North America of cool-ass restaurants made out of the shells of old churches.

My favorite local pizza joint has booths made out of pews and a giant stained glass back wall. I predict that the Notre Dame Cathedral will be converted into a Chuck E. Cheese in less than 100 years.
posted by dgaicun at 2:23 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Re: American church attendance - note that like 93% of Americans claimed to be religious in 1990, but only 40% claimed to attend church weekly when asked by pollsters. However, when researchers actually counted how many people attend church in any given year, "actual attendance was only about half of the level reported in public opinion surveys: 20% vs. 40% for Protestants, and 28% vs. 50% for Roman Catholics."

So 90% of people claim to be religious, but less than 1/3 of them regularly attend church service (not that they can't be religious without attending church).

I know the number of religious Americans is going down (I think it's closer to 85% nowadays, with a strong surge of a-religiousity among the youth demographics), so I suspect that at some point the there won't be a social desireability bias towards church attendance.

Reported church attendance for Canadians has always been lower - I don't know if Canadian pollsters are going to have the same desireability bias towards attendance, or if the poll numbers will be closer to actual behavior.
posted by muddgirl at 8:13 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gloria in excelsis d'oh!
posted by bwg at 6:38 PM on October 19, 2010


Sorry, Vatican! 'The Simpsons' aren't Catholic.
posted by ericb at 9:56 AM on October 21, 2010


« Older Record-breaking numbers of Finns leave the nationa...   |   Pilot ejects an instant before... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments