If I were to choose a cola from among Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and R.C., I would choose R.C. But this is not about cola from a vending machine or on the shelf. This is about Roman Catholicism on the screen.
I happen to have re-met a R.C. priest again recently. I find him to be a good man, a caring man, a good communicator stuck in a mixed-up system. Surely there are many other priests out there like this one. I wonder why R.C. priests are typically the butts of religion jokes and funny situations on the screen.
I also wonder why the R.C. religion seems to be the religious system of choice whenever some type of Christianity is woven in to TV shows and movies. Take a couple of well-reputed series as examples: The West Wing and Blue Bloods. Each of these involves strong principal characters (President Bartlet, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry; and Commissioner Frank Reagan, respectively) who exhibit relatively committed Catholic faith and/or moral fiber. Those “good” characters are somewhat rare in my experience, though. Often, when a R.C. priest appears, he is a somewhat negative or sideline character.
Why does R.C.ism seem always to typify or represent the whole of Christ-ian faith? These possibilities come to mind:
- A large, even disproportionate number of Roman Catholics might have found their way into TV and movies. (These observations beg other questions, such as why religious professionals are often portrayed negatively, and whether the TV and movie script writers themselves are disbelievers, lapsed, apathetic, or simply more interested in humor than anything else.)
- The situational backdrop is often in large cities such as New York City and Washington—cities that have for many decades had large numbers of citizens with ethnic backgrounds in historically R.C. countries such as Italy, Spain, and Ireland.
- My wife also pointed out the visual aspect as a factor: if a viewer sees a priest in a collar, the script writer doesn’t have to explain anything; everyone knows he’s a priest. Also, ornate cathedrals can be good for videography.
- Despite its depth and breadth, historically speaking, Roman Catholicism is at some points just funny. Because more people have some sense of Romanism than, say, of Baptistism or Pentecostalism, many will laugh.
- Script writers may just be uninformed enough to assume all manifestations of Christ-ian religion have priests or priest-like figures.
As an avowedly non-Roman-Catholic type of Christ-believer, I find the R.C. slant annoying at best. On the other hand, if the references are often going to be negative, I suppose I’d rather they relate to Catholicism—which has become, after all, a run-amok system superimposed on the first-century Way of faith.
B. Casey, 7/23/16