A guided tour through history of faith

Last Thursday’s episode of The Simpsons on RTÉ 2 was imaginative, topical and religious

Whenever I review a programme in Irish it’s usually from TG4, but An Coláiste Éireannach was broadcast on BBC 2 Northern Ireland, Monday night of last week.

Dr Art Hughes presented an enthusiastic celebration of the life of 17th Century Franciscan Luke Wadding, who set up two Irish colleges in Rome. Hughes described it as “phenomenal achievement” that the colleges were still thriving today.

Wadding’s back-story was fascinating. Of Old English stock he left Ireland at age 16, but kept a strong commitment to Irish culture and spirituality. Eventually he was sent to Rome by the King of Spain to promote the teaching of the Immaculate Conception but in parallel set up the Irish colleges and kept Irish cultural identity alive – seen in the many Gaelic inscriptions and the pictures of St Brigid and St Patrick. In fact, we were told that Wadding was the responsible for St Patrick’s Day becoming a national holiday – apparently this happened for the first time, in Rome, in 1630.

This informative programme was as much about art as it was about faith as we were treated to a guided tour of the many wonderful frescos, especially in St Isodore’s College, though one chapel was largely empty however having been looted by Napoleon’s troops.

I’m sure some would dispute The Simpsons being regarded as art, but last Thursday’s episode on RTÉ 2 was imaginative, topical and religious. In the opening sequence Bart writes his punishment on the blackboard, “I cannot absolve sins”, and the notice board outside the First Church of Springfield declares – “Christ dyed eggs for your sins”, perhaps a dig at our peculiar Easter habits.

At church on the “hottest Easter ever”(!), Rev. Lovejoy’s long readings from the ‘Good Book’ send the Simpsons asleep and the Bible stories mingle with their dreams.

Homer and Marge play Adam and Eve with pre-banishment fig leaves and Flanders is a generous God until the whole apple eating thing (‘Applegate’) when he is portrayed as a God who bears a grudge, something of a sour note there that should prompt discretion where children are concerned. But then I think it would be naive to regard The Simpsons as a children’s programme, despite the colourful cartooning. During the Apocalypse, the Flanders family ascends to Heaven and Marge wonders why her family doesn’t, until she remembers: “Oh right, the sins”!

Keeping up with the same-sex marriage referendum debate, a few items are worth a mention. Worst offender for bias was last Sunday’s The Week in Politics (RTÉ One). It was two against two on the panel but I thought Sharon Ní Bheoláin’s chairing was very one-sided.

She particularly grilled Senator Rónán Mullen, making out that the Children and Family Relationships Bill has “nothing to do with this referendum”, very much a contested point of the Yes side; when she spoke of “what the experts say” about outcomes for children she used the studies quoted by the Yes side; she suggested there was “scare mongering” by the No side re children, but no suggestion of scare mongering by Yes side, e.g. on the effects of a No vote on LGBT young people.

She stated that we have been redefining marriage for decades and that marriage is now “unrecognisable” as a “construct” from what it was decades ago. I don’t think this can be defended by saying she was just acting as devil’s advocate, it just didn’t come across like that and mostly it was just one way.

She did put a good ‘No’ point to John Lonergan at one stage, and suggested to Senator Zappone that many would say it’s foolhardy to rush this instead of seeing how it develops in other countries.

The previous Thursday morning’s Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) had an interview with journalist Bruce Arnold who raised some serious alarms about the legal and cultural consequences of introducing same-sex marriage.

He thought it would undermine the “ecosystem” of society and foresaw a “bleak and terrible” future if this “Trojan horse” was inserted into the Constitution. Kenny intervened on surrogacy: “But the European Court says…”

Funny how I’ve never heard any Irish journalist use the same line to point out last summer’s European Court judgement, to the effect that same-sex marriage wasn’t a human right and that states were under no obligation to introduce it. Best kept secret in the Irish media!


Pick of the Week



RTĖ 1, Sun, April 19, 11am

The first televised broadcast of the Mass of St Therese of Lisieux, with Fr Tony Coote and congregation and choirs from Mount Merrion Parish, Dublin. Music Director: Brian Lawler.


Genesis to Jesus

EWTN, Sun, April 19, 11.30am and Thurs, April 23, 9.30pm

Noah: Dr Scott Hahn and Rob Corzine talk about how God found one household to be faithful, and so he renewed his covenant with the family of Noah.


Unreported World

Channel 4, Fri, April 24, 7.30pm

During the Cambodian war hundreds of thousands of family member were forcibly separated from each other by Pol Pot's government, which did not believe in the institution of the family and instead demanded loyalty to the state.