‘D’oh! I Thought This Was A Confessional’

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, declared Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie (aka The Simpsons) to be a Roman Catholic family.

With more than 20 years of episodes under their belts, the dysfunctional working-class family whose dynamics and perspectives offer biting social critique of American society have found a home under the Vatican wing. L’Osservatore Romano wrote:

…In an article headlined “Homer and Bart are Catholics”, the Vatican newspaper said: “The Simpsons are among the few TV programs 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”. It quoted an analysis by a Jesuit priest, Father Francesco Occhetta, of a 2005 episode of The Simpsons, “The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star,” which revolved around Catholicism and was aired a few weeks after the death of Pope John Paul II.

The episode starts with Bart being expelled from Springfield Elementary School and being enrolled in a Catholic school where he meets a sympathetic priest, voiced by the actor Liam Neeson, who draws him into Catholicism with his kindness. Homer then decides to convert to Catholicism, to the horror of his wife Marge, the Rev Lovejoy and Ned Flanders. The episode touches on issues such as religious conflict, interfaith dialogue, homosexuality and stem cell research.

“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.

The Simpsons even skewers its own success. See below U.K. graffiti artist Banksy’s dark satire of the sweat shops that produce Simpsons paraphernalia.

One could call it an animated reflection on Rerum Novarum: On Capital and Labor (Pope Leo XIII, 1891) and “the right of workers and dignity of work.”

Religion, Workers, and the Economy

youngstown-steelI really appreciate the class analysis from the folks over at Working-Class Perspectives, a blog from the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University. They are doing contextual analysis – and sometimes, contextual theology – from the heart of the Rust Belt.

Here’s an excerpt from Religion, Workers, and the Economy by Brian R. Corbin, looking at the Pope’s new encyclical Charity in Truth. Brian is director of Catholic Charities in Youngstown and blogs at brianrcorbin.com.

Since the publication of Rerum Novarum in 1891, Catholic social teachings have provided moral and ethical guideposts for economic behavior.  Of particular importance, have been the Papal Encyclicals on the economy that have sought to protect the working class and their institutions in the face of unfettered capitalism.   In Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, the Church goes a step further by providing a critical analysis of neoliberal economic thought and the problems of globalization while reiterating the need for basic protections for workers and unions.

The pope writes explicitly that justice abhors great disparities in wealth and that societies need “to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”  Employment, however, needs to be “decent work.”  Benedict writes that  such work  “expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman; work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labour; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.”

To read my column on the encyclical, see A Love Letter From the Pope.