Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hollywood Priest Watch

I watch the television show "Bones" faithfully. When I like a performer, I tend to follow him or her loyally from project to project. I thought David Boreanaz was terrific as the brooding vampire "Angel" in the Joss Whedon universe, and I think he is even better doing light comedy as FBI agent Seeley Booth in the series about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. But the writers on "Bones" are not the sharpest tools in the toolbox when it comes to portraying contemporary Catholicism.

Last night's episode featured an old, crusty traditionalist priest squaring off against a younger, with-it, "hippie" priest who wants to modernize the Church and make it more relevant. That aspect of the plot was a retread of the 1973 film "Catholics" with Trevor Howard as the traditionalist and Martin Sheen as the young firebrand.

The problem is, these days it is much more likely to be the younger priest who is the traditionalist and the older priest -- aging baby boomers like myself -- who are the modernists. I found it sad that the writers of "Bones" were 20 or 30 years out of step with the real conflict going on in the priesthood these days. The pastor of my own parish, a man about my own age, two years ago resigned his pastorate and took a leave of absence from the priesthood. In his letter to the parish, he cited among other reasons a difficulty he had dealing with the traditionalism of the younger priests coming up in the ranks. He is an excellent priest and, fortunately, returned to active ministry last year although he works now as an associate pastor, where he is far happier than he was with the burden of administration. But in the diocese of Wilmington, it is pretty well known that the older pastors are the ones who elevate social justice above salvation theology and prefer the guitar music of the 70's masses to the classical sacred music and gregorian chant making its way back after years of absence.

Karen Hall has a show coming up in the Fall called Vows, which is about Jesuits who live on a university campus. I am looking forward to Vows having a more realistic look at the life of priests today. She writes:
The pilot (and, with any luck, the show) will be called "Vows." It will encompass a wide range of views because, as you may have noticed, that's what Jesuit real life is like these days. When I'm not blogging, I don't write propaganda. This being the entertainment industry, my first job is to entertain.

However, the protagonist will not be Fr. Rock-and-Roll. I think we've all seen enough of that. These days, a fresh and daring character, in my opinion, needs to be doing something other than declaring his rebeldom (rebelosity?) every chance he gets. The "Maverick Priest" who "plays by his own rules" has become a trite stereotype and therefore a bad artistic choice. Thank God.
Are you paying attention, you guys and gals who are scripting "Bones"?

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