Too often TV and film directors and designers get Catholic thing wrong, absurdly so.

There are quite a few churchy things in TV and film these days.   For example, the intellectually insulting Two Popes (absurd on the face of it) and the weird and often vile sequel The New Pope.

Also, churchy things are often on TV series as part of the plot.  For example, on one of the only shows I follow, Blue Bloods, priests or bishops appear.

It is amazing how these directors and producers get wrong.   They get things so wrong that you want to throw things at the screen.  They even get casting wrong, as in the case of The Irishman.  What a joke. I won’t be seeing that.

I saw this tweet after a reader sent it to me, with some question marks.

First, this is probably some C of E thing, but that doesn’t make any difference.

Talk about getting this wrong.   The actor has the chasuble on BACKWARDS, the back in front.

How stupid is this.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. scoot says:

    Next thing you know they’ll be pouring soup into a biretta. Hollyweird!

  2. moosix1974 says:

    That is seriously embarrassing. Truly.

  3. L. says:

    Why should film directors and designers be expected to do any better than so many Catholic clerics?

    [Good point.]

  4. GHP says:

    Fr Z sez: …They get things so wrong that you want to throw things at the screen. …

    I just used your Amazon link to send this to you. Pack of 3; share with other priests!

    — Guy


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  5. I remember the execrable film Chocolat had a scene where the curé preaches at Mass in rural France on Easter Sunday wearing a cassock, surplice, chasuble and stole on top! Of course, they hadn’t anyone nearby to ask about these things, given that they filmed it in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain…

  6. JPCahill says:

    And the chasuble is worn over a surplice. With a tippet over that. And the other fellow seems to have a hanger still in the back of his hood.

    There is an episode of the old “Maigret” series in which it is key to the plot that someone will be murdered at this village’s All Souls Day Mass. The detective goes to the Mass. You don’t get much of a look at the celebrant but when you do he is wearing a dalmatic instead of a chasuble. And a green one at that. On All Souls Day.

  7. jaykay says:

    I recall a history programme on a British channel back at least 10 years ago where they showed a reenactment of medieval people in church, and although the costumes were correct for the era – the men had their headgear on.

  8. sibnao says:

    Speaking of Blue Bloods, there was a truly awful example of this problem several seasons ago. The female detective is trying to get the suspect to open up, and she knows he is Catholic. She suddenly says, “Bless me, for I have sinned…” and when he asks what she is doing, she says, “I’m saying confession. Do you want to say confession too?” And this magically breaks him down and he tells her what he did.
    This is such a dumb mistake that it’s hard to think the writers wouldn’t have gotten corrected by anyone on staff or in the cast (isn’t Donnie Wahlburg Catholic himself?). Just thinking about it makes my toes curl in embarrassment.

  9. adriennep says:

    Father, you are missing a fabulous opportunity to be a paid “Catholic consultant” on this show. Honestly, they have to pay for and credit everything. You should write to them immediately. Suggest a revival of Murder in the Cathedral or Man for All Seasons. Of course it is a painful reminder that good Catholics are not in the movie-making world anymore. That probably ended with Frank Capra. But Father Patrick Peyton did well influencing Hollywood circles. And we don’t even speak of Broadway and the outright blasphemy in Book of Mormon. Today we just need more representation. There are lights doing good out there, like Barbara Nicolosi and the Act One training program. So Hey Kids, let’s all get out there and put on a show!

  10. jflare29 says:

    Ahem! Given the general degree of catechesis amongst Catholics, …

    RE the chasuble: How many people even noticed?

    RE the “confession” during Blue Bloods: Same question really. I suppose it might be construed as an abuse in strictest terms. I still wonder if most would consider this a mistake. In context, it might be construed by many as a clever–and evidently effective–interrogation technique.

  11. Well, they get law and courtroom stuff wrong all the time, why not get Church stuff wrong too? News reporters who cover cases in the courtroom often don’t bother to educate themselves on the basics of courtroom procedures, so that they can talk about them intelligently and coherently. They often don’t even find out essential facts about the case itself.

  12. edm says:

    For those persons in the original post who thought this is how Anglican clergy dress, let me assure them that it is not so. True, this is laughable. But not because Anglican clergy do not know how to vest properly (and, no, the odd photo here or there is not “proof” as the same could be done very easily with Roman Catholic clergy). This looks like someone in the wardrobe department of the film company decided to “put something on them to make them look churchy.”
    The mix of Mass vestments, worn backward, over Choir Dress and the hanger hook protruding from the Rochet or the Chimere are, in my opinion, hysterical. A little bit of money could have been spent on a consultant. A cheaper alternative would be to look at historical photos.

  13. Hidden One says:

    Would consulting re:vestments for such productions count as some form of cooperation with evil?

  14. Didn’t see the series. But are these supposed to be Catholics or Anglicans?
    Either way, shame, shame, shame . . .

  15. hwriggles4 says:

    Blue Bloods is one of the few shows I watch regularly. I do like how Henry Reagan (Len Cariou) openly discusses volunteer work at church and addresses his son as “Francis.” I also like how many of them attend Sunday Mass and say grace. I also was pleased to note that when Jamie and Edit were engaged, Jamie was seen sleeping alone on the couch while Edit slept in her bedroom.

    Anyhow, it is “tv”. The Archbishop of New York (Stacy Keach often plays him) is written in the script that he and Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) are old friends from Catholic school. That’s the explanation given on how Frank can make a phone call and by the end of an episode the problem of the day is solved, with the Archbishop dropping everything to help out the police commissioner. Yes, the magic of television.

    What I can’t figure out – the Reagan house (Frank lives there with his dad – both are widowers) is in Brooklyn. I guess through the magic of television they have the same bishop, and auxiliary bishops are not mentioned.

  16. KateD says:

    Perhaps the chasuble is on correctly, but the head’s not screwed on right?

    Seriously though, regarding Blue Bloods maybe that’s how they do Catholicism in NY. Up is down, Left is Right, Catholic politicians support infanticide….

  17. hwriggles4 says:

    A few years ago, I watched a “Quincy, M.E.” rerun where a priest was introduced as an Archbishop and I laughed because he wasn’t wearing the cross with his clerics. Being in Los Angeles, a technical adviser could have easily remedied this. Honestly, prior to 2003, I would have not have known.

    As a former volunteer firefighter, I was disappointed in “Backdraft ” during the funeral scene that no one had a mourning band over their badges, and no one wore the SCBA masks inside the fires. (“Ladder 49” was a much better film). Some of my friends who served in the military can identify prop medals on actors (and actresses in the days prior to women being allowed to serve in combat) that don’t fit with the characters. A real doozie is “Air Force One” where Bill Macy has Air Force wings (not the navigator wings) and says he cannot fly a plane.

  18. Gaetano says:

    One mercy about The Irishman is that the two baptism scenes with Fr. James Martin muddlling through Latin are mercifully short.

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  20. @Gaetano:

    I think that the reason Fr. Martin sounds as though he’s “muddling through the Latin” is that he’s supposed to be speaking in “American Latin”–which was fairly common among priests before Vatican II.

    They’d learned their Latin in the seminary because it was required, but they wouldn’t have developed much feeling for the sounds and rhythms of the language, which they’d pronounce as though were American English: “bapp-teez-oh,” etc., with whatever New Yawk or Jersey or Midwestern accent they happened to have grown up with.

    The Latin of many of the priests I remember from my pre-Vatican II childhood sounded just terrible. They really were “muddling through the Latin.” I think that was the effect–“Jersey Latin”–that Scorsese was trying for in The Irishman’s baptism scenes, which made me chuckle.

    I had no idea until afterwards, however, that the priest was being played by Fr. Martin. Which I should have known, because wherever there is Martin Scorsese, there is also Fr. James Martin, S.J.

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I think we should give a pass to The Irishman. It’s clearly an example of the Holy Spirit leaning on both the casting director (or even Scorsese himself) for the benefit of Fr. Martin, trying His hardest to get Martin a clue.

    I mean, getting a priest role worked on Alec Guinness to make him a Catholic, and he was just an actor without much knowledge. Trying it on an actual priest, to make him learn more, sounds like a good idea.

    Even if the casting choice was made for evil reasons, or to score points, or to suck up to influential friends, filmmakers are subject to the persuasion of the Muse, which for all practical purposes means the Holy Spirit. They can do good they did not intend, or better than they meant, if they have any decent will to creativity. I may never watch the movie, but I wonder what effect it will have on the bit part actor.

  22. hwriggles4 says:

    If anyone wants to see a positive episode pertaining to clergy and religion, I recommend going to YouTube and finding the Christmas episode of “Dragnet” that aired circa 1968. It’s only 25 minutes long, and took place on Christmas Eve. It’s well worth the time.

    As far as “Blue Bloods “, I like the show and Jamie and Edit did have a simple Catholic wedding, with Frank Reagan walking his daughter in law down the aisle. One reason I like “Blue Bloods ” is mainstream Hollywood doesn’t like it (notice it never gets nominations), they have a family meal every Sunday, actors like Tom Selleck try to ignore the Hollywood scene (and stay out of politics
    – I also respect Bridget Monyhan who years ago turned down a lucrative role because it was “trashy” – Halle Berry accepted that movie part) and to my knowledge the writers have not caved to a certain agenda.

  23. albinus1 says:

    On a different but related note, it amuses me and infuriates me, by turns, to see how often movies and TV shows get Latin phrases wrong. And I mean basic things that a ten-minute phone call to the local high school Latin teacher would have cleared up. The truth is they just don’t care enough to make the effort, because they figure that their target audience won’t know and won’t care. Perhaps they’re right. But if producers and directors can’t be bothered to be accurate on details that I know or can check, I know that I can’t trust them to be accurate about things I don’t know and can’t check.

    One of reasons A Christmas Story is a great movie is because of the effort the producers made to get period details right. According to my parents the products and product packaging—like Lifebuoy soap and Oxidol detergent—were accurate for the period. In one scene the father is reading the Sunday comics in the newspaper. If you look closely, on the side of the paper facing the camera, you can see that one of the comic strips is “Terry and the Pirates,” a popular strip in the 40s. I really appreciate the effort to try to get little things like that right. If they don’t care enough to get the little things right, why should I trust them on the big things?

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