The Simpsons: The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star

Liam Neeson in the SimpsonsThe Simpsons (S16E21)

The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star

Guest starring Liam Neeson

“You guys have more crazy rules than Blockbuster Video.” Homer Simpson 

The Simpsons is one of the few shows on television that reguarly deals with the topic of religion. The Simpson family attends a Protestant Church every Sunday. Krusty the Clown is Jewish. And Apu is a devout Hindu. But what about Roman Catholicism? Is it the same as the Christian faith of Rev. Lovejoy’s Church or is it different? 

With Catholic World Youth Day coming up soon, I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at this Catholic themed episode of The Simpsons. Oh, Simpsons, is there anything you can’t provide a sermon illustration for? Seriously, I’m eager to find out. When an episode of The Simpsons focuses on a particular issue, you know you’re going to get two things: shameless pay outs on easy targets and an insightful view of cultural perceptions.

During a typical random intro, Bart gets blamed for a prank pulled at the school Renaisance Fair. For a change he didn’t do it, but gets the blame anyway. This is the final straw for Skinner and Bart gets expelled. Where do we send Bart to school? What about the School for the Blind? Think of the leg up he’ll have over the other students… Nah, only one sacred cow per episode thank you. No, Bart is enrolled at St Jerome’s Catholic School. St Jerome – He suffered for our sins, now it’s your turn. Gee, I wonder if there is anything to say there about the relationship between Jesus and the saints in Roman Catholicism…

While being disciplined by his Nun school teacher, Bart befriends the cool, hip and Irish stereotype Catholic priest, Father Sean. In no time at all, Bart and Homer are converting to Catholicism, lured by pancakes, bingo and action packed comic books about the saints. This causes a split in the family.

Marge is concerned because Catholics are different to Protestants. In Marge’s head, they’ll end up in different Heaven’s – Bart and Homer in Catholic Heaven and Marge in Protestant Heaven. (I wonder if Lisa will end up in Buddhist Heaven?) So Marge fights back and works to bring her family back together.

What is the message here? Bart sums it up at the end of the episode – “The little stupid differences are nothing next to the big stupid similarities.” According to The Simpsons, there is no real difference between Catholics and Protestants. Instead of focusing on the differences we should be focusing on the similarities. After all, the two are basically the same right?

I grew up in a Roman Catholic family. I was baptised, had my First Communion, Confirmed – all in the Catholic Church. I went to a Catholic school and served as an altar boy. But today I am a Protestant. I am no longer a Roman Catholic. There is a difference. And that difference is grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The Bible teaches us that we are not worthy of God. That because of all our sin, we will never be good enough for God. So God, loving us so much, sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for us. Jesus paid our debt so that who ever believes in him is now going to Heaven and in a relationship with God.

The Roman Catholic Church may say they believe in grace, but in practice this doesn’t show. At every stage there are barriers put between you and God. You can’t talk to God directly, so you speak to Mary and the saints (never mind that Mary and the saints are sinful human beings like the rest of us and have no privelleged position before God that is not open to all Christians). You can’t ask God directly for forgiveness for your sins, so you go to Confession and tell the Priest your sins. And then, instead of gracefully giving forgiveness, you’re given penance – you have to do things, say prayers, whatever, in order to work off your sin. When you die, you’re uncertain of your relationship with God – you could end up in Pergatory where you have to work off your sins. That’s why there’s the line in the Hail Mary “Pray for our sinners now and at the hour of our death.” At every point the Roman Catholic Church is about having to follow their rules and traditions, do all the right things, and then maybe, just maybe, you will go to Heaven.

This is not the message of the Bible. The Bible teaches freedom from sin. We do good things, not to get in God’s good books, but because we are already in God’s good books. Jesus died so that we might be friends with God. Jesus died so that our sins may be forgiven. Jesus died so that we may have assurance of our salvation. That’s a pretty major difference. This is not a matter of small differences. This is a matter of how we relate to God and how we are saved. That’s a BIG DIFFERENCE!

I’m not a Roman Catholic. And for very good reasons.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.

12 responses to “The Simpsons: The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star”

  1. Steve says :

    Thanks mate

    welcome to wordpress, i have plugged your blog, i hope it gets some readership!!

  2. Steve says :

    my tips are:

    1. comment on other blogs, people will read comments and follow your link. (intelligent comments required though, thats why mine doesnt work so well)
    2. post regularly – numbers will be hard to come by the less you blog.
    3. find a niche, this is something i dont have except randomness, but i do it for me, not for numbers etc. with yours, you already have a platform which is a niche, and specific, just plug it all over the place and you should be okay.

    thats the best i have for a very ametuer performer

  3. Mauro says :

    wow honestly, thats just plain sad. I don’t feel like mincing words and I am not a man to skip the truth so I will get to it, all those “reasons” you say are so sophomoric in their reasoning I cant even begin to fathom it. please if your up to learning the truth about the so called faith that leads you know please email me thats why I put my email up I am sorry for shooting of at you I am but at the very least my protestant friends understand that Catholicism is just as valid if not more so then Protestantism

  4. Joel A Moroney says :

    Thanks for dropping by Mauro. It would be helpful to hear what you have to say on this topic. If there are flaws in my reasoning, I’d like to be able to work through them and have my reasoning impact my beliefs, not the other way around.
    I come from a position where I am a former Roman Catholic and now Protestant. I am currently studying at a reformed evangelical theological college. I am convicted, through my studying of the Scripture, that the Roman Catholic Church teaches things that are contrary to the Bible. If you belive that I am misinformed and have misunderstood these issues, I would love to hear from you.

  5. Angelo says :

    Hi Joel,

    There are a number of misrepresentations of Catholic teaching in your blog post. Whether you know it or not, that is bearing false witness. None of us want to do that, right?

    Let me pick one: “You can’t talk to God directly”. It would be helpful if you would quote, directly from official Catholic teaching, where the Church states that. And please stay in the light by giving us context.

    This is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    <>

    <>’

    <

    There is great treasure to be mined in Catholic teaching, Joel, regarding prayer & many other things of interest to every Christian. It is a shame for any one who bears the name of Christ to trivialize these gifts that flow from God through His Church.

    Obviously, Joel, you have little idea about what you’ve walked away from. But if you want to continue to be outside of communion with the Catholic Church, be sure to continue with your misrepresentations.

    Peace,
    Angelo

    Search here
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

  6. Angelo says :

    Oops!

    I shouldn’t use these things <> when quoting.

    here are the quotes:

    2680 Prayer is primarily addressed to the Father; it can also be directed toward Jesus, particularly by the invocation of his holy name: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.”

    2773 In response to his disciples’ request “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1), Jesus entrusts them with the fundamental Christian prayer, the Our Father.

    2565 In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is “the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity . . . with the whole human spirit.” Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ. Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his Body. Its dimensions are those of Christ’s love.

  7. legend of mir says :

    “When an episode of The Simpsons focuses on a particular issue, you know you’re going to get two things: shameless pay outs on easy targets and an insightful view of cultural perceptions.”

    Completely agree there.

  8. Tiffany says :

    I think the solution to this tension between protestantism and catholicism may come after we reflect on the foundations of each religion. Protestants= personal relationship with God and the primacy of the Bible in all matters. Catholics= A balance of faith and obedience to tradition in reverence to God. (Catholics, please correct me if I’m wrong about that. I just ask that you are nice about it. Thanks.)

    I point out these fundemental differences to say that you are approaching this discussion with a right/wrong mind-set and when you both don’t start out with the same truths, your arguing is fruitless.

    For instance: Angelo quotes the catechism of the catholic church and Joel quotes the Bible.

  9. CMA says :

    It seems everyone fails to notice that Protestantism was founded, for the most part, by MEN 1500 years after Christ XD i have never understood how people can think Christ instituted those churches.

    Schisms are nothing new, take a look at the orthodox churches.

    As for not being able to talk directly to God, who told you that? you can talk to him as much as you please, you receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine, literally, I think that wasn’t made clear to you as a child, from what you have written here.

    And who would you listen to, your mother, who gave birth to you and raised you, or some random hobo who keeps disobeying you? (in some cases changing your words, or even denying your existence, or, even worst of all, killing those who obey you)Mary was born without sin, I have yet to meet anyone who does not commit a sin a day.

    also, the modern day mentality of “i’m forgiven” is atrocious, you are forgiven, but not automatically, and forgiveness only works if you are sorry

    can you rob a store, say you are sorry, go free, and then rob two more without consequence?

    sorry for the massive necropost, found your page through a Google search,

    also, I apologize for the various grammatical errors etc. and (possibly) seeming very harsh, I was just appalled at your ignorance on the subject (I DO NOT mean that as an insult)

  10. CMA says :

    *P.S.*

    there is no reconciliation of different religions, one is true, the others are part or wholly false, you can never “solve the tension” between them

    I regard atheism as a religion, as it makes no use of pure empirical science or logic

  11. CMA says :

    P.S.S.

    the bible was written by men, most of it isn’t even the word of God

    therefore I don’t see how a religion can be based on the bible alone

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