Tuesday 26 March 2019

Fighting Sorrow

Well, I should have known better. A week or so ago, Benedict Ambrose suggested that we watch a BBC comedy called "Fleabag." He didn't suggest I watch the first season, and when I viewed it on my own, late at night, I understood why. The nameless heroine--referred to by all as Fleabag--has a lot of sex. She's a species of English Carrie Bradshaw--only heartbreakingly sad. Sex is her way of fighting sorrow, and she's as compulsive as an internet addict.

But Season 2 isn't sex-drenched, and even Season 1 was enormously clever and well-acted. Viewers were introduced to a kindly but foul-mouthed young priest who was invited by Fleabag's stepmother-to-be to an engagement dinner. The priest is very happy to have been invited to the dinner, even though the air bristles with family tension, because he is so lonely.


Fleabag is erotically attracted to the young priest, whereas he shrewdly perceives that what Fleabag needs, most of all, is a chaste male friend. Unfortunately, this chastity lasts only until the end of Episode 4 when he is discovered by Fleabag at 9:45 PM drunk in the vestry, looking for a hidden bottle. Because he is determined to find out Fleabag's secret sorrow, he persuades her to enter the confessional---and here I became very uncomfortable.  To make an excruciating--and jaw-droppingly sacrilegious--scene short, I'll just say that Fleabag delivers a heartbreaking monologue and the priest kisses her. There is a lot of panting and snorting before, mercifully, a painting falls off the wall, and the priest rushes off in sorrow. 

It was a while before I saw that part, though, as I was out of my seat, across the room, and yelling about cancelling the TV license a split-second after the priest pulled aside the curtain. Poor B.A. gave me a running commentary.  B.A. doesn't wade through the sludge of the clerical sexual abuse and coverup scandal every day. 

Here's the thing. For THIRTY YEARS ("If boys could have babies, there'd be a clinic in St. John's," sneered Canadian pro-aborts in the late 1980s) ordinary faithful Catholics have borne the brunt of the clerical sexual abuse scandal. Most damaged are the ordinary faithful Catholics who were themselves sexually abused or seduced: not just the tiny minority who were under eleven, but the boys aged 11-18, the young men, the young women, and helpless elderly in hospitals. But the rest of us haven't escaped entirely.

For thirty years non-Catholics and ex-Catholics have mocked the faithful, especially the entire brotherhood of priests, with the sexual sins of a handful of perverted criminals. And when Catholics, trying to get to grips with the problem, observe that the largest group of victims were teenage boys and young men and therefore homosexuality must have something do to with it, other Catholics start screaming about the women. Well, yes. We Catholics all know about the women. I know at least three women who have been molested by priests, and two women who had affairs with them. It's painful. 

And I haven't even mentioned the corrosive anti-catholicism that has been part and parcel of life in Great Britain for over four hundred years. It's still here because Catholicism is still against the state religion, which is now Sex. And that's painful, too. At cocktail parties--when I still went to cocktail parties--I went through verbal contortions not to have to name the newspaper I wrote for.  Never mind the fact that Great Britain is, on paper, so much against hatred for minority religious and so much for religious diversity. 

What do I do to escape the sorrow of wading through the swamp that is the decline and fall of Western Christendom? I sit down after supper with my husband and watch clever, funny television shows. And I honestly thought that I was watching a show in which Catholicism would be allowed to speak firm, kind words against the sexual libertinism that is making so many post-Christians so miserable. 

But no. Fleabag's writer--an enormously talented woman--did not allow that. That wasn't her intent. Her intent was to eroticise chaste Catholic celibacy, to eroticise the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation, and to show Mighty Aphrodite defeating even the mighty Catholic priesthood. 

Have a look on Twitter to see how much British television audiences liked that. They LOVED that. They terribly want Fleabag to have sex with that priest. Terribly. They think he is the perfect man for Fleabag, yada yada, and yet when women start suing British dioceses, they will tut-tut about Catholic priests seducing vulnerable women ("although at least it isn't boys").

It was a long time before I could sleep, so angry and disappointed was I. And this led me to reflect that I am angry and disappointed every day, and that when Hilary White had my job, she longed to write about marine biology. 

Clearly the BBC is no escape from sorrow. 


  1. I'm sorry to hear Fleabag was upsetting (haven't seen it myself). It sounds from your penultimate paragraph that you feel your job is making you unhappy? Yet you like your employer and being paid to write?

    Which is why I suggested a little while back that you may want to rethink the content you write, if possible. Refocus on 'relationship support'/agony aunt material.

    It will still have upsetting moments no doubt, but should involve being more constructive (helping young Christians seek healthy relationships & tackle life issues), without wading in clerical abuse scandals. Just a suggestion. Pitch it as building the pro-life, pro-marriage culture. ;)

    Good luck either way.

  2. Thank you! And with that, I must now continue working on the fact that one coverup bishop has been replaced with a coverup priest. My employers are lovely, though.

  3. Dear Seraphic!

    I also often resort to watching good and heartwarming series when life is bleak or horrible. Also, breast feeding a small baby gave me more time for this activity.

    Here are some suggestions, all available on Netflix last time I checked:

    "Call the Midwife". Avoid season when the nuns get into the contraceptive business. Otherwise, a beautiful story about the work of midwives in the 1950's London. The nuns portrayed in the story are warm hearted, faithful but also human. You might find yourself thinking midwifery is your call in life after a few episodes though.

    "The three musketeers" (BBC version). Chivalry, honour, good manners! And a fair bit of duelling. All that is missing in todays men, you might think. Although some clerical scandals are featured, the faith of Aramis is beautifully depicted and developed throughout the series.

    "Once upon a time". Evil queens, curses, Snow White and Rumplestiltskin in a heartwarming love story. Not always the best at plot development, but it works for easy entertainment.

    All the best to you! I am happily married with a small family in large part thanks to you. Hope that cheers you up to remember.

    Regards, Emilka

    1. Dear Emilka, thank you very much! It is always nice to remember that my writing helped people to get married and have babies. At least a couple of times it has helped people get confirmed in the Catholic Church, which is very nice, too!