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Dear Catholic.com visitor: Summer is here, and you may be thinking about a well-deserved vacation, family get-togethers, BBQs with neighborhood friends. More than likely, making a donation to Catholic Answers is not on your radar right now. But this is exactly the time we most need your help. The “summer slowdown” in donations is upon us, but the work of spreading the gospel and explaining and defending the Faith never takes a break. Your gift today will change lives and save souls for Christ this summer! The reward is eternal. Thank you and God bless.

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Netflix’s Midnight Mass: Four Views of Death

Audio only:

Netflix goes heavy Catholic in its series Midnight Mass. But does it get the Catholic view of death right? Apologist Joe Heschmeyer joins us for a discussion of the various takes on death presented in Midnight Mass.


Cy Kellett:

Catholic take on Netflix’s Midnight Mass, Joe Heschmeyer is next. Hello and welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding, and defending your Catholic faith. I’m Cy Kellett, your host, and one thing that we know in this movie era, in this era of the moving image, the Catholic church looks good on film. And they did it again in a new miniseries from Netflix. There’s something that you can make very creepy about a Catholic church or something that you can make very beautiful about a Catholic church. They do both in this Netflix series, but we wanted to take a closer look at the Catholicism that’s portrayed in the series. It seems to me that the series producers intended to make a serious depiction of Catholics and Catholic faith and Catholic things, did they get it right? Especially when it comes to the Catholic understanding of death. That’s what we asked Joe Heschmeyer, here’s what he had to say. Joe Heschmeyer, Apologist here at Catholic Answers, author of a whole bunch of books, including Pope Peter: Defending the Church’s Most Distinctive Doctrine in a Time of Crisis. Thanks for being with us, Joe.

Joe Heschmeyer:

My pleasure.

Cy Kellett:

All right, so we both watched the Netflix thing, Midnight Mass. And people told me, you got to watch it because it’s really Catholic and there’s probably stuff you’ll want to talk about on the show. Why did you watch it?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Well, I watched it because when I was out of town at the Catholic Answer’s conference, my wife started it by herself and got too scared and said I needed to come home and watch it with her. And so…

Cy Kellett:

That’s good. All right. There will be spoilers throughout, so take that into consideration. But the good thing about these spoilers is what Joe and I are going to do over the course of the next half hour or so, is actually better than anything you’ll see in Midnight Mass. So even if you haven’t seen it, this will be better than the show. Don’t you think, Joe?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Those are pretty strong words. Let me put it this way, the show is longer than actual Midnight Mass.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, well that’s right, yes. As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking of it, how would I sum it up? And I would say it is a really good four episode miniseries. It’s just, they did it in seven episodes.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. The first two episodes, I only watched because I told my wife I would. By about episode three, I was in, but it’s a very slow start.

Cy Kellett:

And there is a lot of Catholic stuff in it, so we’ll talk a bit about the Catholic stuff in it. Because a lot of it is about death, I thought it would be good to just talk about the way death is depicted. They try very hard to get all the Catholic stuff right and I wanted to kind of look at the way they dealt with death, because from the most part, I think they got death wrong. What was your impression?

Joe Heschmeyer:

I think the last episode is kind of a betrayal of what I thought had been going very well in the series.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, okay.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Now if I can step back and say kind of more broadly, if viewers or listeners have watched The Haunting of Hill House or any of the other stuff this director has made, he has this tendency to make really good kind of scary stuff with decent character development, with two major problems. He leans way too much on really preachy monologues, and he doesn’t seem to know how to write a conclusion. And so his shows tend to end with just the character he wants giving his view, even if it’s a total betrayal of character development. And so it’s a little bit like watching God’s Not Dead, but from the perspective of someone who thinks God is dead.

Cy Kellett:

That’s a great take on it. It’s like preaching, it’s very preachy. Now, I feel a little bit of a wince when you say that. As an apostle, that pretty much all we do, is preachy monologues. So we’re not claiming to make a Netflix drama.

Cy Kellett:

So all right.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah, I think the worst parts of our stuff are when we try to do acting, if anyone saw the last Focus episode we did. So we have different strengths and weaknesses. We’re better at the monologues and worse at the acting.

Cy Kellett:

Exactly. All right. So if you could just in general, because a lot of people will say, well, what did you think of the depiction of the Catholic church in there. So maybe we’ll get a general impression of what you thought about that, and then we’ll listen to some clips as the characters discuss death, because of course the characters discuss death, they discuss everything in this movie, Ad Nauseam, or in this miniseries, Ad Nauseam. So what did you think about its Catholic kind of qualities?

Joe Heschmeyer:

It depends what you’re comparing it to. If I was at mass, I would be like, there’s a lot of really strange stuff going on here. But in comparison to the way the Catholic mass is depicted in other shows, it actually did a much better job at getting the details right, everything from the opening hymn to the general feel of the mass, even the wording. You hear early on, there’s quibbles about the priest using the old translation instead of the new translation, a little bit of Catholic insider baseball there. And there’s a question about why he even wore the color vestments that he wore. And so when those things came up, it was like, well, you don’t really see that kind of stuff depicted accurately on screen.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Now I mean, kind of hand in glove with that, the priest was wearing the wrong color vestments and using the wrong translation, but at least like the characters called them out for it. Where in most depictions of Catholicism in movies, you’ll see things like the priest leading the, Our Father, by himself. And you just think like, this person hasn’t been to mass in 50 years, they have no idea what a Catholic mass looks like. And they’re just kind of putting together weird Protestant services, a half remembered Latin mass and the actual Novus Ordo. And it’s just this weird mess. So compared to that, I think the show did a really good job. The other thing is, one of the things that struck me as unrealistic, but was also really likable, was that the characters quote the Bible constantly.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Now, I’ve never been in a Catholic parish that was that biblically literate that they could just quote Bible verses just from memory like that and know what book it was coming from. This is a good example of how this director prefers to tell you, rather than show you. So every episode is entitled after some book of the Bible, but rather than just have it be obvious what that connection is, Lamentations is one of them and it’s a sad episode, it’s like obvious. But in that episode, one of the characters is like, yeah, my mom made this pillow and she took a quote from Lamentations and she knitted it into this. It’s so weird and just shoehorned in there to make it kind of work.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And it is like someone paid you to make sure you used a certain phrase in an episode and you were like, I got to squeeze it in somehow. It doesn’t quite work, but I kind of wish we lived in a world in which Catholics were just sewing lamentations into their pillows.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. I thought it sometimes had a… There was some somebody Catholic was, I don’t know if the director himself is Catholic, but you’re right. There’s obvious some genuine Catholic input, but then they will say things that are very Protestant occasionally. Oh, they sing a lot of Protestant hymns, Nearer My God to Thee is a big one in there. But they’ll say things like, and I told you about this Joe, before that I was struck by the priest doesn’t show up for mass one morning. And at a Catholic church, if the priest doesn’t show up for mass, if there’s a deacon, they’ll just do a communion service and you can even have a lay-led communion service. I mean, you know what to do, but here the woman who’s kind of the, I don’t know, the liturgist and sacristan of this parish, she says-

Joe Heschmeyer:

Resident church lady.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. She’s the church lady. She says, we’ll just do what the early church did before there were priests and will sing hymns to God. I was like, there was no church before there were priests. The church always had priests. Jesus was a priest. I thought that’s kind of a Protestant kind of slipping in there into a Catholic character’s mouth.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So I think there are two ways of taking that scene. Because I thought that was a really strange and kind of jarring line as well. One way is just like, this was someone who wasn’t Catholic trying to write a Catholic, that’s probably what it was. But the other way is that you’ve got a lot of clues by this point that she’s a little sanctimonious and not maybe as pious as she claims to be.

Cy Kellett:

Oh yeah.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So the fact that like, maybe she doesn’t really believe all of this stuff, actually kind of fits with the character a little bit.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, very little well done. Yeah, that maybe it. Yeah.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Let’s just say, she would be hardly the first liturgist who had a kind of cynical view of the origins of the priesthood.

Cy Kellett:

There is a kind of theme I think in movies and TV shows that have Christians in them, there’s always good Christians and I’m grateful for that, and there are good Christians in this show, but the most Christian person, the one who is most overtly Christian, is always a nut, is always mean or crazy or, it’s like if you’re kind Christian, we like you, but if you’re really committed Christian, you are a whack job, like this woman.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Well, I think they largely fall in three categories. There’s the kind of nice ignorant Christian. There’s the bad Christian who’s good, like the person who’s like, I don’t really believe all this stuff, and therefore they’re like a protagonist. And then you have the person who also doesn’t believe it, but uses Christianity as a cudgel because they hate everyone around them. And it’s such a stock figure. And you see that so often you would… I mean, I’ll give you an example. One of the reviews I read of this series was from an atheist who was complaining, basically, that the Christians were written too nicely, that they weren’t all these two dimensional sort of stereotypes, that even the people who did really bad things, have a redemption arc. It’s a really weird kind of complaint, but I think it speaks to the fact that within this series, there are good Christians, there are complicated Christians. The parents of the male protagonist, I think fall in the category of people who kind of get why they’re Catholic. Maybe there are different levels of why they’re in, but they’re not just like ignorantly going [crosstalk 00:10:34].

Cy Kellett:

And they’re nicely not perfect too. They make terrible mistakes, but their redemption is a real redemption and and their love of God is real love of God.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Right. They felt real, they felt like fully fleshed out human characters. And then you get like the-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. They would’ve made a great show.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. And then you get the church lady who is just like, this almost anti-Catholic trope at this point, like just, oh, well, here’s is a stereotypical person who’s going to just be like, I hate everybody and they’re very, very, very uptight.

Cy Kellett:

Very, very strikingly, easily moves from Catholicism to vampirism. As a matter of fact, I think it’s amazing how easy it is for some people to move from the religion of Catholicism directly to being enthusiastic vampires. But here’s what I want to do, Joe, I-

Joe Heschmeyer:

You led into that in a very strange way. So for those who are just listening, this show is about vampires.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Is there a trope of the vampire priest or is that something that this is new? I tried to think of, do I know any other vampire priests and I couldn’t think of any, so maybe that’s a new thing here, a vampire priest.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Not only do I think it’s a new thing here. I think it’s a thing that’s actually a little unfaithful to vampire lore.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, that a priest couldn’t be a vampire because she’s consecrated [crosstalk 00:11:54].

Joe Heschmeyer:

Because of the mask, because of the cross that he wears, [crosstalk 00:11:56]. So traditionally like the things that fight off of vampire, a priest is surrounded by all those things. It’d be like having a possessed priest. Something about it just doesn’t seem to work with what we know about the rules of the game, yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Which outrages you more? That Catholic culture is not properly portrayed or vampire culture is not properly portrayed, which upsets you most?

Joe Heschmeyer:

That’s a good question. I mean, vampire culture is totally imaginary. So I guess it bothers me less, but it still bothers me from the perspective of a viewer. Like, okay, what are the rules to this if they’re not the ones we know? Like the vampire can’t be in sunlight. Okay, we get that. But the vampire can apparently carry a cross, [crosstalk 00:12:41] a cross touching the vampire doesn’t seem to hurt it. It can [crosstalk 00:12:44].

Cy Kellett:

Go right up to the alter of church.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Right.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, yeah.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Right. And then the infected priests can offer a black mass and that’s totally acceptable. Like what are the rule rules of this? And we’re not really given a clear sense of why sunlight is bad but the actual faith isn’t.

Cy Kellett:

Because the people who made this don’t believe in faith. But-

Joe Heschmeyer:

Well, I think so answering your question, like the directors have fallen away Catholic.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, I didn’t know.

Joe Heschmeyer:

When he was a kid, between his, I think it was between his first communion and his confirmation, he commented to his parents that if what we believe about the Eucharist is real doesn’t that make us vampires. And it seems like that was kind of where that thought stopped. And then he turned it into a seven-episode series.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, yeah. Okay. So he had a middle school insight that he never got over. Okay, fair enough. Monologues are, are in intense and unstoppable in this miniseries, but what I thought was a very interesting scene, probably four or five times longer than it should have been, but also included things that I thought were quite beautiful in moving of a man and a woman, they’re basically the romantic interests of this vampire priest show. And they’re discussing what happens when you die. And this is related to the woman has suffered a miscarriage. And so the question comes up that he’s an atheist, she’s a Catholic, they want to, and she says, do you think I’m a fool of being a Catholic? And he says that thing that atheists say, which I wish they would stop saying, I don’t think you’re a fool, we all want the comfort of believing there’s a purpose.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. That’s the same as saying, I believe you’re a fool. It would be better to say to her, you’re an intelligent woman, you’ve thought about this, I’ve thought about it, we’ve come to different conclusions. Not we all want to be comforted. So she very pointedly ask him what happens when you die? And I want to play for you, Joe, just some of what he says, because I can’t play all of what he says. We don’t have a long enough podcast for that. Ready?

Speaker 3:

When I die, my body stops functioning, just shut down. All at once or gradually, my breathing stops, my heart stops beating, clinical death. And a bit later, five whole minutes later, my brain cells start dying. But in the meantime, in between, maybe my brain releases a flood of DMT, psychedelic drug released when we dream. So I dream, I dream bigger than I have ever dream before because it’s all of it, it’s the last dump of DMT all at once and my neurons are firing and I’m seeing this firework display of memories and imagination. And I am just tripping.

Cy Kellett:

All right, an atheist view of death. I actually found it quite moving to think that there are people who believe this and I’ll tell you why, because he’s making reference to science, which is this DMT thing and of course gives us more explanation than we need because everyone in this show gives us more explanation than we need. But I didn’t hate this character for this. As a matter of fact, I thought this is, because a lot of times, as I said, the atheist character says a lot of things that are just obnoxious in one of these shows, but here is revealing what he actually believes and it’s hard to be moved by the humanity of it. This is a human being trying to make sense of what happens at the very, very end using the tools that he’s willing to accept, which is science. And he comes up with it’s a beautiful five minute dream and then you’re gone. I think he’s completely wrong about that. But I didn’t-

Joe Heschmeyer:

But I like to see why he would want that to be true. We all want to be comforted.

Cy Kellett:

Right, yeah. Joe, you’re so mean. All right, so what did you think of this little speech?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Well, I think [inaudible 00:17:10] exactly what I said, but like unironically, meaning his, the first half of it is like, yeah, we die and we decay. And it’s like, okay, great, there’s a lot of evidence for that. And then he says, but maybe during the five minute period before it gets really bad, your body just dumps like a lot of hallucinogenic drugs into your system and maybe it’s a really good trip that involves a lot of memories. It could also be like a horrifying [crosstalk 00:17:38], more vivid than you’ve ever encountered. But maybe it’s a really good dream. And so all it is is just an expression of hope, but a hope limited by what his theology will allow, which is like a very limited, very bodily kind of hope that maybe you’ll have like a nice dream before you rot.

Joe Heschmeyer:

I think it’s a pretty honest, the first half at least, is very honest. The second half is like fudging a little bit, holding out a little more hope than maybe is reasonable, but it’s still like five minutes of dreaming and then you’re gone.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. I also find it interesting. You probably can’t tell in that short of a clip, but the piano is actually playing Nearer My God to Thee, is just playing it very slowly. And again, because everything in this thing is slow. I don’t know, so I agree with everything you said, but I also feel like, I like the human exchange here between the two of them. I don’t think people actually talk the way these two talk, but I did appreciate that. Then she gives her take. Part of why I think that this atheist kind of, this is what happens when you die, I mean, [Normic Donald 00:18:53] had the funniest answer to, he goes, I know what happens when you die. And somebody said, what? And he goes, someone finds your body. And that’s a kind of what this guy is saying, but he’s adding this poetic element to it. And then she gives her take.

Cy Kellett:

So let me set this up for you, Joe, what happens in this clip, in their conversation. Now it’s her turn to tell what she thinks happens at death. She doesn’t talk about her own death though. She talks about the death of her unborn child who had just died that day. She just suffered this miscarriage. And so she gives us a description of what the child experiences, and here’s the clip.

Speaker 4:

And she’s not alone, she’s home. And there are people there and she doesn’t know it, but they’re her family, her grandfather and her great-grandfather, and they love her and they name her. And then when God reaches down and kisses her head and the second he says her name, she grows up in a blank. She’s perfect, her body as it would’ve been on her best day on earth, her perfect age, the peak of herself. When they tell her about her mom down here on earth and how I’ll be there soon enough, and she’s happy. Has nothing but joy for all eternity. And she’s loved and she isn’t alone.

Cy Kellett:

All right. That’s where I’m going to leave that. There is more, but that’s where I’m going to leave that. That seems to me, with maybe a caveat here or there, but not much a very valid and reasonable way that a Catholic might describe what death means for an unborn child.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. I think that’s one of the most profound descriptions of the afterlife I’ve seen in a popular show. And I mean, it could have been, so let’s break it in two parts. First, you have just a dealing in a serious way with the reality of the body, she’s going to be the age that she would’ve been on the best day of her life. And [Thomas 00:21:08] deals with this, Thomas [Coin 00:21:08] deals with this in the [Suma 00:21:11] in the third part that there’s this idea of, okay, what if someone’s like 120 when they die? Are they just going to be like really old in heaven forever? Like bodily resurrection, if we take it seriously, doesn’t just mean like you’re super old body nor does it mean you’re not yet very formed body if you die in the womb. So there’s some sort of grappling with what it looks like for the body to be glorified.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Now, the only quibble would be that it’s not just like the best day you had on earth. It isn’t just like, yeah. When I was 21, I looked so, it’s better than that, it’s beyond that. Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians compares it to like a kernel that grows into the full plant, that there is a transformation where it becomes what it was always meant to be. And that’s in a way, a perfect image of that is someone who dies as an unborn child, but they are in a way still in this embryonic form, literally, that then flourishes into something that is only known to the mind of God.

Cy Kellett:

[crosstalk 00:22:09]-

Joe Heschmeyer:

But the other… Go ahead.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, I was just going to say, I really also really appreciated the words she’s not alone and she’s loved, that these are the keys that, a Christian and a Catholic in particular does not believe in some kind of Buddhist just being a drop that goes back to the ocean and is lost in the ocean and the identity is lost. But she’s not alone, that means a person still exists, that locus, that is, the person still exists, exists in the company of loved ones and is loved. This is very important Christian stuff here.

Joe Heschmeyer:

It is. The other thing I’d add on top of that is the role of names. The idea that her family names her, but then she grows when God calls her by her name. That’s a very Christian kind of idea. You get it from the first pages of Genesis, the job Adam has in the garden is the naming of things. He forms relationship with his wife by naming her. And then to the last book in Revelation two, when it says, to one who will overcome that God will reveal to him this name written on a white stone, not only to him and to God that there’s some sense in which you truly discover your identity only in heaven. You truly know who you are only when God reveals you to yourself. That’s actually part of the Christian promise. And I think she gets that so right here. So again, we can quibble, we don’t know with a dogmatic certainty what happens to the unborn who die without the gift of baptism. But we hope for their salvation and this is exactly what we’re hoping for.

Cy Kellett:

Right. And is a well founded hope. It’s not a [crosstalk 00:23:47].

Joe Heschmeyer:

It is a well founded hope. Yes, exactly.

Cy Kellett:

And so I also did appreciate that this Catholic woman is portrayed as mourning her unborn child as a human being, not as a potential human being, or, and I know that that’s, I don’t mean to make it into a political thing, but I appreciated that they did not make it into a political thing, that here this is a normal woman grieving the loss of a child, which is what an unborn person is.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. She already sees the humanity of her child, even though she knows there’s a lot of unlocked, or like the potential that still hasn’t been unlocked.

Cy Kellett:

Of course, yeah. Right. Okay. So I don’t have clips for the other two deaths because one of them is just visual, there is no clip. I couldn’t play you anything. I’d have to describe it to you visually. And it’s the death of the atheist of these two. So the other two deaths we’re going to talk about are these two people dying. Because it’s a vampire movie, everybody dies. So his death is actually a very noble death. I think that he’s a noble man who’s lost his faith, but he’s a noble man who puts himself in a situation where when the sun comes up, he’ll die because, [inaudible 00:25:01] only because that’s the only way to keep from killing others or from infecting others and making others into vampires. He’s not committing suicide, he’s accepting his condition and he’s continuing his life as a normal human being, which ends up with him being fried in front of her in a [inaudible 00:25:19].

Cy Kellett:

Okay. But what we see of his experience is different than her experience. And I thought it was very well done. She sees him burning to a crisp as the sun rises, but what he sees is another person sitting in the boat with him and that person is a woman that he had earlier killed. And what he has been longing for all through this is some redemption from this horrible thing that he did, where he killed someone. And in this moment, you can see it’s all visually portrayed, but the woman is whole and well herself and she clearly forgives him for what he’s done and he is clearly able to accept that forgiveness, because we see a kind of relief in him when he sees her, when earlier all of his visions of her had been upsetting to him. Now this, which I don’t believe is a vision, I think this is also a depiction of death that is quite Catholic.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah, it is, that there is this sense in which there’s a wholeness that comes about that he couldn’t achieve. He lived through a kind of purgatory on earth that after he’s in this drunk driving accident and kills this woman, he’s haunted by this vision of her dead body. And he just constantly suffers under the weight of this and it costs him a great deal. But in these final moments, he has this vision of seeing her whole and united. Now there’s this open question, is this just the DMT thing he was describing? But what he was describing there was a flood of memories, and his memories were horrible. What he’s getting here is actually a remedy [inaudible 00:27:02] memory. What he is getting here is like the resolution of those loose ends that memory had left is like a haunting thing.

Joe Heschmeyer:

I think it’s worth pointing out, the guy who’s got this whole vision of what death might be like involving memory, he can’t sleep at night because memories are haunting him. And so it’s like memory is easy to talk about is this really beautiful thing and the abstract. But for a lot of people, what they remember when they go to lay down is the most embarrassing or the most painful moments of their life. And he’s getting something better than memory. He’s getting actual reconciliation. And so I think it’s a cop out to say, it’s just a vision. He seems like he’s actually entering heaven, he seems like he’s actually like having found a glimmer of faith and then laying down his life for his friends. He’s being reunited with God. It seems like the very end of a very beautiful kind of redemption arc.

Cy Kellett:

That’s what I thought too, is that this person who professed an atheist belief in death actually experienced a Christian death in that he gave himself for others and was redeemed.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. There’s a parable where the father says to his two sons to go out and work and the first one says, he’s not going to, but then he does, and the second one says he’s going to, and then he doesn’t. And I think that’s kind of applicable here where when they’re sitting the room, they offer these very different answers but then when you see how the story progresses, they end up sort of switching positions.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. So that brings us to the woman’s death. And she also switches positions at the moment of death. And I thought, I mean, sometimes when you’re experiencing a literary work or a movie or something like that, you kind of get a clue of, okay, this is what the filmmaker or the writer, this is a kind of stand in for his voice or her voice. And I got that impression and there’s no proof of it, I’m not saying I’m sure that this, but it seemed like when she died, a death which she accepted and was after having lived, what appears to be a very good life, but she doesn’t give a Catholic view of death as she’s reflecting on her death and experiencing it. Did Joe freeze?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Oh no, I didn’t. And I thought you were going to play a clip.

Cy Kellett:

Oh no. I told you I got [inaudible 00:29:28].

Joe Heschmeyer:

Oh yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, don’t cut that. Leave that in, that’s too good. All right, Joe, so maybe you could share what you thought about her death on the beach as she’s waiting for the sun to rise.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So yeah. So as she’s dying, she has this incredible realization that she doesn’t exist. And I wish I was exaggerating there.

Cy Kellett:

No, but, but that’s what-

Joe Heschmeyer:

If you listen to our… Yeah, she says it, I mean, if you listen to our other episode and we talked about [Loki 00:29:54] and I would say one of the problems with atheism is it can’t explain how you exist as a person, we don’t know what makes a Loki, a Loki, we don’t know what makes a [Sii 00:30:02], a Sii. She illustrates it. Her big, profound realization is that there’s no such thing as the self. And that she’s just the energy passing between Adam. It’s dumb. I mean, I’m sorry. It’s just like, after earlier in the show he presents that very materialistic view, I’m just my body and it just decays. And then she presents this much more beautiful vision. And I think we should mention this, he’s like, wow, I hope your vision is right, I hope your description of the afterlife is correct.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Well, the big reveal is like, it’s not, it’s actually his. The big reveal is like, no, no, she’s not the molecule, she’s the energy between the molecules. And so like her unborn child, she’s not going to be reunited in any meaningful sense, because the kid doesn’t exist and she doesn’t exist and no one exists. We’re all just like [inaudible 00:30:51] electricity. That’s the idea. We’re electricity that somehow becomes self-aware and then we’re going to just float off to another thing and lose all memory.

Cy Kellett:

And I thought I was-

Joe Heschmeyer:

It’s not a good vision of anything. [crosstalk 00:31:03].

Cy Kellett:

No, it’s sad that this was presented as the culmination of all we’ve been through with these people.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. It really was a betrayal of the character development. I was dreading watching the last episode going into it for the simple reason that having watched the last episode of Haunting of Hill House, I watched so he kind of betrayed his own characters to make a really preachy and unconvincing point and then he did it again here. It was just like, well, here’s what I believe so it doesn’t matter that these were all solidly Catholic characters before, now she’s an ex-Catholic and a really beautiful ex-Catholic because she’s just me. And it was just, it was a betrayal. It was a betrayal that revealed a very unattractive and unconvincing vision of death.

Cy Kellett:

I have to say one that I don’t think that the filmmaker could possibly believe in himself in any real way or else, why would he have depicted the death of the male character the way he depicted it? Because when you have a character in desperate need of redemption, you want to see the redemption at the end of all of that. You don’t want to say, well, it doesn’t matter because you were just the electricity between the molecules or whatever. There’s a reason why you want to see that, because that is what you were made for. It’s not just a wish fulfillment thing, that’s what the human person is made for, is this final consummation, this redemption.

Joe Heschmeyer:

You can’t really have a good story that’s like this electricity was really hurt by this other electricity and then they just [inaudible 00:32:31] on in their own way.

Cy Kellett:

It’s terrible story.

Joe Heschmeyer:

[crosstalk 00:32:33]. It brings a different meaning to the mass because apparently it’s just particles.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. And the other reason that I don’t believe that the filmmaker really believes in it is that this is a profoundly moral story. The people who kill other people are wrong to do it, the people who are mean to the Muslim sheriff are wrong to do it. The people who deceive children into becoming vampires are wrong to do it. And we know that they’re wrong to do it. There’s no quibbling about it. Well, how could you be wrong to do it if I don’t exist and you don’t exist? This whole language of right and wrong doesn’t fit that narrative.

Joe Heschmeyer:

The other thing we mentioned in the last episode and got some flack for was we made fun of the pre-trilogy in Star Wars episode one, two and three.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, did we.

Joe Heschmeyer:

But a similar betrayal happens in, yeah, we did in the comments. So, and if you remember the original three Star Wars films, the force is this very kind of ’70s, like new [agey 00:33:31] just energy thing, but then-

Cy Kellett:

It surrounds us and penetrates us. I’m just doing surrounds us and penetrates us. Yeah, even

Joe Heschmeyer:

And then episode one, two and three, they introduce [midi-chlorians 00:33:42] where it’s just like now, oh, it turns out there’s some bacteria that explains where the forest comes from and it’s just attempt to sound very like sciencey and modern atheistic materialist. And it just sounds ridiculous. It sounds like a total joke and a total betrayal of the filmmaker’s own kind of set up. [Inaudible 00:34:00] somebody’s here. You can’t say vampirism through the first six episodes and then in the last episode say, oh, by the way, actually, this is just some weird thing that happens to the body because of bacteria that just makes your skin sensitive to sunlight, and by the way, you’re just electricity that passes through molecules. That’s not an okay ending to the way you’ve set up your story.

Cy Kellett:

No. And all right, so let me just, we got to wrap up, but the vampire priest angle is worth considering because this is my body, this is my blood, the eating and drinking of blood, could you just address, and I’m sorry that I don’t know the filmmaker’s name, I was not prepared for this episode apparently, but like you said, he equated as a child or as a, yeah, as a child, really the vampirism with the Eucharist and he’s struggling with these two things or playing with them throughout, I guess playing with them would be a better way to say it, and asking us as the viewer to struggle with them, what do you say then Joe, to the kid who says eating someone’s flesh and drinking their blood sounds like we’re vampires.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. I would say it sounds more like we’re cannibals than vampires. I think that’s just getting your lore wrong, but-

Cy Kellett:

You want to start off with a smart [inaudible 00:35:15] comment this…

Joe Heschmeyer:

Well, it’s just-

Cy Kellett:

No, but I got you.

Joe Heschmeyer:

… Just pointing it out. But also like it’s partly because vampire stories are being told by Catholics for one of the scariest things you can imagine is like a black mass that there’s something where you’re taking this Catholic theology and playing with it, not to mock it, but to just imagine evil mocking it and depicting that is really evil. Black mass is what is kind of going on in midnight mass. And there’s two ways of understanding that. One is like a Catholic [Gits 00:35:49], that is like the way the devil taunts God.

Joe Heschmeyer:

In fact, so a real life example, when the [Aztec 00:35:57] were discovered by the Spanish, when they told them about Christianity, one of the things, there were two things, they were shocked to see they already had rituals that looked like a black mass to the [inaudible 00:36:07]. And two, when they heard about Christianity and they heard the story of Christ, some of them went home and like crucified their kids to this God. And there was something where it seemed like the obviously demonic influenced as a mockery of God. So that, I’m totally fine with saying, there’s something in which vampirism is a macabre mockery of the true God and of true religion. But the other way of approaching it is just like the kind of smart-alecky atheist, former Catholic, is like, yeah, this all the same thing and doesn’t get the difference between the real deal and a mockery and a counterfeit.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. And the real deal being the God’s love and the invitation to enter a communion of love with God and other human beings, that has nothing to do, this is why I was kind of surprised at how the Catholics, not all of them, certainly not all of them, but a good number of them man, they went over to vampirism fast. It did not take much convincing for them to go, hey, this is what we’ve been believing in all along. It makes sense now.

Joe Heschmeyer:

I would say one thing related to that there’s… So the priest is actually a really good in this series. I think there are priests who could watch this and be like, oh yeah, I could preach similar to this, that and the thing, but not have the vampire parts. You kind of build.

Cy Kellett:

All that, just no vampire. Yeah, okay.

Joe Heschmeyer:

But one of the things he preaches on is on the priority of conscience and he distorts the role of conscience in a way that we see people distorting con today. And in the movie or in the film series, in the whatever, the Netflix series, it’s really disturbing. Because we know he’s purposely messing with their conscience so they’ll accept this evil thing he wants to do. And I think there’s actually a profound point there that people who are telling you don’t listen to the magesterium of the church, listen to your own conscience in an unformed kind of way are opening the door to something really evil because there’s a reason you need your conscience to be formed.

Cy Kellett:

All right, Joe. Thanks. Next time we have a vampire priest or anything of that nature, we’ll call on you for another episode, all right?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Sounds good.

Cy Kellett:

All right. Thanks, Joe. Lately, we’ve really been enjoying doing these kind of takes on pop culture takes on philosophy, life and here at the Catholic church we’d like to do more of them. If you want to suggest something to us, if you got an idea of something we can take a look at from a Catholic Apologetics perspective, just send us your idea. focus@catholic.com is our email address, focus@catholic.com. If you like what we’re doing, and you’d like to support it, we do need your support to keep doing what we’re doing, you can go to givecatholic.com leave a little note that says this is for Catholic Answers Focus, givecatholic.com.

Cy Kellett:

If you’re watching on YouTube, don’t forget to like and subscribe. We’re trying to grow the podcast. It is growing, more than 130,000 people, but why not 200,000? Why not a billion? So go ahead and like and subscribe, that helps us to grow it. And if you’re listening on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or one of the other podcast services, please give us that five star review and maybe a few nice words. That too helps to grow this podcast. That’s it for us. Sam Cy Kellett, your host, will see you next time, God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

 

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