TELEVISION / When silence speaks louder than words
Armstrong had opened the programme by telling us what Jesus would have thought of Vatican ceremonial, a rhetorical device which is usually a good sign that you are in the presence of theological insurrection. The Pope, she explained, was the world's 'last great absolute monarch' and he ran his Church in a way 'strangely out of kilter with the democratic tenor of today's world'. Hardly strange if he is an absolute monarch, I would have thought, but the pretence of bafflement was part of Armstrong's rhetorical armoury. Later she talked of a 'right-wing Catholic backlash which bears an uncanny resemblance to Protestant fundamentalism', but as she had just finished drawing an explicit parallel between the doctrines of papal infallibility and the Protestant idea of the inerrancy of scripture, her surprise was a little surprising.
Other details of her approach also irritated this particular unbeliever - her tendency to offer interviewees a precis of what she thought they wanted to say, for one thing, and a certain vagueness about the limits to liberalisation. I'm with her on the Church's attitude to contraception - a doctrine which daily amplifies human misery - but I can't help wondering whether local democracy is the best model for the elaboration of faith.
Armstrong argued against a central monolithic dogma in favour of a Church more responsive to its believers' desires (what the Pope, in a rather good phrase, calls Cafeteria Christianity), and as evidence of dictatorial inflexibility she cited the case of an African bishop - apparently punished for incorporating healing sessions with a python into church services. But, even if the northern churches might be enlivened by the Hiss of Peace, there presumably must come a moment when, even for her, anything doesn't go? When that moment comes, won't she be just as inflexible as the current Pope?
What penance, I wondered, for Deborah, the character at the heart of Suffer the Little Children (BBC 2)? The play consisted of the confession of a mother who had killed her seven-month-old baby, a confession delivered not in church but in a police interview room. Having lost one baby to a cruelly progressive disease, she discovers that her second son has been born with the same illness. She kills him when it becomes clear that his future is pain and nothing but.
Her account, in Jane Horrocks's stunning performance, moves from controlled recollection of the first loss, the confident narrative of someone who has been over an event again and again, to a gulping, distressed reliving of the second. Along the way she giggles at brief fond memories, re-enacts arguments with the doctors, pleads for your understanding, confesses to her failures, winces again at the terrible hurt of knowing that her loving embrace could only add to the pain. It was a performance of utter veracity, made of hesitations and stumbles, as if the words hardly dared touch the things they described. It also made me cry, though to what purpose I'm still not sure.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 3 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 4 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 5 Snoop Dogg on why he doesn't regret displaying misogyny towards women
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland