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.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Christmas 2014: The three most intriguing celebrity panto appearances
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage from Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track