By, Adam K. Fetterman
Catholicism has not had a good last couple years/decades. This has been particularly true recently with the scandals involving the pope and child abuse. So, it would seem like a good idea to take some focus off these situations and lighten things up a bit. This is what they have done recently. According, to the Time website, the Vatican’s official newspaper has declared Homer Simpson as a Catholic. This is odd to most fans because Homer, and the rest of the Simpson flock (minus Lisa who proclaims to be a Buddhist), are clearly and openly protestant. Specifically with Homer, some could probably argue that he is not even a protestant. They use a couple examples of why Homer is a Catholic, but most appear to be reflective of Christianity in general, not to mention that most of the Catholicism references in the show are mocking in nature. Why might someone, or thing, come to such an odd belief, such as Homer Simpson being of their religion?
One possible explanation may come from what is known as the “false consensus effect” (Ross, Greene, & House, 1977). According to a review by Baumeister, Dale, & Sommer (1998), this effect is a type of projection in which individuals have a bias to think that others’ traits are similar to their own. So, it may, for whatever motivation, be that the Vatican newspaper writers are projecting their own traits or beliefs on what they perceive as a well liked popular figure, and Homer is definitely that. Another weird thing that people might notice is that Family Guy’s Griffin family is actually Catholic, but the Vatican decided against mentioning them. However, it probably would not be considered a positive to associate oneself with a show as “controversial” as that one.
Before someone comments that the Vatican paper was arguing that Homer represents what a good Catholic should be. This may be so, but that was not clear in the Time piece linked here. Furthermore, one would have to ignore a considerable amount of aspects of the show to consider The Simpsons as reflecting good Catholic values. However, relative to the Griffins in Family Guy, one could see how they would like to associate themselves with the “tamer”, and more loved, Simpsons family. Don’t we all?
Baumeister et al. (1998). Freudian defense mechanisms and empirical findings in modern social psychology: Reaction formation, projection, displacement, undoing, isolation, sublimation, and denial. Journal of Personality, 66, 1081-1124.