On the surface The Good Catholic is a sweet if awkward story of an unconsummated romance between a catholic priest and a free spirited, artistic young woman. Yet while watching, I kept catching hints there might be an intentional deeper, ‘supernatural’ secondary narrative, not unlike Boondock Saints. Like Boondock, The Good Catholic sprinkles easter eggs pointing to a hidden meaning, some more obvious than others.
The most obvious ‘hint’ that this is more than a simple love story is the bingo scene. Strangely in this scene the only person who seems to be able to see Jane is Father Daniel. Even when they burst into an argument, and Jane storms out after throwing a bible at him, no one looks up from their bingo cards. Believe me if a catholic priest was seen in public arguing with a beautiful young woman, people would notice!
Then it occurred to me: in both cafe scenes where Jane is singing, again, the only person who seems able to see her is Father Daniel. In the second scene Jane even makes a point of chastising the crowd for ignoring her.
With the theme of ‘seeing god’ introduced early on in the film it becomes clear that the Jane character is meant to represent more than an attractive young woman: she represents god, or belief in god. So the ‘relationship’ that develops between her and Father Daniel is, on this deeper level, in fact the story of his evolving relationship with god.
If Jane does in fact represent god, her strange assertion that she is dying suddenly makes sense; it is a nod to the nietzschean ‘god is dead,’ a nod to loss of faith in a relentlessly secularized world. And it is only after Father Daniel has fallen in love with her that she ‘comes back to life’ and admits she is not, in fact, dying.
There may be a further, even more wild mystery to the film regarding the priests. Note how many times the three priests are shown eating at the table in the exact same position. This is an unmistakable nod to the famous “three angels” holy trinity icon:
(note the three frames, and the three panes of glass in the background door)
The origin of this image is Genesis 18, where Abraham is approached by three angels who tell him his wife will conceive a son. Abraham then feeds them a meal. Christians believe these “three angels” represent the holy trinity, thus why you often see three angels sat around a table in orthodox icons.
The only scene where Jane is recognized by anyone other than Father Daniel is when she visits the rectory for dinner. Why does such a small parish have three priests? Even huge Staten Island parishes only have two priests. And why are the three priests repeatedly visually referenced to the holy trinity?
For non-christians out there, the catholic concept of the trinity is “three in one.” So while you may have three separate aspects to the trinity, they are ultimately considered one entity. An argument could be made here that, allegorically, these three priests are all aspects of Father Victor’s personality, and Father Victor is in fact the only priest in the parish. There are hints to this too scattered throughout the film; note how Father Victor tells Father Daniel that he “reminds him of a younger version of himself.”
Furthermore Father Victor is the only black person in the entire film (I would have to rewatch it, but I’m pretty sure even the crowd scenes are all white). Why was Father Victor cast as a black man? Was it the chance of catching a famous actor (Danny Glover) or was this deliberate and part of the script?
The reason this is important is because both catholic and orthodox churches have a mysterious tradition of depicting the madonna as having black skin- the “black madonnas.” These vierges noires are associated with miracles, mystery, and spiritual revelation.
If you watch (or rewatch) the film with these two points in mind: Jane as a representation of god/ belief in god, and the three priests as aspects of a single priest’s personality and struggles, I guarantee you will start picking up on the many hints and easter eggs scattered throughout. Pointedly the final dinner exchange between Jane and Father Victor lays it out plainly:
Jane: Was that, like, supposed to have some sort of deeper meaning?
Father Victor: In our work, everything has deeper meaning.
When viewed through this lens the film is not about a priest who abandons his faith for a romantic attraction, but rather about the psychological turmoil of a priest who ultimately ‘falls in love’ with god. It’s no mistake that the final scene is of Father Daniel about to knock on Jane’s door. Even casual christians will know Jesus’ famous statement: Knock and the door shall be opened.