Debate Goes On: Something Religious in Dr. House?

Life Academy Member Notes Character's Search for Truth

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ROME, SEPT. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The cantankerous and unsociable lead character on the Fox TV series "House" has some redeeming qualities, according to a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Carlo Bellieni, director of the Department of Neonatal Intensive Therapy at the General University Hospital of Sienna, affirmed this in an article for ZENIT in which he responds to an ongoing discussion about the ethical perspectives of the show.

The series, created by David Shore and starring Hugh Laurie in the role of Dr. Gregory House, premiered in 2004. It now has some 66 million viewers worldwide.

Bellieni was featured in a ZENIT article two years ago, speaking about some of what could be valued in House.

And he is now the author, with Andrea Bechi, of "Dr. House: Madness and Fascination of a Cult Series," which was reviewed this summer by L'Osservatore Romano.

The book has brought surprise from various circles -- one article, for example, was titled: "Dr. House is Pro-Life? Just Ask The Vatican."

But in Bellieni's report for ZENIT, the doctor affirms that he never went so far as to call Dr. House pro-life.

"House flirts too much -- I explained -- with the idea of abortion and euthanasia to count him among those who are pro-life," Bellieni said.

Nevertheless, the author contends that there is an "even more profound dimension of House: the religious House."

He explained: "How is it possible for House to be religious when he almost always states he is an atheist? How is it possible, as he is often rude and evil? To ask this means that one does not understand what the religious sense is, which is not a matter 'of the good,' but paradoxically is, in fact, a 'matter of the evil.' [...]

"House's religious sense is to search for truth knowing that there is a truth and that not everything is relative and fatuous. And in this restlessness we discern clear signs of the religious fact."

Not good

Bellieni goes on to illustrate that the religious sense is confused with goodness.

"It is believed that the religious sense is a matter of pious souls predestined to asceticism," he wrote. "In other words, a matter for the few who live in a different dimension from that of ordinary people.

"House can even fail to be pro-life -- that is, 'good' -- and have a religious heart, because the religious sense is no more than this: the certainty that truth exists somewhere and the desire to find it. And he does not allow himself to be drawn by mere curiosity, because curiosity does not seek truth; it loves something that it has already imagined."

Clarifying terms

The Italian doctor further clarified that his book was not written to give more credit than due to House, but to "explain what the term 'religious' really means, given that virtually no one knows it anymore."

He added, "The search for truth is the first step of a religious spirit; the next step is 'mendicity,' namely, petition, and we also find clear signs of the latter in House, perhaps expressed to patients or priests, who understand and explain that House provokes them, in fact, to be won over."

This seeking, Bellieni contended, is in contrast to the postmodern culture that "teaches that truth does not exist; that it is useless to search for it, much less ask for it; that science must also give up its weapons in face of subjectivism ."

"Hence," he concluded, "cheers for House! [...] House is far from the pro-life vision, but is capable of wonder, of recognizing the truth when he finds it."

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On the Net:

The Pedagogical Value of House, M.D.: http://sympa.medicalistes.org/wws/arc/cinepsy/2009-03/msg00007/Wicclair_Pedagogical_Value_of_House_2.pdf