Le Catholique Hercule Poirot (very unlikely spoiler alert)

I just re-watched the most recent "Murder on the Orient Express" where our venerable detectibve is played again by David Suchet. There is much more French in this new series, and in the case of this particular episode, more religion. The whole episode is very dark, and nothing like the Peter Ustinov version from the 1970s. In one scene, we see Poirot, on his knees with his rosary in his hand, and he prays something like "je te rends grace que tu m'as fait catholique" (I think thee that thou hast made me Catholic). This is juxtaposed with the victim-to-be praying almost like an evangelical, though being Italian-American, that is unlikely. Again later, we see Poirot thinking hard with his rosary in hand.

Also, there is a dialogue between Poirot and a Scandanavian protestant where said protestant scolds Catholics for believing that all sin is forgivable. This is, of course, no more a part of Protestant doctrine than it is of Catholic doctrine. And of course, it is much more a part of the plot than of any theology.

I hope I don't spoil this for anyone. The plot of this episode is nearly as well known many Bible stories.

The more recent episode, aired last night, contains no religious references at all, and I think anyone who sees the two will agree that the darkness of the Orient Express episode does not continue into the second episode. The second includes such favorite actors as Zoe Wanamaker and Peter Bowles.

I have never read any of the original Agatha Christie novels, but I did see a couple of the older movies like the 70's one you mention. Do the novels themselves portray Poirot as a practicing Catholic or is this something that the producers have added to his character portrayal in the films?

[quote="Usbek_de_Perse, post:1, topic:205903"]
I just re-watched the most recent "Murder on the Orient Express" where our venerable detectibve is played again by David Suchet. There is much more French in this new series, and in the case of this particular episode, more religion. The whole episode is very dark, and nothing like the Peter Ustinov version from the 1970s. In one scene, we see Poirot, on his knees with his rosary in his hand, and he prays something like "je te rends grace que tu m'as fait catholique" (I think thee that thou hast made me Catholic). This is juxtaposed with the victim-to-be praying almost like an evangelical, though being Italian-American, that is unlikely. Again later, we see Poirot thinking hard with his rosary in hand.

Also, there is a dialogue between Poirot and a Scandanavian protestant where said protestant scolds Catholics for believing that all sin is forgivable. This is, of course, no more a part of Protestant doctrine than it is of Catholic doctrine. And of course, it is much more a part of the plot than of any theology.

I hope I don't spoil this for anyone. The plot of this episode is nearly as well known many Bible stories.

The more recent episode, aired last night, contains no religious references at all, and I think anyone who sees the two will agree that the darkness of the Orient Express episode does not continue into the second episode. The second includes such favorite actors as Zoe Wanamaker and Peter Bowles.

[/quote]

I saw both episodes. Last night in the episode "The Third Girl" it showed a crucifix on the wall beside Hercule's bed. I would think that as being a Catholic reference; but certainly nothing wrong with that.
I've been watching the Poirot series since it's conception in the 80's and it is the first time I've noticed the Catholic references. My brother took the Orient Express episode as an offense tying the Catholic Church into the molestation scandals. I didn't. I don't remember that the murderer of the child was also a child molester but I could have missed that. I caught the reference of the protestant saying that the unforgivable sin is that of killing a child...where as we Catholics know that it is denying the Holy Spirit correct? The reference to Hercule's faith is because he struggles so much in his conviction that these people are murderers and because of its nature whether to set them free. I just didn't see it as offensive. I thought the part where he was praying his nightly prayers and thanked God for making him Catholic was rather endearing. And that rather then loosing his faith he turns to it, in praying the rosary as well.

As to the idea that the murder of a child being a reference to the Roman Catholic Church's current issues with bad priests, I think that notion is nuts. The murderer was said to have killed the girl within an hour of taking her.

I didn't notice the crucifix on his bedside. Thanks for alerting me to that. I do think this is rather intentional on the part of the producer of the series. I don't think it comes from Agatha Christie.

We remember I don't know how many episodes of Miss Marple where a kindly Church of England vicar and his wife are portrayed. Miss Marple is a creature of the small towns and villages of rural England. Hercule Poirot is urbane and too much of an asthete. I'm not sure that Agatha Christie would have approved of the religious additions, but I like them.

Unlike Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James, Agatha Christie was not openly interested in Christianity. Both Sayers and James were/are High Church Anglicans who wove Christian themes into their literature. Agatha Christie is burried in a country churchyard St. Mary's Church, Chosley in Oxfordshire.

parishes.oxford.anglican.org/cholsey/church.shtml#agatha

One wonders how much this resembles St. Mary Mede.

[quote="ElizabethPH, post:3, topic:205903"]
I saw both episodes. Last night in the episode "The Third Girl" it showed a crucifix on the wall beside Hercule's bed. I would think that as being a Catholic reference; but certainly nothing wrong with that.
I've been watching the Poirot series since it's conception in the 80's and it is the first time I've noticed the Catholic references. My brother took the Orient Express episode as an offense tying the Catholic Church into the molestation scandals. I didn't. I don't remember that the murderer of the child was also a child molester but I could have missed that. I caught the reference of the protestant saying that the unforgivable sin is that of killing a child...where as we Catholics know that it is denying the Holy Spirit correct? The reference to Hercule's faith is because he struggles so much in his conviction that these people are murderers and because of its nature whether to set them free. I just didn't see it as offensive. I thought the part where he was praying his nightly prayers and thanked God for making him Catholic was rather endearing. And that rather then loosing his faith he turns to it, in praying the rosary as well.

[/quote]

MORE SPOILERS

An old thread, but PBS just reran Orient Express, so some notes from TripAtlas would fit here (tripatlas.com/Hercule_Poirot)

“Poirot is a Roman Catholic by birth,[21] and retains a strong sense of Catholic morality later in life.[22] Not much is known of Poirot’s childhood other than he once claimed in ‘‘Three Act Tragedy’’ to have been from a large family with little wealth. In ‘‘Taken at the Flood’’, he further claimed to have been raised and educated by nuns, raising the possibility that he (and any siblings) were orphaned.”

  1. “Hercule Poirot was a Catholic by birth.” “The Apples of the Hesperides” (1940)
  2. In ‘‘Taken at the Flood’’, Book II, Chapter 6 he goes into church to pray and happens across a suspect with whom he briefly discusses ideas of sin and confession.

Personally, I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition, especially considering that Ratchet was given a chance to repent. I haven’t read the novel (YET!), but I suspect this may well be an element in the original. Because the 12 people who committed the murder/execution felt they were enacting overdue justice, the idea that Ratchet would know he was threated, i.e. by their notes, and therefore had been given a chance to repent is important in supporting that aspect of the “jury” and their views of themselves.

Poirot’s rage at their actions is absolutely in character, especially since, in this case, good and evil are so hard to parse out. This is easily the most “modern” of Christie’s novels – it almost feels like it was written after World War II.

P.S. Many Christie students would not agree that she was not “interested” in Christianity, and have in fact discovered various elegant and subtle forms of apologetics (i.e. helium.com/items/1563080-how-the-hercule-poirot-mysteries-tie-in-with-christian-apologetics) in her works. Certainly, she’s not interested in hitting people over the head with ideas, or subjecting her readers to exploitative sermons – only two of many reasons she has readers. Her respect for her audience is extraordinary.

By the way, the current Masterpiece Theatre Hercule Poirot series is entirely new, with the same wonderful David Suchet reprising the role he had 20 years ago. There was also a great documentary on the Orient Express, where Suchet, this time in his own resonant British English taking us through much of the current route.

As to the link provided, I didn't get much out of that at all. Will keep digging.

Of course, Christie was Church of England, and is buried in a C of E churchyard. This makes her Catholic Poirot ever more interesting, as she seems to have grasped something of the Catholic mind.

[quote="kbrigan, post:5, topic:205903"]
MORE SPOILERS

An old thread, but PBS just reran Orient Express, so some notes from TripAtlas would fit here (tripatlas.com/Hercule_Poirot)

"Poirot is a Roman Catholic by birth,[21] and retains a strong sense of Catholic morality later in life.[22] Not much is known of Poirot’s childhood other than he once claimed in ''Three Act Tragedy'' to have been from a large family with little wealth. In ''Taken at the Flood'', he further claimed to have been raised and educated by nuns, raising the possibility that he (and any siblings) were orphaned."

  1. "Hercule Poirot was a Catholic by birth." "The Apples of the Hesperides" (1940)
  2. In ''Taken at the Flood'', Book II, Chapter 6 he goes into church to pray and happens across a suspect with whom he briefly discusses ideas of sin and confession.

Personally, I think it's an interesting juxtaposition, especially considering that Ratchet was given a chance to repent. I haven't read the novel (YET!), but I suspect this may well be an element in the original. Because the 12 people who committed the murder/execution felt they were enacting overdue justice, the idea that Ratchet would know he was threated, i.e. by their notes, and therefore had been given a chance to repent is important in supporting that aspect of the "jury" and their views of themselves.

Poirot's rage at their actions is absolutely in character, especially since, in this case, good and evil are so hard to parse out. This is easily the most "modern" of Christie's novels -- it almost feels like it was written after World War II.

P.S. Many Christie students would not agree that she was not "interested" in Christianity, and have in fact discovered various elegant and subtle forms of apologetics (i.e. helium.com/items/1563080-how-the-hercule-poirot-mysteries-tie-in-with-christian-apologetics) in her works. Certainly, she's not interested in hitting people over the head with ideas, or subjecting her readers to exploitative sermons -- only two of many reasons she has readers. Her respect for her audience is extraordinary.

[/quote]

[quote="ElizabethPH, post:3, topic:205903"]
I saw both episodes. Last night in the episode "The Third Girl" it showed a crucifix on the wall beside Hercule's bed. I would think that as being a Catholic reference; but certainly nothing wrong with that.
I've been watching the Poirot series since it's conception in the 80's and it is the first time I've noticed the Catholic references. My brother took the Orient Express episode as an offense tying the Catholic Church into the molestation scandals. I didn't. I don't remember that the murderer of the child was also a child molester but I could have missed that. I caught the reference of the protestant saying that the unforgivable sin is that of killing a child...where as we Catholics know that it is denying the Holy Spirit correct? The reference to Hercule's faith is because he struggles so much in his conviction that these people are murderers and because of its nature whether to set them free. I just didn't see it as offensive. I thought the part where he was praying his nightly prayers and thanked God for making him Catholic was rather endearing. And that rather then loosing his faith he turns to it, in praying the rosary as well.

[/quote]

I agree. I thought it was pleasant to see a Catholic character portrayed in a positive light.

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

OK, I just watched, for the first time, Appointment with Death. And this episode continues to present interesting aspects of Poirot’s religion. Again, we see Poirot with his rosary, especially holding it during a potentially dangerous search of the desert camp by night following an attack on a young lady.

Oddly enough, the Polish nun is a white slaver. This is odd because we see the nun at prayer in Polish. If she were a real nun, that makes sense, but if she were posing as a nun, that makes little sense. What if she were a real nun, but still, for some reason, a white slaver?

In the end, Poirot speaks warmly to Jinny, the young girl who was almost taken into white slavery. As he leaves her, he hands her a small pouch, which she opens to find a rosary. Was it his rosary, or just another one?

Of course, most incredibly, the archaelogist and his dig are intent on finding the severed head of John the Baptist. Somehow, I’m sure that even in the early 20th century, archaelogists knew that there is no way to definitively know that any particular skull found in the desert belonged to any particular historical person. Oddly, the nun-white slaver makes a show of veneration of the random skull they found.

Finally, I wondered if there was a connection between the fictional Poirot and Hilaire Beloc. Oddly there is, but not the one I thought I would find. Beloc’s sister invented a character, Hercules Popeau.

see telegraph.co.uk/culture/3654904/The-strange-case-of-Hercule-Poirot.html

I watched the episode, Appointment with Death as well. I just couldn't figure out the whole nun thing at all. First, to me anyway, she just pop's up out of no where; it took me till I see her venerating the skull to realize why she would even be there at all.:rolleyes: Perhaps I was tired after a long day.

There sometimes is so much going on at one time with all of these characters it is hard to keep track, with all the dialog and David's fake French accent at times is just undecipherable (is that a word?) Sometimes I don't even understand the English accents.

Even while Hercule was piecing together everything I rather missed what he says about the nun; until suddenly she is spitting and Hercule is blessing himself. After that I assumed that she was not a real nun; but she sure played the part to the letter even in private, which like you said was odd. Suppose they didn't want us to know her true colors till the very end.

I did not think he gave his own personal rosary as a gift to the girl; wasn't it a more feminine one with pretty colored crystal beads?

As much as I love the classic period scenario of an archaeological dig in the middle of an Arab desert. I did not enjoy this one as I did the first two.

I would also like to say that this adaptation is completely different than the original. Characters were left out; and characters like the nun and the nanny I believe were added in the adaptation. The plot was completely different. And the place in the show was in Syria and an archaeological dig; in the book it was Petra their tour originated in Jerusalem. (places I would love to see myself).

you can find out more here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appointment_with_Death

One of the recurring leitmotifs that is addressed through Poirot's Catholicism is the nature of grace and atonement. This is most evident in Murder on the Orient Express, where Poirot contrasts what he takes to be the Catholic view with the Protestant view (expressed by the Scandinavian): for the latter, some sins are so grave so as to place the sinner beyond the realm God's grace, whereas Poirot takes a fuller view of the redemptive power of grace. This comes up again at the end of Murder by Appointment, when, just before handing the woman a rosary, Poirot observes that there is nothing in the world so broken that it can't be fixed. And even in the Third Girl, the shot of the crucifix comes in a scene where Poirot underscores that he is trying to "save" the girl, broken though she is. All in all, I think that the series casts Catholicism in a positive light.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.