Reaction to the Da Vinci Code film

Rèsumè : In Scotland, the Catholic Church has launched a DVD to counter the Da Vinci Code…

In Scotland, the Catholic Church has launched a DVD to counter the Da Vinci Code, describing Dan Brown’s novel as “monumental nonsense.” The DVD, which seeks to refute the myths of the Da Vinci Code, will be sent to 60 Catholic schools and 500 parishes in Scotland. It features Emeritus Professor of English literature at Glasgow University, Patrick Reilly, affirming that the book contains dangerous inaccuracies on Christianity.

 The counterattack is being launched to coincide with the film’s big screen debut on May 17. Professor Reilly – the first Catholic professor of English literature at Glasgow University since the Reformation – says that the novel by Dan Brown has no historical basis and the facts recounted in it are completely distorted.

 Opus Dei, implicated in Dan Brown’s book, wrote at the beginning of April to the production company Sony-Columbia, asking for a specification that the film Da Vinci Code was “fictional”. The personal prelature, which numbers 87,000 members worldwide, feels that the inclusion of such a notice at the start of the film would constitute “a gesture of respect for the person of Jesus Christ, the history of the Church and the religious beliefs of the audience.” The American branch of Opus Dei has also issued a DVD entitled “Passionately Loving the World”, with interviews with several of their American members who describe how Opus Dei membership has changed their lives.

 The Media have stated that Sony has been looking at the possibility of broadcasting before the film a message explaining that it is a work of fiction and that any similarity with real facts would be coincidental,” said Opus Dei on their website. This Catholic organization also said that it had sent a message to this effect to Sony Pictures Entertainment in Japan.

 In February, Sony had given assurances that the film had nothing religious about it and refused to listen to any group’s criticism, religious or not. Opus Dei then declared that they had no intention of calling for a boycott of the film, but hoped that the “references which would be offensive to Catholics” would be cut.

 In the Philippines, a mainly Catholic country, the Da Vinci Code is provoking controversy. The debate is lively, with supporters and opponents confronting one another via the press. “An authoritarian religion which has predominated in this country since colonial times is bound to be affected by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, writes the reviewer Carmen Pedrosa in the paper Philippine Star. In her view, “this is not such a bad thing… to cast doubt on religion will have long term implications for a country dominated by dogmatism.” According to Carmen Pedrosa, the current debate on Dan Brown’s novel could bring about an intellectual opening which she hopes may help the Filipinos to overcome what she describes as a “handicap”.

The reply was not long in coming. The Catholic priest and Bible specialist Regino Cortes, considering Dan Brown’s novel to be “deceitful”, has just published “The Da Vinci Code: An Exegetical Review”, a 131 page book in which he corrects “the obvious inaccuracies in Dan Brown’s best seller.”

 In Rome on April 14, Good Friday, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the pontifical household, condemned during his sermon in St. Peter’s Basilica, those who make their profit by renouncing the teaching of the Church, thus attacking the Da Vinci Code and The Gospel of Judas.

 On April 28, Mgr. Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called for a boycott of the film taken from the Da Vinci Code, declaring it “full of  calumnies, insults, historical and theological errors.” The Salesian was speaking on “the presentation of the Magisterium of the Church in the world of the media” during a seminar on communication in the Church, organized at the Roman University La Santa Croce, which is run by Opus Dei. “I hope all of you will boycott it,” he said.

 Mgr. Amato lamented “the extreme cultural poverty of large numbers of Christians who often do not know how to give reasons for their own hope.” In his view, this is what accounts for “the strange success of a book so obstinately anti-Christian as the Da Vinci Code – which I have read –so full of calumnies, insults and historical and theological errors, concerning Jesus, the Gospels and the Church.” “These calumnies, these insults, these errors,” added the prelate, “if they had concerned the Koran or the Shoah, would have indeed provoked worldwide condemnation, but when addressed to the Church and to Christians, they get away with it.” Mgr. Amato felt that “in such cases Christians should be more sensitive to the rejection of lies and wanton slander.” Mgr. Angelo Amato then recalled that, during its screening in 1988, Martin Scorsese’s film “The Last Temptation of Christ” was boycotted and thus paid the price of a “well deserved financial failure.” He described this film as “extremely dull (…) and historically false.”

 “Today communication of the Gospel is prevented not only by actual persecution – there are still Christians in the world to whom the liberty to profess their faith is denied, on pain of imprisonment or death – but above all, by the weak mindedness of post-modern culture which refuses the powerful thinking of Christian Revelation,” declared Mgr. Amato. And he denounced “the heavy atmosphere of a nihilistic, relativistic and biotechnological culture.” The Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith lamented the fact that it “often seems that we are living in a kind of virtual reality, which does not correspond with the truth nor with factual evidence, but which is concocted in the simulation cubicle of opinion makers and the mass media.” In this sense, he condemned “the manipulation of persons, events and history.”

 Mgr. Amato also spoke about The Gospel of Judas: the Catholic press should not restrict themselves to giving news,” but must also offer readers information to enable them to understand that it concerns an “apocryphal gospel, known to the Fathers of the Church,” and which gives “a false account of the person of Judas, which does not correspond with the reality of the facts.”