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Holy Spirit Interactive: The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas and Other Nonsense

The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas and Other Nonsense

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Archbishop Forte Says Discovery Is False

The alleged discovery of the tomb of Jesus is really just an attempt to put into question Christ's resurrection, said the archbishop-theologian of Chieti-Vasto.

Archbishop Bruno Forte, a member of the International Theological Commission, made these comments to ZENIT regarding James Cameron's documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," produced in collaboration with Simcha Jacobovici.

The documentary is scheduled to be broadcast on the Discovery Channel this Sunday. It claims that Jesus' burial site has been found and suggests that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and had a son.

Archbishop Forte, the president of the Italian episcopal conference's Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "In fact there is talk of ancient tombs, some from the first century, discovered in the neighborhood of Talpiot, at the beginning of the 1980s, on which are engraved some names, such as those of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Matthew. This is the factual data.

"However, there are many such tombs in the territory of the Holy Land. Hence, there is nothing new in this revelation."

The archbishop said that there is so much noise surrounding the documentary's airing because the media "wanted to launch a scoop. Given the success of operations such as 'The Da Vinci Code,' an attempt has been made to produce a similar success, playing with the real question at stake, namely, if Jesus is really risen."

"In fact, the thesis launched is that if Jesus is buried there with his family, then the resurrection would be no more than an invention of his disciples," he noted.

The archbishop continued: "However, leaving to one side the inconsistency of the archaeological proof, which has been utterly contested by Israeli archaeologists, the factual event of Jesus' resurrection is rigorously documented in the New Testament by the five accounts of the apparitions: four of the Gospels and St. Paul's."

"All critical studies in these two centuries have shown that in the profound truth of the accounts of the apparitions there is non-debatable historicity," he said.


Archbishop Forte said: "There is a vacuum between Good Friday, when the disciples abandoned Jesus, and Easter Sunday, when they became witnesses of the Risen One, with a drive and courage that impelled them to proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth, even to giving their lives for him.

"What happened? The profane historian cannot explain it. The Gospels imply it: There was an encounter that changed their lives.

"And this encounter, recounted in the passages of the apparitions, is characterized by an essential fact: The initiative is not from the disciples, but from him who is alive, as the book of the Acts of the Apostles states."

"This means that it isn't something that happens in the disciples but something that happens to them," said Archbishop Forte.

"Beginning with this fact," he said, "in the course of history Christ has been proclaimed with a drive that has involved geniuses of thought, not visionaries, from Augustine of Hippo to Thomas Aquinas, down to Teresa of Calcutta, to give three examples."

Finally, Archbishop Forte asked: "Why is the media so interested in keeping Jesus in its sights?

"Obviously because, in the depths of the West's culture, and not just of the West, Jesus is such a decisive and important point of reference, that everything that affects him affects us."


Another scholar, Father Thomas Rosica, director of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, also commented to ZENIT on the documentary, saying that the fact that it has made such an impact leads one to question the professionalism of the media.

He said: "What is most troubling about this recent publicity stunt of Jesus' burial place, and the alleged DNA findings of Jesus and his family, is that the media have spilled so much ink and wasted so much space on utter nonsense."

(Source: Zenit.org)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Screwtape On The DaVinci Code

My dear Wormwood,

I trust this finds you as miserable and coarse as ever. I am pleased to take a respite from our usual tutorial and venture into something a bit broader, but vastly instructive for our larger purposes. To wit: I shall today croak a paean of praise to a particular work of middlebrow non-fiction. The genre has been particularly good to us, Wormwood! Do you remember The Passover Plot? Or that excellent hoax by Erich von Daniken, In Search of Ancient Astronauts? You may snigger now, but in its day even that harebrained rant proved helpful to our cause. As did most of the books on The Bermuda Triangle and "UFO's". And don't get me started on Out on a Limb! Oh, but Wormwood. Those books were mere types and shadows of the one that has in these last days transported me to ecstasies of embarrassing intensity. It is a type of "romantic thriller" (penned by someone under the unwitting tutelage of an old crony of mine from the Sixth Circle); it is titled The Da Vinci Code.

I surmised it should be well worth the trouble of familiarising you with it, inasmuch as it contains such a precariously towering heap of our very best non-thinking that it is quite dizzying! It has the genuine potential to mislead, confuse, and vex millions! Indeed the mystical sleight-of-hand involved in shoehorning so many cubic yards of gasbag clichees, shopworn half-truths and straightfaced howlers into a single volume simply beggars belief; and if I didn't know that the author had had unwitting "help" from my former colleague, the venerable Gallstone, I simply shouldn't believe it could have been done at all!

Continued here

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Myth for our Times?

John Ruffle is a college lecturer, writer, minister and chaplain. A third-generation Christian, John surrendered to the overwhelming call of Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit in July 1972 during the remarkable 'Jesus Movement' revival. He lived for several years in Christian community in northern California, and is passionate about promoting love and understanding between all who love Christ. This is what he has to say about The Da Vinci Code.

This weekend, cinema-goers in no less than sixty-eight countries will be eagerly filling first-run movie theatre seats to view the heralded "Da Vinci Code". I've read the best selling novel, but have yet to see the movie: few people have. No one yet knows how the film will fare at the box office, but I am more concerned with the sociological issues at stake in this present writing.

A "wicked distortion"?

The film has created enormous interest and not a little controversy. For instance, in an interview published this week, a Catholic Archbishop described "the whole book (as) a wicked distortion of the truth". Whatever one thinks of Dan Brown's novel however, the story has caught the spirit of the age, full as it is of conspiracy theory and mystery; fuelled, of course, by the quest for the 'holy grail': on the very surface at least, roughly comparable to a 21st century "Indiana Jones" (1981, '84, '89).

Potentially, the film could beat James Cameron's "Titanic" (1997) at the box-office, and almost certainly show crucial record-breaking first-weekend receipts (after all, how many other films have opened simultaneously in 68 nations?) While hardly a modern epic, "The Da Vinci Code" does share several similarities with the 1997 blockbuster: "Titanic" is a fictional love-story intricately woven into a true historical backdrop, and at the time of release, interest in the wreck of the actual Titanic was phenomenal. James Cameron accurately read and targeted the pop-culture climate of the times. "The Da Vinci Code" shares a similar formula, in that Dan Brown's fictional thriller plot is woven against a supposedly historical backdrop. The difficulty is that, unlike "Titanic", the background is not at all historical, but rather, is a figment of imagination -a fact that Dan Brown submerges in his book.

"Entertainment, not theology..."

As the movie hits the big screen, a question Christians of all stripes are asking is: 'Should we see the film and dialogue with others; or cast it out as anathema?' Angela Doland, reporting from the Cannes Film Festival, quotes director Ron Howard saying in defence "...This is supposed to be entertainment, it's not theology". Be that as it may, it by-passes the fact that today's entertainment industry is the primary means that many in our consumer-driven western world are informed. Millions form their world-views from entertainment, and the industry knows this very well.

Christians in western nations are, indeed, mostly suggesting that they dialogue with the issues the film raises. Reactions in other nations have been quite different however. The AP news-feed quoted above catalogues the pre-release backlash being experienced in mostly non-Christian countries such as South Korea, Thailand and India. The Indian government, AP reports, has "...delayed the premiere, putting it on a temporary hold while it weighs complaints by Catholic groups that want the film banned." Likewise, film censors in Thailand, responding to Christian claims of blasphemy initially cut ten minutes from the film, prior to a successful appeal by Columbia Pictures.

Post-Modernism and Faith:

If "The Da Vinci Code" was a 'one-off', then Christians could be advised to either ignore it or protest against it. However, by marginalizing the film, Christians run the risk of turning their backs on an entire culture, and returning to a religious ghetto that refuses to engage the stark realities of today's society.

At the risk of being over simplistic, I suggest that interest in the film is an indication of the extent post-modernism is becoming the predominant influence of our western culture. Post modernism rejects the idea of absolutes. Our viewpoint on life and reality is processed within a matrix of what is relative. In this subjective minefield, what is truth for me may not be truth for you. Certainly, I am permitted to search for truth, provided I do not arrive at any conclusions leading to a universal truth or law. That would be a violation of the post-modern paradigm, and may explain why historic Christian faith has generally become so hated in western societies. Such thinking can result in a not-so-subtle form of moral anarchy. 'Do what is right in your own eyes - just don't hurt anyone else'.

From this mindset, it becomes easy to justify abortion and euthanasia, because we may freely redefine our concepts of reality and the value of human life within such an amoral society: absolutes have been washed away. In its essence, it reveals a rebellion against the historic and redemptive centre of Christianity, revolving as it does around the Christ event. To deny the existence of Jesus Christ is implausible: far better to insinuate a diabolical cover-up. And this is exactly what Dan Brown and Ron Howard have done.

"The Da Vinci Code" could mark the beginning of a cycle of mainstream productions that may delve more deeply into ways that post-modernism seeks to de-construct and mythologicalise the Christian faith. The film may also help fuel a hunger for truth that can be met through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. For these reasons, I suggest that Christians engage the film, dialoguing with those around them.

As for a natural bloodline from Jesus: I think not. Indeed, God has something far superior in store for those who love Him and obey Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour. As a Christian sage once said: "Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. (for) ...flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These perishable bodies of ours are not able to live forever... So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

And here come the reviews ...

Belgian journalist, Chris Craps, after screening The Da Vinci Code at Cannes, 2006 has this to say:

"It's a complete mess. They didn't show it to anybody, and now you see why. I bet Ron Howard knew it was quite shaky and that it didn't work. They knew very well. But now a lot of people are going to see it, and the news that it's not working is going to come too late to them. But the second week will drop off completely. It will be a real Poseidon."

Here is a snip from Daily Variety:

Sitting through all the verbose explanations and speculations about symbols, codes, secret cults, religious history and covert messages in art, it is impossible to believe that, had the novel never existed, such a script would ever have been considered by a Hollywood studio. It's esoteric, heady stuff, made compelling only by the fact that what it's proposing undermines the fundamental tenants of Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, and, by extension, Western Civilization for the past 2,000 years. Click here to read the rest.

From the Associated Press:

"The Da Vinci Code" drew lukewarm praise, shrugs of indifference, some jeering laughter and a few derisive jabs Tuesday from arguably the world's toughest movie crowd: critics at the Cannes Film Festival.

The year's most anticipated movie, "The Da Vinci Code" was a generally faithful adaptation of Dan Brown's monster best seller, spinning a murder thriller that stems from a cover-up of secrets about Christianity's roots. While readers worldwide devoured the novel, reaction from Cannes critics ranged from mild endorsement of its potboiler suspense to groans of ridicule over its heavy melodrama...

And the Hollywood Reporter says this:

Strictly as a movie and ignoring the current swirl of controversy no amount of studio money could ever buy, the Ron Howard-directed film features one of Tom Hanks' more remote, even wooden performances in a role that admittedly demands all the wrong sorts of things from a thriller protagonist; an only slightly more animated performance from his French co-star, Audrey Tautou; and polished Hollywood production values where camera cranes sweep viewers up to God-like points of view and famous locations and deliciously sinister interiors heighten tension where the movie threatens to turn into a historical treatise. The movie really only catches fire after an hour, when Ian McKellen hobbles on the scene as the story's Sphinx-like Sir Leigh Teabing. Here is the one actor having fun with his role and playing a character rather than a piece to a puzzle.... Click here to read more.

"Othercott" Da Vinci

Barbara Nicolosi is a scriptwriter/script consultant who teaches at, write for and work with many different organizations such as Act One, Azusa Pacific University, the City of the Angels Film Festival, CIMA, the National Catholic Register, and Family Theater. Here she adds her thoughts on The Da Vinci Code.

Needless to say, I am getting lots of calls to do interviews about The Da Vinci Code. I duck as many of them as I can, so glad am I for the existence in the universe of Mark Shea and Amy Welborn!

Basically, I hate talking about The Da Vinci Code because I have a personal relationship with Jesus. I have met Him and He isn't a proto-feminist goddess-cultic with a weak personality that could have been simply co-opted by power-hungry misogynists. I love Jesus. It makes me physically sick to entertain discussion about the ways in which the defining acts of His life - His Passion, Resurrection and establishment of the Church - could be a diabolical scam that He never anticipated not experienced. It would make me sick to hear salacious lies about anyone I love, how much more my Savior?

Besides that, I don't think we should encourage people in the terrible sin against the Holy Spirit of speculating that things that are holy are evil, and that things that are evil are holy. Isn't that what is going on here? How is that not painful for anyone who knows the Lord?

I have heard several fellow Christians make the claim that DVC DVC is "a great opportunity for evangelism." 'Hmmm... Evangelism. I don't think you know what that word means.' The climate of evangelism is not consistent with a posture of defiance and cynicism. Is slander an opportunity? Is angry superiority an opportunity? DVC represents all the "opportunity" that the Roman persecutions offered the early Church. Rah.

And here's another thing that troubles me about the "opportunity for dialogue" stance. The debate is all on hell's terms. I am somebody who reads about exorcisms. I don't know why. I just do. And one of the first rules of exorcism is that you never answer the devil's questions. You don't debate the devil. You do not give evil the authority to question God. DVC represents a debate in which the questions start with Satan's presumptions. I find it beyond naive to convince myself that the folks who are lapping up DVC are on a "search for truth." They're not. They are on a crusade to validate their own rejection of the authority of Christ and the Church.

Here's a typical DVC inspired dialogue... See if you can find a search for truth in it.

It usually starts with something like this, "Everybody knows that the Church Fathers were liars. Can you prove the compilation of the Bible wasn't pure politics?"

And just when you start saying, "Well, I don't agree that the Church Fathers were--" the questioner moves on with eyes flashing unnaturally, "Why is the Church so afraid of women, huh? Why has it suppressed them since the beginning? Yeah? Answer THAT!"

So, you clear your throat and say, "Well, I wouldn't say that the Church is afr--"

But they've moved on again. "The fact is, there is no evidence for the Resurrection. Have you ever read the Gospel of Mary Magdalen?"

"Well, no, but--"

"See you people are all brain-washed." [exhalation of disgust] "How so many people could be so stupid is amazing to me....Where are my birth-control pills?!"

When you debate with Satan, there is no opportunity for anything but people digging their heels into the sludge of chaos and confusion.


And I also hate the idea that some of the sheep would be scandalized away from Jesus by this idiotic story. And they will.

The sheep have been systematically prepared for slaughter by forty years of post-Consiliar insanity. Ineffective and insufficient catechesis and lack-lustre preaching. Liturgical chaos. Too often, the cruel injustice of liberal, intolerant leadership which so often had the added indignity of manifest hypocrisy.

The flock has been bred as teeming little narcissist lambs who stubbornly consider themselves "special" no matter how mediocre their understanding and living out of their life of discipleship. We have a global pasture full of sheep pasturing themselves, with coats shamefully besmirched by loving their sins. They bleat defiance and pride of their filth, and insist that Jesus is indifferent to their degradation and shame. "Who knows, Jesus is probably just like us!" They don't know, and don't know that they don't know, or don't know, and don't care that they don't know.

And now The Da Vinci Code comes along to sheepish ears that are primed and ready to be told that holiness is impossible. And that is why this damn book is a success. It says to people, "If Jesus was a sham, then anything is permissible."

I thought of this when I read Mark Shea's little DVC rant today. He writes, "I think the most maddening thing about this book is the thought of somebody losing their faith over this--this!--stupid piece of dimestore erudition.

If you are going to risk your eternal soul, it should at least be over something noble and romantic and big. If you are bound to damn yourself, then at least let it be over a torrid and star-crossed love affair, or out of tragic hubris that sought know What Man Was Not Meant to Know, or over some insane and violent of country, or out of desire for titanic powers to manipulate nature or some Byronic despair over a cold world's rejection of a Great Artiste.

But to lose your soul over this cartoonish, illiterate, dishonest piece of hack drivel...

It reminds me of Screwtape's maxim: "To get the man's soul and give him nothing in return--that is what really gladdens Our Father's heart." "


I am perplexed by the Christian leaders going around saying that people are reading The Da Vinci Code in a search for truth. Good frickin' grief. Who was it that said, "They have Moses and the prophets...?" People searching for truth would not be reaching for enlightenment from a pulp-fiction rack. The other day, I heard a useful Christian idiot (to Sony Pictures, anyway) say that Christians should stop criticizing DVC as being a badly written story, because, "Let's face it, fifty million readers can't be wrong!"

Yes. They can. Let's try this, "Hey, let's face it, sixteen million readers of Hustler magazine can't be wrong!" Or hey, fifty million Germans who voted for Hitler couldn't be wrong!"

Yes, they could and they were.

As I said, I was one of the folks in the pews recently at a DVC event at a local Evangelical church. The funniest part of the night (and scariest...but if you don't laugh that only leaves screaming as an appropriate response) came after several of the Evangelical panel guys had gone through long speeches about how Christians should welcome DVC as an opportunity for dialogue. Then, they opened the floor up for questions and the first women querier did a version of, "I don't have any problem with the fact that Jesus had sex." HA!

Unbelievable! Let's all march our troops into dialogue. The fact that our troops are completely disarmed for a fight seems to be irrelevent!

Many of our Christian sheep will be ripe for slaughter from DVC. All they will have to go to battle with is the Bible. But DVC undermines Biblical authority by saying that the Bible was the product of a purely political process. This debate will shake the faith of many who are not prepared for it.


Don't go see this stupid movie. Don't pay money to have the insidious lies of the enemy introduced into your heart and mind.

Othercott DVC. Go see Over the Hedge instead. And pray for everyone associated who is dancing with the devil through this movie.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Vatican's cardinal denounces `Da Vinci Code' movie

Paris, May 15 (Xinhua) Two days before 'Da Vinci Code' movie debuts at the Cannes Film Festival Wednesday, the Vatican has leapt into the sea of media hype surrounding the film in an attempt to fight `religious ignorance'.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, the Vatican's highest authority on cultural issues after the Pope, Monday told French radio Europe 1 that he did not object to people seeing the film if they understand it as fiction, but he feared many would watch this 'nonsense' and think it was true.

`This is a shocking and worrying cultural phenomenon that reflects, on the one hand, the ignorance of millions of people, and on the other, the voluptuous pleasure the media take in promoting products that have nothing to do with the truth,' he said.

Although the French-born cardinal did not back some Vatican cardinals' call to boycott the film, he worried about the consequences of the film on Catholics.

`What I'm concerned about is that decent people who do not have the proper religious education will take this nonsense for the real thing,' said Poupard.

According to a recent poll published in French Christian weekly La Famille Chretienne, about one-third of the respondents believe the story written by Dan Brown. Up to 50 million copies of the book have been sold around the world.

Cardinal Georges Cottier, theologian of the Pope, qualified the book as `dangerous for the most credulous' in an interview published by French newspaper Le Figaro in its Monday edition.

Source: Indianews.com

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chasing Down Dan Brown

A lot of people are grousing about the soon-to-be released, The Da Vinci Code. Canadian priest, Father Bernard F. Heffernan, will be right on site when the film is released at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, where he will launch The First Religious Music Festival Cannes, 2006 at a church directly across from the Festival pavilion.

Oprah Winfrey is one of America's top female daytime TV hosts. She's a judge of good books, which she sometimes suggests to her viewers. Oprah got so enthused about James Fry's story about his own life; that she praised him to the roof only to find out later that she had been duped. He never did many of the things listed in his "Million Pieces". Oprah had been duped; her credibility shaken. More than angry; more like rage, Oprah brought him back on her show to apologize to her audience. Media people don't like to be duped. It's serious. It cost TV news anchorman, Dan Rather, his job.

One of the first famous media dupers was Orson Wells. Back in the late 1930s, he fooled his nighttime radio audience into believing that the Martians were invading Planet Earth and were devouring all in their path. So vivid were his heinous descriptions of the people from outer space that many of the radio audience fled to safety. Some frightened fleers killed themselves in car wrecks.

Of course, we sophisticates think that we could never be duped. We're just too educated; too street wise; too space wise; so televisioned; so telescoped and so media informed. No! There couldn't be another Orson Wells. But there is.

His name is Dan Brown. Just as Orson Wells shook America, so Dan Brown shook the religious tenets of many Americans and many people around the world. Many added fuel to the fire. It was growing by the minute, aided and abetted by a duped media; the very people at whose feet we sit every evening religiously watching the evening news. Mostly, the news segments parroted Dan Brown--spelling the end of Christianity; the end of the credibility of its moral leader; the end of Christ; the end of his followers called Christians; the end of Christian morality. Welcome to the shacking up of Jesus and Mary Magdalene

But one media group refused to buy it. That was the crew of CBS TV's 6O Minutes. They sent a TV crew to France, where the story supposedly took place, to film the findings of host Ed Bradley. What they found shot down Dan Brown's book the Da Vinci Code exploding it like the German Dirigible of the 1930s.

The Da Vinci Code never shocked or fooled anyone who knows the history of Christianity. But what shocked them was how it could dupe the religious illiterates on this pagan planet.

But with the Code's cover having been blown by CBS's 60 Minutes, many websites and mainstream newspaper editorials are taking a second look. Nobody likes to be duped. That includes the news media where careers depend on being trustworthy.

But where can one find the truth about The Da Vinci Code? The search site 'Google' has over 200 English Websites dedicated to it. About three quarters of them follow Duper Dan. But now 60 Minutes has rattled his credibility. (He wouldn't appear on the show).

This year's Cannes Film Festival will be showing all the new movies for two weeks this month, starting with the May 14 showing of The Da Vinci Code. With its shaky credibility, organizers probably wish they never put it on the show list, but with programs printed it's too late for change. Much of the media of the world will be there, hunting down Dan Brown asking repeatedly "Dan! Why did you lie?" "Why did you lie!"

I, and a team of Cannes' volunteers, will be just across the street from the Festival Pavilion at the Notre Dame Church, which will be decorated with banners, books, videos, DVDs, leaflets, pamphlets of many different languages, etc. We will have joyful music in the church, choirs, solosand instrumental, with prayer and devotions which people can join or listen to, while browsing the display. I'll play the keyboard on the steps. Famous and non-famous singers will be welcomed to perform religious songs, for which they will receive a certificate for having performed at the First Religious Music Festival in Cannes 2006.

People are welcome to participate in the religious ceremonies conducted by their good pastor. Perhaps cookies and coffee can be served in a nearby room or on the lawn.

Source: CFP

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Da Vinci Code, the Catholic Church and Opus Dei

Opus Dei is an organization that is featured in The Da Vinci Code. This is what Opus Dei, themselves, have to say about the book and the various fallacies contained in it.

Many people are intrigued by the claims about Christian history and theology presented in The Da Vinci Code. We would like to remind them that The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction, and it is not a reliable source of information on these matters.

The Da Vinci Code has raised public interest in the origins of the Bible and of central Christian doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus Christ. These topics are important and valuable to study, and we hope that interested readers will be motivated to study some of the abundant scholarship on them that is available in the non-fiction section of the library.

Those who do further research and exercise critical judgment will discover that assertions made in The Da Vinci Code about Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, and Church history lack support among reputable scholars. By way of example, The Da Vinci Code popularizes the idea that the fourth century Roman emperor Constantine invented the doctrine of the divinity of Christ for political reasons. The historical evidence, however, clearly shows that the New Testament and the very earliest Christian writings manifest Christian belief in the divinity of Christ. Other examples of discredited claims presented in The Da Vinci Code can be found in this
FAQ from Catholic Answers or at the US Bishops' website. For those who are willing to take the time to get to the bottom of the issues raised in The Da Vinci Code, we recommend reading The Da Vinci Deception, De-Coding Da Vinci, or The Da Vinci Hoax.

We also want to point out that The Da Vinci Code's depiction of Opus Dei is inaccurate, both in the overall impression and in many details, and it would be irresponsible to form any opinion of Opus Dei based on The Da Vinci Code. Those interested in learning more about the real Opus Dei may wish to read
What is Opus Dei?, by Dominique LeTourneau, or Uncommon Faith, by John Coverdale. For those interested in further information about the various false impressions The Da Vinci Code gives of Opus Dei, please continue reading.

1. Opus Dei and monks

Throughout The Da Vinci Code, Opus Dei members are presented as monks (or, rather, caricatures of monks). Like all Catholics, Opus Dei members have great appreciation for monks, but in fact there are no monks in Opus Dei. Opus Dei is a Catholic institution for lay people and diocesan priests, not a monastic order.

Opus Dei's approach to living the faith does not involve withdrawing from the world like those called to the monastic life. Rather, Opus Dei helps people grow closer to God in and through their ordinary secular activities.

"Numerary" members of Opus Dei - a minority - choose a vocation of celibacy in order to be available to organize the activities of Opus Dei. They do not, however, take vows, wear robes, sleep on straw mats, spend all their time in prayer and corporal mortification, or in any other way live like The Da Vinci Code's depiction of its monk character. In contrast to those called to the monastic life, numeraries have regular secular professional work.

In fact, The Da Vinci Code gets Opus Dei's nature 180 degrees backwards. Monastic orders are for people who have a vocation to seek holiness by withdrawing from the secular world; Opus Dei is for people who have a vocation to live their Christian faith in the middle of secular society.

2. Opus Dei and crime

In The Da Vinci Code, Opus Dei members are falsely depicted murdering, lying, drugging people, and otherwise acting unethically, thinking that it is justified for the sake of God, the Church, or Opus Dei.

Opus Dei is a Catholic institution and adheres to Catholic doctrine, which clearly condemns immoral behavior, including murder, lying, stealing, and generally injuring people. The Catholic Church teaches that one should never do evil, even for a good purpose.

Opus Dei's mission is to help people integrate their faith and the activities of their daily life, and so its spiritual education and counseling help members to be more ethical rather than less so. Opus Dei members, like everyone else, sometimes do things wrong, but this is an aberration from what Opus Dei is promoting rather than a manifestation of it.

Besides attributing criminal activity to Opus Dei, The Da Vinci Code also falsely depicts Opus Dei as being focused on gaining wealth and power.

3. Opus Dei and corporal mortification

The Da Vinci Code makes it appear that Opus Dei members practice bloody mortifications. In fact, though history indicates that some Catholic saints have done so, Opus Dei members do not do this.

The Catholic Church advises people to practice mortification. The mystery of Jesus Christ's Passion shows that voluntary sacrifice has a transcendent value and can bring spiritual benefits to others. Voluntary sacrifice also brings personal spiritual benefits, enabling one to resist the inclination to sin. For these reasons, the Church prescribes fasting on certain days and recommends that the faithful practice other sorts of mortification as well. Mortification is by no means the centerpiece of the Christian life, but nobody can grow closer to God without it: "There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2015).

In the area of mortification, Opus Dei emphasizes small sacrifices rather than extraordinary ones, in keeping with its spirit of integrating faith with secular life. For example, Opus Dei members try to make small sacrifices such as persevering at their work when tired, occasionally passing up some small pleasure, or giving help to those in need.

Some Opus Dei members also make limited use of the cilice and discipline, types of mortification that have always had a place in the Catholic tradition because of their symbolic reference to Christ's Passion. Many well-known figures in Catholic history have used the cilice or discipline, such as St. Francis, St. Thomas More, St. Padre Pio and Blessed Mother Teresa. The Church teaches that people should take reasonable care of their physical health, and anyone with experience in this matter knows that these practices do not injure one's health in any way. The Da Vinci Code's description of the cilice and discipline is greatly exaggerated and distorted: it is simply not possible to injure oneself with them as the book and film depict.

4. Opus Dei and cult allegations

In various places, The Da Vinci Code describes Opus Dei as a "sect" or a "cult." The fact is that Opus Dei is a fully integrated part of the Catholic Church and has no doctrines or practices except those of the Church. There is no definition or theory – whether academic or popular – that provides a basis for applying the pejorative terms "sect" or "cult" to Opus Dei.

Opus Dei is a Catholic institution that seeks to help people integrate their faith and the activities of their daily life. As a personal prelature (an organizational structure of the Catholic Church), it complements the work of local Catholic parishes by providing people with additional spiritual education and guidance.

Opus Dei was founded in Spain in 1928 by a Catholic priest, St. Josemaria Escriva, and began to grow with the support of the local bishops there. It received final approval from the Vatican in 1950 and began growing in many countries around the world. Today Opus Dei has roughly 83,000 lay members (over 3,000 in the United States) and 2,000 priests. Several million people around the world participate in its programs and activities, which are conducted in more than 60 countries.

The Da Vinci Code also makes melodramatic assertions that Opus Dei engages in "brainwashing," "coercion," and "aggressive recruiting," unfairly trying to tar Opus Dei with the same brush used against groups more deserving of such epithets.

Opus Dei proposes to people to give their lives to God, following a special path of service within the Catholic Church. One's life can only be given freely, through a decision coming from the heart, not from external pressure: pressure is both wrong and ineffective. Opus Dei always respects the freedom of conscience of its members, prospective members, and everyone else it deals with.

As a manifestation of its beliefs about the importance of freedom, Opus Dei has specific safeguards to ensure that decisions to join are free and fully informed. For example, nobody can make a permanent membership commitment in Opus Dei without first having completed more than 6 years of systematic and comprehensive instruction as to what membership entails. Additionally, no one can make a temporary commitment before age 18, nor a commitment to permanent membership before age 23.

5. Opus Dei and women

The Da Vinci Code says about Opus Dei's U.S. headquarters: "Men enter the building through the main doors on Lexington Avenue. Women enter through a side street." This is inaccurate. People, whether male or female, use the doors leading to whichever section of the building they are visiting. The building is divided into separate sections, for the straightforward reason that one section includes a residence for celibate women and another for celibate men. But these sections are not sex-restricted, and it is the women's not the men's section that fronts on Lexington Avenue, the opposite of what is said in the book. (Note: The book sometimes also inaccurately calls the building Opus Dei's "world headquarters").

The Da Vinci Code also suggests that women Opus Dei members are "forced to clean the men's residence halls for no pay" and are otherwise accorded lower status than men.

This is not true. Opus Dei, like the Church in general, teaches that women and men are of equal dignity and value, and all of its practices are in accord with that belief. Women members of Opus Dei can be found in all sorts of professions, those which society views as prestigious and those which society today tends to undervalue, such as homemaking or domestic work. Opus Dei teaches that any kind of honest work done with love of God is of equal value.

Some women numerary members of Opus Dei have freely chosen to make a profession of taking care of Opus Dei's centers, both women's and men's. They also run conference centers where activities of cultural and spiritual formation are held. These women are professionally trained and are paid for their services, which include interior decorating, catering and other highly skilled work. The millions of people who attend retreats or other spiritual formation activities at Opus Dei centers can attest to their professionalism. The Da Vinci Code's insinuation that their work lacks dignity and value is demeaning to these women.

6. Opus Dei and the Vatican Bank

The Da Vinci Code says that Opus Dei was made a personal prelature as a reward for "bailing out" the Vatican bank.

Neither Opus Dei nor any of its members helped "bail out" the Vatican bank. The Church's authorities made Opus Dei a personal prelature in 1982 because they recognized that this new canonical category was a good fit for Opus Dei's mission and structure.

In any event, the personal prelature status is nothing special: it is simply one of several canonical categories the Church has for designating an institution that carries out special pastoral activities. In contrast to the implication given by the book, personal prelature status in no way implies some special favor of the Pope or that Opus Dei members are not under the authority of their local bishops.

7. The canonization of Opus Dei's founder

The Da Vinci Code suggests that the Church bent its canonization rules to put Opus Dei's founder on the "fast track" to being named a saint.

The canonization of St. Josemaria Escriva in 2002 came 27 years after his death (not 20, as the book says). It was one of the first to be processed after the Church streamlined the procedures for canonization, and so it moved more quickly than was typical before. Mother Teresa is on pace to be canonized even more quickly, having been beatified just 6 years after her death (Escriva was beatified in 17 years). Even under the old procedures, the canonization of St. Therese of Lisieux made it through the process in 27 years, roughly the same as Escriva's.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Da Vinci Doubt

Our Faith in Action is a current events and issues-based program. It is comprised of monthly lessons that help teens understand and live out the Catholic Faith and Christian virtues. They have come out with a lovely resource in .pdf format that can be used both by teens and educators. Click here to download it.

Interview with Opus Dei spokesman

The Catholic organization Opus Dei is featured in The Da Vinci Code, and not too favorably, one might add. Here is an interview with the Opus Dei spokesman in the US, Terri Carron.

Source: Opus Dei. Click here to visit the Opus Dei web site.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Vatican official: Boycott 'The Da Vinci Code'

ROME - The Vatican stepped up its offensive against "The Da Vinci Code" on Friday when a top official close to Pope Benedict blasted the book as full of anti-Christian lies and urged Catholics to boycott the film.

The latest broadside came from Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year.

Amato, addressing a Catholic conference in Rome, called the book "stridently anti-Christian .. full of calumnies, offenses and historical and theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels and the Church."

He added: "I hope that you all will boycott the film."

The movie, which is being released by Sony Pictures division Columbia Pictures, stars Tom Hanks and premieres next month at the Cannes film festival in France. Sony Pictures is the media wing of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp.

Amato said the book, written by Dan Brown, had been hugely successful around the world thanks in part to what he called "the extreme cultural poverty on the part of a good number of the Christian faithful."

The book has sold over 40 million copies.

The novel is an international murder mystery centered on attempts to uncover a secret about the life of Christ that a clandestine society has tried to protect for centuries.

The central tenet of the book is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children.

In his address to the group, Amato said Christians should be more willing "to reject lies and gratuitous defamation."

He said that if "such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising."

He added: "Instead, if they are directed against the Church and Christians, they remain unpunished."

Latest broadside

Amato's broadside was just the latest blast against the book and the film.

Just before Easter, another Vatican official railed against it at an event attended by Pope Benedict, branding the book and its film version as just more examples of Jesus being sold out by a wave of what he called "pseudo-historic" art.

Catholic group Opus Dei has told Sony Pictures that putting a disclaimer on the movie stressing it is a work of fiction would be a welcome show of respect toward the Church.

In the novel and film, Opus Dei is characterized as a secretive group that has for centuries worked to obscure truths about Jesus Christ.

With the movie's opening less than a month away, Opus Dei and other Christian groups have been sponsoring Web sites and events telling people the novel should not be believed.

The book is a thriller in which the main characters must uncover clues they hope will lead them to an important religious relic. Their adversary is an Opus Dei member. REUTERS

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

5 Big Questions from The Da Vinci Code

Christianity Today magazine editor Collin Hansen writes:

Already an international publishing sensation, The Da Vinci Code now is a feature film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. The compelling story written by Dan Brown blurs the line between fact and fiction, so moviegoers have joined readers wondering about the origins and legitimacy of orthodox Christianity. This guide offers brief answers to five important questions.

1. Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene?
No. Mary Magdalene was certainly close to Jesus. She wept at Jesus' tomb (John 20). Jesus even entrusted her to return and tell the disciples about his resurrection. But we have no reason to believe they were married. Brown says that Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper reveals the secret. He writes that the figure to Jesus' right, traditionally known as the apostle John, is actually Mary. Not true. Artists often gave characters feminine features to portray youth. John was the youngest of the disciples.

Brown correctly observes that few Jewish men of Jesus' day did not marry. But why, then, did the apostle Paul, himself celibate, not mention Jesus and Mary when he argued that apostles could marry (1 Cor. 9:5)?

2. What about these alternative gospels that aren't in the New Testament?
It's true that the Bible did not arrive as a "fax from heaven," as Brown writes. The New Testament canon in its current form was first formally attested in 367. Nevertheless, church leaders applied important standards when compiling the Bible. Authors of accepted writings needed to have walked and talked with Jesus, or at least with his leading disciples. Their teaching could not contradict what other apostles had written, and their documents must have been accepted by the entire church, from Jerusalem to Rome. Church leaders considered earlier letters and reports more credible than later documents. Finally, they prayed and trusted the Holy Spirit to guide their decisions.

The so-called Gnostic gospels, many discovered just last century, did not meet these criteria. Many appeared much later than the Bible and were dubiously attributed to major Christian leaders. Their teachings contrasted with what apostles like Paul had written. For example, many Gnostic writings argued that Jesus did not appear in the flesh, because flesh is evil, or they rejected the Old Testament.

3. Were there really competing Christianities during the early church?
Yes -- in the sense there were many disputes about the nature of Jesus. And the church has done its best to vanquish challengers to orthodoxy. Once the church decided against the Gnostic writings, they gathered and burned all the Gnostic manuscripts they could find.

Later church councils convened to discuss other threats to Christian orthodoxy. Constantine, the first Roman emperor to make Christianity legal, called the most important of these meetings in 325. Leaders from around the Christian world gathered in Nicea, where they debated Arianism, which taught that God created Jesus. Brown writes that Constantine called this council so he could introduce a new divine Jesus on par with the Father. On the contrary, documents from before Nicea show that most followers of Jesus already called him LORD, the Yahweh of the Old Testament. The church leaders at Nicea rejected Arianism and affirmed that God and Jesus existed together from the beginning in the Trinity. This council produced the first drafts of what became the Nicene Creed, a landmark explanation of Christian belief.

4. What is Opus Dei?
A conservative religious group within the Roman Catholic Church. Opus Dei urges priests and laypeople to strenuously pursue sanctification through everyday discipline. The group has taken criticism for its conservative views, zeal, and secretive practices. There is no evidence that Opus Dei has resorted to murder; nor has the Vatican entrusted Opus Dei to violently guard the church's deepest secrets, as Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code.

5. Does the Priory of Sion really exist?
Yes, but not as described by Brown. Researchers suspect that members of the real-life Priory of Sion, founded in 1956, forged documents that placed major historical figures -- such as Isaac Newton and Leonard da Vinci -- in an ancient secret society. There is no evidence for this group beyond dubious documents. Any story relating this group to a dynasty begun by Jesus and Mary Magdalene is a fanciful work of fiction.

For more Christianity Today coverage, visit www.ChristianityToday.com/go/DaVinci

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The battle of 'The Da Vinci Code'

Here's an excerpt from CNN, courtesy Associated Press, on what Brown says about the New Testament and what critics say. You can read the rest of it by clicking here.

Brown's version: "More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament" but Constantine chose only four. His new Bible "omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned." The Dead Sea Scrolls and manuscripts from Nag Hammadi, Egypt, were "the earliest Christian records," not the four Gospels.

Critics: Historians say Christians reached consensus on the authority of the first century's four Gospels and letters of Paul during the second century. But some of the 27 New Testament books weren't universally accepted until after Constantine's day. Constantine himself had nothing to do with these decisions.

Some rejected writings are called gospels, though they lack the narrative histories that characterize the New Testament's four. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were earlier and won wide consensus as memories and beliefs from Jesus' apostles and their successors.

The rejected books often portrayed an ethereal Jesus lacking the human qualities depicted in the New Testament Gospels -- the exact opposite of Brown's scenario. Gnostic gospels purported to contain secret spiritual knowledge from Jesus as the means by which an elite could escape the material world, which they saw as corrupt. They often spurned Judaism's creator God and the Old Testament.

On the question of mass burning of texts deemed heretical, Ehrman of North Carolina says there's little evidence to support that claim. Rejected books simply disappeared because people stopped using them, and nobody bothered to make new copies in an age long before the printing press.

The Dead Sea Scrolls? These were Jewish documents, not Christian ones. The Nag Hammadi manuscripts? With one possible exception, these came considerably later than the New Testament Gospels.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Da Vinci Code lies could bring more interest in faith

Ana Rodriguez-Soto of the Catholic News Service fills this news report from Coral Gables, Fla. for the Catholic News Service.

Instead of fearing or trashing The Da Vinci Code, people of faith should view it as a much-needed vaccine against ignorance, according to Thomas Ryan, chairman of the religious studies department at St. Thomas University in Miami.

"It is a novel that holds a mirror up to us -- to silly academics and people who misuse facts," Ryan told a group of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish leaders gathered March 22 for the monthly clergy dialogue sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice.

He said talking about the popular book -- and upcoming movie -- should "strengthen our congregations to be able to deal with what's out there" in terms of religious ignorance and misconceptions.

"This is a vaccine," said Ryan, whose area of specialization is medieval church history. "This articulates the silliness that's out there. We could use it as a way of inoculating ourselves."

Ryan, who only recently read the novel, said his personal reaction to it was: "Thank you, Dan Brown. ... I am grateful to (the novel) for driving me to learn more about my faith. It raises questions that I need to go and see. I'm a smarter person as a result of it."

He described the novel as "a brilliant moneymaker" with all the right ingredients: a murder, a mystery and a conspiracy. As one character in the book acknowledges, "Everyone loves a conspiracy." Even more so, Ryan said, when "it incenses the faithful."

Brown "wants us to think that this is nonfiction. And a lot of people have fallen for the bait," Ryan said. But "it's not nonfiction."

He said that "on practically every page there is falsehood" and "outrageous claims that are completely unfactual."

"I think the author puts in all those mistakes to alert us" to the fact that it is a work of fiction, Ryan said. "It's a story of people who use false evidence to support their claims. And don't we meet those people every day? I think it's a story of humanity. I think Dan Brown is kind of laughing at us. It mocks our gullibility."

Participants at the clergy meeting noted that the novel might not have been as popular, or raised such a polemic, in a less secular age. Many people today are seeking spiritual answers outside mainstream religions, and the Catholic Church is not the only one dealing with misconceptions and revisionist theories about the foundations of the faith.

Some in Judaism, for example, are questioning whether Abraham really existed or the Exodus actually took place, said Rabbi Herbert Baumgard, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest.

"It is out there and it's all over the place. The whole thing is being questioned and has to be considered," said Rabbi Baumgard, who has read the novel.

The Rev. Priscilla Felisky Whitehead, associate minister at the Church by the Sea in Bal Harbour, also read it, and described it as "fiction robed in age-old rumors." Her church is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

Members of her congregation have asked her questions about what is true and what is false in The Da Vinci Code, she said. The problem is they do not want to take the time to do the research. "They want me (to dig it out) for them."

Like Ryan, however, she is grateful to Brown for one thing: "It's no longer inappropriate to talk about Jesus at a cocktail party."

"When there's something in the popular culture going on, it's a great opportunity to agree with it, disagree with it or talk about it," said Rabbi Edwin Goldberg, who hosted the clergy meeting at Temple Judea in Coral Gables. "One thousand years from now, God willing, there will be people talking about the Bible. No one will be talking about Dan Brown."

Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Judas Code

Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza is also on the advisory board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center. This is what he has to say about the Gospel of Judas, in an article published in the National Post:

In the year 4006, an enterprising team from Global Geographic announces that experts in late second-millennium languages and data retrieval have pieced together an authentic copy of the longrumoured-to-exist Da Vinci Code.

Religious experts say that the discovery challenges traditional Christian doctrine, as the widely circulated document shows that early-21stcentury Christians believed that Jesus was not divine, had married Mary Magdalene, founded a royal dynasty, etc … It is believed that early fourth-millennium Vatican officials suppressed the sacred text.

That is more or less the story of the much-ballyhooed Gospel of Judas. It is, no doubt, a remarkable historical find - an apparently authentic fourth-century copy of a second-century document. But it tells us no more about Christian doctrine than does Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

About 180 A.D., St. Irenaeus of Lyons referred to the document in his arguments with the heretics of his day. So likely there was a group in the mid-second-century that was peddling false gospels. It wouldn't be the last time.

During the Holy Week, at every Catholic Mass in the world, St. Mark's account of the passion of Jesus was read. About Judas, Jesus says, "For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born" (Mark 14:21). That addresses rather forthrightly the claim that Judas was not a traitor but a clandestine saint.

For those of a more conspiratorial mindset - then and now - even the most direct statements can be turned inside out against their plain meaning. So leave aside the claims that the Gospel of Judas is supposed to advance. What remains interesting is why there should be such interest in it.

The first reason is that Christianity is a historical religion. It depends on actual events in history. Like our elder brothers the Jews, our faith is not about abstract principles or mythical stories. It is about the gritty stuff of history. From the promise made to Abraham to the empty tomb, the Christian faith depends on what happened to the God who became man and walked among us. That is why the historical record matters; it is why Christians are interested in archaeology and ancient documents.

The second reason for Christian interest is that Christianity is a scriptural faith - the sacred texts matter.

Christians are not, strictly speaking, "people of the book," for our faith is in a person, Jesus Christ, who left no writings whatsoever. Yet the sacred Scriptures are indispensable and venerated precisely as the word of God.

The Christian faith is not an antiquities obsession, however, pursuing this or that fragment to shed light on the faith. Christians read their scriptures in an ecclesial context; i.e., it is the Church that gives rise to the Scriptures, determines their canonical status, and meditates upon them. It could not be otherwise: The Church comes before the Scriptures, for the Church is necessary to recognize the existence of the Scriptures in the first place. It is the faith of the Church that distinguishes between the canonical gospels and the ersatz. Without that ecclesial context, the author of the Gospel of Judas, or Dan Brown, for that matter, could present himself as a instrument of divine revelation.

A third reason - and I suspect the most powerful - to explain Christian interest in the Gospel of Judas is that it addresses a great question: What happened to Judas? The Catholic Church, for her part, does not definitively declare anyone to be in Hell, as she does with the saints in Heaven. Yet the clear weight of the tradition is that Judas is in fact condemned. Such is the horror of condemnation that the believer instinctively recoils from that conclusion.

That conclusion is not obligatory for Christian believers, but the apparent condemnation of Judas underscores another important Christian reality, namely the personal nature of salvation. Judas is not some cog in a providential machine, required to do X so that Jesus could do Y. No one is arbitrarily sacrificed in the plan of salvation, and Judas remains free until the end. The Bible is full of repentant sinners, from King David to Saint Peter. The sin of Judas lies not in his betrayal, which could be repented of, but in his refusal to repent unto the Lord. He insisted on remaining alone with his sin, and his sin destroyed him.

Even at a distance of 20 centuries, the devout Christian wishes that it had been otherwise - not for Jesus' sake, but for Judas.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

So what's all the fuss about?

Ruby Martin of Chicago writes:

I read The Da Vinci Code several months after the book was released and to be quite honest, I thought it was a pretty good read, even though I didn't think Brown was anywhere in the league of guys like Grisham or Ludlum.

For the life of me, though, I couldn't understand how anybody could take the book seriously! Mary Magdalene sitting by the side of Jesus at the Last Supper!? Admittedly, the person next to Jesus did look extremely effeminate, but if that was Magdalene in the painting, there would need to be 14 people in it - Jesus, the 12 apostles and Mary. Count how many there actually are!

There were, of course, several other equally glaring mistakes in the book, but then the copyright page of the novel did say this: "In this work of fiction, the characters, places and events are either the product of the author's imagination or they are used entirely fictitiously."

So what's all the fuss about?

People who ask this question usually have not read the page of The Da Vinci Code titled Fact, where the author, Dan Brown, asserts that "all descriptions of [..]documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate" and are based specifically on the fact that "in 1975 Paris' Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments, known as Les Dossiers Secrets" which reveal the story of the Priory of Sion. For more about the Priory of Sion and other claims that Dan Brown makes in his book, please read the The Da Vinci Code FAQ, or Will the Real Priory of Sion Please Stand Up? by Massimo Introvigne on Holy Spirit Interactive.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Dundee Code: Long Awaited Sequel to The Da Vinci Code

For those of you who devoured The Da Vinci Code and couldn't have enough of all that juicy scandal, here is The Dundee Code. Follow the continuing adventures of Langdon and Sophie in Dan Brown's new sequel to The Da Vinci Code!

Oh, okay, it's a joke - but a good one. Do check it out!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

It just keeps coming... one after another. First, there was The Da Vinci Code, which sent historians and art experts into fits over its countless errors and distortions. Then there was a lawsuit in Italy and a feature-length documentary... both of which argue that Jesus never actually existed. And now, we have the Gospel of Judas... which is being promoted by National Geographic as a bombshell that could destroy the very foundations of Christianity.

Does the Gospel of Judas undermine Christianity? Find out in the article by Brian Saint-Paul in this week's update of Holy Spirit Interactive.

Jesus Decoded

There is a great site developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that provides us with much information about the Da Vinci Code that is of use. It is called Jesus Decoded. The following excerpt is from the introduction to the site by Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco:

Causing people to see something they never saw before in a five-hundred-year-old work of art which is among the most famous and reproduced of all time is an accomplishment of genius, if that "something" is a valid new insight. If it is not, then this kind of achievement usually goes by other names.

The Da Vinci Code novel contains a claim that in Leonardo's mural The Last Supper, which portrays Jesus and his twelve apostles at the meal he took with them on the night before he died, one of the twelve is not the apostle John but actually a woman who is Mary Magdalene.

Forget the Gospel narratives through which Leonardo, like every other Christian, would have known about the Last Supper and which contain no mention of Mary Magdalene; forget the fact that this mural seems to have caused no sensation among the monks whose refectory it decorated and who would have been as likely to recognize a female form then as we are today; forget the many paintings of the Last Supper which show a handsome youth often leaning on Christ's shoulder or on his chest following the tradition that identified John with the unnamed "beloved disciple" of the fourth Gospel. If such a claim is put between the covers of a book, apparently it merits respectful consideration no matter how absurd.

What this novel does to Leonardo's Last Supper, it does to Christianity as such. It asks people to consider equivalent to the mainstream Christian tradition quite a few odd claims. Some are merely distortions of hypotheses advanced by serious scholars who do serious research. Others, however, are inaccurate or false.

One false claim is that the Emperor Constantine, for political reasons of his own, decided to make a god out of Jesus Christ who was solely a Jewish rabbi for whom neither he nor his first followers ever asserted a divine origin. This claim cannot be sustained on the basis of the existing evidence which demonstrates that Constantine did no such thing.

It also highlights the schizophrenia in the The Da Vinci Code about Jesus Christ. Only if Jesus is divine would we have any interest in the possibility that his descendant might walk the earth today. If he is not, such a descendant ceases to be a mythic figure and becomes only a kind of celebrity child, so many of whom have turned out to be disappointments to their parents.

Reporters have asked whether even a bestselling novel can seriously damage a Church of one billion believers. No, in the long run, it cannot. But that is not the point. The pastoral concern of the Church is for each and every person. If only one person were to come away with a distorted impression of Jesus Christ or His Church, our concern is for that person as if he or she were the whole world.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Counteracting the Da Vinci Code

Karen Rumore forwarded me the following email from Nick which has a great plan of action to counteract the DaVinci Code without giving them any more free press.

I appreciate the efforts to counter-attack the heresies evident in "The DaVinci Code". However, this is a scenario where we should be "wise as serpents, innocent as doves." Stopping this movie from being shown will give this film even more publicity than it deserves. Witness how a small Utah theater owner unwittingly drew national attention to pro-homosexual "Brokeback Mountain" when he refused to show that film.

If you boycott a movie, even as one as blasphemous as "The DaVinci Code", you are, in fact, aiding in the promotion of the film. It would give the producers no greater pleasure than to see a marginalized, to-them-uncool, fringe group to draw free publicity to the film. If a film becomes labeled "controversial", a lot of curiosity seekers will search it out to see what the fuss is all about. Besides, it's not like one cannot read the story for themselves--bookstores are not being boycotted, and the book is supposedly a page-turner.

So, what to do? If you ignore the film, the film will be left unchallenged for unsuspecting people to be led to its heresy. If you protest the film, you will draw unneeded attention and free publicity to the film. If you try to engage the film, by seeing it, you are giving more money into the pockets of those who make this film, signalling that Hollywood should make more films like this.

There is another approach, which devout Catholic Barbara Niccolosi (www.churchofthemasses.com) has suggested. It is, in my opinion, utterly brilliant. On the weekend of DaVinci Code's opening, every Christian should go to the movies. Just not The DaVinci Code. Every Hollywood bigwig and insider checks opening weekend statistics to decide whether or not such films should ever be made in the future. A movie ticket purchase is like a "vote." If you don't vote, then you signal to Hollywood that you're not a movie paying patron whose voice should be listened to.

But what if "The DaVinci Code", a film which has "blockbuster" written all over it--what if it were to not win the weekend, and lose to another film opening that weekend? (In that particular weekend, a clean computer-graphics cartoon, with considerably good cast, and written by a Christian screenwriter is opening: "Over The Hedge"). If "Over the Hedge" wins that weekend, with Narnia or Passion numbers, you will do more to signal your discontent with Hollywood trash than anything else out there. You will signal that you are a movie-paying patron, who has no interest in Christian-bashing films and are instead into family-friendly fare. Your voice will matter. You will also not give free publicity to "The DaVinci Code", and you may even have a good time at the movies.

If enough Christians come out and support the little cartoon-that-could, and make that a surprise success, it will leave an indelible mark in Hollywood. In short, please consider going to the movies on the weekend of May 19, to counter the influence of "DaVinci Code." Just not "The Da Vinci Code."

Papal Preacher Lambasts Dan Brown

The pope's personal preacher railed on Friday against Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and the recently published Gospel of Judas, saying they amounted to a fresh betrayal of Christ.

In a Good Friday homily in St Peter's Basilica, Capuchin father Raniero Cantalamessa told Benedict XVI and several top Vatican officials that the media was exploiting the Christian tradition to make millions of dollars.

"No one can stop this wave of speculation, which is in fact going to get stronger with the imminent release of a certain film," he said, in a clear allusion to the movie of the Da Vinci Code, which is due out next month.

Cantalamessa said there was a growing trend in the media to weave fanciful stories which played shamelessly with Christian beliefs and ancient legends. As well as making money for the publishers, these stories misled millions of people, he continued.

The Da Vinci Code portrays the Catholic Church as a corrupt organisation determined to hide certain explosive truths and contains the notion that Jesus Christ married and had descendants.

The Capuchin then directed his attention at the so-called Gospel of Judas which was published earlier this week amid intense media attention. The document, which dates back to the second or third century, offers a positive view of Judas, the betrayer of Christ.

The content of the document was branded heretical by the early fathers of the Christian Church and Pope Benedict himself strongly reaffirmed the traditional view of Judas on Thursday.

"There's a lot of talk about Judas's betrayal and nobody realises that it's happening all over again," said Father Cantalamessa. "Christ is still being sold, not to religious authorities for 30 pieces of silver, but to publishers and bookshops for billions". The preacher said the underlying problem was that the media was more interested in novelty than in truth.

He also said that such questions didn't deserve to be talked about on one of the most important days in the Christian calendar. "But we can't allow the silence of believers to pass for embarrassment and the good faith of millions of people to be manipulated by the media."

Source: ANSA

Friday, April 14, 2006

Pope: Judas a greedy liar

Judas was a greedy liar who put his desire for money ahead of his relationship with Jesus and his love for God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Exactly a week after the National Geographic Society put the sympathetic Gospel of Judas on display, Pope Benedict reasserted the traditional Christian view that Judas betrayed his friend and Lord after the Last Supper.

The document that went on display in Washington April 6 is a third-century Coptic translation of what had originally been written in Greek before 180. The text portrays Judas as Jesus' closest disciple and says Jesus asked Judas to hand him over to the Roman authorities so that he could fulfill his mission.

But during his April 13 homily at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper, Pope Benedict said Judas is the clearest example Christians have of someone who refuses God's saving love.

For Judas, the pope said, "only power and success are real; love does not count."

"And he is greedy: money is more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and his love. He also becomes a liar, a double-crosser who breaks with the truth," Pope Benedict said.

Purposefully ignoring the truth, he said, Judas "hardens, becoming incapable of conversion ... and throws away his destroyed life."

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