Published May 25, 2006
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory recently shared his thoughts in a question-and-answer session about “The Da Vinci Code,” a controversial movie that debuted at movie theatres on May 19. Based on Dan Brown’s popular novel, the film had a successful opening weekend, earning about $224 million worldwide while receiving generally negative reviews from movie critics and calls for boycotts from some church leaders.
In his comments, Archbishop Gregory provided some guidance for Catholics wondering about whether to see the film.
Should Catholics stay away from/boycott this movie? Or another version of that question: Rome has called for a boycott, yet many of the people we interviewed in line for the movie today are Catholic. What do you say about this?
The “Da Vinci Code” would not be on my list of recommended movies. But the fact is that many have already read the book and will see the movie. What I hope is that those who do will spend at least as much time looking into the truth about Jesus Christ, his Church and her Scriptures. They can start by visiting www.Jesusdecoded.com. (This Web site is provided by the Catholic Communication Campaign, an activity of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that develops media programming, public service announcements and other resources to promote Gospel values.)
Dan Brown says this is just a work of fiction. Now you are saying the same thing. So why has the Catholic Church complained about it? If it is just fiction, why are so many upset about it?
Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene are real people with real histories. Dan Brown does not merely fill in some blanks to invent an interesting story about them; his is not a fictionalized account of historical events. He actually contradicts the historical fact of the lives they lived. That’s not fiction—it’s a lie.
Once people start asking questions about Dan Brown’s book, they find that many of the things he says are just flat wrong. I hope everyone who has read the book or sees the movie spends at least that amount of time looking into the truth.
But how do you know they weren’t married? How do you know what Dan Brown writes isn’t the truth?
There is nothing in Scripture that would support such a claim and many things that would deny it. Dan Brown cites sources that the early Christians rejected as untrue. If he wants to appeal to those sources to justify his theories, then why don’t we accept them all? For example, the Gospel of James—which Christians rejected—says flowers sprung up from the ground wherever the Blessed Mother walked. Do you believe that? The early Church did not fall for it, and neither should we.
A lot of people are talking about “The Da Vinci Code.” I know that the Church does not agree with Dan Brown’s account of Jesus’ life, but at least people are talking about God and religion. Isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t you be happy about that?
The Church has been battling different rumors, untruths, heresies since her beginning. In fact, one of the first heresies—called Arianism—denied the divinity of Christ, as Dan Brown does in his book. Talking about God and religion is meant to end in a discovery of truth. That is why I hope that everyone who sees the movie spends at least that much time looking for something deeper.
You say that the Church wins when people, as a result of reading or seeing “The Da Vinci Code,” ask questions and research the answers to those questions. If people learn more about their faith because of “the Code,” isn’t this good for the Church?
Dan Brown presents his fiction as if it were true. His book is full of errors, but these falsehoods are not immediately apparent to all. Some read the book, believe it and stop there; their faith is damaged. It is never a good thing for one person to come to the faith at the expense of another. That is not the way God works.
You say people should ask questions about the book. What questions do you suggest they ask?
Dan Brown denies the divinity of Christ and says it was inserted into the New Testament by Charlemagne. Instead, he presents St. Mary Magdalene as the one who is divine. If that were so, there would be prophecies about her in the Old Testament. In fact, there are none. Does Mr. Brown think Charlemagne invented the Old Testament, too?
Dan Brown says the Priory of Sion is a real organization. Two weeks ago, “60 Minutes” proved that it never existed. The whole thing was a hoax, and Dan Brown fell for it. What else did he get wrong?
Brown claims Leonardo Da Vinci depicted St. Mary Magdalene and not St. John in his painting of the Last Supper. That painting (which is not a fresco, as Dan Brown claims) was on the wall in the dining room of male priests (Dominicans) in Milan. Meals were taken in silence, and the painting was intended to be the focus of their attention. Do you really think a room full of men did not notice a woman in St. John’s place? Come on.
These are just a few things to get you started. There’s much more. And you can start by visiting www.Jesusdecoded.com
Recently, it seems that Rome has stepped up its attack on “The Da Vinci Code”? Why? Are you afraid of the damage this book will do?
“The Da Vinci Code” has been out in book form for a couple of years. What I notice is that the initial response to the book did not come from “official Rome” but from the faithful themselves. Yes, the U.S. bishops now have a Web site to answer questions about the Code, but there were already many other Web sites and blogs on the Internet “debunking” “The Da Vinci Code,” and these were all the initiative of the faithful. In fact, Amy Wellborn, a laywoman with a degree in church history, has written the book “Decoding Da Vinci.”
It is right that the pastors point out things that are harmful. But it is not as if the faithful did not already see it for themselves. Dan Brown’s book has offended the religious sensibilities of many Christians. And I don’t blame them.
Nevertheless, for those whose interest is piqued to the point where they ask intelligent questions and look for the answers to those questions, we win.