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The Da Vinci Code
posted on 06 May 2006
A number of resources are available to help Catholics and others separate fact from fiction in the Da Vinci Code and to show that the story of the real Jesus is much more compelling than the gospel according to Dan Brown.
  • The Catholic Truth Society have a number of booklets pointing out the gap between fact and fiction in the Da Vinci Code. See www.cts-online.org.uk/. These include Answering the DVC ,a DL 4 panel colour leaflets sold in packs of 25 mainly to Parishes for Ł4.95. It is part of the Essentials series http://www.cts-online.org.uk/cts_essentials.htm
  • Resources are also available on the website of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation. See  www.caseresources.org/resources/resources_downloads.htm
  • The Da Vinci Code Response Group is a team of Catholics available for comment on the film. It is not an official body of the Catholic Church and contains a diversity of opinions and people, including a Benedictine abbot, two priests, theologians and academics, as well as members of Opus Dei and lay Catholics working in communications. Further details about the Response Group can be found below.

It’s official: Da Vinci Code alters beliefs

Reading the Da Vinci Code has dramatically undermined the British people’s trust in the claims of the Catholic Church, a new survey has shown.

People are twice as likely to believe that Jesus Christ fathered children after reading the Dan Brown blockbuster and four times as likely to think of the Catholic organisation Opus Dei as a murderous sect, according to Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll results released today by The Da Vinci Code Response Group.

The poll was commissioned by the Da Vinci Code Response Group, a group of leading Catholics who accuse Dan Brown of a dishonest marketing strategy based on peddling fiction as fact.

The Group says that the survey results show the need for a “health warning” at the beginning of the film.

The DVC Response Group is co-ordinated by Dr Austen Ivereigh, the Archbishop of Westminster’s Director for Public Affairs. It includes a Benedictine abbot, a Jesuit priest, theologians, members of Opus Dei and other lay people.

A total of five questions were put last weekend to a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 adults by the leading pollster ORB.

The survey underscores the astonishing popularity of the novel, which has been read by more than one in five adults (22%) of all ages in Britain.

But the survey shows the vulnerability of millions to Brown’s mixture of fact and fiction.

Of those who have read the book, almost one in three (32%) think the Priory of Sion is a real medieval organisation, a figure which falls to just 6 per cent among non-readers.

The Priory of Sion was a twentieth-century hoax by a French monarchist, yet Dan Brown claims as fact at the beginning of the novel that it is a real medieval organisation.

The novel -- based on the Holy Blood, Holy Grail conjectures poo-poohed by serious scholars -- has also helped to undermine one of the key claims of the canonical Gospels, leading hundreds of thousands of readers to believe that Jesus had children by Mary Magdalene.

A massive 60 per cent of the adults polled believe there is truth to that claim after reading the book – compared with just 30 per cent of those who have not read it.

“Our poll shows that for many, many people the Da Vinci Code is not just entertainment,” Austen Ivereigh said. “For many it is just fiction. But an alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed.”

The DVC Response Group has been calling on Sony Pictures to include a disclaimer at the beginning of the film of the book, which is released worldwide on Friday. The Group says the disclaimer should make clear the film is fiction, as did the Last Temptation of Christ.

The film’s director, Ron Howard, last week rejected that call, saying the film no more needed a fiction disclaimer than a spy thriller.

“From the start, the marketing strategy behind the Da Vinci Code has been to claim that it is based on respected theories,” Ivereigh said. “Brown and Sony have encouraged people to take it seriously, while hiding behind the claim that it is fiction. Our poll shows they should take responsibility for their dishonesty, and issue a health warning.”

There is some reassurance for the Catholic Church in the survey. Just over half (52%) of all respondents did not believe that it had covered up the truth about Jesus Christ, and reading the book had virtually no impact (50%) on that perception.

But among the remainder, those who had read the book were significantly more likely (36%) than those who hadn’t read it (25%) to believe the Church was engaged in a 2,000-year conspiracy to cover up the truth.

Asked if they thought whether the Catholic organisation Opus Dei had ever ordered or carried out a murder, 17 per cent of readers believes it has – compared with just 4 per cent of non-readers.

Jack Valero, spokesman for Opus Dei UK, described it as an “astonishing” statistic.

“Since we were founded in 1928 Opus Dei has promoted the highest moral standards at work, spreading a message of Christian love and understanding,

yet the Da Vinci Code has persuaded hundreds of thousands of people that we have blood on our hands.”

Opus Dei has been careful to avoid calls for protests or boycotts, while taking advantage of the organisation’s new notoriety to make it better known.

“We have been saying that the Da Vinci Code is harmless fun as long as you don’t take it seriously,” Ivereigh added. “But it will be hard for Catholics to enjoy the film knowing that hundreds of thousands do take it seriously.”

 

The Da Vinci Code Response Group ‘Let fiction be fiction’

The Da Vinci Code Response Group is a team of Catholics available for comment on the film, co-ordinated by Austen Ivereigh, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster’s Director for Public Affairs. It is not an official body of the Catholic Church and contains a diversity of opinions and people, including a Benedictine abbot, two priests, theologians and academics, as well as members of Opus Dei and lay Catholics working in communications .

The group has been formed because the DVC is fiction trading as fact. We believe the DVC is fun and harmless in so far as it is treated as fiction. We do not believe in condemnations, boycotts or protests. Prickliness on the part of Christians leads us into the trap laid by Dan Brown: that the Church is on the defensive because it is engaged in a cover-up.

But we are also exasperated that many people without a good understanding of the Catholic Church and its history have been understandably deceived by Dan Brown’s claim that the DVC is based on facts and respectable theories. That deception is likely to be reinforced by the film, because images are much more powerful than words. We support Opus Dei’s call for Sony Corporation to include a disclaimer in the film making clear it is fiction. Sony has so far ignored that request. If they include it, we will be delighted.

In the absence of such a disclaimer, we consider it our task in advance of the film’s release to point out the yawning gap between fact and fiction. We believe that the DVC has presented the Church with a positive opportunity to discuss the key tenets of our faith, and we look forward to turning “lemon into lemonade”.

Dan Brown’s ‘Facts’ 

To take one of countless possible examples: Dan Brown indicates on his ‘fact’ page that the eleventh-century Priory of Sion “is a real organisation”. It is not. It is an elaborate 1950s hoax by a French monarchist who was imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement. (see www.prioy-of-sion.com)

Or another example: Dan Brown’s claim – made through Professor Teabing – that the early Church did not believe in the divinity of Jesus, an idea he says was imposed by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. Yet the canonical gospels of the New Testament, written within 100 years of Jesus’ death, constantly allude to his divinity. Jesus’ bodily Resurrection – vividly attested to in the Gospels, as well as Paul’s Epistles – is seen as proof of this; and testimony to Jesus as God fills the writings of Tertullian (160-225AD), Irenaeus (130-200AD), and other church fathers (Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, etc.) long before the era of Constantine.

We don’t take the book and the film seriously. But we do take the DVC’s readers and its future viewers seriously. Most of them know not all of it can be true; but many want to know how far it is true; or, if it isn’t true, what is? We are on hand to answer those questions.

Insofar as it is taken seriously, the DVC gives a damaging and grotesque version of Jesus, the Church, Opus Dei, and the history of Christianity. It acts as a vehicle for a New Age rehash of the Gnostic gospels, a collection of writings made long after the canonical gospels of the New Testament, writings which stripped Jesus of his divinity, and which were rejected by the early Church as false.

The DVC also portrays the Church as being engaged in a 2,000-year-old coverup of Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene, using murder and violence to suppress the “eternal feminine” in order to maintain male-dominated corporate power. It thus makes the Church sound more like a nefarious modern corporation than our communion of believers – “God’s family on earth” in the recent words of Pope Benedict XVI

Opus Dei

Opus Dei members are not murderers, masochists or misogynists. They are people living out the Gospel in ordinary life. Most are women. Women and men have equal status within the organisation, which was founded in Spain in 1928 in order to support people finding God in their daily lives and work.  Opus Dei has no “monks”. Almost all of its 86,000 members worldwide are lay people, either married (supernumeraries) or celibate (numeraries); the rest are priests. Monks live in monasteries under a rule and take a vow of stability.

Opus Dei asked Sony Corp. to remove references to it in the film. Sony ignored the request. It is a serious matter when the good name of an organisation is defamed in this way. We cannot help wondering if Sony Corp. would allow itself to be portrayed as muderous mafiosi in a Hollywood film without calling in the lawyers.

The DVC Response Group believes that there are good reasons in contemporary society for weighing artistic licence and freedom of _expression against respect for the good name of organisations and individuals as well as their beliefs. No one is above criticism and the need for accountability; but claims need to be tested against the evidence.

It is not enough to hide behind the claim – undermined by Dan Brown’s “Fact” page - that the novel is fiction. To give just one example of destructive fiction from recent history: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion fuelled the antisemitism that led to the gas chamber. Even as fiction, Art has a responsibility to the truth.

We do not believe that by drawing attention to this film we are giving it publicity. This is likely to be one of the most widely-watched films in movie history, because of its built-in fan base of 40 million readers. Whether or not we make this statement will not alter that fact.

Our first message to people planning to see the film is: enjoy yourselves, but do not believe anything in it. The DVC is fiction trading as fact.

Our second message is: the story of the real Jesus is much more compelling than the gospel according to Dan Brown. Enjoy yourselves; then discover for yourselves the real thing.

Signed by:

The Da Vinci Code Response Group
  • Co-ordinator: (Dr) Austen Ivereigh, Director for Public Affairs of the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
  • (Fr) Christopher Jamison OSB, Abbot of Worth
  • Jack Valero, Communications Director, Opus Dei UK.
  • Clare Czerwinke, Opus Dei
  • (Fr) John Hemer, Lecturer in Scripture at Allen Hall
  • Fergal Martin, General Secretary, Catholic Truth Society
  • (Dr) Janet Martin Soskice, theologian specialising in symbol and metaphor, Jesus College Cambridge
  • Maggie Roux, Senior Lecturer in Film at Leeds Trinity and All Saints College
  • Melissa Morton, Opus Dei
  • (Fr) Peter Scally SJ, Jesuit Media Initiatives 
The above are available for interviews and comment. Contact Jack Valero (07802 586597) or Austen Ivereigh (07905 224860 except 8-10 May)
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