The cardinals confronted to the Da Vinci Code

Source: FSSPX News


Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, suggested that "legal means" be taken against the Da Vinci Code. As a matter of fact, he reproached its author, Dan Brown, with having written falsehoods, which turn the readers against Christianity."

If Dan Brown is "clever" and manages to keep "his reader eager to read the next chapter", on the other hand his book "is not at all a fair representation of Christianity", underlined Cardinal Arinze when the question was put to him, as it was to several other prelates of the Roman Curia on May 5. The Da Vinci Code" has rather the opposite effect", he lamented. "This book presents falsehoods, facts which are false, and orientates people against Christianity", he denounced. "Any film inspired from this book is already in error with regard to the Word of God", added the Nigerian cardinal. He also judged that "it mattered little whether the novel could seem interesting".

Confronted to the impact of the Da Vinci Code, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments also declared that "Christians shouldn’t just sit there" and do nothing, and say that it was enough for them to "forgive and forget". "No, at times it is our duty to do something concrete", he also claimed. If he affirmed that it was not up to him "to tell all Christians what to do", "there nevertheless are legal means which could be used" so that people respect the rights of others. "This is one of the fundamental human rights", he explained, "that we be respected, that our religious beliefs be respected, and that Jesus, our founder be respected".

On his part, Cardinal Paul Poupard denounced the religious ignorance which enabled the Da Vinci Code to become a worldwide success. He was speaking at the beginning of the 7th Day of reflection on Catholicism and Literature in the 19th Century, which was taking place in Rome on May 9 and 10. The cardinal, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, did not directly cite Dan Brown’s novel, nor Ron Howard’s film; but the theme of the Day: Literature between reality and fantasy: the Anglo-American lesson, gave him the opportunity to broach the subject.

Thus, the French cardinal pointed an accusing finger to "the great revival" of fantasy novels "based on themes (…) plundered from history, art, the religious world" and the "Anglo-Saxon literary production" which have "massively conquered the market and the attention of readers" often "looking for the sacred and for mystery". "The novelty of the phenomenon" resides also in the fact that these literary works, according to Cardinal Poupard, "tend to be turned into multimedia products, thus a novel or a saga quickly becomes a film yielding enormous profits, before which it seems that the most elementary rules of common sense, respect, and professional deontology are forgotten."

Thus, confronted to such a success, it is "necessary to question the relation between this kind of literature and the Christian religious vision, with its history and its values, which is more or less explicitly present in all these works as well as in their authors". Thus the cardinal acknowledges that "the result is quite different in the manner of relating the Christian viewpoint" according to the authors, and according to whether or not they are believers. After that, it all depends on the public and the publicity made around the novel.

"To someone who knows the history of the Church, this kind of phenomenon is not a first occurrence", continued the cardinal, but the new fact is "religious ignorance, and even ignorance itself." The president of the Pontifical Council for Culture also noted "the lack of basic culture, which henceforth makes it difficult for people to discern between a tale, fantasy, and the attack, even a subtle attack, against history and the values embodied or lived by the Church".

The cardinal nevertheless recalled that "each challenge may become an opportunity to grow and mature, and give an ever greater awareness and responsibility, if it is received as such and confronted with intelligence and common sense". "Thus", he noted, "the Christian community has known how to explain the content of its creed precisely by confronting, somewhat in painful situations, those who denied its basis, its identity and its mission."

On May 10, two other cardinals also called Catholics to react "intelligently" to the release of the film. The prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, Jose Saraiva Martins, and Cardinal Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for Legal Texts and a member of Opus Dei, interviewed by the TV agency Romereports, have invited people to "document themselves" in order to be able to answer "with the truth" to lies, and thus fight against "misinformation by information".

Cardinal Herranz even said he was "optimistic" about the "boomerang" effect applying to "someone who tries to weaken faith in Jesus". "I think it behooves us to call upon the people to use their brain to discover the truth." The Spanish cardinal thus stated that he himself joined Opus Dei at the age of 20, thanks to a defamatory article published in 1949, "its content was similar to the writings of Dan Brown, it presented the Opus Dei as a criminal and fundamentalist secret society."

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian Bishops Conference, thought that the release of the Da Vinci Code movie, should offer to the Catholic Church an opportunity to enlighten consciences. The vicar of Rome, who was speaking at the beginning of the 56th General Assembly of the Italian Bishops Conference, on May 15, 2006, declared: "The editorial and cinematographic fashions, especially today the fad for the Da Vinci Code, show the necessity and give the opportunity for a deep work of catechesis". We must "help people clearly to distinguish the ascertained facts about the origin and the development of Christianity from fantasies and falsifications". These latter "are above all a commercial operation, but they also constitute a radical and unfounded contestation of the very heart of our faith", he went on.

"It is difficult to escape the feeling that the great success of works such as the Da Vinci Code is connected to the feeling of hatred which has penetrated deep into our society". But for all that, "we must not yield to pessimism, because the fascination for the truth is greater than that for illusion. "Today our people are very much thirsting for the truth", esteemed Cardinal Ruini. – On May 9, 2006, the Italian Bishops Conference had called for a boycott of the film inspired from Dan Brown’s book.