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Idol Chatter

For the group we might call “Graham Green Catholics,” the flap generated by the upcoming release of “The Da Vinci Code” is another arrow in the side. The Catholic intellectual of the 20th century saw culture and art as another province of faith, where the mystery of suffering was explored through subjects like sex, death, and politics. The Catholic thinker and writer’s profile was one of faithful but world-weary engagement. Moral certainty was the downfall of characters like Pyle, the idealistic and probably Protestant CIA operative set loose in pre-war (Vietnam War) Saigon in Greene’s novel “The Quiet American.”

Now, with the CIA on its heels, Dan Brown has fashioned Opus Dei, the Catholic Church’s secretive, exclusive society, as a stand-in, and Opus Dei, nonsensically, has played along. I’m not comparing Brown to Greene, nor “The Da Vinci Code” in book or movie form to any of the British writer’s masterpieces of moral torment. But Opus Dei’s demand that director Ron Howard insert a disclaimer disavowing the accuracy of the movie’s depiction of the group smacks more of the arrogant and overachieving Pyle than any postulant. (And even at that, Pyle’s CIA never dignified Hollywood’s many slings and arrows by demanding disclaimers that they were in fact a bunch of family guys.) The Vatican itself, meanwhile, has called for boycotts, calling the film “a slander.”

That leaves Protestants to articulate Christianity’s forebearance. When Sony Pictures set up “The DaVinci Challenge,” a website that invited Christians to use the movie as a teaching moment, the Protestant biggies who signed on, including Richard Mouw, Darrell Bock and George Barna, far outnumbered the Catholic defenders of the faith. For Graham Greene Catholics, the world is a wearier place.

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