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Welcome Code-Seekers

posted by awelborn

This post is for any and all who’ve sought me out based on recent buzzing about the Da Vinci Code movies. I’ll repost it at the top o’ the blog tomorrow night after the Paula Zahn show.

…if you’ve gone to all the trouble to search for me and come upon this humble blog.

If you want more information on my book on The Da Vinci Code, go here – for a table of contents, reviews and links to translations – even in Thai!

If you’re tempted to write me an annoyed letter, go here first to see how I will publicly mock you if you’re silly.

If you think this is all about religious people shaking in their boots about the tremendous destructive secrets that Dan Brown has unearthed, please go read this piece by Laura Miller in Salon

Finally a brief FAQ:

1. Why are you so offended by Dan Brown’s book that you went to all the trouble to write your own book about it?

That’s not why I wrote my book. I wrote my book, not because DVC exists, but because I was being inundated with questions about the historical claims of the novel. Generally, when I’m asked questions, I try to answer them. It’s the nice thing to do.

2. Aren’t you just trying to make money off of Dan Brown’s success?

The money I’ve made from my book wouldn’t cover the cost of Dan Brown’s fact-checker. Think about that for a sec.

3. Why don’t you spend your time writing the kind of fiction you like instead of just being negative?

Got it. Working on it. Maybe it will be published next year…somehow. It doesn’t have albino monks in it, but will you still promise to buy my novel when it comes out, champ?



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reluctant penitent

posted August 10, 2005 at 4:15 pm


I don’t think Hans Kung would approve of your triumphalistic tone Amy.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 10, 2005 at 4:16 pm


Anyone offended by Amy’s harsh rhetoric can email me and I’ll send them a great big electronic bear hug.



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Paul

posted August 10, 2005 at 4:25 pm


Under your correction, Amy, I entertain the theory that DVC wasn’t written to undermine the faith of Catholics. I suspect it was written to undermine the faith of Protestants. I believe in a Church that is animated by the Holy Spirit, protected by God from ever teaching error, guaranteed to get it right when it presents the canon of the New Testament; I’m Catholic.
But a Protestant doesn’t believe that. Many Protestants believe that the church was in error long before the 4th Century, and that anything they disagree with that was written after the death of the Apostles (or even before, if it’s a non-biblical source) is simply another bit of Catholic “accretion”.
Living in such a house, built on sand, all Dan Brown needs to do is undermine the canon of the New Testament, and the faith falls apart.
I don’t believe he’ll have much effect on faithful Catholics. But on Protestants ready to believe the worst about the ancient Catholic leadership? They may be torn away from Christianity altogether by the thousands.



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Rod Dreher

posted August 10, 2005 at 4:36 pm


About making money off of books, I was talking to a publisher friend recently, and asked him how much is reasonable to assume I’ll make off my forthcoming “Crunchy Cons” book. He said that something like 98 percent of all books fail to make back their advance (that is, the money the publisher paid the author in advance of writing the book). If my book turns a profit for my publisher, it’ll be a one-in-50 project. That’s pretty sobering.



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Rich Leonardi

posted August 10, 2005 at 4:42 pm


If my book turns a profit for my publisher, it’ll be a one-in-50 project. That’s pretty sobering.
It’s the same in the music industry: the popular cotton-candy artists subsidize the more edgy, challenging ones who don’t sell as much. I suppose that’s grounds for gratitude.



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Ian

posted August 10, 2005 at 4:45 pm


“Champ” – I laughed out loud there! :)



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Rod Dreher

posted August 10, 2005 at 4:50 pm


Something else: I’ve found it’s a common misconception that writers who have any kind of national reputation (that is: who get on TV) are well-off. When I lived in NYC and would get on national TV every couple of weeks, I found that ordinary people assumed I must be raking in the big bucks. Hey, I wouldn’t be on TV if I weren’t, right? The truth is, if you’re not a major columnist or some kind of celebrity writer, you’re not getting rich. In fact, the idea is absolutely laughable. In fact times two, that’s one reason we left New York: we knew that living paycheck to paycheck was unsustainable.



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john c

posted August 10, 2005 at 5:49 pm


Computer programmer (in Canada) pay’s pretty poor too. And nobody even asks if you’re raking in the bigbucks ’cause you’re not famous. Poor Amy! Poor Rod! Poor Me!



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reluctant penitent

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:07 pm


And advance? Must be nice. Academic publishers pay bupkis!



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Mary Kay

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:10 pm


It took a number of discussions with those who defend DVC to realize that facts don’t faze those folks.
When the facts are presented so that there no way they can argue, they then say, Well it doesn’t matter.
Perhaps having an open mind mind means tossing factual information out the window.
Amy, I totally agree that the letter from the Catholic school teacher merits your award for the Absolutely Most Frightening Letter.



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HA

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:14 pm


If my book turns a profit for my publisher, it’ll be a one-in-50 project.
It’s the same in the music industry…

Last I heard, the odds of an album making a profit are around 1 : 450. But that’s partly because a band’s advance is used to fund things like payola rackets and the producer’s smack habit.



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Donna

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:25 pm


Oh, I see. Dan Brown writes a novel which attempts to undermine the very basis of Christianity (and thus Western Civilization), but Amy’s the negative one for criticizing him.
BTW, if any of you live in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, there’s a MSOE history professor, Patrick Jung, who is willing to visit parishes and schools and give a presentation on the DVC. I saw him on Sunday at the Cathedral after Mass and he does a very good job of demolishing Brown’s claims. He’s quite entertaining (he got a DVC fan in the crowd laughing at the book’s absurdities by the end). Dr. Jung will speak for free-will offerings for the benefit of the MSOE Catholic student association.



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Christopher Fotos

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:37 pm


Amy’s was the very first anti-DVC book I read and I loved it. Bought several copies and sprinkled them around. It was a perfect start for my bullet-pointed brain.



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Nancy

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:40 pm


I didn’t buy or read DVC. I was too busy rearranging my silverware drawer.
I gather it’s a creepy book. Amy debunked it? Good for her.



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HA

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:48 pm


…but Amy’s the negative one for criticizing him.
Yeah, it looks like some of those letter writers cared enough to write a few of the reviews on the Amazon site. How dare you come off so indignant, Amy! Wasting our attention span with all that dogma and doctrine. 124 pages, and not a single sex scene or bomb explosion. And you wonder why people don’t buy Catholic books.



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Sandra Miesel

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:56 pm


If anyone thinks Catholic readers of TDVC will be immune to Brown’s arguments but Protestants will succumb is gravely mistaken. Catholic women in particular have proven susceptible.



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Mark Shea

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:59 pm


Rod speaks the truth.
By the way, one overlooked hazard of being a writer is that you get to know vastly better writers than yourself–people like Rod and Amy, for instance. You know they toil to produce first-rate stuff and you think, “Damn! These people are good! A helluva lot better than the stuff I crank out! They deserve five times the money they scratch out a living on.”
Then, some hack like Dan Brown poops out a piece of twaddle like “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.”
Next thing you know–apparently through having sold his soul to the devil since it sure as hell ain’t because of talent–this hack makes 50 bazillion bucks off this high school sophomore prose and people anoint him a literary god.
It’s like watching Chauncey Gardner get elected President of the United States or critics going mad for Milli Vanilli as they burn their Mozart CDs. Utterly maddening! It can make a person crazy.



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Nancy

posted August 10, 2005 at 7:03 pm


Junk. It’s junk. This is news?
A certain kind of junk always has a big market in the short term. 50 years from now no one will have heard of the thing.



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HA

posted August 10, 2005 at 7:06 pm


Utterly maddening! It can make a person crazy.
Did Da Vinci Code make more of a splash — population adjusted — than The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk?



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Bob L.

posted August 10, 2005 at 7:17 pm


It’s like watching Chauncey Gardner get elected President of the United States or critics going mad for Milli Vanilli as they burn their Mozart CDs. Utterly maddening! It can make a person crazy.
Aren’t ya glad you’re not in this for material success? ;-)
Peace be with you,
Bob



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Anastasia

posted August 10, 2005 at 7:21 pm


I bought “Decoding Da Vinci” a few days ago.
Sandra is right. The fantasy Mr. Brown is promulgating has found fertile ground among Catholic women, particularly those who are wavering around the edges of faith. How many times have I heard people saying they like the “Gnostic Gospels”. Maybe Nancy is right that in 50 years it won’t matter, but I wonder how many will lose their way because of it? It can be the final push for many.
I am glad to have (via Amy) some facts to present to people; I only hope I can present them in a way which is convincing to people on the edge.



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Liam

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:06 pm


Gnosticism of divers sorts is a deeply rooted and it reveals itself in all sorts of ways, even at St. Blog’s.
If only the feminists who are attracted to it grasped how misogynistic it is in its underlying philosophical premises: it makes Catholicism and Orthodoxy seem positively Matriarchal.



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Nancy

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:11 pm


God bless Amy for standing up to this weird thing.



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Donna

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:20 pm


Catholic women in particular have proven susceptible.
My sister-in-law, a convert, bought it hook, line and sinker. I’m sure Sandra or Amy or one of the other authors of the debunking books have noted this already, but the DVC plays very powerfully on the emotions of Catholics who were already irritated with the Church’s stance on priestly celibacy and the ordination of women before they ever picked the book up. To devotees of DVC, the book “proves” the Church is run by a bunch of weird old woman-haters, because, hey, “Jesus was married! Jesus had kids! Peter was just jealous of Mary Magdelene!”
Dr. Jung, the lecturer I mentioned in my earlier post, noted that Brown entirely ignores the reverence accorded to the Virgin Mary by the Church. Even if he did, that honor isn’t enough for post-modern feminists. For one thing, Mary’s a Virgin (how repressive!) Secondly, Mary wants us to obey her Son; as she told the waiters at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” Well, doing what He tells us smacks of male domination, does it not? Mary Magdelene as unfairly persecuted wife and partner to Jesus is a much more appealing figure to women who see the world largely though a rad fem lens.
About 10 years ago, a very liberal, feminist ex-Catholic friend told me “I never could stand the Virgin Mary!” I wasn’t a practicing Catholic then, but I was shocked. Even a lapsed Catholic like me hit the floor with “Hail Marys” when times got rough – I had always loved the idea of a warm, compassionate Mother in Heaven. I found out that what I found the most wonderful and endearing aspect of Catholicism struck my friend as somehow degrading to women – a Mother who obeyed her Son and wants us to obey too. I haven’t spoken to Andrea in years, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts she loves DVC.
The book takes Our Lord down from the Cross and puts Mary Magdelene on it. I imagine that saint is horrified by what is being done in her name.



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Donna

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:34 pm


Besides “Maria Monk,” does anyone else know of an earlier anti-Catholic bestseller which is forgotten today?



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Nancy

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:35 pm


Oh golly, as everyone here knows, I may not be the most orthodox Catholic in the world, but does anyone study history any more? Are there any penalties for just making stuff up out of your head??
The popularity of this goofy book is a monument to the lack of basic education of the people who buy the darn thing.
Geez. They don’t even give it to you free, you have to buy it??!?



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jane M

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:44 pm


“The book takes Our Lord down from the Cross and puts Mary Magdelene on it.”
I really like Donna’s comment. I think a certain kind of woman believes totally that only women suffer.



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Jeff Tan

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:54 pm


Um.. frightened as I am by that letter from that Catholic school teacher… shouldn’t the school’s diocese office be informed that there’s a loose canon in their midst corrupting their children? Very scary indeed. Not to say that the teacher should be canned as such, but perhaps someone needs to sit down with this teacher to set him/her straight?



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amy

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:55 pm


Jeff, I continued my correspondence with him and sent him some books…



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HA

posted August 10, 2005 at 9:18 pm


If only the feminists who are attracted to it grasped how misogynistic it is in its underlying philosophical premises: it makes Catholicism and Orthodoxy seem positively Matriarchal.
Here is the closing line from the Gospel of St. Thomas, that fount of sacred feminine esoterica (the second of exactly two — count them, two — passages in which Mary Magdalene is mentioned):
Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.” Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”



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Jeff Tan

posted August 10, 2005 at 9:24 pm


Last year I witnessed DVC-thumping. Three high school kids were talking and two of them were ganging up on the third, telling him that, as Dan Brown was their witness, the other kid was holding out for a false religion because “it’s all a lie.” I was happy to see that the third kid wasn’t buying it, but pity the other Christian kids out there who get cornered by peers who are DVC converts!



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HA

posted August 10, 2005 at 9:24 pm


Here’s my favorite passage — this one goes out to all the many Gnostics who espouse vegetarianism:
7. Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.”
And to think that for 2000 years Western civilization was denied pearls of wisdom such as these.



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Todd

posted August 10, 2005 at 9:39 pm


“Then, some hack like Dan Brown poops out a piece …”
Well, when you put it that way, it’s hard not to get the notion jealousy is in play.
For my part, I’m with Nancy: haven’t read DVC and don’t plan to (though I’m not touching the silverware part) and Amy: I debunk it every time I’m asked.
When I saw Amy on TV she comes off as reasoned and very un-wild-eyed about it. That I can respect and trust.
And yes, the thing about this that thrills me the most is Amy’s novel. In a hundred years, DVC and this blogging will be forgotten, but Amy’s book might well remain. This champ’s buying one, whether or not it makes my grandchild’s summer reading list in 2040 or not.



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HA

posted August 10, 2005 at 9:49 pm


“Then, some hack like Dan Brown poops out a piece …”
Well, when you put it that way, it’s hard not to get the notion jealousy is in play.

I doubt that’s it. I have no literary ambitions to speak of, and I feel exactly the same way.



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jane M

posted August 10, 2005 at 9:50 pm


Well, I just “read” it for reasons that seemed good before I began. It is so much worse than I had imagined that I wish I had cleaned my silverware drawer. “Read” is in quotation marks because I skimmed about every fifth page.
I have to say that there is a meridian line in Saint Sulpice in Paris because a Catholic astronomer, with the full cooperation of the church, wanted to investigate whether the earth revolved around the sun or the sun around the earth. Meridian lines are wonderful tools and Cassini, a Devout Catholic, put them in churches. Also, his son carried on where he left off.



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John Farrell

posted August 10, 2005 at 9:50 pm


Rod and Mark, well said. What’s still encouraging about the publishing industry, at least, is that if you can still find an editor out there who likes you and your work, then it’s worth it to them to invest in you, even if your first 5 books don’t make a profit. Because they’re counting on you to keep writing and eventually create a body of work that does become a dependable part of their back list.



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Lynn

posted August 10, 2005 at 11:21 pm


Sandra, I agree that some women seem fascinated by the book: I know of two women’s book discussion groups that are/were reading it. Whether Brown’s story is based on truth/facts is irrelevant; they read it because it’s “interesting.”
My attempts to get Amy’s book into their hands have so far been unsuccessful.
Thanks for writing it, Amy.



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Nadine

posted August 10, 2005 at 11:47 pm


You know, I never got around to reading The Da Vinci Code as I’m not much on best sellers except cheap legal fiction. Consequently, I wondered what all the fuss was about. Then, I discovered it was a retread of the whole Priory of Sion/Merovingians (sp) thing. The fact that anybody takes that seriously floors me. Judith Merkle Riley used the same fantasy for a really funny book called The Serpent Garden. I suppose I’ll get around to reading the DVC eventually, but I’d be more interested in your book since it might actually be grounded in solid verifiable fact.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 11, 2005 at 5:50 am


My dream would be for Sandra and Amy to put their heads together for a video which would reveal the truth about the Code. Considering the film that is coming out, I suspect such a video might sell well and would help combat the influence of the Code, especially among Catholic women. This would be a worthy project for someone of Mel Gibson’s calibre to undertake or fund. Unlikely I know, but that is my dream.



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Maureen

posted August 11, 2005 at 7:49 am


My dream is a TV series all about Byzantine history. The great thing is that you wouldn’t have to make up any of the sex and violence. :)
I think the downside would be all the blindings. There’d have to be a blinding practically every week. People would get confused. So you’d have to work out some kind of storytelling shorthand for “And then yet another poor guy gets blinded, cut up, etc.”



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Christine

posted August 11, 2005 at 7:49 am


“Catholic women in particular have proven susceptible.”
Yep. That’s who I see reading it on the bus in the mornings.
Years ago when I read Elaine Pagel’s “Gnostic Gospels” I figured something like Dan Brown’s fiction was coming down the pike eventually.
Until Christians are encouraged to develop a love for history, especially Church history, this kind of nonsense will keep cropping up. Especially in the quarters of radical feminism.



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sharon d.

posted August 11, 2005 at 8:03 am


Has anyone else noticed that there’s a fairly popular 3d-person computer game based closely on Holy Blood, Holy Grail? When DVC first came out, I was puzzled that what people were describing (except for the Da Vinci part) seemed to be the plot to Gabriel Knight 3. Neither Dan Brown fans nor gamers seem to have made the connection.
Re reluctant penitent’s comment: my univ. prof. hubby had an article published in First Things, and was floored when he opened the courtesy copy FT sent him and an envelope fell out with a check inside. It had never occurred to him that someone might PAY for an article.



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Henry Dieterich

posted August 11, 2005 at 8:17 am


The money I’ve made from my book wouldn’t cover the cost of Dan Brown’s fact-checker.
Does Dan Brown have a fact-checker?



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John Farrell

posted August 11, 2005 at 8:21 am


Sharon D., yeah–they pretty well at FT!



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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 11, 2005 at 8:35 am


“I think the downside would be all the blindings. There’d have to be a blinding practically every week. People would get confused. So you’d have to work out some kind of storytelling shorthand for “And then yet another poor guy gets blinded, cut up, etc.”"
Three blinded emperors, three blinded emperors, see what they did, see what they did…
The song, varied from week to week, could then go into a plot summary. If a reality based show on Byzantine politics was desired, the audience could vote on who they wished to see blinded next.



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amy

posted August 11, 2005 at 9:46 am


That’s the joke, Henry…



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amy

posted August 11, 2005 at 9:47 am


You guys are making me remember “I, Claudius..”



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Sandra Miesel

posted August 11, 2005 at 10:16 am


TDVC has made a bigger splash than MARIA MONK because it’s gone around the world, translated into 40 languages. Then there’s the movie we cringe to contemplate.
As for DVDs, Grizzly Adams Productions made two debunking disks that include interviews with me. A Catholic outfit from Canada called Salt and Light also used me for a DVD they have in production. Weren’t you in these, too, Amy?



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Pat Gonzalez

posted August 11, 2005 at 11:35 am


Interesting comment about women being particularly susceptible to DVC’s “appeal”. I’m female, read it, and hated it — because basically, it’s a lousy book. The time line (24 hours!) is preposterous, the writing style as noted by Mark Shea, is sophomoric. If I were still teaching English, I’d give Dan Brown an F and send him to remedial creative writing workshops. The anti-Catholic bias is the “icing” on this particularly poisonous cake. Like others, I’m mystified by the book’s popularity. Perhaps, as one poster noted above, people need to develop a love for and study of history — especially Church history. I suspect that since they’ve left school, a lot of people haven’t bothered to even read an historical novel, never mind any popular histories such as those by David McCullough. Of course, many history courses have been poorly taught — but that’s another issue altogether!



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Mila Morales

posted August 11, 2005 at 11:40 am


It’s not only the fact that it’s mostly women who are reading DVC. And not just their appalling ignorance of history. It’s that some find it “enthralling”, “interesting”, “well-written”! At least those have been the comments of some of my acquaintances to whom I have pointed out the book’s anti-Catholicism as well as its countless factual errors.
And then, there was the person who told my daughter that her husband, a Eucharistic minister in their parish, had found DVC sooo good! It made Jesus “more real” to him! Heaven help us!



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John J. Simmins

posted August 11, 2005 at 11:54 am


The danger of TDVC is that it will influence a world population, half of whom have an IQ under 100. In 1963, a play “The Deputy” cast a pall over the papacy of Pius XII. Books like “Hitler’s Pope” were only successful because of the (fictional) play and its effect. The awful movie “The China Syndrome” almost single handedly killed the nuclear power industry in this country. To this day, many people believe that the scenario in TCS is not only possible, but likely. Another stupid movie, “Lorenzo’s Oil” gave false hope to many people affected by various illnesses and helped cause the US to pressure Brazil to stop its population from cutting down trees to increase farm land. TDVC has already had this effect. Many, many people believe it is true and if you disagree with it, you are either brain washed or part of the conspiracy. I am waiting on the movie about embryonic stem cell research curing the young, tragically ill star (Brad Pitt, maybe) after heroically defeating the evil anti-abortion nuts. You wait, it will happen.



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Christine

posted August 11, 2005 at 11:59 am


“Like others, I’m mystified by the book’s popularity.”
Oh, I’m guessing that it gives uniformed non-Catholics and deconstructionist Catholics justification to say “See, I knew it, the Catholic Church has been hiding the truth all along.”
And I agree with you Pat, that many people haven’t updated their faith formation since they left high school. I work with some very highly educated people but when it comes to faith issues, especially, sorry to say, the Catholics, they are light years behind.
The Lutheran environment in which I grew up at one time was known for its emphasis on Christian education. That’s no longer the case, either. My niece, in her early twenties is struggling and searching at the moment like so many young adults do as to what kind of spiritual idenity “fits”. She calls home from college to ask her mom, “Why are you Lutheran?” Mom says, “Well, that’s what we were raised as, I’m satisfied with it and I never saw any reason to change.”
Not exactly inspiring. And Mom (my sister) admits that no, she’s never read any of Martin Luther’s writings.
So much for classical Lutheran education. My niece also told me she read an author who claimed that Thomas Aquinas held that we shouldn’t bother God with our everyday needs, wants, and complaints. Prayer is pretty useless.
She’s got a bright and inquiring mind and any day now she’ll be asking me about the DaVinci Code.
I’d better prepare.



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Christine

posted August 11, 2005 at 12:11 pm


To clarify, what I actually meant was that many people haven’t received the historical knowledge that would affect how they receive spiritual instruction. In the case of a work like Dan Brown’s the consequences are not good.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 11, 2005 at 12:36 pm


My respect for Amy went up two whole notches. She said, “Champ”.
Might I suggest for future reference:
“Let me break it down for you…”
“Yeah, you do that.”
and my personal favorite:
“That’s mighty white of you.”



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John J. Simmins

posted August 11, 2005 at 2:16 pm


How about: “Can you understand that?”
Repeat it often during the interview.



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