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Thank you Fr. Rutler!

posted by awelborn

Tells it like it is:

I am not habitually speechless, but I find myself almost tongue-tied at the number of sane and intelligent people who take seriously the claims of the popular novel, The Da Vinci Code. Discounting the self-deluded who use it as an excuse to "lose" the faith they never truly had, the situation points up the deep ignorance of many nominal Catholics. This is not an indictment: It is a summons to knowledge.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a new website (www.Jesusdecoded.com) designed to help save people from the gossamer bliss that comes from the anesthetic quality of ignorance. The Da Vinci book creates a fantasy about Mary Magdalene, while claiming to base this on serious research. It develops a half-baked version of the heresy of Arius, who was more erudite, if less entrepreneurial, than the novel’s author. The book makes ridiculous and anachronistic speculations about the Emperor Constantine and the Christian creed. All this is exposed on the bishops’ website, and is treated at even greater length in various pamphlets and books by other writers who have made something of a cottage industry out of showing the delicacy of the novel’s familiarity with history.

We might expect that a generation the majority of whose college seniors cannot identify Lincoln or Churchill, might confuse St. John and St. Mary Magdalene. One can only hope that when a best-selling novel flaunts ignorance to a pyrotechnical degree, readers will realize how easily they are duped and how much they must learn. Lent is an appropriate time for such learning. G. K. Chesterton devoted a book to the mystery of Catholicism called The Thing. Anyone who allows his brain a little exercise from time to time will face the fact that the Catholic Church has been the most important "Thing" in the annals of civilization. But if it is only a "Thing," and not Christ among us, it will haunt to distraction. Catholicism haunts the minds of men as the Ethical Culture Society or Anti-Vivisection Society does not, and haunted men do not write books about albino Unitarian assassins. The whole world was haunted until it was inspired by the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth. Of course, we are free to remain ignorant, as Pontius Pilate preferred to do. It is only speculation, but he may have spent his retirement back in Italy reading some morbid novels.



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Geri

posted March 24, 2006 at 11:06 pm


I was just thinking about this very subject (well, nearly…) and wanted to ask you as someone who is, IIRC, familiar with both of the subjects — the Da Vinci Code and American Catholic publishing.
Our diocesan newspaper has a piece from CNS on the bishops’ initiative about this DVC, but the sidebar, or whatever you call the big print extract from the article, quotes a Steubenville prof to the effect that DVC is a good, enjoyable read — you have to read the article to know that what he’s really saying is that it is not truthful and its being a good read is what makes it dangerous.
So my question is, is it Catholic News Service that is responsible for the stupid use of a quote that ignores what the person quoted is actually saying, or is it our diocesan flak?



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tohu

posted March 25, 2006 at 8:13 am


I am habitually speechless at the number of Catholics who are obsessed with proving that the fictional DaVinci Code is a work of fiction. What a waste of time, the use of which we will all be accountable for in the end time. Surely, there are more wothwhile projects that could occupy one’s time in the proclamation of the Good News.



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Ellen

posted March 25, 2006 at 8:21 am


I can tell you from experience that I have had more than one student (juniors in college) ask me in all seriousness “what’s the difference between fiction and non-fiction?”
There are lots of people who DO believe this stuff, and I don’t think that those who are taking time to present the truth are wasting their time at all.



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tohu

posted March 25, 2006 at 8:27 am


Catholics obsessed with proving that the DaVinci Code is fictional have helped to promote interest in the book and sell it. Of course, those who have written books of their own and charge fees to lecture on it have a mercernary interest in keeping the issue alive, so they are not necessarily purely motivated in their obsession. Sometimes it is better to let things go, especially when an obsession gets out of hand.



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mark

posted March 25, 2006 at 9:33 am


I must politely disagree with you on this, Tohu. I have spoken with many responsible adults who assume that the historical claims set forth in this novel are true. For example, I recently spoke with a professional colleague of mine (an attorney and a catholic) about my first visit to Rome. I told him how awesome it was for me to visit the colosseum and the other ancient monuments, and to contemplate that Christiantity triumphed over the temporal might of the Roman empire. He casually answered that this was not a mystery to him at all, since Christianity had actually been enforced upon the mediterranean world by the emperor Constantine. I asked him where he came upon this curious bit of history and he referred me to the DaVinci Code.
I am also old enough to remember how Oliver Stone’s ridiculous movie “JFK” convinced half a generation that the president was really murdered by a government-wide conspiracy. Stone made the same disingenous disclaimer that supporters of this novel are making (“it’s just fiction”) but many people who saw the film assumed it was based on historical truth. It was not until Gerald Posner wrote his excellent book “Case Closed” that the popular consensus began to turn (somewhat) towards a sane assessment of that awful event.
More disturbing still is Rolf Hochhuth’s 1963 play, “The Deputy,” which viciously slandered Pope Pius XII. (I’m pleased to say I was just a tot when that one came out.) To this day, most educated people believe the Pope was either complicit in, or at least indifferent to, the Holocaust, despite dozens of outstanding scholarly works demonstrating quite persuasively that this proposition is utterly false. That malicious lie is so deeply rooted in our culture largely because of that play.
So, as Amy states very well in her book, culture matters.
I do not believe that faithful Christians should respond to every silly little work of popular culture that happens to contain errors bearing on matters of the faith. But when one of them is as widely disseminated as this one is, and makes the kind of impact that this one has made, I think it would be a breach of faith for us to simply ignore it and remain silent. Tohu, if someone wrote a “novel” about your family, using your real names, but depicting them all as liars, murderers, and psychopaths, and asserting on its first page that “all people, places and documents in this book actually exist,” wouldn’t you feel some sort of duty to speak up?
The challenge for us, I believe, is to remember that The DaVinci Code is not an offense against us personally, but rather it is an offense against the truth. It is not our pride as Catholics or Christians that is important, it is objective truth about Christ and His Church. I do not worry so much about the effect this movie will have on people whose faith is secure. I worry about the impact it will have on people who are still searching for something to believe in, who are not confirmed Christians but whose hearts are nevertheless still open, who will be misled by the distortions in this movie, who will close their hearts and minds to our faith because of what they read in this book or see in the film.
If we can respond to this movie in a way that also reflects our charity and love, I think we will be doing something very worthwhile to spread the Good News.



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amy

posted March 25, 2006 at 9:38 am


Yes, tohu, as do many people, you misunderstand the dynamic here.
I wrote my book because for months, I was inundated with questions from mostly Catholics, “Is what’s in DVC true?’
What am I supposed to say, “Hey, idiot, it’s fiction” and leave it at that? Or say…try to answer the questions and use it as a teachable moment?
I get asked to speak in parishes. I do not call up parishes and ask to come. Pastors and lay leaders are fielding questions about this book all the time, and so they email people like me and ask us to come speak.
Do you understand that? It’s called demand. What I do is a response to a demand. And if you read my book, for example, or the piece I wrote on the Jesusdecoded website, you’d see that I use it primarily as a means to evangelize.
So think before you type next time.



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amy

posted March 25, 2006 at 9:39 am


And I suppose your remarks tohu, are also interesting because they completely ignore what Rutler says – he is amazed by the people who take the historical assertions seriously. Therefore, people are doing so. Therefore, it’s a teachable moment that needs to happen. Demand, again.



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Gerard E.

posted March 25, 2006 at 9:58 am


When Father Rutler dissects something, it stays dissected. Cool precise work from one of our favorite Melchizideks.



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tohu

posted March 25, 2006 at 9:58 am


Amy,
I don’t hink you really get it because you are so inve$ted in the process. I know that audiences you not always receive you well. Remember Loyola College in Baltimore. There was even a follow-up article in their campuse newspaper on your talk, and it was not very complimentary. You don’t get much criticism from the lemmings who regularly post on your blog, but you should be able to take it since you are quick to dish it out on so many other topics. So get off your high horse the next time you type.



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dymphna

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:09 am


Tohu, Catholics have ignored a lot of things in the past and it’s all come back to bite us. There are many people—stupid, ignorant people perhaps, who believe DVC and they are being lost. If Amy’s book and the other DVC debunkers save one person from going down that road then I’d say that the “obsession” is well worth it.



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Anonymous Teacher Person

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:12 am


Hello, tohu. First Lieutentant Lemming Reporting for Duty.
Here’s what appears to be the “money quote” from the newsaper editorial to which you refer.
It is not necessarily geographically, historically or theologically accurate, but it’s not trying to be. It’s trying to raise questions that should be raised. Who was Jesus, not just as a divinity but as a person? What happened during those years of his life that the Bible doesn’t cover? Who was Mary Magdalene? How and why was the Church founded, and how has it evolved into what it is today? And how do these questions affect how you think about your faith?
The point which Amy, Sandra Miesel, Carl Olson, et al, are trying to make is that these questions have answers, and to direct people to where those answers can be found. Why this means she’s writing a book “about nothing” is beyond me.



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tohu

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:21 am


Lt.:
I think you left something out. Here is the rest of the article that you conveniently ediited:
Amy Welborn basically wrote a book about nothing. Specifically, she wrote a book that makes a huge fuss about nothing. And to make matters worse, she is touring the country promoting her antagonistic reflection of a bestseller. Last Wednesday night, she subjected a filled-to-capacity 4th Floor Programming Room to these rantings and ravings on The DaVinci Code from her book, De-Coding the DaVinci Code: The Facts behind the Fiction of The DaVinci Code.
The DaVinci Code is a bestselling work of fiction. Allow me to repeat that: It is a work of fiction. Its author, Dan Brown, even clarifies on the first page of his book what is fact and what is fiction. But Welborn has taken it upon herself to embark on a crusade to debunk the myths in the book, and while doing so, she slams Brown as a writer and even suggests that he is responsible for people believing that his fiction is fact.
Welborn presented herself as a contentious, single-minded woman in-capable of grasping that there could be any truth or redeeming qualities in Brown’s book. She was argumentative and con-descending, practically spitting out the name “Dan Brown,” pronouncing it so that it almost sounded like “Damn Brown.” At times, she even belittled the audience, speaking down to us by adopting the tone she should reserve for her soon-to-be child (Oh yes, the obviously-pregnant Welborn even remarked, “I’m obviously not afraid of sex”). She spoke as if she were the only and absolutely authority on the subject.
Welborn beseeched the audience to bring to readings of The DaVinci Code the same amount of skepticism they would bring to any other experience, especially theological matters. But after advising that logical and sound platitude, she proceeded to give a speech so full of holes I could stick my hand through them. She expected her audience to believe her completely, with no skepticism, and to suspend their disbelief far more than any reader would have to while reading the actual Code.
Welborn’s main contention is that every premise of The DaVinci Code is “false, fake, crap and bunk,” to borrow some of her descriptors. OK. Perhaps they are. But that’s OK because … survey says … IT’S FICTION! When posed with that dilemma during the question-and-answer period, Welborn went off on an unrelated matter before finally stating that the danger is not in the fact that The DaVinci Code is based upon historical theories and suppositions rather than provable fact, but rather that people believe it is true. She even characterizes these individuals as potentially “uneducated” and extolled them to pick up a Bible and read the Gospel, as she also criticizes Brown for not so. Allow me to address these arguments succinctly.
1. Any person who believes that stated fiction is fact is a moron. And that is certainly not the fault of the author.
2. Literature is filled with examples of historical fictions where something that never happened is placed in a context of something that really did happen.
3. Brown never once asserts that his book is filled with truth. He merely states, in interviews she herself cited, that there is more truth in history and the Catholic Church than we know about.
Welborn said authors have a responsibility to their readers to present facts truthfully. This is the most absurd contention I have ever heard. If this were true, then every time a fiction author wrote from his or her imagination, it would be “a lie” because it never happened. Obviously, fiction authors make stuff up. Duh.
The DaVinci Code got people talking about matters of faith, history the responsibilities of the Church and other wonderful questions. This was a positive change. Any text that renews interest in a faith whose numbers are, for good or ill, decreasing, is a good text. Yes, Brown did not cite the Bible in his book — because his FICTIONAL work is a story about what accounts the Bible may left out! That’s the entire premise of the plot!
Read The DaVinci Code if you haven’t. Re-read it if you have. It is not destined to become the great American novel, but it is enjoyable, engaging and a lot of fun. It is not necessarily geographically, historically or theologically accurate, but it’s not trying to be. It’s trying to raise questions that should be raised. Who was Jesus, not just as a divinity but as a person? What happened during those years of his life that the Bible doesn’t cover? Who was Mary Magdalene? How and why was the Church founded, and how has it evolved into what it is today? And how do these questions affect how you think about your faith?
These questions are real and deserve discussion. The DaVinci Code is a great place to start and a good exercise in learning that things may not always be what they seem. Read it, and decide for yourself — but don’t waste your time listening to the vindictive and insultingly unpersuasive work of Welborn.



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maria horvath

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:32 am


Tohu:
Wow! Methinks you doth protest too much.
A piece of advice, if you want to bring people over to your side: Simmer down. And mind your manners.



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Joseph R. Wilson

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:39 am


Amy, I hope that you make a lot of money. Based on my knowledge of your extensive and thoughtful writing, I am firmly convinced that you understand that your gifts are not really yours, and that they are meant to be used in the service of the truth. I can tell that you are effectively getting to tohu, based on his plaintive wails. Keep up the good work!



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ATP

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:42 am


Well, it was mainly because I didn’t want to paste the entire article into these comment boxes – but…okay. That seemed to be the best quote to me because
1. It wasn’t an ad hominem attack on our hostess, unlike much of the remainder of the article
2. It’s the only part of the article that raises real questions about why anyone should be discussing this ridiculous book – and then implies that these questions have not been raised before and that DVC is courageously opening new doors of conversation.
My point remains that many of these questions were answered in the first four centuries after Christ, and that the crack team of debunkers of which our hostess is a member is working to point people towards these answers. And that, to me, is a laudable aim.



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Caroline

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:47 am


Ever since the Viet Nam War days, young Americans have been taught that everything written about American history in their school texts is at least semi-fictional if not directly a lie. The main argument for semi fictional is not so much what is stated in the books as what is left out and what is given more emphasis and what is given less emphasis. As a teacher I found this very hard to combat especially as many of my colleagues were fostering this attitude. A “non-fictional” US history course would have concentrated almost exclusively on the exploitation of Indians, slaves, immigrants, laborers and so on. In short, it is very understandable to me how many people today really don’t know the difference between fiction and non-fiction or, perhaps better said, believe there is no knowable difference between fiction and non-fiction.
I would not blame the difficulties Catholics have with the DVC on only poor catechesis or weak faith. As to the gullibility of non-Christians, that is easily explainable because they have been educated to believe that anything taught as history is a lie if only by what it omits. Only muckrakers tell the truth. Everything else is propaganda.
And we Catholics might meditate on the extent we too have bought into this attitude, if not about the Church, then about history in general.



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Sandra Miesel

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:52 am


Has our troll ever written or edited fiction? I have and Amy has. We do know how one blends the authentic and the imaginary.
Dan Brown claimed in television appearances that he’s a “believer” in his preposterous theories and if he had to rewrite TDVC as non-fiction, he “wouldn’t change a thing.” His infamous “Fact” page is as false as everything else about his detestable book inasmuch as the art, architecture, and rituals are not correctly described. In fact the clumsy errors in TDVC even about things in everyday experience TDVC are so pervasive, one is tempted to suspect the author is having an enormous joke. But as his remarkably silly statement to the British court this week suggests, Brown isn’t smart enough to do that. He pretended to write knowledgably about Gnostic texts without actually reading one, about the Grail while unfamiliar with the original medieval romances and so forth.
Moreover, the book was heavily sold as erudite and historically accurate. A substantial number of readers took it as such. Some lost their Christian faith over this book. We do have an obligation to expose its errors and send the curious to sound academic sources that will answer questions about the early Church and her beliefs, the origins of the Bible, the Grail, the Templars, and the rest. False ideas, especially if presented through fiction, really do stick as the examples of THE DEPUTY and JFK amply demonstrate.
And as for self-promotion: I was originally asked to write about TDVC before I’d ever heard of it. I was asked to co-author THE DA VINCI HOAX. The speaking engagements and media coverage come from people who’ve seen or read my book. And with the amount of work I’ve put in, this laborer is worthy of her wages. As is Amy.



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Amy

posted March 25, 2006 at 11:04 am


tohu:
Forget me.
What you and your writer (unless you are one and the same) are saying is that Scripture scholars Ben Witherington, Darrell Bock, N.T. Wright and Bart Ehrman (who is an agnostic), all of whom are, you know, scholars, and have written books on the Da vinci Code don’t know what they’re talking about.
Got it.
!



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Caroline

posted March 25, 2006 at 11:09 am


We Catholics might also examine our devotional practices when it comes to mingling facts and fiction. The DVC presents us with impious fictions and yet how many pious fictions attract us? And how many devout Catholics would insist on the truth of pious fictions? I think of all the fiction tossed into TPOC, for example.



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Mary Kay

posted March 25, 2006 at 11:22 am


Tohu is presenting an opinion that I’ve read on another site that any of those who debunk The Duh Vinci Code are just money grabbing opportunists who are exploiting Dan Brown’s success. (that’s an almost verbatim comment except of course for the Duh)
No amount of reasoned responses can budge them an inch from their view. When they can’t get around the facts, they stoop to insults.
So consider the source of comments like this and don’t take them too seriously. Except to pray for them because they are so far off base.



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Amy

posted March 25, 2006 at 11:22 am


Well, that’s one of the more interesting *serious* issues – take the legendary material about Mary Magdalene, which is VOLUMINOUS. It’s an interesting and important question to ask – what distinguishes these fictions from the Margaret Starbird version?
Good to ponder.



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Christopher Fotos

posted March 25, 2006 at 12:19 pm


I am so grateful to Amy and others for having written their rebuttals. With Amy’s help I was able to speak in a much more systematic way about the DVC nonsense to close friends of mine who were quite taken by it. I anticipate doing this all over again quite soon.
And I’ll just echo what others have said: It’s amazing what otherwise intelligent people come to believe.



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M. Randall

posted March 25, 2006 at 1:25 pm


If done so with a sense of charity, I find no fault with anyone who sternly and clearly rebukes any Catholic for believing any of the DVC nonsense – or other heretical crud out there these days. If one has received proper catechesis and has a sound Faith basis, then no amount of fiction will sway that… no more so than believing it really *might* be possible to congure up a dragon with a little stick of wood, ala Harry Potter. And I find no compulsion whatsoever to read Dan Brown’s work. Nor should any other Catholic. There surely must be several thousand other Catholic books that would make a better use of one’s time. (They might require just a few more braincells to process, though.)



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Simon

posted March 25, 2006 at 1:41 pm


It’s trying to raise questions that should be raised. Who was Jesus, not just as a divinity but as a person? What happened during those years of his life that the Bible doesn’t cover? Who was Mary Magdalene? How and why was the Church founded, and how has it evolved into what it is today? And how do these questions affect how you think about your faith?
These questions are real and deserve discussion. The DaVinci Code is a great place to start and a good exercise in learning that things may not always be what they seem.

What appalling ignorance. (And I thought DVC was just harmless fiction — now suddenly it’s a “great place to start” asking important questions about Jesus?)
Suppose I wrote a “novel” based on my “research” showing that Lyndon LaRouche is the heir to a secret line of descendants of George Washington, through Washington’s marriage to Betsy Ross. The Washington-Ross marriage was, of course, carefully covered up by the other American Founders, but if you look carefully at some great American paintings like “Whistler’s Mother” you’ll uncover a whole code of allegories for the Washington-Ross descendants, who are the true heirs to the American Republic.
Would a story such as the above be a great place to start asking questions about the USA, the Constitution, or contemporary politics?



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Sue T.

posted March 25, 2006 at 2:37 pm


tohu:
If people aren’t taking the Da Vinci Code seriously, then why do networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, the Discovery channel, and History Channel keep airing “investigative report”-type shows about it? These shows actually treat Brown’s claims as plausible and something to be explored.



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tohu

posted March 25, 2006 at 5:34 pm


Simon:
I know that every analogy limps, but yours is hobbled. The novel you propose would be an interesting work of fiction. I encourge you to write it. The Republic, however, is not made up of the descendants of George Washington. So such a novel may be the starting point for reflections on the legends of George Washington, but it would have little bearing on the USA, the Constitution, and contemporary politics. You do make some pretty big leaps in your thinking. Is your nickname Simple by any chance?



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Joseph R. Wilson

posted March 25, 2006 at 10:40 pm


tohu, your interest in Amy’s blog is very… interesting. I do hope that you keep reading. Keep an open mind, and please try not to get frustrated with emotional, sometimes far-from-perfect defenses of what others view as the truth. I’m interested too–what motivates you to take the time to defend Dan Brown’s work? I was just wondering.



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Joseph R. Wilson

posted March 25, 2006 at 11:14 pm


Oh tohu, I think that Fr. Rutler may have answered my question–“the Catholic Church has been the most important “Thing” in the annals of civilization. But if it is only a “Thing,” and not Christ among us, it will haunt to distraction. Catholicism haunts the minds of men as the Ethical Culture Society or Anti-Vivisection Society does not, and haunted men do not write books about albino Unitarian assassins.” Haunting, tohu, no?



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Karen LH

posted March 26, 2006 at 7:15 am


“Fictional” and “false” are not synonyms.
Any work of literature, fictional or nonfictional, makes assertions about reality that the author intends to be taken as true. A work of fiction makes those assertions through the medium of a story.
So: The Lord of the Rings is true. Christ’s parables are true. DVC is false. All three are fictional.



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Karen LH

posted March 26, 2006 at 7:20 am


Defending DVC’s false assertions about history and the Church by saying that it’s only fiction is the same as insulting someone under cover of humor and then protesting that you were only joking when the person is offended.



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Paul

posted March 26, 2006 at 9:05 am


Christopher Fotos writes above
“And I’ll just echo what others have said: It’s amazing what otherwise intelligent people come to believe.”
This is very true. This badly written piece of nonsense however is very cleverly deigned to appeal to the pride of the reader and bring forth righteous indignation (even if he or she thinks that it is “fiction”.) The reader is led to believe that he/she is being initiated into a body, which possesses esoteric knowledge and feels righteous anger at the Catholic Church for suppression of this knowledge. It is also a direct attack on the Church. This work is a direct attack on the Truth that is to be found via the Church. That is why so many “reputable” critics have ignored its “literary value” and promoted this badly written nonsense. I personally have experienced this when presented with a copy by an anti -Catholic associate. The Welborns, Miesels and Olson’s of this world are doing wonderful work by continually attacking this book.
I would also add that the comments by Tohu concerning mercenary motives in this whole affair should be directed towards Dan Brown, his publishers, the film company involved in the production of the movie and the multimillionaire actors who have shamefully signed up to appear in the film.



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Joseph R. Wilson

posted March 26, 2006 at 9:35 am


“The reader is led to believe that he/she is being initiated into a body, which possesses esoteric knowledge and feels righteous anger at the Catholic Church for suppression of this knowledge.”
I agree with you Paul. Also see Miesel’s and Olson’s pages on neo-Gnosticism.



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Maureen

posted March 26, 2006 at 12:38 pm


Feed the troll,
Tuppence a bag,
Tuppence a bag….



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Mary Kay

posted March 26, 2006 at 3:35 pm


Karen, clapping for your statement that fiction does not equal false.
Paul, yes. Funny how Tohu and his kind don’t ascribe the same motives to anyone connected with the film, but only to those who state the truth in unequivocal terms.
Maureen, :)



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hibernicus

posted March 26, 2006 at 4:33 pm


Fr. Rutler’s comparison of Dan Brown to Arius is unfair to Arius, who believed that Jesus was a pre-existent supernatural being, second only to God although not fully divine. (Later defenders of the Arian position – the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the most prominent contemporary example – identified Him with the Archangel Michael.) Dan Brown’s position so far as I can make out is Socinian – that Jesus was an ordinary human being albeit a royal claimant. (This shows up another piece of Dan Brown’s fact-manipulation BTW; he implies that the minority who rejected the Nicean definition held that Jesus was human and nothing else.) I also think that while Constantine did order certain documents burned at Nicea these were not the apocryphal gospels but the bishops’ pre-prepared position papers, to make them begin the discussion from scratch. (This scene, if I’m not much mistaken, is illustrated on the wall of the Baptistry of Constantine at St. John Lateran.)



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tk

posted March 27, 2006 at 8:52 am


so after 7:30 mass yesterday with the good Father Rutler, I found myself at the Borders on Second Ave. They had a huge DaVinci display, but all “pro”, none of the factual debunkings. But not when I left, somehow there were some different books on that display



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Christine

posted March 27, 2006 at 9:13 am


“We Catholics might also examine our devotional practices when it comes to mingling facts and fiction.”
Could you please state some concrete examples of what you consider “pious fiction?” My prayer life is pretty much built around the Liturgy of the Hours. But I sure do like a rosary now and then!



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tohu

posted March 27, 2006 at 10:08 am


Karen LH:
I am still puzzling over your post about the nature of fiction. Fiction is opposed to fact in standard English usage. That means that fiction relates something which did not in fact happen. You confuse categories when you introduce the notion of truth or falsehood. The Lord of the Rings, the parables of Jesus and the Da Vinci Code are all works of fiction because what they narrate did not in fact happen. If by “false” you mean something which did not happen, then all examples you give are false. You cannot arbitrarily decide which ones you want to be true and which you want to be false. How would you classify Harry Potter or the Chronicles of Narnia?



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Christine

posted March 27, 2006 at 11:12 am


Tohu needs a basic refresher on the nature of hagiographical writing, especially as regards the parables of Jesus. The Hebrew people, like other Middle Easterners, were great story tellers and used those vehicles to posit some very deep spiritual truths.
The Chronicles of Narnia are a splendid example of Christian fictional writing that bears religious “myth” in that it lifts up some very deep and eternal truths of Christianity. Harry Potter doesn’t fit into that category. It’s pure fiction designed to entertain.
The DaVinci Code, on the other hand, is trying to rewrite Christian history. Big difference.
But then, a lot of folks these days have to have everything spelled out in black and white or it doesn’t make sense to them. It’s part of our utilitarian culture.



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tohu

posted March 27, 2006 at 12:41 pm


Christine:
Thanks for the lesson in color. I guess I have to spell things out for you in black and white since you did not get my original sense.
I invite you to go back and read what I wrote. I don’t share your relativist version of truth. My point was about how the earlier post was defining fiction. If one defines fiction as a vehicle of truth, then you have to include all works of fiction in your category. You cannot decide which ones convey truth and which ones do not, unless you are prepared to claim that the Da Vinci Code is not fiction. So under your definition you unwittingly define the Da Vinci Code as capable of being a vehicle of truth, since it is a work of fiction, as you have defined that genre. Your categorization of the Da Vinci Code as trying to rewrite Christian history goes beyond the evidence. It is a story of something which did not happen in fact. Therefore it is fiction not history. For that reason I think the standard definiton of fiction, as something opposed to fact, fits the Da Vinci Code better, since it does not convey factual information.



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Christine

posted March 27, 2006 at 1:40 pm


“So under your definition you unwittingly define the Da Vinci Code as capable of being a vehicle of truth, since it is a work of fiction,”
Nope. DaVinci is not religious myth. The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings are.
By the way, “myth” in this context does not mean “false.”



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tohu

posted March 27, 2006 at 2:15 pm


Didn’t C. S. Lewis claim that in Narnia he was not writing religious myth? I think you are alone in seeing the Lord of the Rings as religious myth. Certainly Tolkien didn’t view it that way.
Myth is a pre-philosophical way of understanding archetypal reality, or as Bultmann understood it: a way of describing other-worldy realities in this-worldy terms. That is why the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings are not myths, but the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 are.
On another point from your earlier post, technically, hagiography refers to writing about the saints. Parables are not hagiography. You also confuse parable and allegory, where the details of a parable are typological for a deeper truth. Mark 4:3-8 conveys the parable of the sower, whereas Mark 4:14-20 gives the allegorical interpretation of it.



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Christine

posted March 27, 2006 at 2:34 pm


Well, I admit it was a bad analogy using hagiography (“hagios = holy”) to make a division between sacred/secular writing. Sigh.
But I really DO know that parable are not hagiography and I didn’t mention anything about allegory but merely pointed out that Christ’s parables are in the long tradition of rabbinic teaching. The Hebrews WERE great storytellers.
As far as C.S. Lewis goes, here’s one opinion:
“But, before we leave the issue of myth in revelation I sense the need to simplify, as best I can, Lewis’s definition of myth. I would say that he views myth as a story that could be and might be true, but does not need to be historically or scientifically true because it is meant to communicate something bigger than history or science. Therefore Old Testament stories like Jonah, Esther, Song of Solomon, Job, some of David’s Psalms, and even the creation account and fall of man are not necessarily historical events. In fact, in addressing the last point, Lewis writes, “For all I can see, it [the fall] might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but it is of no consequence.”{26}”
Finally — why are you so grouchy? Lighten up!



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Christine

posted March 27, 2006 at 2:38 pm


Oh, and I forgot — I’m a lemming.
Tohu — I gotta ask. Are you Catholic? You don’t write like a Catholic.



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tohu

posted March 27, 2006 at 2:46 pm


I thought you were the grouchy one. My apologies.
I grant the debate about the mythic language in Lewis and the in Tolkien. It is interesting that the Lord of the Rings is embraced by believers and non-believers alike. The categories are not cut and dry.
You are not a lemming and I am a Catholic and have always been one. How do Catholcis write?



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Christine

posted March 27, 2006 at 2:54 pm


“How do Catholcis write?”
In the best of all worlds, “grace-fully” (freely admitting that I usually fall short!!)
I love C.S. Lewis!!



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tohu

posted March 27, 2006 at 3:37 pm


Excellent answer. I like it. I am a fan of Lewis, too.



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