Author Topic: Da Vinci Code Response Group  (Read 1309 times)

Devious Viper
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Da Vinci Code Response Group
« on: May 08, 2006, 01:19:30 pm »
Leading UK Catholics and members of Opus Dei have formed a group to respond to the negative impact the Da Vinci Code film is expected to bring. The Da Vinci Code Response Group, which also includes a Benedictine abbot and two priests, has condemned Dan Brown's book as "fiction trading as fact". The group criticised its "damaging and grotesque" account of their faith.

The comments come just weeks before the film version of the novel, starring Tom Hanks, is due to be released.
The book, which has sold 40 millions copies worldwide, has been attacked for portraying the Catholic Church as a shadowy organisation that has spent 2,000 years covering up Christ's bloodline. The response group is being co-ordinated by Austen Ivereigh, the director for public affairs of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

In a statement the group said: "We believe the Da Vinci Code 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 Da Vinci Code 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."

Opus Dei, a conservative Catholic group with 86,000 members worldwide, are particularly angry about their order being portrayed as murderous and power-crazed. The organisation has arranged special information evenings in London for the public and has asked Sony Pictures, which produced the new film, to include a caption explaining the film is fiction.

Sony has previously declined to reveal whether the film would carry such a disclaimer.

Opus Dei's communications director Jack Valero said he believed it was important to make it clear. "The book is obviously trying to present fictional things as factual, and trying to deceive people in that way," he said. "That's why Opus Dei asked for a disclaimer at the beginning of the film just to say this is pure fiction, and then that's fine, you can say what you like. But if you're trying to get people to believe it's fact when in fact it's fiction, then that's cheating really."

The film will premiere on 17 May at the Cannes Film Festival in France before going on general release worldwide on 19 May.

Devious Viper
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Re: Da Vinci Code Response Group
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2006, 06:24:23 am »
By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News
     
Christians in general, and Catholics in particular, are bracing for round two.
Is the Bible a carefully crafted Christian conspiracy or sacred scripture?
Was Jesus the Messiah or a mere mortal? Was Mary Magdalene simply a disciple of Christ, or his secret spouse?
Those are a few of the questions to be revisited in popular culture again next week as Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou bring Dan Brown's best-selling novel, "The Da Vinci Code," to life on the big screen. As one of the biggest fictional blockbusters of all time, the book has sold nearly 50 million copies since its release in 2003.
     
It has also spawned dozens of "decoding" books by a wide spectrum of Christians, aimed at providing factual answers to the myriad questions it raises by claiming the status of fiction based on "fact."
     
The hype surrounding the movie's release may seem a bit overblown, yet the story line has raised enough concern that several Catholic cardinals and a coalition of Catholic groups have called for an outright boycott of the film. The story says the early Christian church "created" the divinity of Jesus postmortem and hid the secret of Christ's marriage to Mary Magdalene and their offspring from the world for two millennia all while downgrading the status of women in the church.
     
As the book began to gain blockbuster status, thousands of Utahns joined millions of Americans in water-cooler discussion about the book's premise, and speculated over which of the details about ancient secret societies and early Christian conspiracies were fact vs. fiction. Public forums drawing hundreds of participants were held at a variety of local venues, including Brigham Young University and the Salt Lake Theological Seminary.
     
Catholic priests and bishops were routinely questioned, and the local Catholic diocese continues to field numerous calls, according to spokeswoman Monica Howa-Johnson. "We've been getting calls on this for months and months people calling randomly, inquiring about the nature of the book, some to rage about and others to complain that we need to do something. We're getting a whole gamut" of inquiry, with calls going "sometimes to a secretary at the front desk, and sometimes targeting other people. Since the book has been out, we have been dealing with it. Being the head of the Catholic Church in Utah, people will call to vent or get more information."
     
With round two in the offing, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has put together an hourlong documentary and detailed rebuttal of many of the book's claims, which is available at www.jesusdecoded.com/introduction.php. The film is being distributed to NBC-TV affiliates nationwide with the hope they will air it next weekend. A spokeswoman for KSL-TV said the station has no plans to air the documentary, and the local diocese has nothing specific planned to discuss or deal with the questions the film is expected to raise anew, Howa-Johnson said.
     
Before the national Web site featuring explanatory material was recently made available, the diocese was left to "basically explain that it's a work of fiction, even though the author says as much," Howa-Johnson said.

Though Utah Catholics are still waiting for the installation of a new bishop since the departure of Bishop George Niederauer earlier this year to become the new Archbishop of San Francisco, the archbishop isn't waiting for the film's release to speak out. He's posted a five-page, single-spaced response to questions raised by the book at www.sfarchdiocese.org/ablwritingsindex.html, which concludes that Hollywood "doesn't know very much about Catholicism, doesn't like what it thinks it knows, doesn't want to learn any more and can't leave Catholic faith, practice and imagery alone."
     
That doesn't surprise Molly Dumas, spokeswoman for Juan Diego Catholic High School, who listened to the former bishop's interaction with students there during a question-and-answer session last year that included queries raised in the novel. "He just hates the book because everyone assumes it's gospel. And once it becomes a movie, then everyone believes it," she said.
     
While discussion about the book hasn't been part of the regular curriculum, "we didn't want to skirt the issue," she said, noting students have brought it to school and it's available in the school library. Students are definitely talking about the movie, and are being encouraged to be "critical thinkers," she said. "We hope they look at the fact that this is fiction and use it as opportunity to explore their faith . . . For the most part, kids are wanting to know about the relationship between Jesus and Mary was he married or not? We're telling them we don't know that, but you have to look at the culture of the time."
     
Other local Christian leaders are taking varied approaches to the film, many of them simply ignoring it. But several churches are sponsoring discussions and at least one public forum is planned. The Right Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, bishop of Utah's Episcopal Diocese, said she read the book "as a novel. I don't understand it to be any authoritative part of church history. Some people dislike and are suspicious of the church, and it probably feeds more suspicion. Frankly, people enjoy a conspiracy theory. It's amazing how they feed the whole cultural thing that's going on right now more than anything truthful." While she said the book was a "good read," she doesn't plan to see the movie, and is surprised by the story line's staying power.
     
Ron Huggins, professor of early Christian history at the Salt Lake Theological Seminary, is offering a four-session class to discuss the historical claims made in the book. Christian scholars across the spectrum have refuted the book's claims, he said, though recent discussion he dubbed "PBS lite religion" among some liberal Christian scholars about the Gnostic gospels has helped fuel the book's claims, he said. "You have this group of talking heads that show up on documentaries and PBS stuff and claim the Gnostic gospels are as early or significant as the canonical ones," in the New Testament. "It's not so much that they are rewriting Christian history," as some critics have claimed. "They're looking at it from a different perspective. When a traditional Christian looks at the Bible and its claims, they see it as what the historical Jesus was like."
     
Some scholars put extra-biblical texts, like the recently touted Gospel of Judas, on par with scripture, he said, and see "spirituality more as the aspiration of the human spirit. They see those claims in the New Testament that don't seem true and maybe the claims of Gnostics are not true either, but they argue they should be given equal footing." Most such texts claim Jesus was mortal, rather than divine. "Da Vinci" author Brown used translations of some parts of the Gnostic texts which supposedly contain "gnosis" or secret knowledge kept from the church at large as the basis for assertions of conspiracy and coverup.
     
Huggins believes the publication of the Gospel of Judas just weeks before Easter and the upcoming "Code" film "was quite intentional," citing other Christian authors who have speculated as much. Unlike some who have railed against both the Gnostic gospels and the upcoming film, he believes both may encourage people to "look a little harder" at early Christian history "and maybe actually read some of the Gnostic texts and some of the less sensational things about them."
     
Many may do just that, according to a recent poll of 1,200 adults commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention. Reported this week by Baptist Press, it showed 44 percent "were more likely to seek the truth by studying the Bible" as a result of the book, while 23 percent of Americans had read the novel and 43 percent are familiar with its content.
     
Among those who had read the book, "more than 60 percent believed that the Bible is closer to the truth, while only 10 percent" believed the novel is more truthful