Emmitsburg Council of Churches

A Perfect Storm?

Father John J. Lombardi

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." ---Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Stay close to the True Vine, or else… confusion. People today, just like at any other time, but perhaps more than ever, are itching for sensual spice and mystical myth and confusion, and, hopefully, Truth.

"For the time will come a time when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the Truth and will be diverted to myths" (II Tim. 4:2) ). Religion is all around us, and a bunch of books are now on the New York Times bestseller list regarding our Faith are creating a kinda "perfect storm" of doubt and confusion and dissent: "The Jesus papers" by Michael Baigent argues that Jesus survived His crucifixion." "The Gospel of Judas" alleges that Judas was Jesus' favored apostle. "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman says that mistakes by ancient scribes and others formed the Bible we have today. Then add in "The DaVinci Code," an upcoming blockbuster movie Cardinal Francis Arinze of the Vatican said that if another religion was assaulted in this way there would be different recriminations. And Archbishop Amato of the Vatican has asked for a boycott of the film…

There is an attack on Christianity and on the Catholic Church. "The Gospel of Judas", propped up by shoddy scholarship and glitzy packaging (by National Geographic) proposes, implicitly or not, that sacred revelation is not so holy or inerrant; and that Judas was commanded by Jesus to do his deed of betrayal, thus seemingly denying free will; that Catholicism was not as united or singular as once thought and therefore this supposed pluralism provides opportunity for both defacing Christianity and propping up other (pagan)religions. Now, with "The DaVinci Code" coming out in film: be ready. What are the factual errors of "The DaVinci Code? First, as a pilgrim just said to me, "the first word in the book is 'fact'." The book, no matter how entertaining and disguised as fiction, proposes facts, which are not true and, really, very un-true anre being used to deceive people. Following is only a partial list from my investigation (from The Institute of Religious Research, by Ronald Huggins, ThD: http://www.irr.org/da-vinci-code.html): Dan Brown says on a frontispiece "fact page" that all the art, documents and rituals described are accurate." So many books and tracts have already been published discounting this already. For instance: That Constantine the Roman Emperor, convert to Christianity was actually a pagan-sun worshipping devotee (actually he was baptized a practicing Catholic, and eventually a baptized Christian); that he made Sunday the official day of worship not because of Jesus' resurrection but really because of Sol, sun god was worshipped that day (not true: the Sabbath-day was already established as the Christian Sabbath, Constantine only made it official);that Constantine himself ordered the copying and official status of the New Testament canon (this was done by the Catholic Church and her Bishops thru experts and holy teachers); that Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece, "The Last Supper," really depicts Mary Magdalene in its setting (false: though some figures are effeminate-one of Leonardo's techniques, no proof of Mary Magdalene ever has been made or credulously supported-ever!); that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were sensually involved (never has this been proved thru scholarship nor supported over two millennia), they had children and begat a line that continued to medieval times (once again: never proven and hardly supported or propagated even in tangential circles of scholarship); that a secret order was developed to preserve this lineage and history, called the Priory of Zion (this is a concocted myth circulated variously thru the ages); that the Catholic church tried to demolish this sect and its true preservation of Jesus and Mary Magdalene ; that the grail-cup chalice of Jesus (used at the last Supper)was in fact, Mary Magdalene's body; that Christ actually intended His church (a human one, Brown argues) to continue thru the leadership of Mary Magdalene. . Now, if people made a so-called historical movie about Nazis somehow portrayed as good and Jews as bad, wouldn't people react with a firestorm? Would you pay for this "thriller"? If you're actually thinking of seeing the movie or reading the book, to wit, three main points:1. "DaVinci Code" "facts" are false and twisted: Brown makes the embarrassing error which all scholars know knee-jerkedly that The Nag Hamadi texts and Dead Sea Scrolls, were not Christian scriptures but Jewish-they never mention Christ or Christianity! Brown implies that The Vatican existed in fourteenth century (no it didn't ) and suppressed a secrete society, no, again. Just think: if "historical novelist" James Mitchener made analogous mistakes (implying, let's say, that white supremacists settled "Chesapeake" or African slaves conspired to murder white Catholics) he would pilloried by the media. Brown gets away with it.

2. Browns' book is an attack on Christianity and Catholicism: It questions Christ's divinity; it makes many false allegations against the Church (the Church hides truth; it suppresses goddess worship and women's dignity--actually in fact, early Christianity protected women by giving them rights and status, when Roman and Greek cultures-and, actually, goddess feminist cults, did not, and actually manipulated them); Brown's book alleges that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were in conspiracy to create goddess worship of the feminine (as one astute commentator wrote: the goddess cult of Kali may actually cause abortions and suppression of women rather than liberate them-how does this goddess worship favor Brown's and others' plea?). 3. Brown's book promotes dissent: good Catholics (orthodox believers in the novel)and other "wooden characters" are viewed as bad because they hide and suppress the truth; while "bad Catholics" are good because they spew vehemence against the Church (i.e., Silas, a renegade nun,etc.). This point implies the more serious charge against the book and seeing the movie: no authority is to be trusted; institutional and revealed religion, visible structures (like Catholicism versus spiritualized Gnosticism) is in conspiracy against truth, enlightenment-all this is bad and to be purgated and passed. And like the "Harry Potter" series-good and bad, moral absolutes, traditional spiritual truths are subverted and slandered against. This is serious stuff, although not readily apparent to general readers or viewers who see supposedly only intrigue and entertainment. In the face of this, consider: A lot of people today defend "creativity", free speech and rights of expression but rarely give emphasis to responsibility (of artists toward truth and other's rights), or to justice and respect. Do you want to pay money and support this kind of intolerance? The technique Brown and others use is simple: question past doctrines; use shoddy scholarship and conjecture (mix so-called fact with fiction)and thereby blur the lines between proven facts and mythology; cause turmoil in believer's hearts and souls by appealing to their baser instincts-after all, who wants a cross, blood and commandments and "the same-old same-old"? . Upshot: unless you stay close to the Vine-Jesus, His Church and continued teaching thru the centuries-- then you may be confused and led astray.

In a new book, "The Faith of the Founding Fathers" we have perhaps the implication that Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison, were not really that Christian (they were deist) and that therefore our country is not really founded upon Christian beliefs and traditions. So, now, the question I've been debating with others in good faith-Should we boycott the film? In an interview, Tom Hanks, star of the film, said that one should not take the film too seriously, it is fiction and "entertainment" and so forth. This is seductive: And yet, if you study the book and movie (as in "The DaVinci Deception" by Mark Shea and "DeCoding DaVinci," by Amy Welborn-both easy reads and excellent guides which may alarm you to the damaging depths of this so-called entertainment), think about these thoughts: On cigarette packs there is a required sign: "Warning: Smoking may be hazardous to your health"-has anyone said "lighten up about this"? Clearly, "The Davinci Code" is a serious book (Brown has been interviewed on CNN defending his tenets). Now ask: should we believing Catholics not take it seriously, especially since over 60 million books are in print; millions will see the move; many will be misled, and many will not take a class on it ? Although our human nature may respond, variously: I am not an aggressive type and will ignore it; don't give it more attention than it deserves; this kind of "pulp fiction" hurts me but I will tolerate it, and so forth, what about the attacks upon our Lord, our Holy Catholic Church, and Our Lord's comment: "Those who are not for Me are against Me" and the responsibility and duty to resist evil and calumny and admonish wrongs? Have we grown apathetic, lukewarm, or merely see this as "entertainment" ? Are you passionate about your faith? What if Hollywood made an intriguing movie about the KuKlux Klan as liberating white supremacists who got a bad deal, and black slaves and abolitionists as the bad guys? Would you rush to see this and say: "Pass the popcorn" ? Some say "The DaVinci Code" is not an attack-perhaps because there is no napalm and blood pouring outside movie theaters or bookstores. But attacks come in different forms-quietly as in Cold War communism; discreetly as in Navy SEALS undercover; and super seductively, a la the Garden of Eden, as when Satan lured Adam and Eve thru delightfully appealing myths . It's been downhill since then. A pilgrim just sent me a message: "I support Archbishop Amato on his stand to boycott The Da Vinci Code. Calling for a boycott is standing up for our faith- again defending the Church that Christ founded. Sure this will cause controversy and there is your "teachable moment." What are you teaching by silence in this matter? Father is right that "silence means consent." Just yesterday my son's chemistry teacher in a Catholic High School told the kids that birth control is not as dangerous as giving birth, that there are more deaths in giving birth than are caused by practicing birth control. If I remain silent than I am giving my consent, my approval. We cannot remain silent when the Church is attacked! The Da Vinci Code is a blatant attack. Just last week a young lady that I knew almost refused making her Confirmation because of information that she was given in a public school classroom about the Catholic Church. Many of our fellow Catholics do not know their faith well enough and can be led a stray easily. We need our Church to shepherd her flock. Her flock needs to hear the voice of her Shepherd!! "

Again, think: What if someone satirized and mocked your mother, your job and favorite hobby, and your bodily appearance to boot-and then said, "I'm only kidding" or "It's just entertainment". Wouldn't you be offended and respond somehow? Some are saying use positive reaction-ok, see below., while others say it is a teachable moment (ditto below) and, yet: would you bring your child or boyfriend to a concentration camp to learn that the gassing of humans is wrong? Would a vegetarian want to go to a bullfight to learn that animal molestation is horrid and wrong. Do you have to drink poison to learn it is wrong? No! You don't' have to see the movie or read the book to learn about it and thereby support a harmful and wrong industry. Just search around and there is plenty to help you without the direct source.

Okay, regarding a boycott, you may ask: "Will it work?" and "Will it cause more attraction to the problem…?" Then I began thinking: Look: What if a house next to you was burning, and within it were vulnerable women , children and handicapped persons-would you remain silent or call attention to it? Or, respond: We gotta seven alarm fire now!-can't ignore that. What if, in that house, a character was peddling pornography or abusing children-would you ignore that, or call attention to it for love of all concerned? What if a terrorists group was meeting there bent on damaging our country (and Church0-would you opt out, only pray-or act up because it is serious? If someone was smoking at a daycare center would you ignore it or boycott ? Would you say "To call a boycott is to call more attention to it?' Actually, you might just boycott it without calling it that! Didn't people boycott South Africa because of apartheid? Didn't' they call more attention to it? Aren't some (wrongly) complaining today that Pope Pius didn't call attention to the Jewish plight in World War II? Would you allow a pornographer to continue exploiting youth w/out mention of it or a form of boycott? Look: some things are so serious to warrant even explicit information about its harm and helping people not to support it. Like Martin Luther King, Ghandi and Pope John Paul II-- challenge that which corrupts our culture. We shouldn't be preoccupied about maliciously being co-opted and de-activated by "calling more attention to a bad situation": does this give one reason to remain silent? Well, okay, wither deference to Archbishop Amato, maybe you don't have to call it a "boycott"-just save some money! Instead of just complaining about the movie, well, then: Read your Catechism or Bible instead; make a holy hour, be with your family; see a good, holy movie; promote beautiful art; seek and find the Truth ; go to Mass; go visit a sick or lonely person; make or say a Rosary. Watch American Idol (whatever that is). Take a hike, get outside. Hug a tree (and say a prayer to St Francis of Assisi).

Now think: would God really liberate and teach people thru these mythical, secretive and definitely alternative ways of Gnostic sexuality and goddess worship: ie.-Do you think this would fly in Toledo? No; Gnosticism is the for the jet set elites and efites, not the middle and lower classes-perhaps this is another reason why Hollywood and liberalist publishers are against the Church-because Catholicism already embraces all peoples "under its own spiritual big tent". Today, unfortunately there are so many other forms of so called entertainment which are transgressive- academic-speak for skewering someone's dignity and culture. This is supported and applauded by many cultural elites today. The other day a Judge in Brooklyn ordered the removal of a Brooklyn art students' exhibit which presented a live rat there and a man holding a sexual-body part of another person, and the current Vice President's name affixed to overt sexualism: and the Judge said: enough!

Remember a couple things in conclusion (seeming opposites!) this too will pass; people will get stuck on something else; and the Church has survived so much other evil. So, pray, fast, educate yourself, stand up for what you believe and Love your Church and Lord-and your mom!

Teachable Moment: This Friday 8pm-Q and A on 'The DaVinci Code" Book and Movie…

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi