Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 The Vatican Cover-Up 

March 17, 2005 
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, has called Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code “rotten food” and evidence of “anti-Catholic” attitudes. Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.He laments that even Catholic bookstores are carrying “stacks” of it. He wants to “unmask the lies” the book propagates.

Cardinal Bertone’s words have gotten a lot of attention because, for one thing, he is regarded as a likely candidate to be the next Pope. He is being accused of trying to “censor” the book. Apparently arguing with Dan Brown’s whoppers — including slanders of the Catholic Church — is a form of medieval persecution, proving Brown’s point.

Which is? That the Catholic Church is evil. It’s based on lies and superstitions, and it has known and covered up the truth for centuries, to this very day, using the most unscrupulous means. Brown’s novel begins with a murder in the Louvre (yes, the one in Paris) instigated, the reader soon learns, by a priest of Opus Dei.

The plot is terrific. I spent a weekend unable to put the book down. The hero, an American Harvard professor, is suspected of the murder, so he must solve it while eluding the police. He is aided by a young Frenchwoman (a cryptologist) and a scholarly Englishman, Sir Leigh Teabing. (The real-life model for Teabing is suing Brown for plagiarism, but never mind.)

Brown is nothing if not audacious. Through these scholarly characters, he creates, in addition to a great suspense story, an elaborate fictional history as background, which he wants the reader to believe. This gives new meaning to the term historical fiction. Brown’s history, which he boasts is based on thorough research, is about as credible as Robert Blake’s alibi.

[Breaker quote: Dan Brown could have predicted it.]That “history” posits that Jesus wasn’t divine and never claimed to be. (So why was he accused of blasphemy when he forgave sins? Never mind.) He married and had a child with Mary Magdalene, whom he wanted to lead his church after he was gone. (What did he need to create and leave a church for? Did he know he was going to die young? Never mind.) But misogynist males hated Mrs. Jesus, so she fled to France and had her baby (a girl!), whose secret line eventually became royalty. Meanwhile, the male church denigrated the memory of Mrs. Jesus, née Magdalene, and denied her original role.

Okay. Follow me so far? Brown’s world-famous expert on church history, Sir Leigh, informs us that Jesus was first proclaimed divine by the Emperor Constantine in A.D. 325, which suggests that the world-famous expert is unacquainted with the New Testament, let alone the Patristic writings and early controversies of the church. (Why did the church still exist in 325, if everyone had always assumed that Jesus was only a human? Didn’t it worship him? Or was it just a Jesus Memorial Society? Oh, never mind.)

Tiny secret societies kept the truth alive through the ages, so Leonardo da Vinci found out about it and encoded it in his ostensibly Christian paintings, which Brown’s hero decodes for the reader. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church continued its misogynistic tradition, oppressing them and blaming them for everything. During the Middle Ages, the reader is informed, the Church burned no fewer than five million women as witches! And not only did it burn much of Europe’s female population at the stake (without protest from the men) — it prevented historians from finding out about it!

Brown’s suspense story is grippingly plausible, with some of the most stunning plot twists I’ve ever read. It’s his “historical background” that’s like a goofy dream. You want to argue with it until you pause to reflect that it doesn’t make any sense. It’s not just untrue; it couldn’t possibly be true. It’s like a story set in today’s New York City in which the hero finds out that the discovery of America was all a huge hoax. If it was perpetrated by the Catholic Church, Brown could do a sequel about this. Brown has proved once more that any smear of the Church, no matter how absurd, will find a willing audience.

For inside the Vatican, it would seem, Church officials know all the secrets Brown has brought to light, from Mrs. Jesus on, and they’re still trying to prevent the rest of us from finding out. That would explain why Cardinal Bertone has denounced The Da Vinci Code. Just as Brown would expect.

Joseph Sobran

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