Ron Howard, the bald and bearded director who used 
to be little Opie of Mayberry, promised that his film 
version of THE DA VINCI CODE wouldn't be watered down. It 
isn't. All the vicious and absurd lies of the book have 
been preserved, even expanded and amplified.

     The audacity is almost unbelievable. We see Silas, 
the deranged albino "monk" of Opus Dei, murdering several 
people, including a nun, while praying and scourging 
himself bloody. Author Dan Brown insists that the 
"factual" background of the book is thoroughly researched 
and accurate, and apparently Howard believes him, though 
the simplest check would have told him that Opus Dei 
doesn't have monks (and of course has never even been 
accused of murder).

     I don't suggest he is ignorant of this; obviously he 
is deliberately lying. So is Howard.

     But the movie's smash worldwide opening, along with 
the novel's tremendous sales, shows that there is still a 
huge market for lies about the Catholic Church, as there 
has been since the days of Nero. Even the reviewers who 
have panned the film have been far too gentle, as if its 
only flaw were ineptitude.

     Howard, like Brown, is a modest talent, and maybe we 
should be grateful that he has made an utter mess of 
material that was incoherent to begin with. Brown did 
supply him with a surefire plot device: the hero, a 
Harvard scholar named Robert Langdon (implausibly played 
by Tom Hanks), who must solve the baffling murder he's 
accused of before the Parisian police, determined to 
frame him (Opus Dei controls them too, by the way), can 
find him.

     But any excitement dissolves in chat, not only 
tedious but inaudible to boot. Langdon is assisted by a 
young cryptologist named Sophie Neveu, played (just as 
implausibly) by Audrey Tautou, who is cute as a button 
but barely speaks English.

     The chat sinks to its lowest level when Langdon and 
Sophie consult an "expert" on Christian history, Sir 
Leigh Teabing (Sir Ian McKellen), who explains that Jesus 
was just a human sort of fellow, a married father in 
fact, whose divinity was never believed in until it was 
thought up by the Emperor Constantine in AD 325 and 
promulgated by the Council of Nicea. (Howard even 
supplies a flashback of the council, with rowdy bishops 
screaming at each other.)

     Somehow the learned Teabing, Brown's mouthpiece, has 
never run across the opening of John's Gospel. Nor does 
this occur to the learned Langdon. Or to Brown, or to 
Howard. Folks, this is a seriously goofy movie. In that 
respect it is faithful to the novel.

     I trust I'm not spoiling anything for you when I say 
that if Brown, Teabing, and Howard are to be trusted, the 
Church has been covering up the real story for 2,000 
years. Naturally, this has entailed a bit of homicide. 
The Church has tried to wipe out those who knew the 
truth, as well as the underground "royal line" of Jesus' 
descendants. (Sophie herself turns out to be one of them. 
Brown is not shy of positing coincidence.) In modern 
times, the Popes have delegated the mayhem. When someone 
needs to be whacked, Opus Dei handles it.

     Anyway, Leonardo Da Vinci was in on the dangerous 
secret, and had to sneak it into his paintings, where it 
could be deciphered, centuries later, by Harvard 
professors. This is just a rough outline; I've had to 
leave a lot out, but Brown and Howard, alas, don't.

     One more sample of this bizarre history. During the 
Middle Ages, the Church burned five million innocent 
women for witchcraft. That's a lot! Why don't we hear 
about this in our Western Civ classes?

     Brown's history, in fact, reminds me of the 
elaborate delusions of intelligent psychotics I used to 
hear when I worked in a mental hospital. The big question 
is why so many seemingly normal people believe it.

Mugged by Reality

     Harold Meyerson of the WASHINGTON POST takes note of 
a deep irony in the history of neoconservatism. The 
movement began in disillusionment with the Great 
Society's urban policies, which led to riots, crime, and 
decay, aggravating all the evils spawned by the welfare 
state; to this day, the black family hasn't recovered 
from the devastation.

     In Irving Kristol's famous aphorism, "A 
neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by 

     But today in Iraq, Meyerson observes, 
neoconservatism itself has been mugged by reality. The 
neocons urged war on Iraq with all the naive optimism the 
old liberals once brought to the American inner city. Now 
they too are facing -- or refusing to face -- the 
"unintended consequences" of wrongheaded government 

     Baghdad is in total chaos, with religious fanatics 
on a murderous rampage even worse than anything our 
cities saw in the sixties. Neoconservatism used to stand 
for a pragmatic adaptation of ideological conservatism. 
Now it has become an ideology as far out of touch with 
reality as the liberalism it reacted against.

A New Home for Conservatives?

     What with immigration, war, and spending, President 
Bush is now rapidly losing conservative support. Every 
day now, WMAL, Washington's biggest talk-radio station, 
is flooded with furious calls from people who say they 
have been "betrayed" and "sold out" and vow never to vote 
Republican again. Yet most of these callers wouldn't 
think of voting for a Democrat. They are refugees from 
Republicanism, in search of a new home.

     So this should be a propitious year for a third 
party, one radically opposed to the Big Two. For more 
than a decade, Howard Phillips has been working 
tirelessly to build a truly conservative organization, 
the Constitution Party. Just getting on the ballot is a 
labor of Hercules, but this party has done so in 40 
states, fielding candidates for Congress as well as 

     Though we've had our disagreements, Howard is one of 
the most principled men I've ever known. He just doesn't 
budge from conservative convictions; he's neither a 
neocon nor a pseudocon. And for all the Constitution's 
flaws, I'd much rather have a government restrained by it 
than the kind we've had under the Big Two.

     The time has surely come for America to take one 
bold step in the right direction. Or we'll be very sorry 
we didn't.

                 +          +          +                  

     "When people talk about our two-party system, I 
think my fellow Americans must be seeing double" -- 
SOBRAN'S. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter yet, 
give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free 
sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just 
$85. New subscribers get two gifts with their 
subscription. More details can be found at the 
Subscription page of my website,

     Already a subscriber? Consider a gift subscription 
for a priest, friend, or relative.
                                        --- Joseph Sobran


Read this column on-line at 

This column copyright (c) 2006 by THE WANDERER, the
National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867, Reprinted with permission.

This column may not be published in print or Internet 
publications without express permission of THE WANDERER. 
You may forward it to interested individuals if you use 
this entire page, including the following disclaimer:

"THE WANDERER is available by subscription. Write for information.
Subscription price: $50 per year; $30 for six months.
Checks can be sent to The WANDERER, 201 Ohio Street, 
Dept. JS, St. Paul, MN 55107.

"SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's syndicated columns are 
available by e-mail subscription. For details and 
samples, see, write, or call 800-513-5053."

This page copyright (c) 2006 by THE VERE COMPANY.