For new readers who have stopped by from Doubting Thomist, or for new readers who have just randomly stumbled upon this venture, or for old readers who just haven't figured out the lay of the land, the most recent post that I make is always the first one, and on the front page are seven articles in descending chronological order. While that's the blogger way, it's not always the most logical sequence for reading apologetics articles such as these.
To alleviate the "when did he write an article on such-and-so topic?" burden, in the sidebar to the right of the main articles, below the subscription offers, below the About Me blurb, below the neat graphic of St. Isidore on the internet and a prayer for grace when surfing the web, there is a section titled "TOPIC INDEX" which has, obviously, an index of topics below. These topics are links to a blog post on this site that itself is an index of links to actual articles. Now, it's a fairly new blogsite, so I haven't got an exhaustive amount of articles so that every topic in the TOPIC INDEX has articles on every conceivable subject, but it's partly a guide for us when writing, to try to fill up those categories, and it's something for you all to look forward to, as well: "When is Gregory going to get around to writing a splendid article on Purgatory?!"
You will also note that most articles (this one excepted) have a bracketed "Category" blurb at the end. This shows which Index page you will find the particular link for this article--a reverse-directory, if you will.
Now, often these articles have overlapping topic categories, and when they do, that Category blurb is a little longer than usual, and, conversely, the link to the said article will appear in different Indexes. This happens especially in debates, because for whatever reason, my opponents have a hard time focussing on just one subject at a time (which is usually a result of having to argue against such vague propositions as "The Catholic Church is through-and-through evil because..."). As such, on occasion, you may want to read about the Eucharist, and you'll note a link to a discussion that only deals with the Eucharist peripherally. I apologise. I could link to it anyway, and the point may be lost amid the article, or I could not link to it at all, and the point will simply be lost. I chose the former method.
Note, I put all this work into the index shortly before Blogger made "Tags" available, and since I'd put so much work into it, I decided to keep it rather than using the Tags function--but it works on a similar principle.
I hope that this Note has been sufficiently clear to aid in the navigation of this site.
God bless you all,
Saturday, July 07, 2007
For new readers who have stopped by from Doubting Thomist, or for new readers who have just randomly stumbled upon this venture, or for old readers who just haven't figured out the lay of the land, the most recent post that I make is always the first one, and on the front page are seven articles in descending chronological order. While that's the blogger way, it's not always the most logical sequence for reading apologetics articles such as these.
Posted by Gregory at 12:42 pm
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
The Artwork: What's So Controversial about Leonardo?
Well, in our conclusion to The Da Vinci Code series, I wanted to look at the artwork, particularly The Last Supper and La Gioconda, since they feature so prominently in the book. We'll begin with La Gioconda.
More commonly, it's known as The Mona Lisa, but this is it's official name. As such, there is no anagram about calling it The Mona Lisa (Amon, L'Isa?! Whatever). In fact, the name "Mona Lisa" wasn't something that Leonardo called his painting, but comes from Giorgio Vasari's biography of Leonardo, published thirty-one years after his death! The painting is a portrait of Lisa, the wife of wealthy Florentine businessman, Francesco del Giocondo. Since "Mona" is a common contraction of "Madonna", the Italian word for "My Lady", the title given to the painting by Vasari literally means "My Lady Lisa" and has nothing to do with Amon or Isis. Neither is it a self-portrait of Leonardo in drag, nor a celebration of androgyny. It is what it is, a beautiful painting.
Brown makes the claim that the horizon on Lisa Gherardini's left side is higher than that on her right, and since left=feminine and right=masculine, therefore this is a subtle way of expressing the glories of woman. Except, on what does Brown base his assumption that the left is the "feminine" and right is "masculine"? And even so, I wonder if he was looking at the same painting that we are. Click on it and blow it up, if you want! Not only is there no definitive horizon line, but the heights of the background are even, if varied. The highest points on each are pretty much the same, and can hardly be construed as containing symbolism!
So much for accurately describing artwork, Brown!
The Last Supper
Because Dan Brown spends so much time on The Last Supper, so will we. In The Da Vinci Code, Brown makes a number of embarrassingly ignorant claims about the painting and its meaning, so lets compare Brown's reality with, well, real reality.
The first thing that Brown claims about the painting is that there is no "Chalice" in the painting. No "Holy Grail." Instead, according to Brown, there are 13 cups of wine at the table, one for each Apostle plus Jesus. So because Da Vinci didn't paint the Grail, according to Brown, it's actually not the cup, but Mary Magdalene, and all that jazz.
Well, I'm a little puzzled here. Which is it, Brown? Are there 13 cups, or no cup? If there are 13 cups, then what's the big deal?! The Grail is right there! Jesus' cup! Just because it's not gold and doesn't have a stem doesn't mean it's not the Holy Grail! You'd think that Brown hadn't seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade! The Grail is right there!
The second thing that Brown claims about this painting is that the person to the left of Christ...well, our left, His right...is a woman, Mary Magdalene. He claims that the two figures make a V in the middle of the painting, as the focal point, thus symbolising feminity again. Further, Brown writes:
Sophie examined the figure to Jesus' immediate right, focusing in. As she studied the person's face and body, a wave of astonishment rose within her. The individual had flowing red hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubt...female. (p. 243)Here again, I find myself wondering if Brown and we are looking at the same painting. The alleged V shape between Jesus and "Mary" is not the focal point of the painting. Jesus Himself is.
Further, the figure to Jesus' right does not have "a hint of a bosom", nor red hair, nor can one really describe the figure's hands as "delicate". "Blurry" maybe. Much is made over the fact that this figure has no beard, so therefore it must be female! No one seems to pay any attention to the fact that the third guy on Jesus' left also has no beard! No one cares about him!
The fact is, the person to the right of Jesus is John the Apostle. Traditionally, John was considered the youngest of the Apostles, and so, frequently, was portrayed without a beard. This was the common Renaissance motif for painting young men: womanly faces with men's bodies--and that, contrary to Brown's ideas, is what we have here.
The third thing Brown says is that Judas, John, and Jesus together form a hidden "M". Brown claims it stands either for Mary Magdalene or Matrimonio. He then says this M has been subtly hidden in many different Churches throughout the world, most blatantly, at Our Lady of Paris in London. Well, if there's a Church called "Our Lady" of anything, with a big M on the altar, I wonder what that M would stand for? Surely not Mary, the Mother of Jesus! But again, Brown cleverly avoids mentioning Our Lady in order to make his discussion of the other Mary more convincing. If people kept in mind the importance in Christian iconography of Our Blessed Mother, this hogwash about Mary Magdalene would never have gotten anywhere!
Finally, Brown makes the audacious claim that St. Peter was jealous of Mary Magdalene because Jesus intended to found the Church on her, instead of him. Therefore Leonardo portrayed Peter behaving threateningly toward Mary (who is really John), making a hand-across-the-throat gesture at her...er...him. In fact, if you look, St. Peter's hand is actually resting on John's shoulder. All his fingers are out, not just the one. His index finger is a bit longer than the others, since it is pointing to Jesus rather than just following the curve of John's shoulder, but it's hard to construe it as some sort of threatening gesture!
Moreover, Brown discusses an allegedly disembodied dagger, another subtle threat to Mary Magdalene. Brown claims that if you count the arms, it belongs to no one at all! As a matter of fact, the dagger belongs to Peter. He just happens to be holding it at a very awkward angle. Apparently, this knife dealy gave Leonardo some trouble, and he practised it a few times in his sketchbooks. Thanks, Leonardo, for putting the mystery to rest. Too bad Mr. Brown didn't study up!
So why does Peter have a knife? Why is his hand on John's shoulder? What exactly is happening in this picture?
Well, Brown gets one thing right about the painting. The scene portrayed is in fact Jesus' announcement that one of His disciples will betray Him. At this announcement, according to the Gospels, all the disciples are shocked, and ask, "Is it I?" (Mark 14:17-21). Hence, Leonardo's depiction of the disciples in a bit of commotion.
In John's Gospel, at this point, Peter leans over to John and asks him to ask Jesus who He meant, since John was sitting right next to Jesus (John 13:21-27). Jesus' response is that it is the person who took bread at the same time He did, and look again at the painting: Judas (that guy between Peter and John clutching the bag of money) is reaching for a loaf of bread just as Jesus is! So, the only remaining question is, what on earth is Peter doing with a dagger? Well, in Luke's Gospel, chapter 22, verses 35-38, Jesus tells His disciples to be prepared for the crisis of His arrest and crucifixion. He tells them even to sell their cloaks to buy swords if they don't already have one. At this, the disciples pick up two knives and say, "Hey, here are some swords!" Later on, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus is arrested, Peter uses one of those very knives to hack off a guard's ear (John 18:10,11). Since the sword was first grasped at the Last Supper, Leonardo threw it in, just so we'd know that this is Peter.
So there you have it. The two most controversial paintings in The Da Vinci Code really aren't all that controversial at all. In fact, they're pretty straightforward, and just as any good painter should, Leonardo put together a very clear masterpiece full of subtle detail and clear meaning.
The neat thing about The Last Supper, is that it was painted on a wall in the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie, in the dining hall. The light sources in the painting even match up to those that are in the hall, to make those dining there feel as if they were actually at the Last Supper. That it depicts the point where Jesus predicts that one of His disciples would betray Him serves as a reminder that we all must remain faithful to Christ. None of the disciples knew whether they were the person, and all had to ask, "Is it I?" That should be our question, too. Dan Brown would make us all Christ's betrayers. But ironically, he has given many the incentive to explore and research the truth of the Catholic Church and of Jesus Christ! Such an examination can only serve to strengthen our faith, if we really do, as the tagline for The Da Vinci Code movie encourages us, "Seek the Truth."
Posted by Gregory at 9:40 pm
Jesus Meets the Holy Women: Has the Church Truly Oppressed Women?
Well, we're getting there, to the end of The Da Vinci Code series! Our title comes from the 8th Station of the Cross, where Jesus encounters the weeping women of Jerusalem on His way to be Crucified. Notably, Jesus meets several people on His way to the Crucifixion: His Mother, Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, and the group of women. Only one of those people is a man. All the other men in the stations are beating on Jesus except for station 14, where Joseph of Arimathea puts Him in his tomb. This devotion seems typical of the respect the Church has always had for women.
The bulk of the information in this post is not my own, but the research of Fr. William Slattery, whom I had the opportunity to hear speak on this the February before last. He graciously emailed me his notes, which I slightly adapted for this post. Thank you, Fr. Slattery!
Did the Church crush the ancient feminist religions destroying "the sacred feminine" and has it oppressed womanhood ever since? This is the claim of Dan Brown throughout the book.
However, the reverse is true: The Church established the veneration of "the sacred feminine" in the respect for The Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, I find it highly ironic that a 454 page book that claims to be discussing the Catholic Church only ever mentions Mary once, and then, just as a passing thing, discussing ancient Christian iconography, and alleging that it's a rip-off of pagan iconography! That's the only time she's mentioned by name (p. 232)! Now, anyone who's anyone realises that Catholicism has a huge place for the Blessed Virgin Mary! In fact, she's in the highest position the Church can give to a human being! So how can a book make the claim that the Church that exalts and honours Mary as chief of all the saints, and most blessed of all women, oppresses those same women? Logic apparently isn't Brown's forté, and he tries to cover that up by omitting mention to the Mother of God!
The Church also liberated women from the oppression of paganism and set standards which contemporary feminism is still trying to equal.
Firstly a few facts on the so-called "sacred feminine" in ancient pagan religions: The Church did not destroy "the sacred feminine" because it never existed. There was no Female Goddess: pagan religions were polytheistic, and among those religions' many gods, the chief one was always a male, like Odin or Zeus. There has never been a matriarchal society: for example, Catalhoyuk, the 9,000 year old Stone Age settlement, according to the analysis of the human bones found there, had a division based on sex of work and implicitly of responsibilities and was not a strictly egalitarian society. Devotees of Wicca--sometimes known as the Goddess Movement--have laid claim to an ancient heritage. Historians now believe that not a single element of the Wiccan story is true.
On the contrary, Christianity brought about the liberation of woman: The Bible proclaimed the equal dignity of woman with man: Galatians 3:28, "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female--for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
God's revelation freed woman from being obliged to physical motherhood as the only way of self-fulfillment when Christianity declared virginal consecration as a vocation for woman: 1 Cor 7:35. Up until that point in history, pagan cultures, and even ancient Judaism, valued women based upon how many children they could have! But the Church changed that when they said, "You aren't valuable based on how many children you can have, but based on the fact that you are created in Christ's image, and He loves you! You don't have to have children to have value. You don't even have to be married if you don't want to!"
What has the Church done for womanhood? The answer is that the status of women before and after the arrival of Catholicism was like night and day because Catholicism proclaimed an unheard of belief in the ancient world: the total equality of male and female: Woman is the equal to man in origin, nature and destiny. Before that, women were regarded as chattel, as property, not as people!
As regards the difference between the status of women in Christianity and in pagan religions in general, the Church changed the general attitude to women prevalent in some ancient religions as simply being a sex object. For example, if a man wanted to worship at the ancient temples of Diana or Aphrodite, he could do so by hiring a "ritual prostitute"!
In Ancient Rome because of Catholicism the infanticide of girls was eliminated: in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, in which males outnumbered females by thirty per cent or more, many families refused to raise a second girl. As one husband's letter put it: "If a girl, discard it." The Church stopped this!
The Church abolished polygamy.
Women were far less likely to be forced to have an abortion: a frequent cause of death for women of the time. Notably, it's still a frequent cause of death, or at least complications, even today!
Women from Christian families were three times less likely than women from pagan families to be married before thirteen years of age. That's like, marrying someone in their 30s or older, while you're still in grade 7 or 8! Yay Catholic Church!
Christian women exercised greater freedom to choose their spouse because of the economic support available from the Church. Women could therefore flee to the Church to escape an unwanted marriage, because the Church would take care of them until they chose to get married, or chose to consecrate themselves to virginity as a nun.
The Church demanded that husbands be faithful (quite a contrast with pagan Rome).
The Church elevated women as men to the highest rank in the church: models of Christ-likeness--the Saints. For example, Mary Magdalene, who is called the Apostle to the Apostles, since she was the first person to see the Empty Tomb and tell Jesus' disciples! Ironically, her feast day was on the same day that the DVC movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and her most famous shrine is just a hop-skip-and-jump away from the Festival! So much for trying to cover her up, Dan Brown. As the writer Flannery O Connor said: "The Church would just as soon canonize a woman as a man, and I suppose has done more than any other force in history to free women."
Partly as a result of this, women of all ranks were conspicuous in the new religion and there was a notable presence in some churches of women of important social status.
In the Middle Ages (yes, those terrible Middle Ages!), the social importance, power and influence of women rose to such heights that we still haven't recovered the same level:
Politically, Between the 1000s and the 1200s almost every throne in Europe was occupied by or powerfully influenced by a woman such as the Queen of France, Blanche de Castille.
Some women were the equivalent of provincial governors and mayors and exercised power that many men today would envy. They were feudal lords and as powerful as men of the same rank in virtue of their role as abbesses of monasteries, often administering vast territories with villages, parishes. One example is Heloise, abbess of the Paraclete monastery in France.
Politically, women had the right to vote: there is the example of a woman Gaillardine de Frechou who, during a vote in her area of the Pyrenees Mountains, was the only one in the population to vote No to a certain agreement.
Career-wise, women exercised different professions: in the survey ordered by St. King Louis IX and others there are accounts of a woman teacher, doctor, pharmacist, plasterer, dyer, copyist, salt merchant, a woman Crusader, a woman hairdresser, a woman miller and so on.
In education, women were educated as well as men through the convents. The abbess Hroswitha in Germany, a writer, influenced the development of both the theatre and the German language; the abbess Herrad of Landsberg wrote the best-known encyclopedia, Hortus Deliciarum of the 1100s. Not to mention the talented musician Hildegarde of Bingen. There were even dual monasteries on different parts of a property where men and women lived separately but were ruled over by women, as occurred in the famous abbey of Fontevrault.
In the home the woman ruled alongside her husband over both family and property and retained power over what belonged to her from before marriage.
In the armed forces, we still have not had a female commander in chief since Joan of Arc was promoted to the position by the Catholic Church.
If you had said to Queen Isabella of Spain, to Joan of Arc, Catherine of Siena or any of the aforementioned women that the Church subjected women, they would all have been very indignant and most of them would have flown into a towering passion. They would have asked in various ways where the whole sense of medieval respect for womanhood came from, where their ability to study and rule and govern came from?
This is the bright and shining truth of Christianity, that women as well as men are of equal worth in Christ's eyes. We are all able to attain to the highest position in the Catholic Church: that of Saint. And truly, that is our calling, and that is what we should be striving for! God calls us all to it with open arms; let's accept His invitation!
Below, I've posted the Concluding Footnote from Fr. Slattery's notes:
Concluding footnote: UNRELIABLE SOURCES OF INFORMATION:God bless!
Brown actually cites his principal sources within the text of his novel. One is a specimen of academic feminist scholarship: The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels. The others are popular esoteric histories: The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince; Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln; The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail, both by Margaret Starbird. (Starbird, a self-identified Catholic, has her books published by Matthew Fox's outfit, Bear & Co.) Another influence, at least at second remove, is The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker.
The use of such unreliable sources belies Brown's pretensions to intellectuality. But the act has apparently fooled at least some of his readers--the New York Daily News book reviewer trumpeted, "His research is impeccable."
Posted by Gregory at 9:35 pm
The Bible: Its Genesis and Revelation
In the same chapter that Dan Brown makes his ludicrous claims about Jesus Christ's divinity, he makes similar claims regarding the origin and content of the Bible:
"The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book." -Leigh Teabing, p. 231Brown claims that the Bible "didn't arrive by fax from heaven" (p.231) as if this is something new to Christians. We know this. We hold, rather, that God divinely inspired the many authors of the Bible to write the historical record of tumultuous times. And yet, that is not all that the Bible is, either. It is also theological reflection on those same tumultuous times, as well as moral instruction for how to be have at any time, tumultuous or not. Notably, the Bible also records non-tumultuous times!
Brown throws in another half-truth when he discusses that the Bible "evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions." Obviously the Bible has been translated. It has also been added to. It was, after all, written over a period of 1500-odd years! As for revisions, when it comes to the Catholic Church, this is simply not the case. Any time revisions were undertaken, the Catholic Church reacted strongly against it, such as St. Polycarp (a disciple of St. John the Apostle), who called the heretic Marcion, "the first-born of Satan" because Marcion removed the entire Old Testament, as well as Matthew, Mark, and John, and anything not written by St. Luke or St. Paul--even then, he felt that he understood things better than St. Paul. Later, when dissenters like Wycliffe and Huss published their own translations of the Bible, the Catholic Church again decried their revisions, as they did with the translation by Martin Luther the reformer.
Finally, Brown makes the claim that "history has never had a definitive version of the Bible." Well, that is simply absurd. Notably, he contradicts even himself in his lies, when later he makes the claim that the version of the Bible that we know was "collated" by Constantine 1650-odd years ago! So which is it, Brown, have we never had a definitive Bible, or have we had an allegedly rewritten one for 1650 years?
Well, actually, it's neither, as we'll discuss later.
"Jesus was a historical figure of staggering influence....His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land." Teabing paused to sip his tea and then placed the cup back on the mantel. "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them."Here's some more fun with illogic. A "Gospel" is defined as a record of Christ's life. Brown says that "thousands" of people recorded His life. In other words, thousands of people wrote Gospels. Yet, in the very next sentence, Brown mentions "more than eighty." Well, yeah, if it's true that more than a thousand people wrote a gospel, there would be "more than eighty." But I wonder why the conservative number of eighty, if there should have been upwards of 2000? Probably because even Dan Brown was aware of the absurdity of that claim!
"Who chose which gospels to include?" Sophie asked.
"Aha!" Teabing burst in with wild enthusiasm. "The fundamental irony of Christianity! The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great." -ibid.
Here's another thing I love. Out of the 80, a "relative few" were chosen, "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them" (emphasis mine). Hold on. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were "among" the Gospels that were chosen to be included? No, they were not "among", they were it! These four and no more!
But besides being illogical to the point of idiotic, Brown's claims simply aren't true. There were only around fifty, not 80, gospels floating around in and before Constantine's time. Of those 50, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were authoritative almost as soon as they were written, and all others were rejected! Writings from around the year 100 already testify to the unsurpassed quality of the fourfold Gospel. After Marcion decided to chop things up around AD 140, the Church decided to put out an authoritative list, which included 22 or 23 of the 27 books that we have today. It wasn't until AD 367 (well after Constantine's time) that St. Athanasius listed out the 27 books, And this list was decided at the Councils of Hippo (AD 393) and Carthage (AD 397), and ratified by popes Innocent I (AD 405) and Gelasius (AD 495). In 1546, the Council of Trent again confirmed, and infallibly defined, that the Bible that we use is indeed the Bible, because the Reformers, like Luther, decided to do away with 7 books of the Old Testament, and Luther tossed around the idea of losing the Epistle of James and the Book of Revelation.
"The twist is this," Teabing said, talking faster now. "Because Constantine upgraded Jesus' status almost four centuries after Jesus' death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history." Teabing paused, eyeing Sophie. "Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were gathered up, outlawed, and burned...Again, Dan Brown borders on the ridiculous here. Constantine had nothing to do with the Canon of Scripture. He did not have anything rewritten. There is documentary evidence in support of the veracity of the Scriptures. There are more than 5000 copies of the New Testament books, many of which predate Constantine, which agree with incredible accuracy with the Bible that we have. That is, there is only about a 200 year difference between our earliest copies and when the Bible was written, and when we compare what we have with those, there are only about 400 differences, total, and not only do they not affect any major Christian doctrine at all, most of them are pronoun differences (he or it?) or verb tenses.
"Fortunately for historians," Teabing said, "some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert. And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at Nag Hammadi...[T]hese documents speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms. Of course, the Vatican, in keeping with their tradition of misinformation, tried very hard to suppress the release of these scrolls. And why wouldn't they? The scrolls highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda--to promote the divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own power base." -Ibid, p. 234.
That might sound like a lot (200 years? 400 differences?) but consider this comparison. Outside of the Bible, the oldest manuscript that we have is Homer's Iliad. It was written around 800 BC. Scholars have only around 400 or so copies of it, and these copies date to around AD 200. That's a 1000 year gap! Yet historians consider these copies to be very reliable, even though there are thousands of discrepancies between each copy. Compared with the New Testament, where our earliest copies are only 200 years after it was written (instead of 1000!) and we have upwards of 5000 copies (compared to 400) and there are only 400 very minor discrepancies (compared to many thousands), considering the fact that historians consider the Iliad to be a reliable historical document, how much more reliable can we consider the Bible?
Brown goes on to claim that the Gospels that were omitted talked about a very human Jesus, but the Gospels that were kept talk about a more godlike one. I wonder if Brown has read the Bible? Jesus' humanity and His divinity are stressed throughout! In fact, many people have read the Bible and decided that Jesus in fact was not God based on their reading (misinformed as it is).
Finally, in his defence, Dan Brown tries to introduce the Dead Sea Scrolls and the texts of Nag Hammadi to give evidence. But even here he fails to prove anything beyond how illiterate his research is. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which he claims tell the truth about who Jesus was, don't say one word about Him! They were Jewish documents that were written between 100 and 300 years before Jesus was born! As a matter of fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls have gone a long way to authenticate our version of the Old Testament, showing that it is as reliable as the New Testament!
As for the texts of Nag Hammadi, these are not Christian texts at all, but Gnostic ones. Gnosticism was a religion in the early days of Christianity that gained popularity (or notoriety) by stealing the important religious figures of a religion and making them out to teach Gnostic ideas. And they didn't do it exclusively with Christianity, and the so-called "Gnostic Gospels", but with Judaism and even the pagan Greek and Roman religions! Moreover, these so-called gospels were not written before the Gospels, but over 100 years after! As such, they do not hold deep insights into Christ's true history, but are cultic fabrications with little to nothing to do with Christianity. As far as the Vatican trying to suppress these documents, they have not. In fact, they hardly said a word when one of them, the "Gospel of Judas", was "unveiled" by National Geographic just before last Easter, and heralded to be a "controversial" document in Christianity. The Church yawned and simply reminded everyone that it's all old news to them: St. Irenaeus around the year AD 180 had referred to this very text as pure fiction, and in 1800 years, we've got nothing to add.
Dan Brown attempts to undermine a book, and he certainly does. Only, he just manages to undermine his own book by spouting ridiculous lies about the Bible. With just a little bit of historical research, these facts are verifiable. For Dan Brown to deny history is just plain silly. But according to him, remember, "all descriptions of...documents...are accurate." Right. And I'm Leonardo Da Vinci.
For more information on where the Bible came from, I'd recommend reading Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church by Rev. Henry G. Graham. You can read it online at that link.
The wonderful thing about people trying to undermine the Catholic Faith, is that it gives us the terrific opportunity to reexamine it, and remind ourselves about the facts, that Jesus is God, the Church is Good, and the Bible is reliable.
Posted by Gregory at 9:27 pm
The Church: Wheat and Chaff
Repeatedly, too often to sift through again for quotes, The Da Vinci Code takes frequent pot-shots at the Catholic Church, portraying it alternatively as power-hungry, blood-thirsty despots to gullible, ignorant pawns. All of the Catholics in the book are portrayed negatively: The "New Pope" is a liberal who is changing the Church's more stringent doctrines (ironically, since the book was written before Pope John Paul II died, the book is trying to describe Benedict XVI, and failing laughably!).
The Parisienne Captain of the DCPJ, Bezu Fache (whose name is an anagram of Zebu, a type of bull, and the French word for Angry, hence, Angry Bull--must have taken his colleagues a long time to come up with that nickname!) is portrayed as a merciless and unscrupulously Javert-esque detective. Although he turns out to be perhaps the best portrayed Catholic in the book, in the sense that in the end he realises the truth of the murder plot and gets the bad guy, his tactics are never repenteded.
Silas, the albino "monk" of Opus Dei, is portrayed as a murderous fiend, a religious extremist, and an unwitting pawn. His mentor, Bishop Aringarosa, is portrayed as desperate and duplicitous (as are his consorts within the Vatican), who is seeking power to maintain his shaky position.
The nun at St. Sulpice is portrayed heroically as a liberal and modern-thinking Catholic, like the Pope. In all, the "Good Catholics" are portrayed as power-hungry and duplicitous, and the "Bad Catholics", who deny the faith and teachings of the Church, are portrayed as forward-thinking, enlightened heroes.
Moreover, Dan Brown repeatedly dredges up (and makes up) sordid details from Catholicism's past. He claims that Constantine made Jesus God (see last week's article) in order to consolidate the Vatican's power (newsflash, the Vatican didn't exist in Constantine's day! It wasn't built for another 1000-odd years!), and he portrays dissenting heretics as noble martyrs who were persecuted for wanting to choose what the truth was. He claims that the Catholic Church burned 5,000,000 witches, which is insane on two counts: The vast majority of witch trials were done in Protestant Europe, not by Catholics; and the actual numbers, according to most historians, was only around 30,000-50,000 witches. Still a tragic number, but nowhere near five million!
Brown claims that the Crusades were instituted to further destroy heretics, when in fact they were defensive wars attempting to beat back the marauding Muslim invaders. He claims that the Church was fully behind the arrest and burning of the Knights Templar, though it was really the too-powerful French prince, Philip the Fair, who used the weak Pope Clement V. Even then, Pope Clement did much to help the Templars even then. Further, historians have shown that, most likely, the Templars were never heretics, much less guardians of the secret that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene!
All this isn't said in order to say that Dan Brown paints the Church in sinister strokes, while the reality is much more pure and good. No, the Church has always had within it evil, sinful people, who, in the name of the Church or of Religion, have done evil things. In fact, the true history of the Church is dark enough at points to make us wonder why Brown bothered to make up stuff at all!
Knowing, then, that the Church contains evil men, as well as good, and has done evil things as well as good, what are we to do? Decry it as evil and leave for the paganism that Dan Brown espouses? Reject religion for a fluffy spirituality, as even some Christian people advocate?
No! We should not be surprised that there are evil people in the Church! Jesus Himself told us that there would be:
He put another parable before them, 'The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, then the darnel appeared as well. The owner's labourers went to him and said, "Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?" He said to them, "Some enemy has done this." And the labourers said, "Do you want us to go and weed it out?" But he said, "No, because when you weed out the darnel, you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn"'(Matthew 13:24-30).Jesus is telling us that it is neither our job to rid the Church of those that are evil, nor to leave on account of the evil. As a pastor once remarked, "There's no such thing as a perfect church. But if you happen to find one, don't go there, because you'll only mess it up." What he was saying is that none of us are perfect, but we, in all of our imperfections, make up this Church. In fact, if the Church here and now was perfect, there would be no place for us. The Church, whose mission is to offer Grace and Forgiveness to sinners, would not be able to do so until those sinners no longer needed Grace or Forgiveness!
So how do we respond to a Church that even in this day and age, is riddled with a clergy sex-abuse scandal, and other failings? St. Augustine said it well:
Stay close to the faithful who are good. Because there are, sad to say, believers who are evil. There are some who are called believers, though they are not. There are believers who abuse the sacraments of Christ, people who live in such a way that they themselves perish while they destroy others. They perish from their evil way of living; they destroy others by the example of their wicked lives. Do not join them, dearly beloved. Seek the good; cling to the good; be good.Here is our answer! Here is our duty! Seek the good; cling to the good; be good.
Don't be surprised at the multitude of bad Christians who fill the church, who go up to the altar for Communion, who make a big deal of praising the bishop or priest when he speaks about good morals. Such people fulfil the prediction made by our shepherd in the psalm: "Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be numbered" (Ps 40:5). They can be with us in the Church of this time, but, after the resurrection, they will be unable to remain in the congregation of saints. The Church of this time has good mixed with bad. It is like a threshing floor, where grain is mixed with chaff, good members mixed together with evil. But, after the judgement, it will have all good members, without the evil. This threshing floor holds the harvest planted by the apostles and watered in turn by good teachers down to the present time. It has been threshed a bit by the persecution of enemies; now only the final winnowing remains to be done. And indeed He is coming, of whom you have repeated in the creed: "He will come to judge the living and the dead." As the Gospel says: "His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His granary, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire" (Luke 3:17).
...May the grain rejoice with trembling, and remain, and not leave the threshing floor. May you never try, by your own judgement, to free yourself from the chaff; for you cannot remain on the threshing floor if you seek to separate yourself now from the chaff. What's more, when Christ comes--He Who judges without error--He will not raise to the granary anything He has not found on the threshing floor. And those grains that have left the threshing floor will boast in vain about where they came from. The granary will be filled and closed. Fire will consume whatever is left outside.
So, brothers and sisters, those who are good must put up with evil. Those who are bad must imitate the good. On this threshing floor, grain can rot into chaff, and grain can rise up from the chaff. Such changes take place every day, my brothers and sisters. This life is full of humiliations and consolations. Every day, seemingly good people do wrong and die; yet seemingly evil people are converted and live. For God takes no "pleasure in the death of the wicked," but only "that he should turn from his way and live" (Ezek 18:23).
Listen to me, grains of wheat! Listen, you who are what I wish you to be! Don't be saddened by the mixture with chaff. The evil ones will not be with you forever. How heavy, after all, is that pile of husks? It is light, thank God! We must only remain as grains, and then, however heavy it gets, it will not crush us. "God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor 10:13). (From Sermon 223. Quoted in Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians, ch. 33, edited by Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina.)
Posted by Gregory at 9:23 pm
Jesus Christ: The God-Man
We began discussing The Da Vinci Code with an eye on St. Peter's instruction to "Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
What is the reason for our hope? Our faith in Jesus Christ, knowing that His death and resurrection has saved us and set us free. This is the Truth, about which Jesus said, "If you make My word your home, you will indeed be My disciples; and you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). What is He saying? That we need to live according to the Truth in order to be free! So what is the Truth that we need to know? Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us point blank: "I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Christ Himself is the Truth that we need to know!
But Dan Brown has a different notion: in his book, he has his character, Leigh Teabing, say, "Constantine's Bible has been their truth for ages. Nobody is more indoctrinated than the indoctrinator...[A]lmost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false" (ch 55. p. 235 in the Hardcover version published by Doubleday, emphasis in the original).
This is what The Da Vinci Code teaches is the truth about Christ:
"Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions, and founded new philosophies. As a descendant of the lines of King Solomon and King David, Jesus possessed a rightful claim to the throne of the King of the Jews. Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land" (Teabing, p. 231).Sounds pretty impressive. Brown really gives Jesus a lot of credit! Calling Him the King of the Jews, the Messiah, and a great human prophet who inspires millions! But the key is that Brown claims Jesus was only a human being. He goes on to describe the Council of Nicaea in AD 325:
"At this gathering," Teabing said, "many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon--the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of the sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus."But is this actually the historic truth? Dan Brown wants us to believe that it is. After all, on his so-called "Fact" page, he says that the descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals are accurate. Well, the Council of Nicaea was recorded--documented--and he "describes" the Council here. Well, if his "facts" are indeed facts, then this should be an accurate description of the Council.
"I don't follow. His divinity?" [Sophie Neveu, the main female character, says.]
"My dear," Teabing declared, "until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal."
"Not the Son of God?"
"Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea."
"Hold on. You're saying that Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?"
"A relatively close vote at that," Teabing added. "Nonetheless, establishing Christ's divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base. By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable. This not only precluded further pagan challenges to Christianity, but now the followers of Christ were able to redeem themselves only through the established sacred channel--the Roman Catholic Church."
Sophie glanced at Langdon [the main male character], and he gave her a soft nod of concurrence.
"It was all about power," Teabing continued. "Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power"(p. 233).
In fact, the Council of Nicaea was convened by Constantine, who had converted about 12 to 13 years earlier. But Constantine wasn't a theologian, he was a king, who wanted peace in his Empire. In AD 313, he issued the Edict of Milan which made Christianity a legal religion. (Contrary to Brown's assertion, Constantine never made Christianity the "official" religion of the Roman Empire. That was done nearly a century later by a guy named Theodosius. All Constantine did was make it illegal to continue persecuting Christians.) Now that Christianity was legal, and the leaders of the Church no longer had to fear for their lives on a daily basis, they were better able to spread the Gospel throughout the land. Unfortunately, some people had a distorted version of Christianity--in particular, one priest from Egypt, named Arius. Arius taught that Jesus was the Son of God in the sense that God made Jesus and gave Him divine power, making Him something of a demi-god or a secondary god, as opposed to the One True God. Unfortunately, Arius was a pretty clever and convincing fellow, and a good large portion of the Church listened to him. However, there were those who still clung to the faith of the Apostles and contended with Arius.
Enter Constantine, who wanted an end to the infighting, so in AD 325, he gets all the Bishops together to hash out the issue. But remember, unlike what Brown says, the question of Jesus divinity was not "Was Jesus God or just human?" but "In what way was Jesus God?" Everyone at that Council believed that Jesus was divine!
Most of the Bishops that were at the Council actually agreed with Arius' teaching--and in fact, again, contrary to what Brown says, even Constantine leaned in favour of the Arian position! But Constantine recognised that he had no authority to make a pronouncement, and left that to the Bishops. For a while they wrangled over metaphysics and philosophical theories, until finally the simple question was proposed, "What did the Apostles believe? What did they teach?" When that question became the basis of the discussion, the answer was arrived at very quickly. About this decision, Dan Brown claims that the vote was "a relatively close one". In my mind, at a council of 220 Bishops, a close vote might look something like 115-105, or 120-110. To be generous, I'd even toss out 130-90.
But what Dan Brown describes as "a relatively close vote" was 218-2 in favour of the Apostles' teaching--That Jesus Christ really was God! This was the Teaching of the Apostles, and their successors! Don't believe me? Here are some quotations from the Early Church Fathers, all of which were written before the Council of Nicaea (The quotations are in chronological order. The dates are with the citations of the documents. I've bolded particularly poignant ones):
Ignatius of AntiochSo why is it important for us to actually believe that Jesus was both completely God and completely human? Because otherwise, He could not have saved us. Through sin, humanity put themselves in debt to God. The payment of that debt is death--and not just physical death, but eternal death: separation from God in Hell. That's what we deserve. But obviously, that's a debt that we can't pay. So God, out of Gracious Love for us, chose to pay that debt for us, through Jesus Christ.
"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church at Ephesus in Asia... predestined from eternity for a glory that is lasting and unchanging, united and chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God" (Letter to the Ephesians 1 [A.D. 110]).
"For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit" (ibid., 18:2).
"[T]o the Church beloved and enlightened after the love of Jesus Christ, our God, by the will of him that has willed everything which is" (Letter to the Romans 1 [A.D. 110]).
"[Christians] are they who, above every people of the earth, have found the truth, for they acknowledge God, the Creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit" (Apology 16 [A.D. 140]).
Tatian the Syrian
"We are not playing the fool, you Greeks, nor do we talk nonsense, when we report that God was born in the form of a man" (Address to the Greeks 21 [A.D. 170]).
Melito of Sardis
"It is no way necessary in dealing with persons of intelligence to adduce the actions of Christ after his baptism as proof that his soul and his body, his human nature, were like ours, real and not phantasmal. The activities of Christ after his baptism, and especially his miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the deity hidden in his flesh. Being God and likewise perfect man, he gave positive indications of his two natures: of his deity, by the miracles during the three years following after his baptism, of his humanity, in the thirty years which came before his baptism, during which, by reason of his condition according to the flesh, he concealed the signs of his deity, although he was the true God existing before the ages" (Fragment in Anastasius of Sinai's The Guide 13 [A.D. 177]).
"For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to reestablish all things; and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth..." (Adversus Haereses 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).
"Nevertheless, what cannot be said of anyone else who ever lived, that he is himself in his own right God and Lord... may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth" (ibid., 3:19:1).
Clement of Alexandria
"The Word, then, the Christ, is the cause both of our ancient beginning--for he was in God--and of our well-being. And now this same Word has appeared as man. He alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things" (Exhortation to the Greeks 1:7:1 [A.D. 190]).
"Despised as to appearance but in reality adored, [Jesus is] the expiator, the Savior, the soother, the divine Word, he that is quite evidently true God, he that is put on a level with the Lord of the universe because he was his Son" (ibid., 10:110:1).
"The origins of both his substances display him as man and as God: from the one, born, and from the other, not born" (The Flesh of Christ 5:6-7 [A.D. 210]).
"That there are two gods and two Lords, however, is a statement which we will never allow to issue from our mouth; not as if the Father and the Son were not God, nor the Spirit God, and each of them God; but formerly two were spoken of as gods and two as Lords, so that when Christ would come, he might both be acknowledged as God and be called Lord, because he is the Son of him who is both God and Lord" (Against Praxeas 13:6 [A.D. 216]).
"Although he was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained what he was: God" (The Fundamental Doctrines 1:0:4 [A.D. 225]).
Hippolytus of Rome
"Only [God's] Word is from himself and is therefore also God, becoming the substance of God" (Refutation of All Heresies 10:33 [A.D. 228]).
"For Christ is the God over all, who has arranged to wash away sin from mankind, rendering the old man new" (ibid., 10:34).
"If Christ was only man, why did he lay down for us such a rule of believing as that in which he said, 'And this is life eternal, that they should know you, the only and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent?' [John 17:3]. Had he not wished that he also should be understood to be God, why did he add, 'And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,' except because he wished to be received as God also? Because if he had not wished to be understood to be God, he would have added, 'And the man Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent;' but, in fact, he neither added this, nor did Christ deliver himself to us as man only, but associated himself with God, as he wished to be understood by this conjunction to be God also, as he is. We must therefore believe, according to the rule prescribed, on the Lord, the one true God, and consequently on him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ, who by no means, as we have said, would have linked himself to the Father had he not wished to be understood to be God also. For he would have separated himself from him had he not wished to be understood to be God" (Treatise on the Trinity 16 [A.D. 235]).
Cyprian of Carthage
"One who denies that Christ is God cannot become his temple [of the Holy Spirit]..." (Letters 73:12 [A.D. 253]).
Gregory the Wonderworker
"There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is his subsistent wisdom and power and eternal image: perfect begetter of the perfect begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, only of the only, God of God, image and likeness of deity, efficient Word, wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, invisible of invisible, and incorruptible of incorruptible, and immortal of immortal and eternal of eternal.... And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever" (Declaration of Faith [A.D. 265]).
"'Well, then,' some raging, angry, and excited man will say, 'is that Christ your God?' 'God indeed,' we shall answer, 'and God of the hidden powers'" (Against the Pagans 1:42 [A.D. 305]).
"He was made both Son of God in the spirit and Son of man in the flesh, that is, both God and man" (Divine Institutes 4:13:5 [A.D. 307]).
"We, on the other hand, are [truly] religious, who make our supplications to the one true God. Someone may perhaps ask how, when we say that we worship one God only, we nevertheless assert that there are two, God the Father and God the Son--which assertion has driven many into the greatest error...[thinking] that we confess that there is another God, and that he is mortal.... [But w]hen we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate each, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father" (ibid., 4:28-29). (This list was compiled by the great people at Catholic Answers: Click here for the whole article.)
Now here's the thing: had Jesus just been human, even a really great human like The Da Vinci Code says, His death would have only been worth the death of a human. One for one!
On the other hand, had Jesus been only God, and not truly human, but only "dressed up like one" as some cultish religions, like the Gnostics, teach, He would not have had the right to pay that debt on our behalf. To really represent humanity, the payer of the debt must himself be human.
So Jesus, who is "God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God" in the words of the Nicaean Creed, became a Man "for us men and for our salvation," so that, as a Man, He could represent humanity, and as God, His death would be of infinite worth--because God is an infinite God. His sacrifice is worth enough to pay the debt of sin for everyone, from Adam and Eve to the very last people to live on earth!
That's the Truth that sets us free, if we choose to live in it! That's the truth that Dan Brown seeks to subvert and destroy in his novel!
That's the Gospel. Don't let anyone rob you of it!
Posted by Gregory at 9:18 pm
Introduction: Just Fiction?
1 Peter 3:15
Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have.Well, on May 19, 2006, The Da Vinci Code Movie premiered. I laughed to read the reviews of the critics, which panned it all around, but sadly, the wisdom of critics is often overlooked by the movie-going public.
Ever since the book came out 4 or so years ago, it has been making waves in the Christian world, with its claims that Jesus wasn't God, married Mary Magdalene, and that the Catholic Church hid that truth through often treacherous means. It takes some clear and offensive pot-shots at our faith, and I've been asked, tragically on more than one occasion, how much of the book is true?
On the other hand, many people see absolutely nothing wrong with The Da Vinci Code, appealing to the book cum movie's label as "fiction" to minimise the impact of what the book teaches. And yes, it is fiction. However, too many people make the mistake of saying, it's just fiction. For something to qualify as fiction does not mean that everything about the book is false or made up. "Historical Fiction" is a quite popular genre precisely because much of the action takes place in "the real world" and is therefore more believable. And it is at this blurry little line that we run into problems, because, similar to an historical fiction writer, Dan Brown has made the claim that much of what he has written is not fiction, but fact. He has even said that the "fiction" lies simply in the plot of two people trying to figure out why some guy at the Louvre was murdered. Meanwhile, just after the title page, there is a page of supposed "Facts":
Fact:The problem is that his claim itself is fiction. What Brown touts as facts in his book are more often than not fictitious. For example, the Priory of Sion founded in 1099 was not a secret society, but a religious order that looked after The Church of St. Mary's in Zion, until it was destroyed by Muslims after the first Crusade. After that time, they spread through Europe teaching the Gospel, until in 1617 the last remaining members joined the Jesuits. The "secret society" known as "The Priory of Sion" was founded in 1956 by a man convicted of embezzlement and fraud, named Pierre Plantard, and Les Dossiers Secrets have been shown to be a forgery by Plantard.
The Priory of Sion--
a European secret society founded in 1099--is a real organisation.
In 1975 Paris's Bibliothèque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and a dangerous practice known as "corporal mortification." Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million National Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
Moreover, Opus Dei is described as being brainwashing and coercive, and practicing a "dangerous" ritual known as "corporal mortification." Yes, Brown admits that these are just "reports", but still, they are on his facts page and imply that they should be taken seriously--and many do. More to the point, Brown still himself editorialises by calling "Corporal Mortification" a dangerous practice. It is not. Remember on this blog, the article about Fasting? That's a form of "corporal mortification." It is simply denying our body something in order to be more able to focus on the spiritual things of God, and is not in the least "dangerous."
Finally, Brown's descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals are anything but accurate. We'll be discussing that more in depth in the following parts, but for starters, the bathroom in the Louvre where Langdon and Sophie Neveu get rid of his tracking device by tossing it out the window--that bathroom doesn't have a window! So much for accurately describing architecture. The glass pyramid at the Louvre that allegedly has 666 pieces of glass, actually has 793 panes! So much for accurate descriptions of Art! As I said, we'll explore the rest of these as we go on. Suffice it to say that Brown's "Fact" page is just as fictional as his plot. But people in our culture often do not have the discernment nor the ability (nor patience) to decipher what is true from what is false. And so too often people (including good, Catholic people) ask me, "How much of this is true?"
Anything with the potential to lead people away from Jesus and His Church is never just fiction. It is dangerous and should be stood against. Hence, I'll be posting a five-part series examining and dismantling the "facts" of The Da Vinci Code (that was originally published at Grace for the Wayward Heart based on a series of talks given to my former youth group). Part 1 will look at Who Jesus Is. Part 2 will look at The Church. Part 3 will address Where We Got the Bible. Part 4 will discuss whether, in truth, the Church really Oppressed Women. And finally, we'll examine some of the Art featured in the novel. Hopefully in so doing, I will help people to have an answer ready, for when people ask us about the hope that we have.
So stay tuned for what I'm sure will be, for myself at least, a pleasurable opportunity to set the record straight and preach the Truth, over and against what was written in a novel that, in my opinion, has characters about as deep as those in a Hardy Boys Mystery and a plot that is as unpredictable as an episode of Scooby-Doo.
Man, I want those 10 hours back that I spent reading that book!
Posted by Gregory at 9:08 pm
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Picked this up over at Hidden One's blog.
1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus.
2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer.
3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?
I wear a Miraculous Medal (Medal of Mary Immaculate).
4. Do you have holy water in your home?
5. Do you "offer up" your sufferings?
6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?
It's more of a "You mean that was yesterday?!"
7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How Frequently?
I do, but only once in a while. I really should make it a practice to go more often.
8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or a Sunday morning Mass person?
Due to current work schedules, Saturday evening Mass isn't possible. I used to sing with the choir at that Mass. Given my preference, though, I like Sunday Mass for the simple reason that it's on Sunday.
9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?
Yes. Even sometimes when snacking.
10. Favorite saints:
Our Lady, Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, St. John the Baptist, St. John the Apostle, St. Thomas the Apostle, Sts. Gregory Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzus (my patrons), St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Patrick, St. Francis de Sales, St. Jean de Brébeuf, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas More, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and, just for pre-emptive good measure, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and John Paul the Great :)
11. Can you recite the Apostles' Creed by heart?
Yes. I can get most of the Nicene Creed as well.
12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?
I used to be Pentecostal! It's second nature!
13. Bonus Question: When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?
Added bonus question: Have you named your Guardian Angel?
I had never given the issue much thought, in all honesty.
Posted by Gregory at 11:36 am