The Da Vinci Code opportunity

I was on the road a lot during Lent. And from sea to shining sea, nary an airport bookstore was without a Da Vinci Code display, in anticipation of the May release of Ron Howard’s film. One tries to ignore the hype — “the greatest cover-up in history!” — but there’s something depressing going on here. Why do intelligent people think that The Da Vinci Code has some basis in historical fact? Why do Catholics imagine that a novel which suggests (and not so subtly) that the entire structure of faith is a lie is, well, no big deal?

The good news, though, is that the film’s release is a great opportunity for bishops, priests, and deacons to dedicate Eastertide 2006 to preaching the truth of Christian history.

One of the reasons why so many Catholics have been vulnerable to the novel’s preposterous claims is that most Catholics are woefully ignorant of the Church’s history. How, for example, did the original Christian confession about Jesus of Nazareth — “Jesus is Lord” — came to doctrinal articulation in the Nicene Creed: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; begotten not made, one in Being with the Father”? If you don’t know, at least in broad strokes, how the Creed of the Council of Nicaea came to express the New Testament faith of the Church, you’re going to be vulnerable to Dan Brown’s risible suggestion that it was all imperial politics in the age of Constantine. So I can well imagine a month’s worth of sermons on the development of Christology, the Church’s theology of Jesus as Son of God.

Then there’s the question of the integrity of the New Testament itself. The historical-critical method of Biblical analysis has immeasurably increased our knowledge of the Bible. Yet, filtered through inadequate homiletics and catechetics, historical-critical readings of the New Testament have also created suspicion about the historical reliability of the Gospels in many minds. “That’s just a story,” is a phrase too often encountered in casual discussions about the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. Yet I think it’s safe to assume that the Second Vatican Council didn’t reclaim the Bible for the people of the Church so that the people of the Church could learn to be suspicious about the Bible.

I’ve often recommended the work of Anglican exegete N.T. Wright as an antidote to this suspiciousness, and let me do so again: if there is one book to give a friend troubled by The Da Vinci Code and its portrait of the life of Jesus, it’s Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (InterVarsity Press), in which impeccable, contemporary scholarship is deployed to defend the historicity of the Gospels, including the historicity of the resurrection. Based on a set of lectures Dr. Wright gave for evangelical leaders in the late 1990s, The Challenge of Jesus is accessible to any intelligent reader, and provides a far more fascinating account of the complexities of Jewish life and messianic expectation at the time of Jesus than anything to be found in Dan Brown’s fevered imagination.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a Web site, www.Jesusdecoded.com, that’s full of resources for those who want to turn the Da Vinci Code fuss into an evangelical and catechetical opportunity.  In addition to a devastating critique of Brown’s understanding of Leonardo da Vinci by Elizabeth Lev, the Web site includes a very useful “When they say…you say…” essay by Catholic author and blogger Amy Welborn, “What Do You Say to a Da Vinci Code Believer?” Ms. Welborn is always interesting and always feisty: for example, “There is enough truth in The Da Vinci Code to be seriously misleading. Yes, the sources, like Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and The Templar Revelation, exist. But they don’t reflect serious historical scholarship. You’re not going to find a university history department on the planet that uses the works that provide the meat of The Da Vinci Code theories as part of the syllabus.” Indeed.

Got lemons? Make lemonade. The Da Vinci Code is an opportunity waiting to be seized.

COMING UP: Colorado bishops issue letter on the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life Congressional policies

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

We, the Catholic bishops of Colorado, urge Congressional Representatives to support the Hyde Amendment and the Walden Amendment. We also ask the Faithful to sign The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) petition to lawmakers encouraging them to preserve the Hyde Amendment, which can be accessed at: NoTaxpayerAbortion.com, and to contact their Congressmen and women to support the Hyde and Walden amendments.

The House Appropriations Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee recently passed a spending bill that strips protections for pre-born children, healthcare providers,and American taxpayers by excluding pro-life provisions, including the Hyde and Weldon amendments.

The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortion in most cases, except for rape and incest, has received bipartisan support since its inception in 1976 – including by pro-abortion administrations. Hyde is critical in saving lives. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that approximately 60,000 pre-born babies are saved every year because of the Hyde Amendment.[1] This is the first time in 40 years that the Hyde Amendment was not included in the annual appropriations bill[2] and failure to include pro-life amendments will only further increase divisions in our country.

The Weldon Amendment prevents any federal programs, agencies, and state and local governments from discriminating against health care practitioners and institutions that do not provide abortion services. It ensures that pro-life individuals and organizations can enter the health care profession without fearing that the government will force them to perform a procedure that violates their well-founded convictions. It has also received bipartisan support and was added to the appropriations bill every year since it was first enacted in 2005. [3]

Congress’ recent actions endanger the lives of pre-born children and infringe on the rights of millions of Americans who do not wish to participate in the moral evil of abortion. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions[4] and a 2019 Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think abortion should either be illegal or only legal in a few circumstances.[5]

The government should neither use taxpayer funds for the killing of pre-born children nor compel medical practitioners and institutions to violate their well-founded convictions. Congress must uphold these long-standing, common-sense bipartisan policies that promote a culture of life in our nation.

Human reason and science affirm that human life begins at conception. The Church objects to abortion on the moral principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with respect due to every human person. There has never been and never will be a legitimate need to abort a baby in the womb.

It is critical that Congress continue its long-history of supporting policies such as the Hyde and Walden amendments, and that all Colorado Catholics and people of good will make their voice heard in supporting these life-affirming policies.

Sign the petition to Congress here: www.NoTaxpayerAbortion.com

Contact your Congressional Representatives here: https://cocatholicconference.org/news/

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend James R. Golka
Bishop of Colorado Springs

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver