.- Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, has accused promoters of the movie “Angels & Demons” of “trying to have it both ways” by first claiming the movie’s “pernicious lies” about Catholics are fiction, but then promoting its premise as based in fact.
He said that the actions echo the tactic used to promote the movie’s predecessor, “The Da Vinci Code.” Donohue and Ron Howard, director of “Angels & Demons,” exchanged arguments about whether the new movie based upon a Dan Brown book is anti-Catholic.
Claiming that the makers of the movie “do not hide their animus against all things Catholic,” Donohue charged that the movie’s trailer “lies” when it says the Catholic Church ordered a massacre to silence the Illuminati, an occult secret society featured in the movie.
Howard, responding to Donohue in a Tuesday essay at the Huffington Post, wrote “Let me be clear: neither I nor ‘Angels & Demons’ are anti-Catholic.”
He said he believed Catholics would enjoy the movie as an “exciting mystery” set in the “awe-inspiring beauty” of Rome. Howard also said that the accusations of the Illuminati massacre would be a lie “if we had ever suggested our movie is anything other than the work of fiction.”
Howard claimed he and Donohue both like to create “fictional tales,” characterizing a pamphlet by Donohue as a “silly and mean-spirited work of propaganda.”
Howard professed respect for Catholics and their Church and their “many good works.” He also said he believed his movie treats the Church with respect and “even a degree of reverence” for its traditions and beliefs.
Responding to Howard in a Tuesday press release, Donohue said that Dan Brown’s book claims that the Illuminati were factual and were “hunted ruthlessly by the Catholic Church.” Donohue quoted Tom Hanks’ character in the “Angels & Demons” trailer as saying, “The Catholic Church ordered a brutal massacre to silence them forever.”
Donohue also reported that Howard in an interview said “The Illuminati were formed in the 1600s. They were artists and scientists like Galileo and Bernini, whose progressive ideas threatened the Vatican.”
“All of this is a lie,” Donohue remarked. “The Illuminati were founded in 1776 and were dissolved in 1787. It is obvious that Galileo and Bernini could not possibly have been members: Galileo died in 1647 and Bernini passed away in 1680. More important, the Catholic Church never hunted, much less killed, a single member of the Illuminati. But this hasn’t stopped Brown from asserting that ‘It is a historical fact that the Illuminati vowed vengeance against the Vatican in the 1600s.’”
He characterized as “delusional” a statement of Howard which claimed that Vatican officials will like his movie.
CNA spoke with Bill Donohue for further comment in a Tuesday phone interview.
He said Howard’s claim that the Catholic League’s objections were targeting a merely fictional work was “rather astonishing.”
“This is not one of these ‘he said, she said’ things, he’s simply wrong,” Donohue commented, accusing Howard of “making up out of whole cloth the idea that there was this Illuminati in the 17th century, which he has to put in the 1600s so he can drag out Galileo.”
He reiterated that the Illuminati was not formed until the 18th century.
Donohue also accused Brown and Howard of being two-faced in describing their work as fictional but then promoting it as fact-based.
“They can’t have it both ways.” Donohue said, noting that Ron Brown went on “The Today Show” about another of his books, “The Da Vinci Code,” and claimed it was fiction. Soon afterward, Brown claimed it was “based on fact.”
“They try to play both sides of the street,” Donohue told CNA. “Dan Brown is a master of this.”
“If Ron Howard wants to debate me on this, I’ll be glad to go on any television station. I have a feeling he won’t do it,” he added, saying a debate would be better than “to have somebody write something for him on the Huffington Post and then walk away from it.”
Donohue reported that Canadian priest Fr. Bernard O’Connor was on the “Angels & Demons” set in plain clothes and overheard “some of the most vicious anti-Catholic statements, made repeatedly.”
“The agenda is to smear the Catholic Church, which they did in The Da Vinci Code,” Donohue argued.
“What is happening here is that [Howard] is fueling some of the basest appetites and stereotypes,” he told CNA. “‘Amos and Andy’ was just a comedy, but CBS won’t air it on reruns because it’ll offend African-American communities.
"Nobody’s going to say ‘it’s okay.’ People would complain that would feed the worst stereotypes.”
“Every demographic group has their dirty laundry, and they also have the lies and the smears and the myths. People in Hollywood don’t make films based on the lies and smears and myths,” he said, adding that the Catholic League wanted Catholics to be likewise treated with “some degree of tolerance and respect.”
He told CNA the movie advanced “one of the most pernicious lies” against the Catholic Church, namely the claim that it is anti-reason and anti-science.
“The Catholic Church doesn’t have a problem with evolution, it’s more a problem with our Protestant brothers and sisters,” Donohue remarked.
CNA asked Donohue how he responds to the claim that his objections are just giving the movie free publicity.
Donohue argued that it is a false generalization to claim that all objections about bias generate profitable publicity, even though that may happen in some cases.
He pointed to the anti-Christian movie The Golden Compass, saying its sequels have not been made because of its box office failure. Donohue told CNA that Philip Pullman, author of the book on which the movie is based, has said the boycott worked in the United States.