.- Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, has accused promoters of the movie âAngels & Demonsâ of âtrying to have it both waysâ by first claiming the movieâs âpernicious liesâ 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 movieâs predecessor, âThe Da Vinci Code.â Donohue and Ron Howard, director of âAngels & Demons,â exchanged arguments about whether the new movie based upon a Dan Brown book is anti-Catholic.
Claiming that the makers of the movie âdo not hide their animus against all things Catholic,â Donohue charged that the movieâs trailer âliesâ 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 âLet me be clear: neither I nor âAngels & Demonsâ are anti-Catholic.â
He said he believed Catholics would enjoy the movie as an âexciting mysteryâ set in the âawe-inspiring beautyâ of Rome. Howard also said that the accusations of the Illuminati massacre would be a lie âif we had ever suggested our movie is anything other than the work of fiction.â
Howard claimed he and Donohue both like to create âfictional tales,â characterizing a pamphlet by Donohue as a âsilly and mean-spirited work of propaganda.â
Howard professed respect for Catholics and their Church and their âmany good works.â He also said he believed his movie treats the Church with respect and âeven a degree of reverenceâ for its traditions and beliefs.
Responding to Howard in a Tuesday press release, Donohue said that Dan Brownâs book claims that the Illuminati were factual and were âhunted ruthlessly by the Catholic Church.â Donohue quoted Tom Hanksâ character in the âAngels & Demonsâ trailer as saying, âThe Catholic Church ordered a brutal massacre to silence them forever.â
Donohue also reported that Howard in an interview said âThe Illuminati were formed in the 1600s. They were artists and scientists like Galileo and Bernini, whose progressive ideas threatened the Vatican.â
âAll of this is a lie,â Donohue remarked. âThe 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 hasnât stopped Brown from asserting that âIt is a historical fact that the Illuminati vowed vengeance against the Vatican in the 1600s.ââ
He characterized as âdelusionalâ 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 Howardâs claim that the Catholic Leagueâs objections were targeting a merely fictional work was ârather astonishing.â
âThis is not one of these âhe said, she saidâ things, heâs simply wrong,â Donohue commented, accusing Howard of âmaking 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.â
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.
âThey canât have it both ways.â Donohue said, noting that Ron Brown went on âThe Today Showâ about another of his books, âThe Da Vinci Code,â and claimed it was fiction. Soon afterward, Brown claimed it was âbased on fact.â
âThey try to play both sides of the street,â Donohue told CNA. âDan Brown is a master of this.â
âIf Ron Howard wants to debate me on this, Iâll be glad to go on any television station. I have a feeling he wonât do it,â he added, saying a debate would be better than âto have somebody write something for him on the Huffington Post and then walk away from it.â
Donohue reported that Canadian priest Fr. Bernard OâConnor was on the âAngels & Demonsâ set in plain clothes and overheard âsome of the most vicious anti-Catholic statements, made repeatedly.â
âThe agenda is to smear the Catholic Church, which they did in The Da Vinci Code,â Donohue argued.
âWhat is happening here is that [Howard] is fueling some of the basest appetites and stereotypes,â he told CNA. ââAmos and Andyâ was just a comedy, but CBS wonât air it on reruns because itâll offend African-American communities.
"Nobodyâs going to say âitâs okay.â People would complain that would feed the worst stereotypes.â
âEvery demographic group has their dirty laundry, and they also have the lies and the smears and the myths. People in Hollywood donât make films based on the lies and smears and myths,â he said, adding that the Catholic League wanted Catholics to be likewise treated with âsome degree of tolerance and respect.â
He told CNA the movie advanced âone of the most pernicious liesâ against the Catholic Church, namely the claim that it is anti-reason and anti-science.
âThe Catholic Church doesnât have a problem with evolution, itâs more a problem with our Protestant brothers and sisters,â 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.