Jun 12, 2006
By now, everyone has heard the arguments surrounding The Da Vinci Code. This controversial book and movie have been dominating the headlines for months. Everywhere you look, you hear about the book’s factual flaws and how many of the claims made in the book are simply not true. But according to its author, Dan Brown, the book is a work of fiction and has no need to be historically accurate. What, then, is the big commotion being caused by the book, and now, the movie? What is the danger in something that is openly acknowledged to be fictitious? How can a work of fiction pose a threat to Catholics?
The answer involves not only what is being said in the novel, but also how it is being said. There is little danger in a fictitious novel if its readers clearly understand that it is fiction. However, The Da Vinci Code mixes fact and fiction in such a way that much of its audience will not be able to distinguish between them. And Dan Brown does little to help inform his readers which claims are true and which he has simply fabricated. Rather, he presents the material in a way that subtly suggests that it is all true, while in fact, most of the story’s central ideas are anything but true. The book makes false claims and makes up evidence to support them. Neither these claims nor their evidence have any basis in truth. But readers who do not realize that the evidence is false may be willing to accept the claims as being fact. In this way, The Da Vinci Code can mislead its readers.
Yet even with this misleading portrayal on information, Catholics might be able to read the book and watch the movie without a problem if they were better-formed in their faith. The problem for most Catholics today is that they simply do not understand their faith as well as they should. For example, many Catholics have never even heard of the three early Christological Councils and have no understanding of the early heresies that threatened the Church. Both of these ideas, however, are present in the book and movie, and uninformed Catholics can easily be led astray by Dan Brown’s proposals. Even many well-meaning, devout Catholics lack education about the Church’s history and teachings. This lack of knowledge renders them unable to identify the false elements present in The Da Vinci Code, and this is where the book and movie can become dangerous to Catholics. They can lead people to question and doubt their faith needlessly.
Questioning one’s faith in not necessarily wrong; rather, it can be a way to examine more deeply the truths of our faith. Such questions, when asked in the correct manner and with the right intent, can actually strengthen our faith. This type of questioning, called positive questioning, seeks a deeper understanding of one’s faith in order to know and live the truth. However, The Da Vinci Code sparks a different type of questioning, negative questioning, which seeks to deny and escape from the truth. The lies hidden within The Da Vinci Code can easily confuse readers who are not well-formed, and such readers may be led to question the truths of their faith. Their lack of knowledge will hide the answers to these questions from them, and since they are uninformed about the truth, they will see only the false evidence provided by Dan Brown. Their unanswered questions may then plant the seeds of doubt in their hearts, and with no reassurance from the culture that surrounds them, their faith could be considerably shaken, if not completely shattered.
The danger of Da Vinci is therefore a very real problem for Catholics. The lies that Dan Brown proposes pose an imminent threat to all but the most well-formed Catholics. This is something that all Catholics should be aware of and be prepared to address if they plan on reading the best-selling novel or seeing the movie.
To be continued…