With the imminent release of the movie version of the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, many people have started inquiring again about the veracity of its claims. Some readers take the assertions made by Brown to be true, while others entertain the possibility that they might be true. Some take the novel for what it truly is – a work of fiction and nothing more. But no matter how a reader views the novel, it cannot be denied that fiction shapes the imagination, stirs emotions and forms mental associations. Brown has created the impression that his fiction is historical fact. Aware of St. Paul’s admonition that some people “will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables,” (2 Timothy 4:4) we, Pastors and Teachers of the faith, invite the faithful to carefully discern the truth of the Gospel.
The novel gives erroneous impressions of many things, among them some fundamental truths of the Christian faith. The most serious are the following:
Jesus is not a divine Person. He is only human. He married Mary Magdalene and had children.
The belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ was an “invention” imposed by Constantine through the Council of Nicea (325). The Church manipulated the choice of the Canonical Gospels, destroyed important documents and suppressed the memory of Mary Magdalene and her children to maintain the lie about Jesus.
Brown makes these claims through fictional accounts that give the impression of historical accuracy due to frequent reference to events. He employs the tool of unraveling the alleged secrets of the Church through the interpretation of symbols and codes hidden in works of art, notably Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa.
In the face of the confusion the novel has generated, we invite the Catholic faithful to serenely affirm the fundamental truths of our faith, in particular the following:
Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human. The full truth about Jesus is not attained by mere historical reconstruction or ingenious human speculation. The truth about Jesus as the Son of God comes from a revelation of the Father, as Jesus told Peter (cf. Mt 16:17). The truth about Jesus as Lord can be confessed only in humble faith that is a gift of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul reminds us (cf. I Cor 12:3). The truth about Jesus is revealed to mere children but hidden to the wise and the learned (cf. Matthew 11:25). Without commitment to the faith, the search for Jesus is reduced to curiosity.
The revelation of Jesus, received in childlike faith, is preserved and transmitted by the Church. The Church is a human and spiritual community whose fidelity to the revealed truth is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. The witness of the believers of Christ, dating from the apostles to the saints and martyrs of our time, constitutes the most reliable “evidence” in history of the truth about Jesus. The Church does not manipulate revealed truth. It serves the truth.
What can we do as communities of faith in this situation? How do we prepare ourselves for similar situations that might arise in the future? We invite you dear brothers and sisters in Christ to do the following:
Let us deepen in our homes, schools, ecclesial communities and Church organizations the knowledge of Holy Scriptures and the Catholic Tradition through a systematic study of the Word of God and the teaching of the Church, a renewed Bible Apostolate and Catechesis, and a serious study of the History of the Church.
Let us appeal to publishers and people in media to practice their profession responsibly, with uncompromising respect for the truth, especially about persons and beliefs dear to various religions and faith communities.
Let us collaborate with historians, scholars of the arts, and scientists in shaping a culture with depth and integrity.
Let us imbue our evangelizing mission with renewed vigor, methods and expressions so that people who are earnestly seeking the truth about Jesus may encounter Him in our word, worship, prayer and humble service.
As a further help to our discernment, we are providing you with a guide on how to respond to the claims made by Dan Brown in the novel. This can be reproduced for use in the various dioceses, parishes, schools and other groups.
Let us not lose heart. The history of the Church attests to how the Gospel of Jesus Christ has withstood many trials. The Truth of Jesus Christ can never be shackled. With St. John, we proclaim, “We are declaring to you what we have seen and heard, so that you too may share our life. Our life is shared with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I Jn 1:3). May Mary, the Mother of the Son of the most High God (cf. Lk 1:32), share with us her humble faith!
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
+ ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
President , CBCP
May 12, 2006
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