Randy Hall | Staff Writer/Editor | Thursday, May 18, 2006
"Should this movie be boycotted because it's blasphemous and offensive to us? Clearly, that's one side of it," said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society. "But is the movie actually a danger to Christians and Catholics? Absolutely."
Reilly, whose national organization is dedicated to renewing Catholic identity at the church's colleges and universities, added that "many Catholics and Christians don't know church history to the detail that Dan Brown gets into" in his "Da Vinci Code" novel and its film adaptation.
Citing a lack of education on church history in public schools, Reilly noted that "very few people know the truth that's being attacked in this movie, so there is a real, real danger, even for the people who believe in Christ, believe in God."
Reilly added that "Catholic educators -- especially those who, for decades, have encouraged dissent from the bishops' teaching -- must also accept responsibility for the threat posed by this movie," which "toys with the religious faith of millions, the meaning of life and man's salvation."
Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, noted that the news conference was held the same day "The Da Vinci Code" film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival -- where it was panned by critics -- and received harsh reviews in such publications as Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.
At the festival in France, director Ron Howard offered some advice for those who object to the plot of the movie.
"There's no question that the film is likely to be upsetting to some people," Howard told reporters. "My advice, since virtually no one has really seen the movie yet, is to not go see the movie if you think you're going to be upset.
"Again, this is supposed to be entertainment. It's not theology," he added.
Ian McKellen, an openly homosexual actor who plays a key role in the film, tried to inject humor into the controversy surrounding the movie.
"I'm very happy to believe that Jesus was married," McKellen said. "I know the Catholic Church has problems with gay people, and I thought this would be absolute proof that Jesus was not gay."
Nevertheless, Baehr told the Washington, D.C., news conference that fiction can have a powerful impact on people, and he cited such examples as the anti-Semitic 1921 film Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the racially charged 1915 movie The Birth of a Nation.
Bob Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute for Concerned Women for America (CWA), emphasized that films can have a particularly strong effect because darkened theaters eliminate most distractions, giving moviegoers a "monopoly of the mind" that can be more persuasive than books or other visual media.
Knight called "The Da Vinci Code" "a frontal assault on Christianity" and "a Dan Brown stinker" before wondering aloud why director Howard didn't learn more wisdom from Andy Griffith while playing Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show."
Still, Knight noted that CWA does not support a boycott of the film.
"We report on boycotts," he said. "We explain to our constituents why the boycott has occurred, and then we leave it up to them. If they want to put down nine or ten dollars to reward Hollywood for trashing their Lord and Savior, they can go ahead and do so. I know I'm not going to be seeing the film."
Baehr stated that he, too, would not see the movie and quoted French psychiatrist Jean Piaget as to why: "The difference between a man and an animal is that an animal has to put its foot in a trap to know it's a trap. A man can learn from a diagram, a book, a word, a friend, a secondary source. You don't have to put your foot in manure to know it's manure."
However, Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, surprised his fellow panelists by admitting that he intends to see the film so he can be "completely informed" about the issues it raises.
"I think it's vitally important that Catholics and other Christians do not miss this opportunity to fully tell the story, not just about this book and about this movie, but about the truths of the faith," he said. "This book and this movie are a remarkable opportunity for that."
The Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International (HLI), strongly disagreed with Ruse's decision.
"The church is our mother; Jesus Christ is our brother," Euteneuer said. "If somebody made a blasphemous movie about your mother and your brother and said that everything you knew about them was a lie and they're really trashy people who indulge in secret sex rites, why would you pay somebody to go see that kind of movie?"
HLI is boycotting the film "because it seeks to profit off bigotry, proselytizes Satanism and undermines the dignity of women," he added. "Why is it acceptable to slander Christians generally and Catholics specifically?"
Don Feder, president of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, stated that he and his organization are also urging the public to boycott the film because it is "a fantasy passing as reality" and "an insult to our Christian friends and neighbors."
Director Howard "has a First Amendment right to make this garbage," Feder said. "We have a First Amendment right to criticize it and encourage others not to see it. Don't reward the perpetrators of this trash."
"Ultimately, the 'Da Vinci Code' is bad news," Baehr said at the end of the news conference. "But the good news is that God so loved the world that he granted all of us forgiveness ... not because of our DNA, not because of some occult system, but because of the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ."
See Earlier Story:
Asian Christians Gear Up for Da Vinci Assault (May 15, 2006)
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