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Interview with the author of 'The Da Vinci Hoax'

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 Contents - Aug 2004AD2000 August 2004 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: New challenges for Catholic education - Peter Westmore
Pope's representative reminds Australian religious leaders on liturgy abuses - Archbishop Francesco Canalini
News: The Church Around the World
Getting serious about orthodoxy: an American bishop shows how - Michael Gilchrist
Catholic politicians and informed conscience - Bishop Michael Sheridan
Bioethics: Embryo stem-cell research: time for a moral benchmark - Christopher Pyne MP
The morning after pill - Bishop Anthony Fisher
History: Catholic education: triumph over adversity - Cardinal George Pell
Carnivale Christi: Whatever happened to beauty in art? - Paul Fitzgerald
The Catholic Church and the Greens: why? - Tony Kearney
Letters: Missal translation - Pastor David Buck
Letters: Hymn parody - Peter Hannigan
Letters: Casual trend - Gina Voskulen
Letters: Parish revitalised - Br Con Moloney CFC
Letters: Threats to family - Gordon Southern
Letters: Abortion - Anne Boyce
Letters: Relearning needed - Anne Lastman
Letters: Gospel dates - Jack R. Nyman
Books: DANIEL MANNIX: Wit and Wisdom, by Michael Gilchrist - Hermann Kelly (reviewer)
Books: A Guide To The Passion Of The Christ : 100 Questions - Fr Scot Armstrong STL (reviewer)
Books: Interview with the author of 'The Da Vinci Hoax' - Carl E. Olsen
Books: More new titles for 2004 from AD Books
Reflection: Why teaching in a Catholic school is far more than a profession - Fr Dennis Byrnes

Why don't you like The Da Vinci Code? After all, it is an entertaining read that has got a lot of people thinking about Jesus and religion. And even if you don't like it, is it worth writing a book?

The short answer is that I don't like falsehood. And I especially don't like it when falsehood is accepted wholesale and given the sort of acclaim and attention that only the truth deserves. If The Da Vinci Code had sold five thousand copies, it would have been a annoying blip on the cultural screen. But its incredible success demands a response because the issue is ultimately one of truth. Not just of facts about Jesus and Christianity (although they are very important), but also the very idea that truth exists and that it can be known.

You feel The Da Vinci Code attacks Catholicism and Christianity. It seems that if you and other Christians are secure in your faith you wouldn't find this work of fiction a problem. Isn't it only fiction after all?

Many fans of Brown's novel want to it both ways, saying "It's only a novel!" on one hand, but then touting its supposedly well-researched character on the other. Saying it is "only a novel" is a mindless cliche; nobody runs around saying that Uncle Tom's Cabin is "only a novel!" or that Hamlet is "only a play!"

All fiction, whether excellent (Hamlet) or inferior (The Da Vinci Code), influences how readers see the world, even if they aren't aware of it. In the case of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown is quite open about his desire to "expose" the "truth" about Christianity and the Catholic Church as well as push a certain ideology, namely radical feminism. In addition, he claims (at the start of the novel and in interviews) that the novel is well-researched and historically accurate.

If there were no response to the novel from Christians, it would make a sort of loud silence that would cause many people to say, "Christians aren't responding because they have no answer." Responding to something has nothing to do with insecurity. You can either respond with confidence or with insecurity; we are certainly responding with confidence based on the knowledge that the novel is full of errors, many of them so egregious and laughable it is amazing to consider that they are accepted by anyone.

What is different about general critical and journalistic reaction to The Da Vinci Code and the reaction to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ?

Night and day, for the most part, The Passion of the Christ was roundly condemned by many critics and newspapers as being historically unsound and anti-Semitic. In fact, there were some critics who nearly guaranteed a new Holocaust if the movie appeared in theatres. That, of course, was ridiculous and merely showed the biases of the critics.

In the case of The Da Vinci Code, most of the critics are either silent or praising the book. Yet the novel is filled with errors and falsehoods, and is extremely bigoted towards the Catholic Church. The response? With a few exceptions, a collective yawn.

Consider that when Mel Gibson was interviewed by Diane Sawyer about The Passion, he was raked over the coals regarding his alleged beliefs about the Holocaust and Jews. But when Dan Brown was interviewed on The Today Show, CNN, and for the ABC Special Jesus, Mary, and Da Vinci, he was never asked about his obvious dislike towards the Catholic Church. On the contrary, he was treated as though he were a scholar and historian, not a second-rate novelist.

Is there really an anti-Catholic spin in the media today? Shouldn't the media be free to question and challenge whoever they want to?

There is little doubt that most major media outlets have a bias, usually tacit, against Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular. This has been documented recently in books such as Philip Jenkins' The New Anti-Catholicism and Bernard Goldberg's Bias. This isn't to say that most reporters are actually anti-Catholic or have a conscious agenda against the Catholic Church. Rather, many of them take it as a given that religion is contrary to reason and progress, and that devout Christians are strange, almost alien, creatures.

I'm all for journalistic integrity and have no interest in censorship. But I'm also not going to censor my own criticisms of The Da Vinci Code, or of biased reporting. It was rather revealing, I think, that the ABC Special Jesus, Mary, and Da Vinci included only one Catholic (Fr Richard McBrien, not known for upholding Church doctrine), but several feminists and various other Christians, most of them friendly towards The Da Vinci Code. A television station in the Northwest, where I live, had a panel discussion of the novel, with participants from Judaism, Islam, feminism, and Protestantism - but no Catholics. Such occurrences are not, I think, accidental or coincidental at all.

Why did you write The Da Vinci Hoax and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

My co-author, Sandra Miesel, and I wanted to write the book to first of all set the record straight, but also to provide a helpful context for understanding the novel and its influence. We go into great detail about Brown's sources, the different movements that he draws upon, sometimes directly and other times indirectly. We examine why we think the novel is so popular and what that says about North American culture. We hope the book will not only answer questions about The Da Vinci Code, but will also answer related questions about Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church and Christianity.

The Da Vinci Hoax by Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel, Ignatius Press, 2004, is available from AD Books for $33.00.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 17 No 7 (August 2004), p. 18

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