I spent a few days giving a small talk on Leonardo for each art class at a local high school. I did this because I had seen several students with the DVC book and a few had expressed interest in seeing the movie. Now as you know talking about Jesus and the Church can be tricky in a public school setting, but you can talk about art history. I can mention that since Dan Brown got so many things wrong about Leonardo what are the chances he got anything else right.
In one class this talk led to some interesting comments. When I showed them Leonardo’s painting of The Last Supper (it’s not a fresco) I explained that this is a depiction of the Last Supper from the Gospel of John, (a quick lesson on that Gospel, you know just to give background, honestly not a church and state issue. No need to notify the police.) I pointed to the beardless one next to Jesus and one kid quickly said, “That’s Mary Magdalene right?”
Another said, “They’re only thirteen people there so if that’s Mary Magdalene where’s John?”
I jumped in and said, “John had to run out and buy a chalice and he did not get back in time for the picture.”
More than one kid seemed to nod their heads in sudden understanding. It went silent for a moment until one kid said “Nuh uh.”
Sometimes teaching can be fun.
The issue of John being Mary M. was put to rest with some more explaining about Renaissance art and it’s symbols and then closed up tight when I showed them Andrea del Castagno’s fresco of The Last Supper from John’s Gospel account. One that was completed 50 years before Leonardo’s and low and behold, next to Jesus there is a beardless person resting his head upon His chest; (actually there are 4 beardless people in this piece. Can you find the Mary M. in this picture Mr. Brown?) and definitely no Chalice.
But who would buy a book called The Del Castagno Code.
It was after the last day of these talks that I went home and opened my latest issue (May 12) of the The Catholic Telegraph of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. This is usually a good paper to read with your afternoon tea and Oreos, but not this day. In this issue I was drawn to an article by the paper’s Managing Editor, Dennis O’Conner entitled Decoding the hype around Da Vinci.
“Oh good”, I thought, “More ammo to fight the devil.” I was wrong.
He goes on for several paragraphs telling the reader this book is fiction and no big deal, not unlike “The Exorcist”, “The Last Temptation of Christ” or “The Word”, so everybody just lighten up.
True, not all fiction is blasphemy but all blasphemy is fiction. He wants to blur the distinction or tell us that blasphemy is only a literary devise, a common practice. (“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” GKC)
He does go on to state that people in today’s world, if they see something published, believe “… it must be true. Sadly, I think, the underpinning of that concern is based on the belief that most of us are gullible and can’t discern for ourselves what is true and what is fiction.”
This is true Mr O’Conner we can not discern for ourselves what is true and what is fiction (Sola Scriptura anyone?)– We must be taught.
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.”Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.
"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" (Acts 8:30-31)
Just saying a piece is an untruth and leaving it at that does no good unless followed with what is the truth and then why it is true.
He then goes on to tell us he gave the DVC to his teenaged children to read. These are kids attending a Catholic high school. Still, I saw red flags.
“They liked the book, understood it was a work of fiction and left it at that.” Mr. O’Conner tells us. He then proves the gullibility factor with his following statement, “There were a few questions though.”
” Was Jesus married?” they ask. (Makes you wonder if they really understood that this was a work of fiction don’t it?). His answer to that question, “We don’t know for sure, but probably not.”
That line stopped me cold. I read that line again and said, “What!?! We don’t know!? Probably not!?”
What kind of seeds did that answer plant in his children and the readers of this newspaper? His readers will think. “Here is a man of authority with a Catholic publication, so he must be right.” Right?
There is only one answer he should have given them as a Christian. “If you mean married like your mother and I, then NO. If you mean spiritually in the fullest sense then YES and His mystical bride is the Church.”
As Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, (President, Human Life International http://www.hli.org) said about DVC and statements like Mr. O’Conners,
“… we're going to forever have to be pulling noxious weeds out of our kids minds on some basic matters of the faith.”
As for Dan Brown GKC tells us, “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author."
Fortunately the Movie is being widely panned. Critics and observers called it just short of a waste of celluloid. As Peggy Noonan says about this movie’s lackluster reviews, “There is a God. Or, as a sophisticated Christian pointed out yesterday, there is an Evil One, and this may be proof he was an uncredited co-producer. The devil loves the common, the stale. He can't use beauty; it undermines him. "Banality is his calling card." “ http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110008389
One good thing about this DVC battle is that no one is talking about Harry Potter any more. Dan Brown has definitely raised the stakes.