The Archbishop of San Francisco has written a great column in The Tidings about the Coded Crazines. Sure, I like it because he quotes me a few times, but I'm especially impressed with how direct he is (" Is The Da Vinci Code anti-Catholic? Well, sure it is.") and how he draws from a number of unexpected, non-Christian sources to make important points. For instance:
Nevertheless, when we Catholics complain about anti-Catholicism, especially in the entertainment media, it is easy to hear us as whiners and special pleaders. Hence an outside opinion is helpful and enlightening.
Slightly over a year ago David Denby, a film critic for The New Yorker, wrote a review of a film titled, of all things, "Constantine." Denby described the movie as a "religio-satanic horror spectacle," starring Keanu Reeves. At the showing Denby attended, it was being watched "by rapt adults as well as teenagers."
After dealing with that particular film, the critic moved on to the difficult, more general topic of how Hollywood deals with matters Catholic. Denby wrote: "Which raises a touchy point. 'Constantine' turns Catholic doctrine, ritual and iconography into schlock. God's warrior wins, but is that enough to justify the tawdry, promiscuous borrowing? Will the trashy exploitation of Catholicism in movies ever end?"
Could any Catholic have asked those questions better? Denby went on to conjure up Jewish and Hindu variations of the frequent Catholic exploitation films: "Imagine a Jewish version of the spectacle --- 'Angel,' starring Vin Diesel, in which God's messenger stays Abraham's hand in mid-sacrifice and then earns His approval by lowering himself into cursed pharaonic tombs with tied together prayer shawls. In a Hindu version --- 'Vishnu," with Nicolas Cage --- Shiva unleashes his snakes on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie and starts a war between truck drivers and apple pickers."
Denby knew that the strategy of satire is often to take things over the top to show how ridiculous the situation has become, and he did that very well. In conclusion, however, he made a thoughtful and provocative remark:
"Somehow I think these projects might be shelved. Yet terrible movies like .... 'Constantine' get made and become enormously popular. I will leave the issue of blasphemy to experts. But maybe some of the audience should wonder if they aren't doing the Devil's work by sitting so quietly through movies that turn wonders into garbage."
And, in conclusion, this snappy summary of the problem at hand:
"The Da Vinci Code" --- the book and probably the film --- presents Catholics with one set of problems, and those are best dealt with by knowing the facts of our Church's faith and its history. A broader challenge is an entertainment establishment that doesn't know very much about Catholicism, doesn't like what it thinks it knows, doesn't want to learn any more, and can't leave Catholic faith, practice and imagery alone.