FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Redeeming the Magdalene

by JOE ALLEN

Despite the best efforts of the Catholic Church and the panning of the film by most movie critics, large crowds packed last weekend’s opening of The Da Vinci Code.

According to media reports, it’s had the second-largest opening ever internationally. The film, directed by Hollywood stalwart Ron Howard, will likely mirror the success of the international bestselling novel–the more it’s attacked by churches and the right wing, the larger the crowds that go see it.

The Da Vinci Code stars Tom Hanks as American professor Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou as Paris detective Sophie Neveu and Ian McKellen as a British aristocrat obsessed with the suppressed history of Christianity.

The film revolves around the unraveling of “the greatest cover-up in history’–that the Catholic Church suppressed its knowledge that Jesus Christ was a mortal man married to Mary Magdalene (slandered as a prostitute by the Church) and fathered children with her. Jesus wanted Mary, not Peter, to carry on his work and that the descendents of Mary and Jesus live among us to this very day, protected by a secret society known as the Priory of Scion.

These descendents are hunted by Opus Dei, a secretive order of the Catholic Church that is also trying to destroy the last remnants of the Church’s suppressed history. These remnants were hidden by the great inventor, artist and Priory member Leonardo Da Vinci and are known to only a few chosen successors. One successor is Sophie’s grandfather, the curator of the Louvre, whose murder begins the book and movie.

This well-made thriller closely follows the book in presenting a story that is a mixture of historical facts, Medieval myths and real debates about Christianity’s history. It’s essentially a treasure hunt for adults with secret codes, hidden meanings, murder and political intrigue. It’s a good read and fun to watch on the big screen.

The film and the book are also very liberal in their social attitudes, particularly the treatment of women in Church history. But, in the end, the book and the film are really pot-boiler thrillers, so why have they so engendered the wrath of the Christian churches, particularly, the Catholic Church?

Most of the mainline churches have denounced the book and the film. Some have even organized picketing of the movie, like here in Chicago. Responding to the attacks on his film, Howard declared, “This is entertainment, not theology.’

It may be, but it touches upon issues that the Catholic Church would rather remain closed to public discussion. The Da Vinci Code reveals to many Christians things that are not taught in Sunday School: that Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire because of the political needs of the pagan emperor Constantine; that there were many Gospels that were not included in the Bible because they didn’t serve the needs of the Church; that many of the early followers of Jesus considered him a prophet but not divine.

The book and movie make you think about religion, and that’s not something that Christianity encourages. As one Catholic leader put it, “We are not in the democracy business.’

The Catholic Church, after all, is a highly discredited institution these days. It’s still involved in an ongoing scandal concerning the cover-up of child sexual abuse by priests. Its half century of decline in North America and Europe for a variety of easons–its collaboration with fascism during the Second World War to being on the wrong side of every social question–has made it a symbol of evil, corruption and political reaction in the eyes of many people.

Now comes along a bestselling book and popular movie implying that the whole foundations of Christianity are a fraud–and Church leaders went wild. Pope Benedict even toyed with organizing a boycott of the film.

This isn’t surprising. He was previously the head of the Vatican office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith–formerly known as the Inquisition, responsible for the torture and death of heretics in the Middle Ages.

But it’s the fanatics of the Opus Dei that have taken the lead in defending the Church and their order–a member of which is depicted as a killer in the movie–from The Da Vinci Code. Opus Dei has gone on something of a charm offensive trying to portray themselves as just everyday people.

Given that the order was founded by a Spanish priest loyal to fascist dictator Francisco Franco and home to some of the world’s most unsavory political and military figures, this a bit of a stretch.

In a country where any critical discussion of religion is attacked without mercy, anything that opens up a critical discussion should be welcome. The Da Vinci Code book has done that, and hopefully the film will widen it.

When asked whether the film should have a disclaimer saying that it’s fiction, McKellen responded, “I’ve often thought that the Bible should have a disclaimer at the front saying, this is fiction.’

It’s been many years since I’ve heard anything like that on morning TV, if ever.

JOE ALLEN is a member of Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago. He can be reached at joeallen705@hotmail.com.

 

 

JOE ALLEN is the author of Vietnam: The (Last) War the U.S. Lost.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 30, 2017
William R. Polk
What Must be Done in the Time of Trump
Howard Lisnoff
Enough of Russia! There’s an Epidemic of Despair in the US
Ralph Nader
Crash of Trumpcare Opens Door to Full Medicare for All
Carol Polsgrove
Gorsuch and the Power of the Executive: Behind the Congressional Stage, a Legal Drama Unfolds
Michael J. Sainato
Fox News Should Finally Dump Bill O’Reilly
Kenneth Surin
Former NC Governor Pat McCory’s Job Search Not Going Well
Binoy Kampmark
The Price of Liberation: Slaughtering Civilians in Mosul
Bruce Lesnick
Good Morning America!
William Binney and Ray McGovern
The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate: Will Trump Take on the Spooks?
Jill Richardson
Gutting Climate Protections Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs
Robert Pillsbury
Maybe It’s Time for Russia to Send Us a Wake-Up Call
Prudence Crowther
Swamp Rats Sue Trump
March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail