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.

 

 

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 26, 2017
John W. Whitehead
Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind
Pete Dolack
Trump’s Re-Negotiation Proposal Will Make NAFTA Worse
George Capaccio
“Beauty of Our Weapons” in the War on Yemen
Ramzy Baroud
Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syrian War?
John McMurtry
Brexit Counter-Revolution Still in Motion
Ted Rall
The Democrats Are A Lost Cause
Tom Gill
Is Macron Already Faltering?
Ed Kemmick
Empty Charges Erode Trust in Montana Elections
Rev. William Alberts
Fake News? Or Fake Faith?
James Heddle
The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are Being Tested in Southern California
Binoy Kampmark
Slaying in Minneapolis: Justine Damond, Shooting Cultures and Race
Jeff Berg
Jonesing for Real Change
Jesse Jackson
The ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission Itself is Fraudulent
July 25, 2017
Paul Street
A Suggestion for Bernie: On Crimes Detectable and Not
David W. Pear
Venezuela on the Edge of Civil War
John Grant
Uruguay Tells US Drug War to Take a Hike
Charles Pierson
Like Climate Change? You’ll Love the Langevin Amendment
Linda Ford
Feminism Co-opted
Andrew Stewart
Any Regrets About Not Supporting Clinton Last Summer?
Aidan O'Brien
Painting the Irish Titanic Pink
Rob Seimetz
Attitudes Towards Pets vs Attitudes Towards the Natural World
Medea Benjamin
A Global Movement to Confront Drone Warfare
Norman Solomon
When Barbara Lee Doesn’t Speak for Me
William Hawes
What Divides America From the World (and Each Other)
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Chandra Muzaffar
The Bilateral Relationship that Matters
Binoy Kampmark
John McCain: Cancer as Combatant
July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
Richard Hardigan
The Media is Misleading the Public on the Al-Asqa Mosque Situation
Matthew Stevenson
Travels in Trump’s America: Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville
Ruth Fowler
Fire at Grenfell
Ezra Kronfeld
The Rights of Sex Workers: Where is the Movement to Legalize Prostitution
Mark Weisbrot
What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change
Binoy Kampmark
From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer
Wim Laven
Progress Report, Donald Trump: Failing
Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail