Church Objects to Silly Conspiracy Novel

My mom grew up in a time when the Church still instructed people not to read Sartre and Camus—at least in Quebec. So when a Cardinal starts trying to give reading instructions to people, it makes me want to read whatever he’s telling people to avoid. The Da Vinci Code, though? I mean… it’s fiction! Pop fiction! Why doesn’t the church go back to trying to keep people from great philosophical works of literature? You know things are bad when they’re stooping to worrying about the popular response to fictional depictions of the Church, rather than, say, the forceful discussion of ideas that jeopardize Church teaching. Ah, how far we’ve come as a civilization!
Whatever. They’ve been trying—and failing—to control what people read for ages now. I doubt this will do anything other than create curiosity in a few more people who want to see what the hubbub is about. Mr. Brown should thank that Cardinal for the sales boost.

15 thoughts on “Church Objects to Silly Conspiracy Novel

  1. I could respond with this .

    But instead I’ll respond with something else, that speaks to the whole bullshit zeitgeist underlying the Church’s even caring about this silly novel:

    “The last last acceptable prejudice”? Hardly.

    The second link leads to a page full of all the kinds of ridiculous things people say about atheists all the time.

    I want to stress that this sort of thing is said all the time. It’s said so commonly that you imagine people must be assuming you’re a Christian, for them to have the rudeness to say it in front of you. It makes me think of how many gay jokes were said in front of a friend of mine, in high school, who about a year later came out of the closet once we got to University. Unlike with racism and sexism, people don’t know they’re insulting you or being bigoted about you until it’s too late, and it’s quite revealing. That’s why it’s like being gay, in that one has to choose to de-closet oneself—and I think it’s also this decision that causes many atheists to be so very hardline about their position, too.

    People imply that they’re unfit for office, that they’re amoral or immoral, that they’re dangerous or untrustworthy. Whereas, in contrast, many people actually do believe the other fantasies, fantasies that atheists are bad, sinful, irrational, ignorant, Nazi/Socialist/Commie eugenecists out to exterminate and harm humanity, turn the masses gay, and start as many wars as possible? (Which is funny since most of the wars I’ve heard of before this century, and plenty during this one, were religiously motivated.)

    Is the Vatican that out-of-touch that it doesn’t understand that “conspiracy theory” is a fantastical literary genre, not one to be taken seriously? And that the branding of something as a “conspiracy theory” almost automatically stamps it as unbelievable, the ranting of obsessives and fools?

  2. What gets me is this:

    Dan Brown’s mediocre novel, a trite exercise in rehashing the tedious pseudohistory offered up in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, is a bigger threat to the church than its continued denial of its role in tacit encouragement of the Holocaust? Worse than the ongoing scandal of official protection of pedophile priests? More sinister than the church’s full-bore war against homosexuals?

    I’m not buying that line of crap – my parents raised me well enough to recognize a smokescreen when I see one.

    So the church feels threatened by a second-rate potboiler? Cry me a fuckin’ river.

  3. Hello Gord,

    Please don’t be so defensive. Perhaps my comment-less link seemed like an attack. It was not meant to be.

    What I was trying to get at was that the secular media often fails to understand the Church. (I can’t really blame them: I can think of no other occasion in which they are so out of their league, having to report on an institution that has spanned 20 centuries and unwaveringly withstood the rise and fall of countless empires, nations, revolutions, theories, movements, etc.)

    As one interested in the truth, you will be interested in this article about a reporter for a very liberal Catholic news outlet (like the one you linked to) who discusses the above theme:

    U.S. journalist debunks myths about Vatican: Vatican correspondent says misperceptions are result of lazy popular journalism?/a>

    For those not willing to read the article for fear it might contain Jesuitical trickery, here are the five myths:

    1. The myth of singlemindedness
    2. The myth of absolute control
    3. The myth of Vatican secrecy
    4. The myth of Vatican wealth
    5. The myth of careerism

    To answer the first questions you posted at the end of your response to my comment, I’d ask to you read the link at the bottom of the article in that first comment.

    As a response to your second question, Brown’s book, from what I understand, argues that the Church has for 2000 years tried to keep hidden the “truth” that Jesus was married to Mary Magdelene in order to oppress women. If that doesn’t qualify as a conspiracy theory, I don’t know what does. (Silly Sally, if you’re out there, any ideas?)

    I see little threat in the book but for its popularity! It’s up there with garbage like that “Left Behind” nonsense that President Bush reads, which has been debunked by Catholics as well. (It has been argued that that book had a profound influence on President Bush’s worldview, even perhaps on his unjust war in Iraq!)

    Books like this cry out for debunking. You yourself have debunked many a falsehood. Is it wrong for someone to debunk historical untruths just because he belongs to the College of Cardinals?

    The third article you linked to as an example of the “acceptable prejudice” against atheists quoted solely from a letter-to-the-editor of one Julia Slocum of Edgemont, Arkansas. That’s hardly evidence for the acceptability of anti-atheism in the popular media and academia, where Mr. Jenkins’ book finds the “new” anti-Catholicism to be located. Fr. Greeley’s panning of the book dismissed the idea of a “new” anti-Catholicism, instead linking it to the old anti-papism of Protestants and the nativism of Know-Nothing Party types, but the idea of some kind of anti-Catholicsm cannot be denied.

    My guess is that while there was a flare-up of anti-atheism in the 1970s (mostly as a reaction against the unpleasantness of Madalyn Murray O’Hare), there has never been a widespread reaction against atheism because atheism itself has never gained that many adherents and is now in decline.

    I personally harbor no animosity toward atheists, having been one myself for a few weeks or so as a teenager when I got disillusioned by the racism of my Lutheran pastor’s wife.

    Atheism proved to be too irrational, however. The logic of Aristotle’s “Prime Mover” still does it for me, based as it is on observable natural phenomena and not on an individual act of faith, such as the one the atheist must make.

    One last thing: it’s interesting that you should mention Camus and Sartre. Have you ever read Walker Percy? He was described as an American Camus, and was profoundly influenced by that author, and by Sartre and Kierkegaard (not to mention St. Thomas Aquinas).

    Mr. Percy was every bit as Catholic (and Southern) as Flannery O’Connor, although a convert and not a cradle Catholic, as Miss O’Connor was.

    I’m reading his novel “The Moviegoer” right now and think you might like it. Speaking of which, any news on our book swap?

    And Adam,

    Encouragement of the Holocaust? That’s rubbish and even John Cornwall never said that in his book, which planted the idea in everyone’s head in the first place.

    Pedophile priests? That was, and certainly still is, a scandalous state of affairs. It was shameful that American seminaries, infected by the Zeitgiest of the 1970s, chose to turn away qualified candidates for the priesthood because of their orthodox and conservative views. Look what we got stuck with! Pope Pius VI was right when he said that “through a fissure the smoke of Satan has entered into the Church.”

    War agaisnt homosexuals? Where? We might speak of full-bore, I would say spiritual, war on homosexual acts, just as there is on all mortal and venial sins, but not on homosexual persons, whom the Church recognizes as children of God, deserving of love and respect and needing of Salvation just like the rest of us.

    Pax,

  4. Encouragement of the Holocaust? That’s rubbish and even John Cornwall never said that in his book, which planted the idea in everyone’s head in the first place.

    Tacit encouragement – Pius muted the Catholic voices in germany that could have put up political resistance to Hitler. During the war, Pius couldn’t be bothered to speak out against the evils he knew were occurring. After the war, the RCC helped spirit Nazis out of Europe. So did the RCC dance around waving flags with swastikas cheering the Nazis on? No, but the official hierarchy sure as shit kept their damn mouths shut when saying something, anything, might have made a real difference.

    Pedophile priests? That was, and certainly still is, a scandalous state of affairs. It was shameful that American seminaries, infected by the Zeitgiest of the 1970s, chose to turn away qualified candidates for the priesthood because of their orthodox and conservative views. Look what we got stuck with! Pope Pius VI was right when he said that “through a fissure the smoke of Satan has entered into the Church.”

    So now it’s the fault of the liberals? WTF? These sexual predators (a small minority, to be sure, of the priests in the church) were shuffled from diocese to diocese whenever their sexual assaults became too well-known. Their bishops, not a group known for their liberal leanings, were the ones moving them around. Victims and their families were encouraged to keep their mouths shut by the hierarchy of the church.

    So I’m not seeing how this is the fault of liberals. I’d say it’s more a belief among the leaders of the RCC that they are above such petty concerns as secular law.

    War agaisnt homosexuals? Where? We might speak of full-bore, I would say spiritual, war on homosexual acts, just as there is on all mortal and venial sins, but not on homosexual persons, whom the Church recognizes as children of God, deserving of love and respect and needing of Salvation just like the rest of us.

    Love the sinner, hate the sin, eh? Feh. I’m not seeing the love, not when the church in Massachusetts spends millions making a video spreading lies about the threat of Gay Marriage to decent, right-thinking Christians. Not when the Party Line in the church is that we’re child-molesting deviants. Talk of how we’re children of God doesn’t really reassure me when I hear in the same breath that you guys think we’re headed for eternal torment because we’re into different folks than we ought to be.

    I’m willing to believe that individual Catholics are good, decent people. I just don’t believe the same can be said about the hierarchy and policies of the church itself.

  5. Adam,

    I’ll restrict my comments to just one thing you said:

    “Their bishops, not a group known for their liberal leanings, were the ones moving them around.”

    The American Bishops are most definitely “a group known for their liberal leanings,” as anyone in the Church can attest.

    I’m not saying that as some right-wing wacko sedevacantist who thinks the Pope is a mason, that the Mass is only valid in Latin, and that the Third Secret of Fatima has not yet been revealed.

    The relative liberalism of our bishops is something that surprises and even shocks many outside the Church, accustomed to images of fat, pompous bishops lording over their docile, ignorant (and Southern European) flocks.

    Today, it is the laity, especially “young fogeys” like me, who are leading the Church back to its core principles, often with opposition from the bishops. (May God bless these Heirs to the Apostles!)

    If you don’t believe this, take a look at their website:

    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

  6. Joshua,

    Okay, I misread it as an snipe, though I probably would have responded forcefully just the same. I perceive whining on the part of the Church in this talk of “anti-Catholicism”, whining that sounds a lot like the whining Pres. Roh engages in every time his policies are opposed by the Opposition party.

    I fear no Jesuitical trickery. Hell, I’ve been rather friendly with a Jesuit or two in my time. Even been in a stage production with one. I’ve already read the article you mentioned in your last comment, as you have posted links to it before.

    I prefer the Church to the extant Protestantisms in the world, right now, but I don’t feel that this means the Church is above criticism. The Church’s long history doesn’t mean media (or individuals) should not criticise it, and harshly, when merited. Looking at it that way smacks of… I don’t know, the phrase “high minded vampiricism” runs through my mind somehow. Do you know what I mean? “Ha, poor silly mortals dare to look askance at us? We’ve seen empires fall.” I would hardly say the Church’s survival has been unwavering, really. Muslims at the gate of Vienna… more than once. How much longer would’ve it taken to get to Rome?

    As for the myths about the Vatican, the myth of singlemindedness is part and parcel with the notion of Papal Infallibility. The notion itself is straight up a political technique, and serves to solidify control and strength the stability of an organization—to give someone official last word. It’s been used in governments predating the Church, and still exists in business.

    Yes, yes, there is diversity within the Vatican. We know. But I haven’t seen any major move on the part of the Church to pursue anything like proper justice with regards to

    As for the other “myths” mentioned from that article, I don’t see what they have to do with what I was criticizing, which was the Cardinal’s criticism of a fictional novel.

    Debunking historical treatises I am into. Debunking fictional novels in genres that are explicitly understood as very unlikely to be true? What a pathetic thing to do. Can you imagine someone “debunking” a zombie movie? Because, really, conspiracy theory novels are only slightly more respectable than zombie flicks.

    As a response to your second question, Brown’s book, from what I understand, argues that the Church has for 2000 years tried to keep hidden the “truth” that Jesus was married to Mary Magdelene in order to oppress women. If that doesn’t qualify as a conspiracy theory, I don’t know what does. For the record, I think the Left Behind books are also irrelevant trash. If people (especially a President) read such fictions with any tendency to believe them, we have bigger problems that some vaguely threatening anti-Catholicism. But I will point out one thing: you CANNOT debunk fiction. Fiction is fiction! You can point out it’s implausibility, but you cannot “DEBUNK” it. Debunk is a verb used to describe the disproving of a “truth claim” and fictional novels don’t contain truth claims (aside from fictional ones).

    Please DON’T invite Silly Sally onto my blog. That idiot was last seen posting under another name at The Asia Pages, Oranckay saw the same IP# anyway.

    By the way, the list of misconceptions mentioned in the third link? They’re grabbed from a single letter, but what you missed was when the blogger who quoted them mentioned that atheists hear this crap continually. And they do. Believe me, I hear it continually too. If you read a few atheist-blogs, you’ll see just how much it’s in the media, atheism and immorality and horrible-badness all linked together. It’s not a “widespread reaction” that was discussed but a low-level continuous bigotry. And of course, that does count as both a prejudice, and I’ve not seen any major defense of atheists mounted in the media, aside from the (yawn) Bright movement, which is more like unattended self-defense.

    No offense intended, but I seriously doubt you can be an atheist “for a few weeks”. Sounds to me like being “a little pregnant”. If someone claimed he believed in God for a few weeks and then got over it, would you really believe he had actually believed?

    As for atheism being “too irrational”, I laughed aloud. It doesn’t make any sense, not now anyway. In the Classical era, maybe. Or Middle Ages. But I’m sorry, you’ll need to explain to me how the Aristotelian notion of the “Prime Mover” doesn’t rely on a leap of faith. From my own understanding, there are several leaps of faith necesary to accept it. It relies not on the observation of nature, obviously, since plenty of people observe nature and deduce other understandings of it.

    I have indeed read Walker Percy, and my good friend John has loaned me a book that is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I liked his Love In The Ruins but it didn’t strike me as particularly Catholic. I think I can smell the Sartre and the Kierkegaard on him, though. As for our own book exchange, I forgot about it but I shall ask Heather to pass the book back to me sometime soon and I’ll let you know. She’s a bit busy putting on a production of “Charlie And The Chocolate Factory” at her school, but she may have already read the book.

    As for the speaking against homosexual acts, I don’t see the Church railing against major corporations as the greatest threat to the world, though they’re certainly that. I don’t see the church railing against usury and the desecration of this little planet we’re stewards of. A little private sodomy versus the poisoning of the Earth. Which is worse? And if people are deserving of love, why does not the Church stand with homosexuals against their detractors, say, in America? Love the sinner? Love isn’t that cheap, my friend. Love in verbal form only is a cheap, sheer lie. Love is dangerous, difficult, and painful. Show me ten Catholics who love homosexuals that much, that they stand with them against all the hatred in the world, or even all the hatred in America; who willingly suffer to help aid and protect their gay brothers and sisters.

    The injunction to “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is, of course, suspect in itself, but even if one accepts it, one can see that it is absolutely not followed, except for the most lame, pathetic possible understanding of the word “love”. If hatred comes in vogues, the hatred of gay freedom is in vogue and from what I’ve seen online, the Church certainly hasn’t stood against the bandwagon, demanding they leave the “poor sinners” alone.

  7. The unfinished sentence:

    “With regards to”

    should be:

    “With regards to those who allowed it to happen, those who perpetrated it, the victims, and the prevention of future recurrence.”

    I think you two are using different definitions of “Liberal” here, by the way.

  8. Adam,

    In defense of Pope Pius XII:

    The Chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism after he witnessed first-hand the Pontiff’s actions and comments during WWII. That speaks volumes.

    The Catholic Church and all religion was supressed in Germany. Had Pius said anything, what might have been the consequences? In Catholic teaching, one of the criteria for a “just war” is that “there must be serious prospects of success” (CCC 2309). It is easy for us to tell someone what he or she should have done 60 years ago with all the benefit of history behind us.

    The sad thing is that no one did enough to stop the Holocaust, except perhaps my hero, Count Claus Philip Maria Schenk von Stauffenberg, the Bavarian Catholic Aristocrat and German patriot, who, acting on his religious principles, plotted to kill Hitler.

    [For more on this Traditionalist Conservative hero Claus von Stauffenberg]

    Gord,

    Just let me say that although the book may have been packaged as a fictional novel (how else could it have gotten published?), people don’t read it as such and I believe the author made certain claims about its veracity.

    Pax,

  9. Joshua:

    First, the people dumb enough to believe conspiracy fiction will believe just about anything, so I’m sure the Church will change their minds with the release of just one popular, passably-written novel. Hell, wait, consider that Mel Gibson snuff film from last year a counterbalance or something.

    As for Dan Brown, I know nothing of his ostensible claims of veracity, but it seems it’s widely known that the book is a ripoff of an older (“nonfiction”) conspiracy theory book—which should answer to your “how else would it have gotten published?” question, I think. Fine, disprove whatever he claims was true. Whether or not a few fence sitters actually change their mind after reading a work of fiction seems a silly thing to worry about. Or do you imagine the people of the world so susceptible to nonsense as that?

    Then again, perhaps, considering the percentage of the world that believes in quite ridiculous things, maybe it’s sensible. But again, I think for the majority of those, they’re not going to easily adopt a conspiracy theory against all they’ve learned. And who cares how many Hindus actually believe the Catholic version of history?

    Why defend Pius XII? I certainly doubt that Jesus would have stood by and said nothing. It’s not just rabid evangelicals who think Christian duty is about emulating Jesus.

    If churches were fully suppressed in Germany, what would have been the consequences of a Pope speaking out against the Nazis? And I’m sorry, but while “just war theory” (what nonsense!) may require a good chance of winning, I doubt in practice it works that way. If demons from hell appeared and began a war against mankind, would we only fight if it looked winnable? No, when you are fighting evil, you fight it even if it means certain death. That’s being dead to the world because you believe in more, that’s martyrdom, that’s called integrity and ethics.

    I’d like to know more about that Chief Rabbi story before I read it in any given way. Really, post-WWII a large number of Jews were fed up with Judaism and left the faith.

    I agree that anyone who plotted to kill Hitler was someone we should praise. Your Bavarian Count wasn’t the only one to try kill him, though. He may have been the only Catholic to try but as I recall there were a few plots against Hitler’s life.

  10. Hello Gord,

    Thanks for the info on the German resistence.

    Pope Pius XII doesn’t need me to defend him. I’ll let Chief Rabbi, who was there at the time, do that:

    “World Jewry owes a great debt of gratitude to the holiness of Pius XII for his repeated and pressing appeals for justice on behalf of the Jews and, when these did not prevail, for his strong protests against evil laws and procedures….

    “No hero in all of history was more militant, more fought against, none more heroic than Pius XII in pursuing the work of true charity!…and this on behalf of all the suffering children of God.”

    Here are some stories about the Pope Pius XII and the Chief Rabbi (please read at least the first one, from the Jewish Virtual Linrary):

    Pope Pius XII

    PIUS XII DEFENDED BY DAUGHTER OF ROMAN RABBI

    My Father Never Stopped Being a Jew

    The Chief Rabbi’s Conversion

    Before the Dawn: the Mysterious Conversion of Rome’s Chief Rabbi

    Pax,

  11. I’ll let Adam know you posted these links (since I had nothing to say about the Pope and WWII). However, I would like to point out that you mischaracterised the conversion of the Rabbi Zolli. You implied that he converted because of a rush of admiration for Pius XII:

    The Chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism after he witnessed first-hand the Pontiff’s actions and comments during WWII. That speaks volumes.

    But as the Rabbi himself noted, in several of the links you posted, this was the result of many years of study, and he had made the decision to convert before seeing any of the things the Pope was to do; he said he swore he’d convert after the war, if he survived. It was on theological grounds that he converted, not due to the immense goodness of the Pope:

    I was a Catholic at heart before the war broke out; and I promised God in 1942 that I should become a Christian if I survived the war. No one in the world ever tried to convert me. My conversion was a slow evolution, altogether internal.

    That’s from one of your own links.

    In any case, I was not the one commenting on the relation between the Church and WWII, so I’ll leave it to Adam to address that.

    But I do note that (a) we’ve gone far off the original topic, and (b) much of this has nothing to do with the Church’s taking offense at what Adam rightly calls “a second-rate potboiler”.

  12. Hello Gord,

    I stand corrected; my comments about the Chief Rabbi’s conversion being due to the Pope Pius XII’s “actions and comments during WWII” were based on hearsay. The links provided defend this righteous gentile more than I could ever hope to do.

    You are also correct on points (a) and (b). We can all agree with Adam that the book in question is a “a second-rate potboiler.” I doubt any of us will read it.

    It’s funny how hate, or at least in this case literay snobbery, can serve to unite people of different opinions.

    Pax,

  13. Heh, I don’t consider myself a literary snob just because I don’t like crappy books and believe in spending my time on better things, but I do get called a literary snob by people who, unlike you, I suspect, actually mean it.

    And this, to an SF junkie, of all people!

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