By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) -- Catholics should consider boycotting the film The Da Vinci Code as one way to let the world know the story offends and defames the church, said Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
If the kind of "slander, offenses and errors" contained in Dan Brown's best-selling book and the film based on it had been written about "the Quran or the Shoah (the Holocaust), they rightly would have provoked a worldwide uprising," the archbishop told Catholic communications directors.
The archbishop spoke April 28 at a Rome conference for church communications personnel sponsored by the Opus Dei-run University of the Holy Cross.
Archbishop Amato said he was in the United States in 1988 during Christian protests over the film "The Last Temptation of Christ," based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. The film portrayed Jesus being tempted by imagining a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene, but rejecting the temptation.
Christians not only attacked the "historically false" episodes in the film, but also organized "a well-deserved economic boycott" of theaters showing the movie, he said.
Speaking about The Da Vinci Code, Archbishop Amato said, "Christians should be more sensitive to rejecting lies and gratuitous defamation."
In responding to questions at the end of his talk, Archbishop Amato declined to issue a clear call for all Catholics to boycott the film.
However, during his speech, he did tell the communications directors, "I hope you all boycott that film."
Archbishop Amato's speech at the conference focused on communicating the Catholic Church's teaching in the modern media-dominated world.
He said that in addition to being surrounded by cultures hostile to the church and to any defense of objective moral truths the church had to face the fact that many of its own members lack a basic understanding of their faith.
"One must consider the extreme cultural poverty of a good portion of the Christian faithful who often do not know how to give the reasons for their hope," he said. "There is no other way to explain the strange success of an obstinately anti-Christian novel like The Da Vinci Code, which is full of slander, offenses and historical and theological errors about Jesus, the Gospels and the church."
Archbishop Amato said that while the church often is treated superficially or even unfairly by the media it must find ways to communicate in the modern world.
The church has an obligation "to interpret the word of God with fidelity and to communicate it to the faithful with authority," he said.
Archbishop Amato said the church must have its own media and well-trained journalists in order to present its teaching accurately and fully.
Too often, he said, the secular media demonstrate a "refined technique of falsification and reduction" of a Vatican document's contents, by highlighting only a few, polemical passages.
The archbishop said church communications efforts surrounding such documents must "be authoritative, immediate, correct, convincing and positive, otherwise documents written with great care and widely shared by pastors and by the faithful can be completely overrun by well-prepared press agencies."
Archbishop Amato said the Catholic press cannot settle for a news agenda set by the secular press, but he insisted they not ignore issues raised by the secular media that could confuse Catholics or give a wrong impression about church teaching.
The archbishop said that when Catholic newspapers address controversial topics they must make clear the official teaching of the church.
"For example, if they host opinions contrary to priestly celibacy in the Latin church, in the same issue they must give the convincing reasons that exist for this tradition," he said. "Do not leave difficulties without a response, otherwise it will seem the magisterial indication is an opinion one can share or not."
Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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