Cardinals say The Da Vinci Code shows contempt for Christianity

By Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Three Vatican cardinals have weighed in on The Da Vinci Code, saying the best-selling novel shows contempt for Christianity and ignorance of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, who heads the Vatican's liturgy congregation, suggested that Christians might take legal action to counter the disrespect shown by the book and upcoming film version of the work.

The cardinals and others spoke in a documentary titled The Da Vinci Code: A Masterful Deception. The film was produced by Rome Reports, an international TV news agency specializing in church affairs, and was being distributed in early May.

Cardinal Arinze said The Da Vinci Code was loaded with mistakes that orient people against the church and that "any film produced on the basis of the book is already in error from the word go."

"Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and forget....Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical," the cardinal said.

He said it was not his role to tell Christians what action to take, but that "some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others."

"This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected," he said.

Cardinal Arinze said those who "blaspheme Jesus Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us."

"There are some other religions which, if you insult their founder, they will not just be talking. They will make it painfully clear to you," he said.

The cardinal apparently was referring to widespread Muslim anger and demonstrations earlier this year over Western newspaper cartoons that caricatured the prophet Mohammed.

In the Spanish version of the documentary, Cardinal Julian Herranz, the Vatican's top canon law official and a member of Opus Dei, recounted how he and a fellow cardinal laughed painfully at the novel's fictional depiction of the machinations of the Vatican.

It seemed like the account of a gangster meeting in Chicago, Cardinal Herranz said. He described the novel as fantasy, "ridiculous" and totally ignorant of how the church really works.

In response, he said, the church should invite people to "use their heads" and discover the truth about Christ and the church.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican's sainthood congregation, said it was disturbing that "no respect is being shown for the hundreds of millions of people who believe in Christ, the church and the Gospels."

"This is the result of an ignorant form of arrogance," he said.

Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney also was interviewed for the documentary. He called The Da Vinci Code "a load of nonsense" and said it was full of historical errors.

He said the worst thing about the book was that it presented some elements of the church as criminals -- and stupid criminals, too.

Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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