The Vatican seems to be pretty worried about the impending release of a movie version of Dan Brown’s book, “The Da Vinci Code,” fearing that, of all things, it will give the Vatican a bad image.
I personally don’t think the Vatican really needs Dan Brown’s help with that.
I read “The Da Vinci Code” last summer, and personally the book irritating. Each chapter was about a page and a half in length, and each ended with a cliffhanger. After about two days and about 5,000 cliffhanger chapters, I was feeling a little dizzy and nauseated.
Then, after reading a scene involving geriatric sex, I was ready for a healthy dose Charles Dickens, Graham Greene or even Anais Nin; authors with a poetic vision of the ever-nuanced spectrum that is humanity.
Hence, I don’t see how the book could realistically present a threat to the public perception of the Catholic Church. It is basically a murder mystery wrapped around some obviously outlandish faux-history; pulp fiction that can hardly be mistaken for reality. It is a hyperactive piece of entertainment, indicative and fitting for a overly-stimulated American public. I am willing to bet my pennies that Dan Brown wrote the whole book in one night, in a fit of a testosterone-laden sugar-high. It is very similar to a comic strip in its style and content.
So why is the Vatican all up in stitches, campaigning against the movie and directing its members to boycott it? Does it have such little faith in the ability of its members to think for themselves? Apparently.
It seems that the Vatican has bigger things that it should be concerning itself with. Let’s take a personal anecdote. I was once a faithful, practicing Catholic, but became disgusted with the constant judgment and hate that I found prevalent in Catholicism. I also became impatient with the lack of activism. In a world full of turmoil, violence and injustice, the Catholic Church seems to stand silent on the most important and pressing issues, putting very little pressure on world leaders or institutions to do the right things.
I became tired of being told to think that gay people are sinners and that sexuality and birth control are evil. I became tired of feeling excluded by an institution that clearly sees me, as a woman, as less worthy and inferior to men. Not only does the Catholic Church disallow women from participating in priesthood as well as its highest and most honored positions, it also forbids its priests from marrying women.
All of this gives me a vague sense that women are seem as vermin by the Vatican; unfortunate accidents or flukes of creation that must be tolerated in order for procreation to occur. The Catholic Church apparently thinks the idea that Jesus may have been married is some kind if catastrophic, horrific blasphemy.
I also have to say that I haven’t seen the Vatican striving for much in the way of any kind of social justice in the world. Sure, there are individual Catholics and independent Catholic organizations out there that have dedicated themselves to equality.
But why is the Vatican fixating on some Hollywood blockbuster, instead of creating organizations that combat things like poverty, hunger, victimized women and children, refugees, human trafficking or AIDS? UNICEF and Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) look a lot holier to me than the Catholic Church does.
The Catholic Church as an institution tends to get so caught up with what people do in their bedrooms that it can’t seem to deal with the reality of humanity.
For example, the Vatican refuses to contribute any part of its vast sums of monetary resources to aid organizations in Africa that are desperately struggling to combat AIDS, if said organizations offer condoms or sex education programs that do not proclaim abstinence as the only way to heaven and health. Ignoring the obvious and universal reality that human beings have sex both in and out of wedlock, the Church insists on pretending that people from all corners of the world and walks of life will practice abstinence before marriage, just because a bunch of men in Rome say they should.
This is repulsive. Africans are dying en masse from an AIDS pandemic. Mothers are dying, orphaning babies. Babies are dying before taking their first steps. The life expectancy on that continent is far lower than on any other. If the Church wants to portray itself as the earthly institution of divine grace and mercy, perhaps it should consider all of the suffering that could be prevented with a little sex education and condoms. What would Jesus do? Judging the suffering poor is the last thing he would have done.
This means the Vatican has to shuffle its priorities a little. It seems the item “overall health” and “mental, physical well-being” should come before “virginal heterosexual shininess” and “blissful ignorance.”
I am obviously a disillusioned individual. However, I don’t think that my complaints are unfounded. As a massive institution that is both extremely influential and wealthy, I believe that the Vatican could do some real good in the world, but because its priorities are out of order, it does harm, both to the people it should be helping, and its own respectability. A movie is just a movie, after all. Actions are what count in the end.
Bethania Palma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.