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John McGreevy's Question

John McGreevy's post, below, got mixed up with all sorts of questions about bloggers, and responses, and alternative magisteria. Good stuff, all of it. But his question got lost. It's a good question. Let's look at it again --leaving aside the other stuff: "Isn't the cultural history question this: how did the most popular novel in history, which posits a ludicrous (yet epic) conspiracy protected by the Church, take off in the most "Christian" of industrialized nations?" 85 percent of Amermicans identify themselves as Christians. How are most people thinking about the book/the movie? Anyone seen a Gallup poll on this/?A good friend of mine, a brilliant Jesuit, read the book on the plane coming back from Europe. "It is intoxicating," he said. . . . . of course it is completely false." And that was that. The best plane novel ever. No biggie.Is that how most people think about it? Do we know statistics?What do Peter, Peggy and Joe K think? How about Tim?

About the Author

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.



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It is a great question. In my opinion these "industrialized Catholics/Christians" appreciate the book as a novel that entertains. The number of literalist minded people is inflated by the right who have a whole other agenda about the book. I don't want to go there as it is covered in another post.Remember how successful The Last Temptation of Christ was. What was that French movie about Mary that everyone was flocking to?The fact of the matter is that Catholics thrive on imagination. There is the tragedy in the current realignment with "doctrine". The purists steal the imagination; they are Catholic fundamentalists, literalists. Analogy is out the window. Everything that made for solid Catholicism: symbol, sacrament, imagination, a sense of humor is alien to them. They might as well belong to the Taliban.His critics will not admit it, but Dan Brown appealed to the Catholic imagination. That is not to say that his is a great book but in a world where fundamentalism reigns he is a breath of fresh air.I venture to say that many Catholics are able to distinguish truth from fiction. Being hounded by the truth army they retreat into fiction where a married Jesus and and albino monk are just fun to read about. If they did not have faith they could never do that with integrity.

The status of women and the nature of Christ are still two misunderstood phenomenon. Women are ascending and we are understanding Jesus better. I doubt if the left field attempt to marry Jesus with Magdalene has much attraction. But coupled with the above, the corruption of the Hierarchy in every age, Davinci, Mona Lisa, Freemasonry, secret societies; these are items that have affected our history dramatically. You can add others.Christians have little problem with the book since they know they have had a lot of stuff rammed down their throats. We, who pretend to be sophisticated, won't give up some garbage because we have been brainwashed.The only ones who have trouble with this movie are those who remain brainwashed and cannot reconcile crticism of the Brainwashee. Opus De, the Vatican, Weigel , those who profit from the Vatican market, et alii will be disturbed while others will use it to make their relationship to Christ more fruitful.

A few possibilities not discussed in the other thread:1. Americans love to see somebody taken down a few notches. Bill Clinton. Martha Stewart. Kobe Bryant. Bill and Martha could recover, sort of, by appealing to the folks, a kind of populist rehabilitation, as it were. Kobe and the Catholic hierarchy will have problems with that. It might just be insurmountable for them. Camel, needle's eye, and all that.2. Brown's book is more believable today than it would have been ten years ago and certainly in the time of Kazantzakis and his book (or the movie) because of the bishops' role in covering up sex and abuse scandals. The novel would have required a huge suspension of disbelief in previous generations. No more. A hierarchical conspiracy is (sad to say) solidly believable. To some Protestants, it always has been.3. Some Catholics might take great delight in reading a book that will tick off certain other Catholics. Maybe that's a minor point.

Todd:Isn't your post a bit cynical? Why can't Catholics simply enjoy the Da Vinci Code as a novel? It really doesn't have to do with the sex abuse scandal. It is just a novel.

A ND Law alumnus has helpfully passed on to me two accounts of polling, one from England, which suggests the book has had a deleterious effect, and the other, from the US, which suggests that the book more or less confirms people in their prior beliefs.

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