I have been working for MTV Networks for fifteen years and have written several books about rock ’n’ roll. I never expected to find the church trampling in my vineyard.
When word came that the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano had published a list of the ten best pop albums of all time, I was tempted to retaliate by issuing a couple of encyclicals.
The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac: the Holy See shares the taste of American adult-rock radio programmers. My first reaction was, “Where’s Astral Weeks? Where’s Highway 61 Revisited? Where are the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos?”
The ways of the magisterium are often hard for the layman to interpret. I could find no clue in Aquinas, no key in Augustine, no mention at all of rock ’n’ roll in The Catholic’s Ready Answer. If I was going to figure out why Rome rated Rumours above Born to Run, I was going to have to adopt the techniques of the greatest dogma detective in all of Christendom. To decode the Vatican Top Ten, I would have to train myself to think like Dan Brown.
It took a couple of hours to read through Mr. Brown’s oeuvre, but once I got into...