Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle
PERHAPS not surprisingly, a senior member of the Roman Catholic
church has spoken out against what he calls the "shameful
and unfounded lies" in Dan Brown's best-selling novel,
The Da Vinci Code.
The book's central claim is that the Holy Grail is really the
bloodline descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene who, it says,
can be seen sitting at the right hand of Jesus in Leonardo Da
Vinci painting of The Last Supper.
In fact, it goes so far as to say that the church branded Mary
Magdalene a prostitute in order to underplay the female role in
Bearing in mind that Brown's novel has been a publishing sensation
round the world and is still on best-seller lists, the implications
of these allegations are enormous.
And, according to reports in Italian newspaper Il Giornale, they
have prompted an angry response from the Bishop of Genoa, Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, the cardinal at the centre of the storm.
He said: "It astonishes and worries me that so many people
believe these lies" and added, "The book is everywhere.
There is a very real risk that many people who read it will believe
that the fables it contains are true."
This is particularly pertinent in view of Brown's own claim:
"All of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies,
all of that is historical fact."
Although the Vatican hasn't released any official comment on
Brown, it's worth noting that, for a number of years, Cardinal
Bertone held a senior position in the Vatican's most powerful
department - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
But as he explained: " I have not been given a special duty
from the Vatican to criticise this book. But my opinion, my initiative
has found a positive echo amongst many cardinals who are saying,
'finally someone has the courage to speak.'"
To this end, he recently participated in a three-hour debate
on the subject, in a packed auditorium in Genoa's city centre.
However, not all clergy have denounced it. The newly appointed
bishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil, Monsignor Jose Pinheiro, urged
readers to exercise prudence but added: "I don't know if
people are capable of distinguishing the elements of fiction from
those of reality.
It is important to talk to young people about it so that they
can differentiate, but I don't think it's necessary to ban its
This is a direct contradiction of Bertone's suggestion that Catholics
shun the book and Catholic booksellers remove it from their shelves.
But with Hollywood set to unleash a film adaptation with big
name stars - Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno - the controversy
looks set to continue.
That apart, The Da Vinci Code has meant big business
in more ways than one. As well as the original novel published
in 2003, there have been a total of ten books written solely to
discredit its claims, as well as one in-depth TV documentary hosted
by Tony Robinson. Even the tourist industry has cashed-in on the
furore with tours of relevant sites, most notably in Paris, where
much of the book is set.
Perhaps the last words - for now at least - should come from
those actually responsible for the book and its publication.
Although unavailable for comment - Brown is, according to his
agent, currently writing a new book and therefore "incommunicado"
- his website nevertheless, rejects anti-Christian claims about
And publishers Doubleday said they "respect Cardinal Bertone
and the Vatican" and will undertake "to clarify any
factual errors they feel may have been made in The Da Vinci
Code." But they insisted that the book simply explored
centuries-old ideas "in an accessible work of fiction."