Edward Pentin’s Vatican Notebook
The Vatican may call for a boycott of the upcoming movie Angels & Demons, the prequel to The Da Vinci Code, although it’s more likely to simply ignore it.
The official newspaper of the Italian bishops, Avvenire, wrote last week that the Church “cannot approve” of such a movie, while reports in the Italian daily La Stampa claimed the Vatican could call for a boycott of Angels & Demons, as happened with The Da Vinci Code. Both films, based on potboilers written by American author Dan Brown, paint the Vatican in a conspiratorial light, although Angels & Demons is arguably less hostile to the Church than its sequel.
Writing in Avvenire historian and theologian Gianni Gennari invited Catholics to ignore the film, saying it “exploits the Church in order to swell the coffers of the filmmakers”. Such a movie, he wrote, “is of general interest to fans of Big Brother and soap operas, but certainly not to those who can distinguish between good and evil, and recognise that the red thread running through the Church is that of martyrs”.
Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, president of the prefecture for economic affairs at the Vatican, argued in La Stampa that to “dramatise the issue” would “inadvertently give publicity” to the film. The Church, he said, must “be careful not to play their game”, and recalled the historical precedent of when Origen, the great third century theologian, took the heretic Celsus to task for denying the divinity of Christ. “Without Origen, nobody would know who Celsus was,” said Archbishop De Paolis.
However, he believed that if Catholics wanted to individually boycott the film it would be “absolutely reasonable” because Angels & Demons mixes reality and fantasy, leading to “distorting the historical reality of the Church”. Last year the film’s crew, headed by director Ron Howard and actors Tom Hanks and Ewan McGregor, were denied access to film at two Rome churches, Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria della Vittoria.
Opus Dei priest Fr John Wauck, who set up a successful blog refuting The Da Vinci Code, believes the best approach to Angels & Demons is not to take it too seriously. The story, he said, “is a comedy of errors” in which Dan Brown “slips on some doctrinal, historical, or artistic banana peel on almost every page”. He said Brown “gets things wrong, and never in a way that favours the Church”.
“The million-dollar question on everyone’s mind in Rome is: can Ron Howard and company manage to make another movie as spectacularly bad as The Da Vinci Code?” said Fr Wauck.
The Polish Church is pushing for John Paul II to be beatified in 2010, but some in the Vatican are uncomfortable at the thought, believing that moving the Cause too quickly will result in beatifying the personality rather than the person.
Despite all his writings, they say, there is plenty we still don’t know about the great pontiff and the Church should wait until it has full access to Vatican archives on his pontificate. Reports in Polish media say the process could be completed “in a few months”.