Friday, October 31, 2003

ABC News to Promote The DaVinci Code as “History”

We learned today that ABC News plans to air a special next week titled "Jesus, Mary and DaVinci," which proffers the “theory” that the controversial novel by Dan Brown –which novel revolves around an ancient global conspiracy to cover up the supposed marriage between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, who begat a child and, after Jesus' death, moved to France establishing a new “royal” bloodline.

Brown claims that his novel is based on “historical fact.” But what it’s really based on is a sensationalist tome written in 1983 which first publicized that “theory.” The book --Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Newage “researchers” and conspiracy theorists Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh-- can be found alongside books on UFO abductions, channeling, crystal-gazing, Enneagrams, how to become a witch or develop your psychic powers, and the like in the Crackpots and Kooks section of your local bookstore. In other words, you won’t find it in the History section, and rarely in the Religion section, and for good reason:

In their book, Messr.s Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh wove a fanciful theory about the ancient legend of the Holy Grail and a search for it by a Medieval warrior-monk order known as the Knights Templar, which group during the Crusades rapidly degenerated into a violent Gnostic cult –so much so that the Catholic Church disbanded the order, tried its leaders for heresy, and had them executed.

As part of their “research” --gleaned almost entirely from ancient myths, fairy tales, rumors, ludicrous Gnostic “gospels, and fake “ancient” parchments produced by the Priory of Sion, a looney mid-1900s French occultist sect-- Messr.s Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh soon “discovered” that Jesus married Magdalene and fathered children whose bloodline (the “real” Holy Grail) continues today. But, at variance with Brown, Messr.s Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh speculated, based on some ancient Gnostic "gospels," that Jesus may have bypassed the cross altogether and lived with Magdalene to a ripe old age.

As history, Monty Python’s version of the Holy Grail legend would be a lot more accurate.

Last, but hardly least, is the vacuous yet venomous Jack Chick anti-Catholicism which permeates Brown's novel. In his strange make-believe world, the Vatican is an all-powerful villain on a global scale, out to subjugate women, destroy democracy, and oppose All Things Good and Beautiful, even to the point of directing Opus Dei (!) to "handle" the Priory of Sion (the good guys in Brown's novel) by assassinating its leaders to keep the "secret" of the Grail secret.

This was too much even for uber-liberal Catholic novelist and pundit Fr. Andrew Greeley, who found the book "a skillfully written read" but flawed with anti-Catholic bigotry and unrealistic, anti-historical nonsense:

"...The [Vatican] is hardly all that deft and devious, save in its internal plots and conniving -- like getting rid of a colleague or undoing an ecumenical council. It is in fact a fractionalized bureaucracy whose heavy-handed personnel would have a hard time conspiring themselves out of a wet paper bag. Poison and daggers were abandoned long ago."

Greeley also sets the record straight about the real origins of the Grail legend, and it had nothing to do with Mary Magdalene bearing kids for Jesus:

"Back in the dim prehistory of Ireland, there was a spring fertility ritual (enacted on Beltane, usually May 1) in which animal blood was poured into a concave stone altar to represent the union of the male and female in the process of generating life. Later tales grew up to explain the rite, the best known of which is the story of Art MacConn. Memories of the ritual and the story floated around in the collective preconscious of the Celtic lands in company with folk tales, myths, bits of history and cycles of legends about such folk as Arthur, Merlin, Parsifal and Tristan. Later writers like Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chretien de Troyes, Thomas Mallory, and Wolfram von Eschenbach combined this bricolage of images and myths into more systematic stories with an overlay of Christianity. However, these storytellers (excepting von Eschenbach) were tainted by the perspectives of Catharist heresy and the results were dreamy, flesh-denying, life-denying legends that violated the older, if pagan, Irish tales. The Grail is always to be sought and never found. This version persists in the work of such disparate artists as Richard Wagner, Alfred Tennyson, Fritz Lowe and Robert Bresson. In the Irish story, Art gets the magic cup and the magic princess, though, more realistically she, being an Irish woman, gets him -- a happy ending!"

Yet here we have a bona fide journalist and alleged Catholic, one Elizabeth Vargas, who actually takes Dan Brown's balderdash seriously enough to convince ABC News higher-ups to actually finance and air a documentary promoting Brown's novel as credible historical theory instead of laughing her out of their offices. And, of course, Vargas manages to get a well-known All Purpose Useful Idiot --Fr. Richard McBrien, the media's favorite Catholic theologian, who always seems eager to embrace any crackpot notion which comes across his desk-- to lend “credence” to her efforts.

The mind just boggles.

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