MAY 2006

DVC-01.jpgSingapore cinemas will screen "The Da Vinci Code" movie on May 18 despite appeal by Archbishop Nicholas Chia to Singapore government not to allow it.

SINGAPORE - Cinemas in Singapore were scheduled to screen "The Da Vinci Code" on May 18 despite an appeal by Archbishop Nicholas Chia to the Singapore government "to realize how sensitive this matter is to us and not to allow the movie to be screened."

Cinemas in Singapore were scheduled to screen "The Da Vinci Code" on May 18 despite an appeal by Archbishop Nicholas Chia to the Singapore government "to realize how sensitive this matter is to us and not to allow the movie to be screened."

In a May 3 letter to Singapore Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang, the archbishop said, "Even though the book is available, we believe that the movie will cause even greater damage and should not be allowed."

"I wish to register my strongest objection to the release of the movie "The Da Vinci Code" in Singapore," said Archbishop Nicholas Chia on behalf of the Catholic church in Singapore.

The movie stars Oscar-winning Tom Hanks and is directed by Ron Howard, who, according to the archbishop, "has stated in interviews that the screenplay adheres closely to the book and does not 'water down' any of the story's more controversial elements."

The author of the book, Dan Brown, has a deep hostility to the Christian Gospel and to the Catholic church in particular, the letter explained. "He fills his novel not merely with mistakes but with malicious lies... smears Catholics as mass murderers" and lies about many things sacred to Catholics including the Bible and the person of Jesus.

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Archbishop Chia said in the letter that Brown uses phony "facts" about history, art, religion, theology and Western culture to convince readers that "everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false" - for instance, "the novel claims that Jesus was not a bachelor but that he fathered children with Mary Magdalene".

"What has gripped people's imaginations is simply this: Is Christianity one gigantic and audacious lie and the biggest cover-up in history?" he said, to emphasize the seriousness of Brown's assertions. "We find the book objectionable in the strongest terms" because it sets out to destroy the credibility of Jesus Christ and the beliefs of Christianity and the Catholic church, he said.

Many books pointing out the deception in "The Da Vinci Code" have been written but "The Da Vinci Code" continues to give non-Christians a wrong perception of the Christian faith and the church, he added. "Some of our young church members are also troubled by what they read.

The release of the film will only compound the problem." Referring to the circumstances in  Singapore, Archbishop Chia noted that the government has wisely maintained the importance of inter-religious harmony and towards that end, has promoted the "Inter-Religious Organization" and recently the "Inter-Religious Harmony Circle".

"The Catholic church has always supported inter-religious harmony through dialogue, mutual understanding and acceptance," he said. "All communities are being called upon by the government to participate in the 'Community Engagement Programme' to build up a more cohesive society able to withstand common threats. All these efforts might come to naught if we allow the screening of a movie which denigrates the fundamental doctrines of a religion that many Singaporeans hold dear."

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Movies have mass appeal, are readily accessible and can easily polarize sections of the audience, he said. "Even though the book is available, we believe that the movie will cause even greater damage and should not be allowed."

On May 8, the government replied to Archbishop Chia, stating that the film would be allowed with an NC16 rating (no children below the age of 16) to ensure that viewers would be of sufficient maturity to make the distinction between facts and fiction.

The letter came from K. Bhavani, Director, Corporate Communications at Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts on behalf of the minister.

Ms Bhavani said that the government had given careful consideration to the film. "The Media Development Authority (MDA) has sought the advice of the Films Consultative Panel (FCP), whose members are drawn from various sectors of our society," she said. The role of the FCP is to provide views to help the MDA better assess films for classification.

"In deliberating on 'The Da Vinci Code', the FCP members, including many Christians, watched the film and discussed issues including those which were also raised in your letter," she told the archbishop. "Following their discussion, the majority of the members, including Christians, agreed that the film could be allowed."

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The prevailing view among the members was to allow the film with an NC16 rating, she added. Several members had also observed that the film adaptation, in its concluding parts, had inserted new dialogue that emphasized the importance of religious faith, Ms Bhavani continued. "Taking into consideration that feedback by the FCP members, the MDA has classified the film NC16."

While those who are concerned about the adverse impact of the movie will be disappointed with the government's decision, many Catholics will be encouraged that the archbishop has made public the position of the Singapore church hierarchy, noted a Catholic writer. His letter adds further weight to the public statements already made by church leaders globally, the writer added.

Amidst the indignation and some anxiety, even anger, that many Catholics and other Christians feel, there are also many voices who say that good can be got out of "The Da Vinci Code" evil by tapping the widespread interest, curiosity and fears to re-catechize Catholics in the faith and to evangelize non Catholics - in a phrase, to use this as a teaching moment for the church.

For this mission, there are lots of resources available, mostly free.

THE ARTICLE "BE reverent during Mass" (CN, Apr 30) is a timely reminder for those of us who may have taken the Mass for granted.

I was quite upset during the Feast of the Divine Mercy celebrated at the Church of St. Mary of the Angels recently when groups of people starting selling drinks and stuff before the Mass was over. The silent sacred moment with Jesus was totally disrupted by the din.

Catholics should be taught that Mass ends after the Dismissal and not after receiving Holy Communion. Perhaps the archdiocese could set aside one Sunday to explain step by step what each part of the Mass means, so that the richness and beauty of the Mass will be appreciated.

    Abel Goh


I APPLAUD CARDINAL Francis Arinze. He was spot on when he said that attention has to be paid to the roles of every Mass participant, especially the priest, who must act in such a way that his faith and devotion shine out.

As a teenager I was fortunate to have some priests show me through their example the right way to behave during Mass and before the Holy Eucharist. They were fearless in correcting irreverent behaviour in church.

Many Catholics are happy to know that Cardinal Arinze is aware of the various forms of liturgical abuses which are happening. Let us pray that God will give him strength to put a permanent fix to these abuses.

    Nelson Quah

I WRITE IN the hope that all Catholics will take action wherever they can, to understand the Catholic stand, and make it known to all around them, be it with relatives, schoolmates, or colleagues. It is more urgent than ever that the local church issues its response and outlines a plan to deal with this.

I pray that this will not be delayed further, and that people will really understand why this issue is so serious, and that it is not just a "mere work of fiction". This is a significant issue to the Catholic Church, and we should not pretend its no big deal, as it is in such opportunities that we either enlighten or confirm the cynicisms of our fellow Singaporeans.

Let us start praying and acting now.


I FORESEE THE damage this movie is going to cause families that are unstable. It is already a challenge every weekend to bring the whole family to church. Most Catholic parents have little knowledge of Scripture and doctrines and cannot give convincing answers to their children when they question the faith.

This movie indeed is going to make life even more difficult. The young may accept the untruths in the movie and argue with their parents, leading to more grievance and divide in the family.

How are we to exercise our Christian duty of bringing our children in the faith when the authorities allow the screening of this movie which would contaminate the minds and hearts of people?

I am aware there are talks by priests on the deception of this book and movie but I wonder who the audience would be. The ones affected? Definitely not! It is usually the ones who hold strong to the faith who are the ones thirsting for more. So how are we to reach out to the masses and get the truth across?

As parents, let us go down on our knees and storm heaven with our tears of plea for God's intervention in the lives of our young ones, that they will hold to their Christian faith.

    Maria Charles

WE CAN MAKE use of the opportunity of the screening of "The Da Vinci Code" to re-examine our faith and to evangelise. I am glad the Catholic Church has published books such as "The Da Vinci Deception" and provided us the relevant websites for material to counter "The Da Vinci Code".

However, not all Catholics have the appetite for books or have access to the Internet. Also, workshops and seminars will not be able to attract the number of people that a Sunday homily can reach. Hence, priests should seize the opportunity to teach the congregation how to turn the situation into an opportunity for Catholics to evangelise to their non-Catholics who show interest in discussing "The Da Vinci Code".

As late American Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "God can draw good out of evil because, while the power of doing evil is ours, the effects of our evil deeds are outside our control, and, therefore, in the hands of God." (Simple Truths p.55). Let us show Mr Brown and his accomplices the power of God.