The screenplay adaptation of this best-selling novel opened in our cinemas on May 18. Yet another Hollywood style fast-paced thriller of murder and conspiracies. The thriller revolves around dark secrets purportedly hidden from mankind for some 2,000 years. If true, it will affect the entire western world whose culture and history is linked to Christianity. what could be more exciting and controversial? That is why the book was a best-seller netting Dan Brown a reported sum of some $259 million in royalties from books alone. 40 million copies have been sold to-date. Now, the movie is likely to be an even bigger draw with Hollywood's movie-making skills and Tom Hanks in the lead role.

Why is the book and the movie such a big draw?

  1. According to Brown's The Da Vinci Code, Jesus Christ was a mere mortal and his divinity was artificially raised and established at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. by Emperor Constantine. The Emperor elevated Jesus to Christ for political reasons. Such a claim is nothing less than a direct attack on the Christian faith which has been practiced for 2,000 years. It is deeply offensive to all Christians (Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox) who believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God sent by the Father to save mankind by His sacrifice on the cross to atone for all sins.

     

  2. Second, The Da Vinci Code asserts that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child. This is another outrageous assertion in the novel. If Jesus had done that, why would 500,000 Catholic priests and a couple hundred thousand nuns remain celibate as a personal sacrifice to serve mankind. Would early Christians go to such great length, many of whom gave up their lives for their faith, and protect the "secret " that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child?

     

  3. Third, it portrays the Catholic Church as a deceitful institution which continues to hide the truth about its founder Jesus from the masses throughout history by lies and, if necessary, resort to murder to hide the truth from being discovered. Such a portrayal defames all Christians and the ancient and venerable Church. The Catholic Church is the longest surviving institution by far and is respected by all faiths and nation of the world. The Vatican Fathers have issued statements against the book and the film, denouncing them as "full of calumnies, offences, historical and theological errors".

Dan Brown has his own website. There he proclaims that his next novel "will be another Robert Langdon adventure picking up, in fact, where The Da Vinci Code left off. Currently, there is no release date scheduled because the book is not yet near completion." To this we say, enough is enough!

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I urge all Catholics to boycott this screening and not to further enrich those who amass fortunes on a book of blasphemies. I also ask the Media Department Authority to exercise greater circumspection over future approval of religiously offensive movies and books.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression have their limits. They cannot be exercised at the expense of others. The novel and their allegations are spurious and baseless. There are numerous websites set up to refute those falsehoods and lies. You may check these out at:

But the author has cleverly weaved some facts with a lot of fiction, such that non-Christians and Christians of weaker faith can be misled. Nothing is as deceitful as a half-truth, and the closer you bring fiction to align with truth, the greater the likely deception. To achieve this, the author cleverly (but falsely) states in the opening page titled "FACT" that "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."

But where does fact end and fiction begin? There is also no disclaimer which accompanies the film. The Opus Dei, a very honourable Catholic movement started by a Spanish priest Father Josemarie Escriva in 1928 has sought Sony Corporation to state that this is fiction by they have refused to. The Opus Dei movement has helped the ordinary Catholic to regard his ordinary affairs as occasions to attain holiness by doing each act well and with love. Now the churches around the world are protesting against the film and the book.

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From a website set up by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB): www.jesusdecoded.com, the U.S. Catholic Bishops gave this analogy. Imagine what your reaction would be if a novelist were to tell you, "I am going to write a novel about your family, in which you will be portrayed as a band of perverts. I am going to sue your real name and the names of your parents and grandparents. All the information regarding your family - a fair bit of which will, in fact, be true - will be presented as if it were the product of careful historical research. But - not to worry - it's only a novel, and afterwards I'll give you a chance to respond to the falsehoods in my book."

Issues involving matters of religion are matters which are deeply personal and must be always addressed in a responsible manner. As Singaporeans we have been taught in our homes, our schools, and by our Government to respect the religions of others. And rightly so.

The need for people to be tolerant and sensitive in our multi-racial, multi-religious society led to the passing of the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act ("MRHA") (Cap. 167A).

As was stated by Professor S. Jayakumar, then Minister for Home Affairs, in the third reading of the Bill:

"... the purpose of the (Maintenance of Religious Harmony) Bill is preventive, to nip problems in the bud. It is to prevent matters from escalating and creating tensions, frictions and conflicts between different religious groups. Fortunately, the majority in each religious group in Singapore are conscious of the need to be tolerant and sensitive in our multi-racial society, particularly in the manner they go about practicing their faith and persuading others to join them. The problems are usually caused by a small number of people who are either insensitive, thoughtless, irresponsible or worse mischievous, and these people must not be allowed to jeopardize the precious religious harmony that we have maintained all these years."

While that Act was aimed at preventing conflicts between different religious groups, the underlying rationale i.e. the need to preserve precious religious harmony applies. The precious religious harmony spoken of is essentially the respect and sensitivity each of us have for people of other faiths. We should not run down others' beliefs nor should we allow others to run down our beliefs.

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It bears reminding that a recent insensitive and cavalier approach towards Islam's prophet Mohammed by some Danish cartoons and the widespread reaction of Muslims around the world show that religious sensitivities remain a deep human emotion which must be respected to foster community peace. I do not advocate any form of violent reaction but we must be firm to say to perpetrators of blasphemies that they have done wrong and should stop. The Australian Anglican Church was reported to be spending A$50,000 in advertising campaigns to debunk those Da Vinci blasphemies. Let us do our part. Boycott this film.

To the government Media Authority, I urge them to please exercise greater circumspection by consulting the religious leaders of the various faiths if films with religious overtones are to be shown here. If Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie was banned in Singapore to prevent offence to our Muslim brothers, why did the government not ban The Da Vinci Code or at the very least, require complete and clear disclaimers before allowing their screening. The National Council of Churches and our Catholic Archdiocese have requested for this ban, but to no avail. If a movie developing the theme of those Danish cartoons were to be screened in our theatres, would the Media Authority have refused a ban when requested by the leaders of the Islamic faith? So now we should do our part and show our displeasure by boycotting the film.

    Jimmy Yim

    President

    Catholic Lawyers Guild

 

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