Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Angels and Demons

From The Telegraph:

The storyline for Angels & Demons, which stars Tom Hanks and Ewan McGregor, centers on a plot by the Illuminati, a secret society of intellectuals, who are intent on gaining revenge for a brutal massacre of their predecessors by the Church centuries ago. Although the society once existed, there is no historical evidence that its members were butchered by Catholics.

The Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, the Bishop of Nottingham, warned that the film could stir up anti-Catholic sentiment."This is so outlandish, it's total rubbish," said Bishop McMahon, who is one of the Church's most senior bishops. "It's mischievous to stir up this kind of anti-Catholic sentiment. It's a gratuitous knocking of the Church and I can't see any reason for it."

Ron Howard, the director of Angels & Demons - expected to become the first blockbuster film of the summer when it is released this month - has fired back that Catholics will enjoy the movie, which is based on a previous novel by The Da Vinci Code's author, Dan Brown.

His comments will intensify a feud between some prominent Catholic leaders and the Da Vinci Code team over claims that the film smears the Church.

The bishop, who chairs the Church's Department of Evangelisation and Catechesis, said that Catholics were "getting tired" of the sensational stories and plotlines contained in Brown's novels and subsequent film adaptations. "I don't think that Catholics will be interested in seeing this as it's so far removed from the truth," he added.

Brown's book includes a number of other episodes guaranteed to upset the faithful - including a Pope conceiving a child via artificial insemination, thereby circumventing celibacy rules. Sony Pictures has declined to say whether those incidents make it to the movie.

Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in the US, accused Howard and Brown of "smearing the Catholic church with fabulously bogus tales".

The frenetically outlandish plot of Angels & Demons centers on a race against time by Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) to thwart a plot by the Illuminati to blow up the cradle of Catholicism with an anti-matter bomb during the conclave to elect a new pope.

But Mr Donahue is exasperated by the way that he says Brown and Howard blend fact, fiction and conspiracy theory.

"I have never dealt with two more disengenous people," he told The Daily Telegraph. "They wouldn't dare treat any other religion like this."

Howard responded in forthright fashion, "Let me be clear: neither I nor Angels & Demons are anti-Catholic. And let me be a little controversial: I believe Catholics, including most in the hierarchy of the Church, will enjoy the movie for what it is - an exciting mystery, set in the awe-inspiring beauty of Rome."

. . . Sony Pictures is not backing away from the controversy and will stage the film's world premier on the Vatican's doorstep in Rome on May 4, 10 days before it opens in British cinemas.

"We do not believe the film is anti-Catholic, and we don't believe the nearly 40 million people worldwide who purchased the novel were confused by the fact that this is a fictional mystery thriller," said Steve Elzer, the studio's senior vice-president.

OK, let's take Ron Howard, Sony Pictures and Dan Brown at their word. They are not anti-Catholic and sincerely believe that the world's Catholics will enjoy their new movie - which, like the Da Vinci Code, is not meant to be critical of the Roman Catholic Church in even the slightest way. Then let us issue them a challenge.

Let Mr. Brown write and Mr. Howard and Sony Pictures film and distribute a movie, which would not be intended to be anti-Islam in even the slightest way, in which Mohammad is shown to be a shiftless failure and pedophile who concocts his stories about angelic visitations as a desperate attempt to gain the attention, respect and power he has always craved.

I'm sure that Muslims the world over would enjoy that picture just as much as faithful Catholics will enjoy Angels and Demons.

Of course we know that the idea of poltroons like Ron Howard and Dan Brown attacking Muslims the way they attack Catholics is laughable. To be a coward is to only pick on safe targets. The Catholic Church is a civilized institution. The corporate headquarters of Sony Pictures will not be targeted by a truck bomb. The last view of Dan Brown or Ron Howard the world will see will not be of them being beheaded by masked Jesuits shouting "God is Great" in Latin on a video tape sent to EWTN (the Catholic cable channel). The Vatican will not even attempt to use its status as a sovereign nation to go before the UN and attempt to have Sony Pictures condemned as hate criminals.

No all Brown, Howard or Sony need to fear is words. Words which will only feed the publicity machine of their movie and thus put more money in their pockets.

And that is fine. Better to be able to mock religion with impunity than to have to fear being burned at the stake, but we should also keep in mind that any religion that you can attack without needing to hire a team of ex-Green Berets to keep your head attached to your shoulders probably doesn't deserve your attack.