4.18.2006

Catholic Views at the Dialogue

Early Catholic buzz about The Da Vinci Dialogue criticized the effort because none of the "experts" named in the press release were Roman Catholic authorities. Well, the early criticism may have paid dividends—or it may have just been uninformed.

The latest two essays posted at the Dialogue are by John L. Allen, Jr., a Catholic journalist who specializes in news about the Roman Catholic Church, and Monsignor Francis J. Maniscalco, who has been director of communications of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops since 1995. The Monsignor deals in broad terms about the potrayal of Catholic teaching in Dan Brown's book, while Allen writes a much more interesting and informative piece on Opus Dei. Allen's weekly column about Vatican affairs, called “The Word from Rome,” appears in the National Catholic Reporter.

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The Da Vinci Dialogue

7 Comments:

Carl E. Olson said...

Greg,

My initial blog about the "Da Vinci Dialogue" site correctly noted that at that time there was exactly one Catholic "expert":

http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2006/02/davincichalleng.html

Isn't it strange that Grace Hill and Sony have never contacted any of the six Catholic authors (myself, Sandra Miesel, Amy Welborn, Steve Kellmeyer, Mark Shea, and Edward Sri) who have penned books critiquing Brown's novel? I think so.

10:23  
Greg Wright said...

Yes, Carl, you're right. But you pretty much discounted Sr. Rose Pacatte as any kind of "expert," so that really left the roster pretty empty, didn't it? Legitimately so. I have no beef with that.

"Isn't it strange," you ask, "that Grace Hill and Sony have never contacted any of the six Catholic authors (myself, Sandra Miesel, Amy Welborn, Steve Kellmeyer, Mark Shea, and Edward Sri) who have penned books critiquing Brown's novel?"

Well, as I replied on your blog on Feb. 23, you or Amy also might have made a phone call or two yourselves before throwing out the "sleeping with the enemy, hope it feels good" line of reasoning. I'm not sure how such an approach constitutes much of an olive leaf.

Personally, I'm quite glad that you're part of the conversations on this blog. Happy to have you!

Bottom line -- for a bunch of cloistered evangelicals, Grace Hill and co. have at least made some pretty good strides in the last two months in broadening their roster, don't you think?

Are you ready to abandon the "maybe these Protestants are just thrilled with anything that slams Catholics" conspiracy theory, at least?

20:16  
Carl E. Olson said...

Greg,

There's no doubt -- and I readily admit -- that some of my initial comments were made in a moment of frustration. But my frustration, to clarify, did not come simply from pride (although that undoubtedly was part of it), but from this simple fact: TDVC is aimed squarely at the Catholic Church (it never mentions any form of Protestantism or Evangelicalism) and yet Grace Hill/Sony initially found, or invited, only ONE Catholic to be an "expert" on the site (and her expertise is in reviewing movies, not Church history or theology or related subjects). And yet there were numerous Evangelicals and 2-3 Orthodox, many of whom have never penned a word, as far as I know, about TDVC.

So why wouldn't a Catholic such as myself (who co-authored what is arguably the longest and most detailed critique of the claims of Brown's novel) naturally reach certain negative conclusions? And why is up to me to contact Grace Hill/Sony? If they really were serious about providing a wide range of expert opinion and not just working within their usual network of largely Evangelical authors, they would have contacted us. After all, it's not as though OSV or Ignatius Press are fringe publishers.

Finally, you misrepresent my remarks about Protestants and anti-Catholic perspectives. I wrote:

For some (certainly not all) Evangelicals, this probably appears to be a win/win situation: get a few licks in on the Catholic Church and promote your responses to the Code — responses that will focus almost exclusively on defending Scripture, not on telling the full story of who wrote the Bible (Catholics), who preserved the Bible (Catholics), and who defined the canon of the NT, aided by the Holy Spirit (Catholics).

As a former Fundamentalist and Evangelical (and a graduate from an Evangelical Bible college), I think my comment is quite fair.

In the end, my problem with the DaVinciChallenge.com site remains the same: I think that it entices Christians to play according to the rules set by those attacking the Faith. I understand and respect that other good Christians disagree, and I would hardly attack them for their involvement with the site. I hope their work bears fruit.

09:59  
Greg Wright said...

Carl,

I do understand your frustration, by the way. But you really shouldn't take your frustration personally, either as a writer or as a Catholic. As an insider in the Challenge/Dialogue project, I can tell you that there's frustration enough to go around, even with people who are actually involved!

As to Brown's book being "aimed squarely at the Catholic Church"... I agree that the book takes advantage of readers' unfair biases against Catholicism. But in the end, neither Opus Dei nor the Vatican are the story's villains -- they are in fact cleared of wrongdoing. So I agree and disagree on that point.

The broader offense (and the one not exonerated within the scope of the book) is against anyone who adheres to the tenets of pre-Reformation Christanity. And that goes way beyond just the Catholic Church.

When I recommended calling around, I wasn't suggesting that should have been done in order to be involved -- rather, to actually find out what the story was behind the selection of the "experts." By doing so, you and Amy (and others) could have easily verified that there was no anti-Catholic bias involved. It's "who you know," baby, and Jonathan Bock is pretty tight with a lot of Evangelical Christians. So it's no more complicated than that.

So is Grace Hill "serious about providing a wide range of expert opinion and not just working within their usual network of largely Evangelical authors?" I'd say the evidence that we now have is "yes."

Have they included you or Steve or Amy or others on that roster? No. But if you'll notice, they've pretty much avoided the serious DVC debunkers altogether -- Catholic or otherwise. That's simply not their emphasis.

I will certainly agree that "For some (certainly not all) Evangelicals, this probably appears to be a win/win situation: get a few licks in on the Catholic Church and promote your responses to the Code." I was also raised in a conservative protestant church that said Catholics weren't "real Christians" -- the "whore of Babylon" and all that nonsense. So I know exactly where you're coming from. And those folks are out there.

But they're not behind the Dialogue.

By extending that observation to The Da Vinci Dialogue, you tarred a whole lot of people unfairly -— including me, because of my association with Hollywood Jesus and the Dialogue. So how is that any better than Brown's attacks on the history of the Catholic Church?

And in defense of the Dialogue (about which I, too, was skeptical at the beginning), it actually HAS told "the full story of who wrote the Bible (Catholics), who preserved the Bible (Catholics), and who defined the canon of the NT, aided by the Holy Spirit (Catholics)."

If you still believe, today, that the Dialogue "entices Christians to play according to the rules set by those attacking the Faith," I can only say I'm mystified. I just don't see it.

But like you, "I understand and respect that other good Christians disagree."

I'm sure God will mightily bless your efforts, too!

And by the way -- we could certainly use your presence on the discussion forums attached to the Dialogue, particularly as none of the "experts" themselves have deigned to weigh in...

10:27  
Greg Wright said...

By the way -- as I mentioned in my original post -- I really do think that your complaints did some good. I know that Jonathon Bock follows Da Vinci Code news pretty closely, so I'm sure he was aware of Amy's and your early blogging about the Challenge. So you should feel good, at least, about shaping the direction that the Dialogue took. I think it's a much better and worthy project now than when it started.

10:31  
Carl E. Olson said...

By extending that observation to The Da Vinci Dialogue, you tarred a whole lot of people unfairly -— including me, because of my association with Hollywood Jesus and the Dialogue. So how is that any better than Brown's attacks on the history of the Catholic Church?

It's a good and fair point, Greg, although comparing my relatively nuanced (even if somewhat exasperated) statements to the outright lies of Brown is a stretch. But I happily and emphatically agree that the experts whose names I recognize are not anti-Catholic. And, in fact, I have tremendous respect for them. Perhaps this comment from another post I made about this topic will help clarify:

In fact, it strikes me that the selection of the "experts" may have been based on the simple (and correct) logic that it is better to have some Evangelicals saying, "The novel/movie is wrong about how the Bible was put together," than to have some Catholics saying, "The novel/movie are openly anti-Catholic and bigoted." They have to know that most of the Evangelicals will not go out of their way to stick up for the Catholic Church since they will be more interested in preaching, talking about the Bible, and scoring brownie points with other Evangelicals. (And please don't misunderstand me: I am not saying the Evangelicals on the site are anti-Catholic. I'm simply noting that they will have their own focus, and it won't be on the Catholic Church.)

I hope I'm wrong. I'd be happy to be wrong. But when one of the "experts" is described as "a Grammy-winning lyricist" who is also "recognized internationally as a Steinbeck scholar", you have to wonder: what is Gloria Gaither going to critique? The movie soundtrack? The literary quality of the screenplay? Nothing against the talented Mrs. Gaither, but I have to think that her involvement here is not an issue of what she knows as much as it is who she knows.


(Full post: http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2006/02/davincichalleng.html )

Again, I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong. I also think, however, that good people can disagree about tactics and approaches to evangelization and apologetics.

And by the way -- we could certainly use your presence on the discussion forums attached to the Dialogue, particularly as none of the "experts" themselves have deigned to weigh in...

Actually, I would like to, but I doubt my schedule will allow for much, if any, time on the site. I'm traveling for ten straight weeks, giving talks and interviews about the Coded Craziness, plus trying to keep up with my real job (editor of IgnatiusInsight.com), plus writing some articles, etc., etc. But thank you for the invitation. And who knows, I might make some stealth visits soon (especially around mid- to late-May).

17:55  
Greg Wright said...

Carl,

Yeah, that's all good stuff. Fair enough! I think we managed to tweak each other a bit, unintentionally, and we got it worked out. What more could we ask for in the Kingdom of God?

Sorry for any offense I've given, and I'm good to go. Do drop in on the forum if you get a chance -- and believe me, I know about busy right now!

18:01  

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