Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dear Father Tharp,
I want to ask you to please contact Dan Brown and tell him the true gospel, as you know it. I am convinced that Mr. Brown's soul is searching and the Da Vinci code is part of that search.

Theresa Taylor-Abramson
Oklahoma City, OK

It is gratifying to receive positive feedback on the content of my column. Further, I am flattered that you think that my preaching of the Gospel might impact Mr. Brown so as to move him to conversion. While you didn’t have a question, your email allows me to address a basic requirement inherent in all apologetics.

Many media outlets, when reviewing Mr. Brown’s Da Vinci Code, complemented upon him on his “meticulous research.” When I hear the phrase, “meticulous research,” I think of hours spent in the library, trying to comprehend all the angles and the various positions differing groups hold. Meticulous research, usually, results in a comprehensive understanding of all degrees of knowledge, from essential details to arcane trivia. You don’t find meticulous researchers making elementary mistakes in their works. For instance, Brown claims that when the Pope had the Templars destroyed, he had them burned and their ashes scattered in the Tiber. A couple of problems: historians generally blame the King of France, Philip the Fair, for the destruction of the Templars and as the Papacy was in exile in France, it would make depositing ashes in the Tiber impossible. That sort of mistake a child makes, not a so-called meticulous researcher.

Preaching requires an audience receptive to its message. I agree with you. Mr. Brown is searching for the truth. I know this because every human heart restlessly searches for the truth. If you think you have the answers, or worse, that those who could give reliable testimony are liars, then the search is over. I hate to say it, but The Da Vinci Code doesn’t represent the beginning of a journey to truth; it represents its end. Let me explain.

“History is written by the winners” is one of those things we take for granted, but don’t think about what it means. This principle essentially means take both sides of the story. For example, if you were writing about Columbus and his arrival in the New World, you would include not only Columbus’ own journals but also the observations of those living in the West Indies at the time. However, Mr. Brown uses this idea that “history is written by the winners” to suggest that even basic dates and facts are open to question. Therefore, even if you bring to light contradictory evidence, Mr. Brown can dismiss it because it was recorded by “the winners.” This is irony, par excellence. For approximately 300 to 400 years, Christianity was hardly a winner; either persecution, isolation, and minority representation in the society rendered Christianity anything but powerful, except on the spiritual and metaphysical fronts.

The Gospel, as I know it, is not the issue here. The Gospel according to Father Shane Tharp won’t save a single soul. Only the Gospel according to Jesus Christ, faithfully preserved and handed on through the teaching office of the Catholic Church, only that brings salvation. To the degree the content of my preaching conforms unflinchingly to the content of the Gospel can we have any confidence in my preaching. Yet, it seems that Mr. Brown rejects the traditional content of the Faith. If he will not accept the testimony of the Gospels, the Magisterium, the Church Fathers, centuries of faithful Christians, and learned Doctors of the Church, I am not optimistic what my preaching might achieve, but what do I know? God’s grace certainly can overcome the greatest of obstacles.

This issue, I don’t have a book to recommend; I have something for you to listen to. Matt Arnold is the creative director for St. Joseph’s Communication and he has put together a three CD presentation debunking the most egregious of Mr. Brown’s historical and theological gaffes. The CD set also features a fascinating discussion of the historical and archeological claim that the Santo Caliz in the Cathedral of Valencia might be the Holy Grail, the Cup of the Last Supper. In all, it is a useful resource for all Catholics, especially those pressed for time.

For a positive action to respond to The Da Vinci Code, get with your pastor and host an evening discussion group about the errors found within Mr. Brown’s work. After all, I am perceived as part of the hierarchy, those people trying to hide the truth. However, if an average lay person were to call Mr. Brown’s assertions into question, it would carry more weight. Ascension Press, in conjunction with Catholic Exchange, have a ready-made evening program called “The Da Vinci Antidote.” You can find more information at http://www.davinciantidote.com. You could also invite one of the authors I have recommended (Carl Olson, Sandra Miesel, Amy Welborn, and Matt Arnold) and have them give a workshop. I suppose, if you wanted to go low rent, you could invite me to do the same.


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