Editors Note: The Catholic League (USA) and Catholic Secular Forum (India) have joined forces in calling for a ban of the Catholic-bashing Dan Brown flick Angels and Demons due out in May. In the article that follows, Joseph Dias, general secretary of CSF rips apart the lies found within Brown’s book of the same name – Angels and Demons. Particularly illuminating is the anti-Catholic eyewitness account of the film crew by Father Bernard O’Connor, a Canadian priest and an official with the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches who was in Rome last year, while director Ron Howard was shooting the movie. Geez, who knows, maybe Dan Brown, Tom Hanks and Opie Taylor are the Illuminati…
By Joseph Dias
Dan Brown, the author of Da Vinci Code seems to have excelled in the art of Catholicism-bashing and he takes his anti-Catholic agenda further with the novel – Angels & Demons. Co-producer, Brian Grazer wants ‘Angels & Demons’ to be ‘less reverential’ than ‘The Da Vinci Code’, meaning more liberally anti-Catholic – which it is, if one goes by the book.
One would have no objection to the movie-makers, had they left real-life historical figures and the Catholic Church out of their web of cultic charm. However, this is not so and the film deals with historical persons and events, lying about them and demonizing the Catholic Church all through. The lies in the movie makes it difficult for one to separate fact from fiction and those not familiar with the history of the Catholic Church are bound to go away with a warped opinion about it.
The protagonist in both, Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons is Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. In Angels & Demons, (the movie based on the novel by the same name opens worldwide on 15, May 2009), Langdon is recruited by CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) to investigate what happened to one of its top physicists: he was found dead with a mysterious symbol seared into his chest. It was the symbol of a secret society, long thought moribund, the Brotherhood of the Illuminati.
In time Langdon becomes convinced that the Illuminati have returned. According to Brown, the organization, which numbered Galileo among its members, was founded to assert the superiority of science over the irrationality of religion, especially Roman Catholicism. It now seeks revenge, having captured antimatter, a dangerous substance discovered by the scientist who was assassinated. Langdon’s mission is to stop the Illuminati before it blows up the Vatican with a time bomb procured from the antimatter.
What one finds objectionable
* Priest & nun settle for artificial insemination: The depiction of a young priest who before he became pope fell in love with a nun. They wanted a child, but also wanted to remain chaste, so they settled for artificial insemination.
* Distortion of facts concerning real-life: Brown’s deceit is that he intersperses real life characters, like Copernicus and Galileo; and real life organizations, like the Illuminati; and real life issues, like science and religion, to draw his own concocted conclusions, that are not borne out by historical facts and are blatant lies.
* Wrongful portrayal of the Catholic Church: Dan Brown knows what the historical record says, and yet he deliberately misrepresents it. His willful distortion of the truth is done to smear the Catholic Church. He wants to show that the Catholic Church sees science as the enemy and will stop at nothing to get its way.
* Untruths about CERN & antimatter: Brown begins with a “Fact” page that mentions CERN. He describes it as a Swiss facility that created antimatter, “the most powerful energy source known to man.” It is so powerful that “a single gram of antimatter contains the energy of a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb-the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima”. This is untrue
* CERN clarifies its stand with facts: CERN has gotten so many inquiries about Brown’s allegations that it has a special section on its website answering them. For example, it says that “CERN is not a Swiss institute, but an international organization”; it is located partly in Switzerland and partly in France. Antimatter does exist, and is routinely created at CERN, but “There is no possibility to use antimatter as energy ‘source’. A popular question asked of CERN officials is, “Do you make antimatter as described in the book?” The reply: “No.” Everyone wants to know how dangerous antimatter really is. CERN says it is “Perfectly safe, given the minute quantities we can make. It would be very dangerous if we could make a few grams of it, but this would take us billions of years.”
* Catholic Church resorts to any means, leading to revenge: More important, Brown says on the very next page that “The brotherhood of the Illuminati is also factual.” And what are the Illuminati up to? In the book it says that “the Illuminati were hunted ruthlessly by the Catholic Church.” In a trailer for the movie, Tom Hanks, who plays Langdon, says of the secret society that “The Catholic Church ordered a brutal massacre to silence them forever. They’ve come for their revenge.” On pp. 39-40 in the book, it says the Illuminati were founded in the 1500s; the movie says the same. On p. 223, it says that “Word of Galileo’s brotherhood started to spread in the 1630s, and scientists from around the world made secret pilgrimages to Rome hoping to join the Illuminati….”
The film’s director, Ron Howard, concurs: “The Illuminati were formed in the 1600s. They were artists and scientists like Galileo and Bernini, whose progressive ideas threatened the Vatican.” Brown, on his website, hammers this point home: “It is a historical fact that the Illuminati vowed vengeance against the Vatican in the 1600s. The early Illuminati-those of Galileo’s day-were expelled from Rome by the Vatican and hunted mercilessly.”
* Lies about the Illuminati: The truth is that not a single member of the Illuminati was ever hunted, much less killed, by the Catholic Church. Exactly who the Illuminati were shows how bogus Brown’s claims are. The Illuminati were founded by a law professor, Adam Weishaupt, in Bavaria on May 1, 1776. It didn’t last long: it totally collapsed in 1787. This isn’t a matter of dispute, so dragging Galileo into this fable is downright dishonest-he died in 1642, almost a century and a half before the Illuminati was founded. Brown must know all this because on his own website there is a section on the Illuminati that correctly identifies its founding in 1776!
*Canonization & Holy Communion borrowed from paganism: Angels & Demons says that the Catholic tradition of canonization is taken from an ancient “god-making rite.” But saints are not people made into gods, and in any event the pagan origins of canonization have been thoroughly refuted. There is absolutely no evidence for Brown’s claim that dying for the sins of others is a Christian idea stolen from the legendary Mexican ruler, Quetzalocoatl. Holy Communion, according to Brown, is a concept that was taken from the Aztecs. But the fact is that Christianity antedates Aztec civilization by over 1000 years.
*More historical lies about real-life figures: The book claims that CERN invented the Internet, which is manifestly untrue. It credits two BBC reporters with winning a Pulitzer Prize, even though the award only goes to Americans. It says Winston Churchill was a “staunch Catholic,” when the fact is he was never a Catholic. It floats the idea that the Catholic Church is filthy rich when in reality its annual operating budget is about one-fifth that of Harvard’s. The book maintains that Copernicus was murdered, yet the record shows he died of a stroke. It holds that Galileo was a pacifist, though there is no evidence that he ever was. Brown takes a belief by Christian Scientists on the impropriety of medically treating a young person and falsely attributes it to Catholicism. He also falsely paints Catholics as opposed to the teaching of evolution, and identifies a Protestant organization, the Christian Coalition, as a Catholic entity.
*Pope Pius IX portrayed as a sexual deviant: Brown wants to promote every negative stereotype about the Catholic Church. One of the all time favorites is the Church’s alleged phobia about sexuality. So it is not surprising to learn that Brown paints Pope Pius IX as a penis-cleansing maniac who destroyed great works of art. “In 1857,” Brown says on p. 159, “Pope Pius IX decided that the accurate representation of the male form might incite lust inside the Vatican. So he got a chisel and mallet and hacked off the genitalia of every single male statue inside Vatican City.” Pius IX rather than walking around the Vatican, hammer in hand, hitting every male statue between the legs, in reality lavishly supported arts and rewarded artists for their contributions. He was also known for renovating paintings in the Vatican.
*Pope Urban VIII rejects sculptor Bernini & St. Teresa’s sculpture: Brown saves his big weapons for the alleged papal reaction to Bernini’s masterful sculpture, “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.” According to Brown, “Pope Urban VIII had rejected The Ecstasy of St. Teresa as too sexually explicit for the Vatican. He banished it to some obscure chapel across town.” On the same page, p. 422, we learn that “The sculpture, as anyone who had seen it could attest, was anything but scientific-pornographic maybe, but certainly not scientific.” On the next page, he writes that “the statue depicted St. Teresa on her back in the throes of a toe-curling orgasm.” Again, Brown simply makes up “facts” to suit his agenda. For starters, in the sculpture, Teresa is not on her back-she is sitting up. As for Urban VIII, he not an adversary of Bernini, but he was his friend and patron. In Arthur Lubow’s biography of the great artist, he recounts how throughout the 20 years of Urban VIII’s tenure, Bernini was treated royally by the pope. Indeed, Bernini was a favorite of all popes in his lifetime, and was bestowed with the Cross of the Order of Christ.
* Brown elevates science to the position of God: On p. 31, one of Brown’s characters delights in saying, “Soon all Gods will be proven to be false idols. Science has now provided answers to almost every question man can ask.” So what’s left? “There are only a few questions left,” writes Brown, “and they are the esoteric ones.” Like the very meaning of existence! On p. 218, Brown gets so excited by the promise of science that he uses italics to exclaim, “Science is God.” On p. 474, he really gets into orbit: “Medicine, electronic communications, space travel, genetic manipulation…these are the miracles about which we now tell our children. These are the miracles we herald as proof that science will bring us the answers.” Then he goes for the gold: “The ancient stories of immaculate conceptions, burning bushes, and parting seas are no longer relevant. God has become obsolete. Science has won the battle.”
Is there anything science can’t do? Evidently not. Here is Brown at his wackiest (p. 658): “Science has come to save us from our sickness, hunger, and pain! Behold science-the new God of endless miracles, omnipotent and benevolent! Ignore the weapons and the chaos.” It’s even an elixir for personal problems: “Forget the fractured loneliness and endless peril. Science is here!”
*The fact is that Catholicism promoted science & astronomy: Science would not have progressed as it has. “For the last fifty years,” says professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “virtually all historians of science…have concluded that the Scientific Revolution was indebted to the Church.” Sociologist Rodney Stark argues that the reason why science arose in Europe, and nowhere else, is because of Catholicism. “It is instructive that China, Islam, India, ancient Greece, and Rome all had a highly developed alchemy. But only in Europe did alchemy develop into chemistry. By the same token, many societies developed elaborate systems of astrology, but only in Europe did astrology lead to astronomy”.
The Catholic role in pioneering astronomy is not questioned. J.L. Heilborn of the University of California at Berkeley writes that “The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment than any other, and, probably, all other institutions.” The Jesuits scientific achievements alone, reached every corner of the earth.
What was it about Catholicism that made it so science-friendly, and why did science take root in Europe and not some place else? Stark knows why: “Because Christianity depicted God as a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being, and the universe as his personal creation. The natural world was thus understood to have a rational, lawful, stable structure, waiting (indeed, inviting) human comprehension.”
*Church & Galileo – many untruths: The myths about Galileo are so rich that few bother to consult the historical record to learn what really happened. Brown exploits this ignorance to the hilt. When he says on p. 41 that Galileo’s “data were incontrovertible,” he is not even close to telling the truth. For instance, we know that the tides are explained by the gravitational forces of the moon. But Galileo’s fixation on the earth revolving around the sun did not allow him to see this – he believed that the tides were understood by the earth’s revolutions around the sun. More important, what got Galileo into trouble was less his ideas than his arrogance: he made claims that he could not scientifically sustain.
If Galileo was punished for maintaining that the earth revolves around the sun, then why wasn’t Copernicus punished? After all, Copernicus broached this idea before Galileo toyed with it, and like Galileo, he was also a Catholic. The difference is that Copernicus was an honest scientist: he was content to state his ideas in the form of a hypothesis. Galileo refused to do so, even though he could not prove his hypothesis.
If the Catholic Church was out to get Galileo from the get-go, then how does one explain why he was celebrated for his work in Rome in 1611? Why did Pope Paul V embrace him? Why did he become friends with the future pope, Urban VIII? Quite frankly, Galileo never got into trouble before he started insisting that the Copernican system was positively true. When he first agreed to treat it as a hypothesis, or as a mathematical proposition, he suffered not a whit.
In 1624, Pope Urban VIII gave Galileo medals and other gifts, and pledged to continue his support for his work. According to Woods, “Urban VIII told the astronomer that the Church had never declared Copernicanism to be heretical, and that the Church would never do so”. This, of course, is not what Brown wants us to believe. Eight years later, Galileo wrote his Dialogue on the Great World Systems; he did so at the urging of the pope. But this time he made the leap of asserting that the Copernican theory was empirically true. Moreover, he presented himself as a theologian, not simply as a mathematician, as he agreed to do. The Church was not pleased, and indeed felt double-crossed by him. Just as important, the scientific community was unimpressed. His hubris was appalling to as many outside the Church as within it.
It is easy for us today to say that the Church overreacted in its treatment of Galileo. This is true. But it is also important to note that he was never tortured and never spent a day in prison. He was confined to house arrest in a modest home for nine years. He even stayed for a while in the home of the archbishop of Siena. Not exactly the Gulag-type experience we’ve been led to believe. It would be interesting to know how Brown would explain the fact that the first leader of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences was none other than his favorite “martyr,” Galileo Galilei!
If the Catholic Church was so anti-science, why did Pope Benedict XIV grant an imprimatur to the first edition of the complete works of Galileo? He did this in 1741. And if further proof is needed to demonstrate that Galileo’s abrasiveness had something to do with the Church’s response, consider that scientists like Father Roger Boscovich continued to explore Copernican ideas at the same time Galileo was found “vehemently suspected of heresy.” It should also be noted that Catholics were never forbidden from reading Galileo. Moreover, scientific books of all kinds circulated freely during and after his censure.
Bill Donahue’s Rationale
According to Bill Donahue of the US Catholic League – “In brief, the tag team of Dan Brown and Ron Howard would have the public believe that Galileo was a member of a secret society, the Illuminati, and that the group seeks revenge against the Vatican today because of the Catholic Church’s anti-science history. The fact is that Galileo died almost 150 years before the Illuminati were founded on May 1, 1776. So why do they lie? Because their goal is to paint the Catholic Church as the enemy of science, and what better poster boy to trot out than their favorite martyr, Galileo? The ultimate victim, Galileo’s alleged persecution is cited as proof of the Church’s war on reason.
“Galileo was never imprisoned or tortured: His confinement to house arrest, though unwarranted, was more a function of his arrogance than his ideas: he persisted in presenting his ideas (taken from Copernicus, a Catholic scientist who was never punished) as scientifically accurate, something which even scientists of his day scoffed at.
* Anti-Church eye-witness accounts of the film crew: Father Bernard O’Connor, a Canadian priest and an official with the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches was in Rome last year, while director Ron Howard was shooting the movie. O’Connor had two encounters with the film crew, informal discussions with about 20 of them. He was dressed casually so no one knew he was a priest. They spoke openly, thinking he was just “an amiable tourist.” He wrote an article about his experiences for the monthly magazine, Inside the Vatican. One self-described “production official” opined, “The wretched Church is against us yet again and is making problems.” Then, speaking of his friend Dan Brown, he offered, “Like most of us, he often says that he would do anything to demolish that detestable institution, the Catholic Church. And we will triumph. You will see.” When Father O’Connor asked him to clarify his remarks, the production official said, “Within a generation there will be no more Catholic Church, at least not in Western Europe. And really the media deserves to take much of the credit for its demise.”
“The public is finally getting our message,” boasts the movie official. The message is clearly defined: “The Catholic Church must be weakened and eventually it must disappear from the earth. It is humanity’s chief enemy. This has always been the case.” He credits “radio, television, Hollywood, the music and video industries, along with just about every newspaper which exists, all saying the same thing.” He also cites the role which colleges and universities have played in undermining Catholicism.
Who is the Illuminati & what is it credited to do ?
In truth, the Illuminati were populated by men of the Enlightenment who believed they possessed some special knowledge that would enable them to reform Germany. Weishaupt demanded that his followers cut themselves off from family and friends-in cult-like form-so they could build a revolutionary society. Before he died, he renounced all secret societies and reconciled himself with the Catholic Church. But none of this is told because Brown wants us to believe that the Illuminati are still in existence.
Even though the Illuminati is long dead, the following is a list of some of the things that they are still credited with doing. The Illuminati were responsible for the assassinations of the following presidents: Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, James Garfield and William McKinley. They were “probably” responsible for killing Warren Harding and “possibly” FDR. In any event, Princess Diana’s death was their doing, as well.
The secret society certainly has made its mark on history. Here are some of the things it is allegedly responsible for: the French Revolution; the Russian Revolution; commissioning Marx and Engels to write The Communist Manifesto; an attempted overthrow of the United States; persuading the pope to disband the Jesuits (who are also credited by some as founding the Illuminati); manipulating U.S. Supreme Court Justice Marshall to grant the federal government
“implied powers”; instigating uprisings in Europe in the 1840s; and manipulating Lincoln to adopt a graduated tax. The Illuminati are said to have founded the following: the Federal Reserve; Workman’s Compensation; the 16th Amendment (adoption of a federal income tax); the League of Nations; the Communist Party; the Marshall Plan; the United Nations; the Council on Foreign Relations; the Trilateral Commission; and the World Bank.
It also played a role in fomenting World War I, World War II (it encouraged Hitler to invade Poland), the Cold War and 9/11. It is responsible for assaults on Christianity and for dividing Orthodox and Conservative Jews. AIDS, Ebola and the Gulf War Syndrome are the creation of the Illuminati. It is even responsible for Hurricane Katrina and the Red Cross (which it benefited from).
Joseph Dias is general secretary of The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF). With inputs from Bill Donahue, Catholic League, USA