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The title of this book by Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel says it all. The novel, The Da Vinci Code, is engaging and intriguing. It is a thriller presented as an historical novel. It is fiction, yet it seeks to convince the reader that it is based on fact. It pushes an attack on the Catholic Church and claims to do so in the name of historical authenticity and sound scholarship. The claim is preposterous, but persuasive for many.

The authors of The Da Vinci Hoax deserve our gratitude for exposing in considerable detail and with sure touch the fabrications of Dan Brown’s book. Theirs is the definitive debunking. In the end, the fallacy of Brown’s book is a common one. It approaches the Christian faith as though its contents were to be found in words and documents rather than in the witness and collective memory of the community Christ himself left behind, is Church.

There have been such writings before and, no doubt, will be again. Why single out this novel? I read it because so many people who read it kept asking me questions about it. It has had a remarkably large and credulous readership, reminding me of the dictum that those who have lost or don’t know the faith are likely to believe anything. It matters what we read, what films and television we watch. If we feed our minds on error, we risk losing touch with the truth about who we are and how we ought to live.

We find salvation through self-surrender in faith to Christ, not from personal ideas or inspirations. Once the anchor of the Church’s authentic witness and teaching is abandoned, gnostic or other false theories inevitably appear. Antagonism to the Church and her teaching ultimately entails some kind of rejection of Jesus Christ as he has revealed himself in history. His truth is always a challenge to every egocentric vision of reality and to an unbounded will for human autonomy. Besides, does anyone really think that all those martyrs went to their deaths to protect the secret that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married?

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago