- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

From combined dispatches

VATICAN CITY — The Roman Catholic Church in Good Friday ceremonies yesterday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ denounced Western culture for mocking Jesus as a homosexual and for its arrogance in attempting to conquer death through human cloning.

“Our time, obsessed as it is with sex, seems unable to portray Jesus in any other way than as a homosexual, or as one who taught that salvation is to be found in uniting with the feminine principle,” said the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, whose official title is “preacher of the papal household,” at a ceremony commemorating the passion of Jesus.

His reference to “uniting with the feminine principle,” apparently was directed toward the best-selling novel, “The Da Vinci Code.” Though he never identified the book by its title, it was evident it was the volume he cited as an example of the “literary and artistic parasitism” in popular culture.

The book is a work of fiction about a long-suppressed church secret that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and that they had children.

Yesterday marked the first time in his 26-year papacy that Pope John Paul II was physically absent from the Good Friday ceremonies, the latest in a series of Holy Week events his own suffering forced him to miss.

The ailing pope watched the procession on television until its conclusion shortly before 11 p.m., heartening some of the faithful.

He sat silently, alone in his chapel at the Vatican, his back to the camera, his face never shown, but his image projected to the faithful in Rome’s Colosseum on giant screens.

Father Cantalamessa, one of several clerics who stood in for the pope at ceremonies throughout the day, said in his sermon that some people today were ready to believe anything because they no longer believe in God.

“In an unending stream of novels, films and plays, writers manipulate the figure of Christ under cover of imaginary and nonexistent new documents and discoveries. This is becoming a fashion, a literary genre,” he said.

He did not mention “The Da Vinci Code” by name but made several clear references to the novel by American author Dan Brown.

The novel is an international murder mystery centered on attempts to uncover a secret about the life of Jesus that a clandestine society has tried to protect for centuries.

The central tenet of the book is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children.

Christians are taught that Jesus never married, was crucified and rose from the dead.

Father Cantalamessa attacked the book, saying: “Our time, obsessed as it is with sex, seems unable to portray Jesus in any other way than as a homosexual, or as one who taught that salvation is to be found in uniting with the feminine principle and gave the example by marrying Mary Magdalene. The passion and the crucifixion of Christ? All later inventions of the Church.”

On his Web site, Mr. Brown rejects charges that the novel is anti-Christian.

The attack on human cloning came from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 77, the Vatican’s chief for church doctrine, who often is mentioned as a possible successor to the ailing pope.

He also lambasted priests who soiled the church’s reputation — a reference to pedophile scandals in Austria and the United States.

The cardinal made the comments during a separate Good Friday ceremony.

“The arrogance that makes us think that we ourselves can create human beings has turned man into a kind of merchandise, to be bought and sold, or stored to provide parts for experimentation,” said Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“In doing this, we hope to conquer death by our own efforts, yet in reality we are profoundly debasing human dignity.”

The church has firmly opposed human cloning, arguing for a worldwide ban on “reproductive” cloning, in which embryos are cloned in fertility treatments, as well as therapeutic cloning, in which embryos are harvested for their tissues and then destroyed.

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