- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES

Catholic bishops have mounted a stinging Internet counterattack on the best-selling novel “The Da Vinci Code,” ahead of the release of Ron Howard’s film version in May.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last week announced a new Web site refuting key claims made in Dan Brown’s novel that are likely to be brought to the big screen in the movie starring Tom Hanks.

“‘The Da Vinci Code’ is a mess, a riot of laughable errors and serious misstatements. Almost every page has at least one of each,” the bishops wrote on the Web site, www.jesusdecoded.com.

The site says the Brown novel “asks people to consider equivalent to the mainstream Christian tradition quite a few odd claims. Some are merely distortions of hypotheses advanced by serious scholars who do serious research. Others, however, are inaccurate or false.”

The bishops said the site was aimed at providing “accurate information on the life of Jesus and the origins of Christianity” prior to the release of the movie.

It offers articles written by theologians, media commentators, art scholars and others that “provide background and also rebut speculation and inaccuracies about Christ and the origins of Christianity,” the bishops said.

“Reporters have asked whether even a best-selling novel can seriously damage a church of 1 billion believers,” said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York. “No, in the long run, it cannot. But that is not the point. The pastoral concern of the church is for each and every person.

“If only one person were to come away with a distorted impression of Jesus Christ or his church, our concern is for that person as if he or she were the whole world,” he said.

Mr. Brown’s novel, which has sold nearly 40 million copies worldwide, hinges on the theory that Christ married Mary Magdalene and that they had children, and accuses the church of hiding the truth for about 2,000 years.

The movie version of the film, heralded as one of the major cinematic events of 2006, will star Mr. Hanks, French actress Audrey Tautou, and British actors Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany.

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