NEW YORK (March 27, 2006) — Fordham University filled the Pope Auditorium at its Lincoln Center campus last night for the Headline Forum: “Waiting for Da Vinci – From Factoid to Mythoids.” Hosted by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture, the forum examined the facts behind the fiction of the blockbuster novel, soon to be released as a major motion picture.
The forum is featured on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, in a segment on the novel. The national program airs locally on WNET Channel 13 at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 13, and again at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 14. A transcript, streaming video and podcast of the program will be available on the website of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly after 8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 12. A transcript of the entire forum is available on the center’s website.
Moderated by best-selling mystery writer Joanne Dobson, the forum featured Harold Attridge, dean of Yale University Divinity School, historian of early Christianity and author of the Nag Hammadi Codex I: The Jung Codex and Mark Massa, S.J., co-director, Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham and author of Anti-Catholicism: the Last Acceptable Prejudice.
Of the “suppressed truths” accepted as “gospel” by many readers of the fictional best-selling novel, Attridge explored four: The art of Da Vinci as a secret code; Goddess worship in antiquity; the formation of belief in Christ as Divine; and Mary Magdalene in art and literature and her relationship to Jesus. “ Dan Brown cleverly takes data out of context and spins an engaging thriller,” concluded Attridge.
Citing Maria Monk’s best-selling mid-19th century novel, The Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Monastery in Montreal , Mark Massa pointed out that fictional works offering dark revelations of the Roman Catholic Church have long achieved blockbuster status in the United States. Why do so many people cross the line between fiction and fact, so willingly and in such numbers?
Massa believes there is a deep, perceptual-based reason: Catholic Christianity posits a different world-view, not better or worse, but different – one that is symbolic, emphasizing “the community through which God comes to us in sacraments”. Within a popular culture that extols the individual, the Roman Catholic Church, as presented in The Da Vinci Code , strikes cords of paranoia.
Both Attridge and Massa pointed out that, while a lecture offered on a standard theological topic might draw 20 people, a talk on The Da Vinci Code draws crowds. Attridge said the book opens up a wonderful dialogue with his students, who approach him with a lot of questions after reading it.
“There is a compelling need for this type of discourse,” says Massa. “The book illuminates the shortcomings of our institutional dialogue. Religious education institutions have failed when popular fiction is taken as fact.”
“I believe the phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code has something important to tell us about contemporary attitudes toward Christianity,” said Peter Steinfels, co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture. Following a lively question and answer period, he told the audience, “I encourage this conversation, so rich already, to continue.”
The Fordham Center on Religion and Culture established in fall 2004, explores questions and issues arising at the intersection of religious faith and contemporary culture. The Center fosters conversations at a time when the influence of religion in American public life is both recognized and contested.