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Cardinal Wants Da Vinci Code Legally Suppressed:

According to Reuters,

In the latest Vatican broadside against "The Da Vinci Code", a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded. Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called "The Da Vinci Code -- A Masterful Deception." ...

"Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget," Arinze said in the documentary made by Rome film maker Mario Biasetti for Rome Reports, a Catholic film agency specializing in religious affairs.

"Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others," Arinze said.

"This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected," he said, without elaborating on what legal means he had in mind....

I had hoped that the Catholic Church had learned that it's wrong to try to use legal coercion to suppress religious views that one disapproves of -- and that no religion should have a legal right to be free from criticism or disagreement (or for that matter novels it dislikes). I'm sorry to see that at least one leading cardinal takes a different view. Those of us who condemned Moslem leaders who called for legal suppression of the Mohammed cartoons (not just those who called for violence, but also those who called for government action) should condemn this Catholic leader's call as well.

Thanks to Robert Bidinotto for the pointer.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Catholic Church, the da Vinci Code, and "Censorship Envy":
  2. Cardinal Wants Da Vinci Code Legally Suppressed:
geekWithA.45 (mail) (www):
Well, if it offends Christ, then perhaps He might have standing. I look forward to Him appearing in His Person to file the papers.
5.7.2006 7:04pm
Josh_Jasper (mail):
Note that this is not an American Cardnial. He's African. With an international organization, you'll ahve views that represent the home countries of the clergy in question.
5.7.2006 7:13pm
Cornellian (mail):
Movie ad "Find out what the Vatican doesn't want you to see!!!"
5.7.2006 7:18pm
Robert F. Patterson (mail):
"It's wrong to try to use legal coertion..." is, in the language of debate, "begging the question." Wrong for whom? FOr those who try, for those against whom they try, of for society in general? THe very term "coertion" is loaded. Perhaps the writer means that the effort doesn't succeed or that it is too hard to win the case, or something like that. It is not unlike the attempt to pass anti-pornographic legislation. We know porn when we see it, so to speak, but it is hard to define for legal purposes.
On the other hand it is totally "wrong" for others to ridicule religious beliefs that have been the main inspiration for the good that has been in the world for centuries, even if sueing isn't a promising route.
"Blessed are those who suffer persecution for justice's sake," is the ultimate answer.
5.7.2006 7:23pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I see another South Park episode coming...
5.7.2006 7:32pm
Tocqueville:
A rather uncharitable interpretation of his comments, I think.

Another less shrill take might be that he is merely calling for a legal boycott by faithful Catholics of the movie, or that he agrees with the recent request made of the film's producers by the Church that a disclaimer be provided at the beginning of the movie informing viewers that the film is primarily a work of fiction.

Must the sky always be falling on our liberties around here?
5.7.2006 7:50pm
Matt Barr (mail) (www):
I detect no irony in the headline "Cardinal urges legal action against Da Vinci Code." Which in this day and age is a real shame.
5.7.2006 8:03pm
Jake (NYU):
So are we sure this isn't just the coded method that Cardinals use to call in assassinations by Opus Dei?
5.7.2006 8:08pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Well, if it offends Christ, then perhaps He might have standing. I look forward to Him appearing in His Person to file the papers.

You're implying that the almighty would have to go pro per ?
5.7.2006 8:11pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
sez Hardy:
"Well, if it offends Christ, then perhaps He might have standing. I look forward to Him appearing in His Person to file the papers.

You're implying that the almighty would have to go pro per ?
"


OK, we all know the gag that this sets up, who'll step up, bite the bullet, and type it?


rfgs
5.7.2006 8:18pm
David Hecht (mail):
If someone made a movie based on the premise that the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were, in fact, impeccably authentic and factual, would you be so blithe?
5.7.2006 8:24pm
John Armstrong (mail):
Far be it from me to tell a Cardinal abou theology, but I seem to remember forgiveness being given a pretty hefty weight. Now he says that something is unforgiveable?
5.7.2006 8:25pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Some years ago, Robert Ludlum (IIRC) had a novel involving a murderous Albigensian conspiracy within the Church headed (apparently) by Vice President Quayle. If that didn't make the Church spit coffee all over its keyboard, I can't see any reason for the current hooraw.
5.7.2006 8:32pm
Cornellian (mail):
If someone made a movie based on the premise that the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were, in fact, impeccably authentic and factual, would you be so blithe?

I have no doubt that EV, DB et al would be entirely uninterested in supressing it and certainly wouldn't be calling for the sort of thing that this Cardinal is calling for against the considerably milder Da Vinci Code.
5.7.2006 8:33pm
ficus:

If someone made a movie based on the premise that the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were, in fact, impeccably authentic and factual

I haven't seen the book but a friend who has tells me that it states in the front that it is all fiction. So what's the parallel? And why are people getting so upset? It may be a trashy book, but if it claims to be pure fiction, how does it tarnish any institution?
5.7.2006 8:38pm
Constantin:
Hasn't the cardinal learned the proper lesson re: Those Cartoons? Must his flock suffer for having ability to keep itself from, you know, pillaging and cutting off heads? And what right (colloquially speaking) does the entirety-minus-about-five of worldwide media actors have to ignore the Cardinal's call for restraint and sensitivity after the example set earlier this year?
5.7.2006 8:40pm
Tocqueville:
No one has called for he "suppression" of anything. It is ludicrous to debate such straw men.
5.7.2006 8:42pm
Jason Fliegel (mail):

"Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget."

Indeed. Where would a Christian get the idea that the proper response to an injury is to forgive and forget (to "turn the other cheek," if I may be so bold as to coin a phrase that would clearly be antithetical to Christian teachings).
5.7.2006 8:55pm
Tareeq (www):
No one has called for he "suppression" of anything. It is ludicrous to debate such straw men.

Legislation and litigation suppress almost as surely as bomb threats. That's how I read the cardinal's call.

Even spurious lawsuits have in terrorem effects, but in some countries (including some in the E.U.) a blasphemy suit might not be as spurious as it would be in the United States.
5.7.2006 8:57pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I don't think this is being too harsh to the cardinal but he is just a cardinal not the whole church. Maybe there were good reasons he didn't get elected pope.
5.7.2006 10:00pm
Rick Shmatz (mail):
I dont think it's fair to make the comparison by taking out the most important factor-- he never threatened to kill anyone. The situation, and the resulting criticism, would not have occurred had the muslim leaders merely advocated legal action.
5.7.2006 10:21pm
UT3L:
Whoa!
Why are we jumping to the conclusion that a Nigerian Cardinal's mention of "legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others" is synonymous with "legal coercion to suppress religious views that one disapproves of"?

Are we just such a bunch of American lawyers that "legal means" equals litigation and injunctive relief?

A perfectly reaonsable interpretation of the Cardinal's comment is to encourage Catholics to take actions that are legal (as in not prohibited by law) to express their disapproval of the film. While a boycott obviously fits this description, the Cardinal may also be calling upon believers to express their disapproval through other peaceful means (discussion, protest, a renewed emphasis on educating people on Church doctrine). There is nothing here that should offend libertarian sensibilities.

Re-read the Reuters article. The reporter provided the litigation-oriented spin. The Cardinal, it seems to me, was calling for nothing more than a more active approach by believers to confronting (what he views as) heresy. He says that believers should "not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget."

I wouldn't be so quick to equate the term "legal action" with litigation, especially in the context of the article. Maybe I'm wrong, and the Cardinal was summoning a legion of Jesuit JDs to pour out a plague of lawsuits, but I don't see anything in the Cardinal's words saying so.
5.7.2006 10:27pm
Juank Cole:
Arinze did not ask that it be banned, or legally suppressed. Most likely Arinze was talking about an action for libel.

Here is what Arinze said:

"Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others," Arinze said.

"This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected," he said, without elaborating on what legal means he had in mind....


He does not talk about suppressing. He is quite vague.

He was more likely talking about an action for libel. Dan Brown has written a book that many claim grossly distort the history of the church, and in places seems to tell out and out fibs. And, unlike most novelists, Brown inserted a foreward that says "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in his novel are accurate". He deliberately intended to get his readers to believe that a substantial portion of the novel was truth rather than fiction. This changes things. If you were the target of such a book, and if you felt that it had told lies about you, you would probably be considering legal action as well.

I agree that the statement comes scarily close, on first blush, to the same thing that the Danish Imams are saying, and that would be troublesome. But I doubt that is what he meant. And, remember the source - Reuters - one of your more liberally kooky outlets.

And, Arinze is a particularly blunt speaker, in a refreshing sort of way. But that occasionally will get you into trouble.
5.7.2006 10:31pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, the quotation is:

"legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others"

That doesn't sound like protest, because that would not "get the other person to respect the rights of others." It is awfully amorphous as to what's being suggested by the good Cardinal. But it seems as though he believes the Church has some "right" not to be "attacked" in a movie. What "rights of others" do you suppose he is referring to?
5.7.2006 10:35pm
Swimmy:
It's kind of sad that anyone would feel so threatened by such a silly book and incompetent writer.
5.7.2006 10:37pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
I haven't seen the book but a friend who has tells me that it states in the front that it is all fiction.

Accordint to Wikipedia, "The book opens with the claim by Dan Brown that 'all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents [...] and secret rituals in this novel are accurate'; but this claim is disputed by many academic scholars in the fields the book discusses." Ficus' friend is wrong.

A rough parallel would be the film Titanic. It is historical fiction, with some attempt on James Cameron's part to faithfully recreate many details about the event. Unfortunately, Cameron makes some radical divergences from history. The vessel is attempting a speed record, when in fact it didn't. The evacuation is prompt, whereas in real life it was delayed by at least a half hour. According to the official inquest before the Wreck Commission in the UK, when White Star executive J. Bruce Ismay boarded the lifeboat nobody on deck was within his line of sight; the film portrays quite the opposite, and even places the lifeboat in a spot where both port and starbord are visible (Lifeboat Collapsible C's location can be found on this deckplan). The film Titanic breaks into two pieces; the genuine Titanic broke into three. In short, Oliver Stone Jamews Cameron plays fast and loose with certain facts. The average viewer does not know where history ends and fiction begins.

The same applies to DVC. The average viewer may believe that something called the Priory of Sion dates prior to 1956, or that Opus Dei has monks within its order. If Dan Brown got this much wrong, how much of the rest of the historic backdrop is wrong? The "just a movie" mantra doesn't wash, even if much of the historic background in DVC is arcane.

As for Cardinal Arinze...he was doing the right thing when he participated in the documentary. Unless he can summon evidence to support a libel suit against Brown on behalf of Opus Dei (which I seriously doubt), he has no legal recourse. Memo to the cardinal: make fisk, not lawsuit. And ask Oriana Fallaci about the efficacy of de facto heresy charges.
5.7.2006 10:39pm
therut:
Would somone let David Berstein know I want to get some money to him to take for his Charity work in Israel when he goes. The link to his pay pal did not work for me. Please.
5.7.2006 10:51pm
Thought (mail):
While no religion should be able to supress free speech, there is one glaring difference between what the Catholic Cardinal is talking about and the way fanatical Muslims reacted to the Mohammed cartoons.

Namely, the cardinal recommends peaceful, civil, and lawful recourse. If he ever got a case to court, he would probably lose and accept that.

The fanatical Muslims reacted with violence...threats of violence and actual violence. I wish the Muslims had taken the course that the cardinal has...it would have been far preferrable.
5.7.2006 10:56pm
William Tanksley, Jr (mail):
I saw that article, and I'm almost 100% certain it's a misquote of the cardinal. I'm not a Catholic, and don't particularly like them, but I strongly suspect that the Da Vinci Code contains actionable libel. (But I'm not a lawyer, and I'm aware that I'm talking to lawyers.) I think the reporter misunderstood the cardinal to be claiming that the book contained doctrinal error and should therefore be supressed.

Anyhow, the general claim is that the Catholic Church was set up specifically to supress known truth, and has done so by means of murder and terror, and continues to do so to this day, and furthermore does so with the entire knowing approval of its high authority. That's more than a little bit harmful -- although from my limited understanding of the law the Vatican would have to prove that the statements were known to be false, uttered with intent to harm, and actual harm ensued. I suspect that Brown didn't care whether the Catholic Church was harmed.

Someone above said that the book says up front that it's fiction. Exactly wrong: the very first leaf of the book says "FACT", and is followed by the claim that the societies, rituals, and so on actually exist. This explicit claim is matched by the general claim implied by its status as historical fiction (the names and specific situations are made up, but the background is researched and correct). To take things further, Dan Brown has repeatedly said in interviews that he believes the situations described in the book are accurate.

With that said, I don't see how the Catholic Church can win anything in this case, neither legal victories nor goodwill. They should (IMO) instead focus on using the publicity the book produces to help start conversations. Most of the book's claims are tranparent fallacies (I speak as one who's studied a little history), so any real conversation would be in the Church's favor.

-Billy
5.7.2006 10:57pm
UT3L:
frankcross asks: "But it seems as though he believes the Church has some "right" not to be "attacked" in a movie. What "rights of others" do you suppose he is referring to?"

The Cardinal specifies the "right" in the next paragraph: "This is one of the fundamental human rights: that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected."

The Cardinal's enumeration of "rights" doesn't sound to me so much like a basis for litigation (tortious disrespect?) as a call to motivate Catholics to confront the contents of the movie/book with more than mere silence.

Of course, some lawyer could make a monkey out of me and file a libel suit. I just don't see it in the article.
5.7.2006 10:59pm
Tareeq (www):
Would somone let David Berstein know I want to get some money to him to take for his Charity work in Israel when he goes. The link to his pay pal did not work for me. Please.


If you click his name on the side of the main page, you'll be taken to his faculty page, which has an email address.
5.7.2006 11:00pm
therut:
Tareeq---------I may be blind but I do not see an e-mail address there.????????????????
5.7.2006 11:21pm
jpaulg (mail):
My gues would be that a Nigerian Cardinal would be calling for legal action within Nigeria. As I understand the situation books that upset Muslims in Nigeria are regularly banned, and the Cardinal may simply be calling for a bit of quid pro quo between the religions.
5.7.2006 11:26pm
Shangui (mail):
Note that this is not an American Cardnial. He's African.


Note also that he was among the favorites to become pope recently. He's hardly a just regional force or fringe element of the Church.
5.7.2006 11:28pm
Average Joe (mail):
therut,
This e-mail address is copied from the top section of Bernstein's home page (next to the picture):

dbernste at gmu.edu

Go forth and use this information to donate to charity, etc.
5.7.2006 11:38pm
xx:
"Well, if it offends Christ, then perhaps He might have standing. I look forward to Him appearing in His Person to file the papers.

You're implying that the almighty would have to go pro per ?"

The best part is that the ACLU would have to file an amicus on the other side supporting the studio's free speech rights, so all those ACLU hate sites out there would finally get to truthfully say that the ACLU is the opponent of Christ.
5.7.2006 11:38pm
therut:
That e-mail address does not work.
5.7.2006 11:51pm
frankcross (mail):
He may have just meant a libel action but that seems a little strange. First, people are libeled, not churches. What individual person would have a libel claim based on the book? That's not a rhetorical question, I have no interest in reading the book -- are any living people identified as being engaged in behavior that would support a libel claim?
5.7.2006 11:56pm
therut:
Never Mind. I figured it out. I guess I was out in the sun too much today. At least "that's my story and I'm stickin to it".
5.8.2006 12:05am
Smithy (mail) (www):
Okay, let's get this straight: it's okay for Penn State to censor an art exhibit that it believes casts some Muslims in an unfavorable light, but the Catholic church is out of line when it attempts to stop the dissemination of a crack pot theory that attempts to undermine very basis of Christianity, the religion on which the United States was founded. Seems like a double standard to me.
5.8.2006 1:15am
Joe7 (mail):
Smithy, no one here, especially Eugene Volokh, has said "it's okay for Penn State to censor an art exhibit..." Quite to the contrary, they have condemned it (I'm also a little confused; I was under the assumption that a jewish student's art was censored, but I may be mixing up cases.)
5.8.2006 1:34am
The Cranky Insomniac (www):
Man, there are more awkward contortions in these comments than in the Kama Sutra.

Sorry, the Cardinal is not calling for a boycott, nor is he calling for legal action only in Nigeria. He is saying that he has a fundamental human right - enforceable by law - to have his church and his savior be respected by all other humans everywhere. His position shouldn't be a huge surprise, given that the Pope himself said something very similar during Cartoon War I.

As for the Protocols being filmed, they already have been, in Egypt, I believe. I love when someone brings up the Protocols in this context: why not just say "You Jews don't even accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, so don't you dare question the Catholic Church" and be done with it.

Arinze isn't just any ol' Cardinal: he's among the handful of people on the planet considered by many within the Church to be papabile, or "Pope-able." So, as I say here, does anyone really thing Arinze spoke without the Pope's benediction?

Finally, I'm not a lawyer, but am I correct in assuming that the "gag" that is set up by the comment about Christ appearing pro per involves habeas corpus?
5.8.2006 8:01am
The Cranky Insomniac (www):
...Or would the trial have to take place in Corpus Cristi?
5.8.2006 8:03am
Shangui (mail):
Smithy, no one here, especially Eugene Volokh, has said "it's okay for Penn State to censor an art exhibit..." Quite to the contrary, they have condemned it (I'm also a little confused; I was under the assumption that a jewish student's art was censored, but I may be mixing up cases.)

Exactly. Smithy is completely wrong about almost the entire discussion of the Penn State case here (almost everyone condemned Penn State) and he's also wrong about what they did. It WAS a Jewish student whose exhibit was sponsored in some fashion by Hillel House. You're not confused, Smithy's just changing the facts to fit his imagination.
5.8.2006 9:55am
MikeT (mail) (www):
I don't see any reason to be particularly sympathetic to my fellow religionists who get their panties in a knot over this stuff. Jesus said that this would be par for the course. If you don't like it, then just quit following Christ. Now, I know that some non-Christians might think that they have a right to try to stop these things using the state, but they don't. Their own religion teachs them differently and if they're going to follow it, then they need to listen to its teachings or leave it. Accepting potential persecution and having to justify one's faith is just part of being a Christian, and a cardinal of all people should be able to accept that and live with it.
5.8.2006 10:04am
Cala:
Reading the cardinal's statement, I took 'legal means' to be interpreted more properly as 'lawful means.' I.e., don't run around burning theaters or beating up anyone, but protests and boycotts of the film (legally-recognized means) are fine.

That is something a religious group is still allowed to do, and that hardly amounts to censorship.
5.8.2006 10:54am
skid:
some people have hit on it, but part of me thinks the most interesting thing about the whole thing might be the legal theory under which teh church would sue (assuming we're not talking about laws banning the movie, which I feel pretty confident would be prior restraints, and not justified).

someone earlier said that they thought there was a defamation action, and perhaps a false light action, but under either of these theories, at least when dealing with a "public figure," one element of the truth is the falsity of the statement (and actual malice regarding that falsity).

in this case, the Cardinal seems to be talking about attacks on Jesus, not just the Church, in which case, wouldn't all of Brown's claims come into play about Christ himself come out in a defamation action? I'm just envisioning a district court somewhere hearing evidence about whether or not Jesus had a wife, etc, etc, and it seems like something of a nightmare....
5.8.2006 1:41pm
Liv (mail) (www):
It's weird that The Da Vinci Code and Dan Brown are getting all these problems from cardinals, when Angels and Demons is a lot worse. Granted, Angels and Demons is a TERRIFIC book, but the cardinals and the Pope have a lot more attention that in Da Vinci. What do these cardinals have to say anyway? Why are they making such a big deal about all of this. It almost seems to me like they're hiding something. It's probably not true, but...it's just really sketchy. It's just a novel. It's FICTION. People really need to calm down, geez.

Anyway, that was my 50 cents.
5.12.2006 3:03pm
Liv (mail) (www):
Oh yeah, and also, what's up with that? 'Cause it's like...if the cardinals are sooo offended by it, why did they continue reading it past like...the fourth chapter?

*grins* I could just see this now,

"Oh dear, this book is TERRIBLE, HATE!!!" *turns the next page*
5.12.2006 3:05pm