My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

In Defense of 'The Da Vinci Code'

I can't say that I am surprised by the Vatican's condemnation of 'The Da Vinci Code.' It is just another example of the paranoia that permeates the psychoses of our cardinals in Rome. Admittedly, there is an element of humor with all this hysteria. First and foremost, the Vatican should realize by now that when they instruct the faithful not to read something, it will only enourage more people to buy the book. So, anyone who hasn't read 'The Davinci Code' will certainly pick up a copy now. Secondly, the Vatican is unwittingly providing great pre-publicity for Ron Howard's movie version of 'The Davinci Code.' (I am assuming it will be released in 2006, with Tom Hanks in the starring role.)

The Vatican's condemnation is reminiscent of 'The Inquisition' of the medieval period. If 'The Davinci Code' had been written during that period, it woud have certainly found itself on the list of 'forbidden books.' Since millions of Catholics now possess a copy of 'The Davinci Code,' it is unlikely the Vatican will send its henchmen after readers who refuse to burn their books. (Sadly, victims of the Inquisition suffered torture and worse for simply possessing books deemed to be inappropriate by the supreme pontiff.)

It is important at this juncture to state that 'The DaVinci Code' is a work of fiction. Yet, the assumptions and theories presented by the author are highly relevant, as they relate to current debates in the Roman Catholic Church. Certainly, as the priesthood shortage continues to be a center-stage topic, there seems to be overwhelming interest in the sexuality of Jesus. This translates to the corresponding issues of married priests and the ordination of women.

Since many of my friends and co-workers have read this book, they have naturally asked me if I believe Jesus was married. Correspondingly, I have been asked if I feel he was married to Mary Magdalene, as the author of this book implies, in addition to the intriguing idea of Jesus and Mary having raised children. Finally, since Opus Dei is mentioned in the book, I have been asked for my impressions/opinions of the organization.

Whether or not Jesus was married cannot be proven one way or another, simply because our resources are limited. Scripture lacks the proof we need to solve this mystery. Yet, this doesn't mean that we need to throw our hands in the air in a state of despair. Just as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was an unexpected surprise, it is entirely possible that first century documents are buried somewhere that could shed new insights into the personal life of Jesus. At present, I stand by the assumption that it is entirely possible that Jesus was married, considering that he lived with, and traveled amongst married members of the Jewish community.

If Jesus was married, it seems that Mary Magdalene would be the primary candidate for his wife. Although the Roman Catholic hierarchy tried its best to discredit her for many centuries, careful scholarship has shed new light on her role as an apostle to the apostles. When the male disciples fled, following the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, it was Mary Magdalene who stayed by his side. Furthermore, the author of 'The DaVinci Code' presents the possibility that Mary Magdalene was the mysterious person seated next to Jesus in Leonardo DaVinci's painting of 'The Last Supper.' Thus, minus a chalice in the painting, Mary comes to represent the living 'Holy Grail,' which becomes further manifested by the bloodline traced to Mary & Jesus. Again, all this is conjecture, but not to the point of dismissing it as fantasy.

How wonderful it would indeed be if persistent scholarship were to definitely prove that Jesus was married - whether it was to Mary Magdalene or someone else. This would place our hierarchy in the embarrassing situation of having to explain why it enforced mandatory celibacy for so many centuries. (The idea of the pope with egg on his face is a rather amusing conception.)

Finally, I wish to offer some closing thoughts about Opus Dei, since the organization is mentioned in 'The DaVinci Code.' To be fair, I am reluctant to categorize Opus Dei as a cult. I would simply describe them as extremely conservative, and I can't say I would endorse their practices. Their website is rather misleading, in that it implies Opus Dei is simply an organization that combines faith and work in the context of devoted membership. Yet, their spirituality can perhaps be best described as reminiscent of the Tridentine era, whereby a theology of suffering and self-sacrifice are the driving forces of their members. They are also passionate in the protection of the status quo, and are therefore closed to progressive ideas.

I have not personally gone out of my way to investigate Opus Dei. However, I thought CNN did a wonderful job last year, whereby anchor Anderson Cooper provided two interpretations of Opus Dei. In brief, a former member of the organization criticized methods of self-inflicted suffering that are used, such as beating oneself with a spiked instrument. (This is supposed to allow a person to experience the suffering of Christ.) On the other hand, a defender of Opus Dei stated that reports of self-inflicted suffering are exaggerated.

In the final analysis, Opus Dei is not for me. However, interested parties are certainly welcome to explore the organization. As with any group or association, I would hope that any prospective member will research all the parameters.

Whether or not one subscribes to the theories presented in 'The DaVinci Code,' we can at least be thankful for the questions and insights that are emerging as a result a book that has captured the imaginations of a multitude of readers.

Our esteemed cardinals at the Vatican need to get a life. If they have nothing better to do than pick on a book, perhaps the pope can find a more lucrative project for them.

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