This coming Friday, the blockbuster film Angels and Demons will open to much fanfare and, no doubt, cries of protest from Catholic officials who see the movie as anti-Catholic. Save your breath! It’s FICTION! Dan Brown could care less about the Catholic Church, he’s simply an opportunist (a creative one at that) who is laughing all the way to the bank.
Dan Brown doesn’t scare me. What scares me are all the people who accept anything they see in a movie (or on the Internet) as fact. It’s no different than Oliver Stone’s JFK, which the majority of Americans believe accurately represents the events of November 23, 1963 even though the movie freely blends fact and fiction througout.
So what’s a Catholic to do? Personally, I’ll watch Angels and Demons the same way I watched the new Star Trek movie (which I loved!)…for entertainment and escape. I didn’t leave the Star Trek movie believing in the existence of Klingons and Romulans or in the veracity of transwarp drive or transporter systems. Why would I leave Angels and Demons believing in the Illuminati?
Bottom line is, know your facts. There are lots of excellent online resources about the non-truths in Angels and Demons for your edification. I’ll not try to recreate them here. I will, however, offer 2 points:
- The premise of the entire movie is NOT factual. The Catholic Church did NOT sponsor a murderous persecution of scientists in the 16th century that led to the formation of a secret society called the Illuminati who were bent on revenge. The Illuminati was not formed in the 16th century and its members did not include Galileo, Copernicus, or Bernini. Galileo was not publicly flogged by the Church (although his house arrest is a black eye in Church history) and Copernicus was never at odds with the Church and he was not murdered by the Church. He died of a stroke. The list goes on… Suffice to say that the Church was suspicious of science for a few centuries but there was no violent perscecution.
- The above fiction is set forth to establish the premise for the movie: an ongoing battle between faith and reason…between the Church and science. The relationship between faith and science is a discussion worth having and would make for a great adult catechesis experience. Are there tensions between faith and science? Yes. However, the Chuch is not at war with science. On the contrary, the present pope and his predecessor have gone to great lengths to speak about the relationship between faith and reason.
In the end, there are only 2 things worth spending our time discussing as Catholics when it comes to the movie Angels and Demons: an accurate understanding of Church history and the ongoing relationship between faith and reason. These make for good discussion. The movie is another opportunity for evangelization and catechesis. It is another entry point (as St. Ignatius taught: enter through THEIR door but be sure to leave through YOUR door!). If we waste our time crying about anti-Catholicism, it will be another missed opportunity.