MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
On to a more mainstream movie, THE DA VINCI CODE.. It's coming out this month to much fanfare and like the bestseller it's based on, it suggests that there's a secret message hidden in Leonardo's famous painting of the Last Supper.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE DA VINCI CODE)
Unidentified Male #1: Mademoiselle, where is Jesus sitting?
Unidentified Female #1: In the middle.
Male #1: Good. He and his disciples are breaking bread. And what drink?
Female #1: Wine. He drank wine.
Male #1: Final question. How many wine glasses are on the table?
NORRIS: Hollywood hopes that many of the millions of people who bought Dan Brown's book will also buy movie tickets. Commentator James Martin is a Catholic priest. He hopes that after those fans see the movie, they don't come looking for him.
JAMES MARTIN: I was talking to some well educated Catholics in an affluent suburban parish. Someone in the audience shouted out a question, why didn't the church tell us that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married?
The topic was prayer in everyday life. But as usual, the question focused on something else, THE DA VINCI CODE. The reason the church didn't tell you, I said, is because Jesus probably wasn't married to Mary Magdalene or anybody else. Then I ran through the evidence. Being an unmarried male was an embarrassment in first century Palestine, something that the Gospel writers would be unlikely to invent. The Gospels also talked about Jesus's other family members. So it would be odd not to mention his wife. Finally, if she had been married to Jesus, Mary Magdalene would've been called Mary, the wife of Jesus. That's the convention for married women in the New Testament.
Hmmm, said the audience member. I guess you have to say that, don't you. Father?
Since Dan Brown's book shot to the top of the bestseller list, I've resigned myself to two things. First, I have to answer more questions about the mythical Priory of Sion than about Jesus's message of forgiveness. And second, anything I say will be suspect, since Catholic priests are part of the big conspiracy to cover up the story of Jesus and his lovely wife. The new DA VINCI CODE movie means that there's only going to be more questions. And I pity the Catholic priest who can't provide convincing answers to the following.
Does Opus Dei assassinate people? What other bombshells are hidden in the Vatican's secret archives? And where exactly in France did Jesus and his wife settle? By the way, the respective answers are no, nothing and nowhere.
It really ticks me off that this story is often presented as fact. Seek the truth, said one of the film's early trailers. And a few bits of the story are true. For example, the historic denigration of women's contributions in the early church. But most of the supposed facts about the early Christians, about Opus Dei and about the contemporary Roman Catholic Church are false. And if you think I'm part of the big cover up, just check it out for yourself.
Now you could argue that THE DA VINCI CODE movie may encourage people to read more about church history. But come on, does anybody really believe that after leaving the theater, moviegoers will rush out to buy a copy of J & D Kelly's classic study EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES? Please. My bet would be on another Dan Brown novel. So I'm bracing for another round of questions, which I'll try to answer patiently. But part of me wants to be somewhere else when the movie is released, maybe France where I can discuss it over some wine and cheese with the descendants of Mr. and Mrs. Jesus Christ.
NORRIS: James Martin is Jesuit priest and the author of the book MY LIFE WITH THE SAINTS.