Why was The Da Vinci Code banned? Kumudini Hettiarachchi and Dhananjani Silva report

The reviews have been critical, even sometimes tinged with derision. The much-awaited but controversial Da Vinci Code movie is now running in cinemas across the world.

In Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week directed that the blockbuster Sony-Columbia Pictures movie that premiered in Cannes, France on May 18 based on the best-selling novel of Dan Brown of the same name, be banned.

“We intimated to President Rajapaksa our concerns about screening the movie in Sri Lanka,” said a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference comprising the 12 Bishops in the country, explaining that young Catholics whose faith was not deep enough, who may not be able to distinguish between fact and fiction could be affected adversely by the movie.
The President has ordered the ban, confirmed the Director of Government Information, Anusha Palpita.

An Italian protestor sets fire to the controversial book as the film hit cinemas in Rome. AP

Stressing that the Catholic Church has always upheld freedom of expression and thinking, the Bishop underlined the fact that freedom should always go hand in hand with responsibility.

“The movie vilifies God and attacks the very roots of Christian faith,” he said. “If it is historical, it would be alright. But it is not based on fact and projecting Jesus Christ who is revered and also sacred in such a manner could poison unsuspecting minds. It would not augur well for human dignity.”

The objectionable theme of both the book and the movie is that Jesusmarried Mary Magdalene and a bloodline coming down from that union is in existence even today.

Why ban the movie when the book is freely available in Sri Lanka?
Movies are a powerful medium and could have lasting impressions, emphasizes Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando, Director of the World Catholic Association for Communication.

Adding that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued an advisory mainly to Catholics but even to the public interested in this subject that the novel as well as the movie is fiction, he says therefore both of them are blasphemous, distorting the beliefs of the Catholics not only about Jesus but also about the church.

“There is no historical base. No theological base for the book or the movie. It is not truth. It is a novel and not a historical book. The movie is from Hollywood and is a commercial venture. There is no artistic value in it,” says Fr. Fernando.

Quoting from the Bishops’ Conference statement, he says: “Today’s super-highways of media technology are utilized in this manner to propagate falsehoods and distortions that poison the minds of unsuspecting believers, especially the youth.”

On a personal note, Fr. Fernando advises Catholics who may have doubts to search for the truth in the gospels. “The most ancient books which tell the story of Jesus are the gospels. In those we don’t find anything about Christ’s marriage, though the gospels have not hidden the fact that Peter, the leader of the church was married.”

Underscoring the fact that the church is for freedom of expression, Fr. Fernando, however, goes on to explain that The Da Vinci Code is a public performance that saddens millions of people who venerate Jesus. “For us Jesus is God and it hurts our sensitivities. The movie attacks the core of the Christian faith – the divinity of Christ. He came in human form but He is God. If we allow this kind of precedent, even other religions such as Buddhism may face such onslaughts.”

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