Saturday, June 03, 2006

Da Vinci Code and the Catholic Digest: Oddly revealing

I find this oddly revealing, and a bit poignant.

I'd noted earlier that one good feature of the Da Vinci code is that it's causing some christians (probably just Catholics really) to examine the history of how their religion developed. In contrast to the often terrible and bloody history of the Catholic church, the history of Catholic thought is somewhat encouraging. So I was curious when I came across a version of that history at my parents house, in a pamphlet written by Catholic Digest. (I'm an agnostic/pantheist/atheist, but my mother is Vactican II Catholic - hence the pamphlet. I also grew up learning at my Quebec Catholic high school that the Children's Crusade was a noble endeavor, so I have a well-earned skepticism of church propaganda.)

The Catholic Digest represents one aspect of the modern Catholic church. I'd guess it's relatively mainstream. The pamphlet is a response to the Da Vinci code.

It's very well done, and it's quite fascinating, even erudite. Where else can one read, in about 3 brief pages, about early Jewish vegetarian Christians (the Ebionites), Marcion who felt that Yahweh was completely unrelated to the God of Jesus (isn't that obvious?), adoptionists who felt Jesus was born human and adopted by God, Docetists who claimed Jesus was faking suffering, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Letter of Barnabas, and Athansias of Alexander? And, of course, those Gnostics.

Pretty good stuff.

So the weird part? You have to order the pamphlet or pick it up at your local Catholic Church. In a few minutes of looking I couldn't find a web version on the Catholic Digest website. I'd naively thought it would be a big link on page one, or at least a link from where they sell the pamphlet.

My best guess is that they want the money for the pamphlet, so they didn't put it online. My next guess is that they really don't want it to be read without the intercession of a priest (or, since priests are rare these days, some other intercessor). Ironically, and I say this with sympathy, both attitudes are historically very Catholic.

It's a shame really. I hope they relent and put the text online, with links to additional educational material. On the other hand, they know their flock better than I. Perhaps they fear that could be more dangerous than a bestseller (which I'll probably never read, but which I now have great respect for).

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