Not content in having his film do the talking, director Ron Howard continues to bait the Catholic Church into a war of words over his new film, Angels and Demons. However, this time the Church –wisely –are not biting.
While the headlines may suggest a feud between the two parties, the reality is less dramatic than what many are making it out to be, with many confusing independent Catholic voices that have made claims of their own accord SD official statements from The Vatican, and placing too much stock into the PR stunts which Howard has drummed up in order to raise promotion for his movie.
Howard’s first attempt at whirling up a frenzy of pre-premiere controversy came when he posted an opinion piece on left wing online publication, The Huffington Post, where he responded to accusations made by William Donahue, the president of the American Catholic League, who has branded Angels and Demons as an anti-Catholic propaganda piece.
Titled Angel’s and Demon’s: It’s A Thriller, Not A Crusade, Howard states: “Neither I nor Angels & Demons are anti-Catholic. And let me be a little controversial: I believe Catholics, including most in the hierarchy of the Church, will enjoy the movie for what it is: an exciting mystery, set in the awe-inspiring beauty of Rome. After all, in Angels & Demons, Professor Robert Langdon teams up with the Catholic Church to thwart a vicious attack against the Vatican. What, exactly, is anti-Catholic about that?”
Howard then outdid himself during a recent press conference in Rome, when he laid claim that The Vatican used backchannels and political pressure to disrupt the filming of Angels and Demons in and around Rome.
The Vatican - via the Pope’s press secretary, Father Frederico Lombardi – dismissed Howard’s comments as a publicity stunt, and jokingly stated: “"I'll comment only if the film production buys 1,000, 10-year subscriptions to our official newspaper".
Angels and Demons is based on the novel written by Dan Brown, who also penned The Da Vinci Code, which was also adapted into a film by Howard and starred Tom Hanks. Both the book and the film were a phenomenal successful, even though the latter received scathing reviews, and forced the Catholic Church’s hand in urging a boycott.
This is due to its strong anti-Catholic themes, the most notable of which was the suggestion –or, more bluntly, insistence – that Jesus and Mary Magdalene bore a child, and that the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei have kept their relationship a secret for centuries, often resorting to murder in order to hide the truth. Cue an albino hitman monk, who –while not flailing himself – kills on the order of the Church.
Had Brown not insisted that the popular yet flimsy Jesus bloodline conspiracy myth –and anything associated with it - was in actuality a reality, than perhaps the whole furore between Brown, Howard, and the Church would not be so volatile. But since this is not the case, is it of any wonder that the Church –and other Catholics – have reacted so strongly?
As a result from the fallout of The Da Vinci Code, The Vatican did indeed –and rightly so- bar Howard and co. from shooting Angels and Demons anywhere near the Holy See. What is surprising has been Howard’s reaction to the Church’s stance: How can he plead ignorance knowing full well the controversy and offense generated from his previous outing?
Back to William Donahughe’s accusations. In a press release, Donahue stated: “My goal... is to give the public a big FYI: Enjoy the movie, but know that it is a fable. It is based on malicious myths, intentionally advanced by Brown-Howard."
A little harsh? Maybe. But keep in mind, Donahue is referring to a film adaptation of a novel which has the Pope conceiving a child through artificial insemination; and holds the Catholic Church responsible for wiping out an imaginary secret order of scientists. So perhaps Donahue’s claims of anti-Catholicism may not be so farfetched.
Either way, Howard must face the reality that his taunting of The Vatican has left him in a less than credible light. From now on, the Catholic Church and other religious organizations should play by the same handbook which helped them win this battle.