While I very much enjoyed reading Peter C. Erb’s The Schwenkfelder Code (6/5), I would have to object to a few of its assertions. I cringed when the author suggested that a faith based on a fictional narrative was adolescent. Since the embrace of historical-critical methods in the field of biblical scholarship, few would disagree that the Bible contains fictional assertions that do not uphold historical integrity. The historian Arnold Toynbee suggested, however, that the genre of fiction was the most truthful way of communicating a description of human relationships. Artistic recreation reaches more of the intangibles of a human story line.
The article assumes that fiction, its depictions being historically inaccurate, is a less adequate technique when communicating such truths as articles of faith. I would argue the contrary: it is more accurate, especially in the discussion of the transcendent, because through art it relays and evokes the emotive elements of relationship. I do not defend Dan Brown’s work. I would agree with much of Erb’s critique (I especially appreciated his point about the contradiction between Brown’s content and formula in one of the final paragraphs), but in the process of this critique he downgrades the power of fiction and the desire of the human to be involved in another’s story. That is not adolescent. That’s simply human. And it can work both ways, which brings me to another, final point.
Despite misgivings, if the reader were to accept the analogy of a mature faith, based on church teaching and history, versus an immature faith, based on the popularity of a piece of fiction, should maturity so flippantly dismiss immaturity? Is there not an obligation to listen, as a parent should, and to respect the needs of their children? Regarding the Da Vinci experience as adolescent demonstrates a divide between the church and its flock. We are called to bridge this divide. The point is that there is much to be learned from the phenomena surrounding The Da Vinci Code. One is that the world very often does not listen to historically accurate doctrinal explanations. It listens to stories that are rich in true and human intangibles. It yearns for the truth of fiction and parable, rather than the truth of catechesis and history. And the church should listen and learn before it thinks of itself as so mature, losing its members to popular trends because it no longer speaks the world’s language.
New York, N.Y.
I wish to congratulate you on your issue of June 5-12, 2006. It was one of the best discussions on the movie The Da Vince Code that I have seen.
I especially enjoyed the article written by John D. Hagen Jr., on the real story of the Council of Nicea. St. Athanasius has always been one of my favorite saints, and I am very glad he and his work have been recently explained and remembered in this excellent article.
Travis E. Rankin
I am not disrespectful, nor do I have to defend my loyalty to the church or your magazine. I have been Catholic all my life, 75 years, and a subscriber for over 55 years.
I appreciated your brief report regarding the crackdown on the Krakow priests about publishing information from the Communists’ archive documents (Signs of the Times, 6/19). But on the following page we find an item on combating global corruption, condemning patronage, nepotism and other abuses of power.
Doesn’t this seem hypocritical to you? There is such an overbearing sense of control constantly emanating from the institutional church.
Why don’t we clean our own house first?
For those of us who were happily weaned on emerging Vatican II theology, taught by a group of newly minted Paulist doctors of theology, I reveled in reading the Rev. Joseph J. Gallagher’s reflections on giving birth to the English translation of the Vatican II documents (The Honor of It All, 7/3). We owe much to a man who was willing to be holed up in a cold, bare-bulbed, marble-floored Roman room (I lived in Rome one winter and froze most of the time), without computers, e-mail, iPods and all the other electronic accoutrements that make writing and mailing such a cinch these days. Such dedication! Father Gallagher’s article brought back exciting memories of my reading scores of articles and books by the creators of these documents: Edward Schillebeeckx, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, John Courtney Murray, Hans Küng, Joseph Ratzinger, Augustin Bea, Karl Rahner) and made me realize how much we owe to these men who catapulted us into a post-Vatican II church. Where are these voices now, as the Roman trumpets of retreat blare so loudly throughout the Catholic Church?
Ah, to have experienced the honor of it all was one of the great blessings of this now septuagenarian priest, who is saddened by the eclipse of the reformers.
George R. Fitzgerald, C.S.P.
San Francisco, Calif.