Could the code be true?

Book is fascinating, but priest reminds readers it’s fiction

The Rev. Michael Fahey understands the draw of the national bestseller “The Da Vinci Code.”

He was fascinated by the book’s twists and turns into Leonardo Da Vinci’s art, architecture in England and France, and one of its more controversial subjects, the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

But he reminds all readers including Catholics the most important fact about the book – it’s fiction.

“People are looking for new meaning into Jesus,” said Fahey, a theology professor at Marquette University. “They are fascinated by Jesus’ private life. I’ve had friends of mine and my sister ask questions about the book, asking me ‘is it true?’ and my answer is, ‘well it’s a novel.’”

Fact or fiction?

“The Da Vinci Code,” written by Dan Brown, has created a furor among readers who question its premise that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. The book is fiction, but Brown states in the beginning details about Da Vinci’s art, the architecture of the Louvre, information about the Catholic sect Opus Dei and descriptions of the secret society Priory of Sion are all accurate.

The Priory of Sion, of which Da Vinci was a member, supposedly guards a secret. It is believed Da Vinci placed hidden messages within much of his artwork including “The Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa,” which hint at the secret.

The book has become incredibly popular and as of last week more than 130 people were on the Waukesha Public Library’s waiting list for it.

“That’s really an awesome amount,” said David Brostrom, the library’s associate director. “It’s pretty rare when a book has more than 100 holds.”

The interest in the book has affected other authors as well, he said.

At least one nonfiction book about Mary Magdalene has a waiting list, he said.

Despite the book’s premise, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has never issued a statement about it, said archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski.

“Clearly it’s a work of fiction,” he said. “Some people are more strident about it, but on this kind of stuff in our culture usually there are plenty of commentators. Unless there is something clearly non-Catholic we don’t typically speak out about such things.”

Topczewski does not know of any parishes that have told its parishioners not to read the book.

No priest had read the book at St. Francis Seminary, said Pat Young, communications director.

“One had started to read but he said there was too much inaccurate information,” she said. “The fact that there is not any interest here I think says something about the book.”

Book spurs discussion, debate

Betty Scanlon, who coordinates book clubs at Martha Merrell’s Bookstore, 300 W. Main St., said she can’t remember so much discussion over a book before.

“It’s a page turner,” she said. “What really gets me is that people of all ages are reading it and they are talking about it. One reaction I heard so many times and it got me to read it was people saying ‘I want to discuss that book with somebody.’”

She said some book clubs end up discussing the art at length, while at least one club spent considerable time talking about the religious theme.

Fahey said there are many legends attached to Mary Magdalene and said she was a very important figure, which probably explains people’s fascination with her.

Mary Magdalene is sometimes referred to as the Apostle to the Apostles, because she was the first to witness the rise of Jesus after his crucifixion.

“She was a very important woman, Fahey said. “Whether there was any romantic connection between her and Jesus, who knows?”

He said hopefully “The Da Vinci Code” will get people interested in a different book.

“If anything, it may draw people to go back to the original source,” he said.

For more information about “The Da Vinci Code,” go to author Dan Brown’s official Web site at www.danbrown.com.

An ABC News special will look at the controversial theories about the lives of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail raised in the bestselling novel “The Da Vinci Code,” written by Dan Brown. The hour-long show will air on ABC at 7 p.m. today.

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