AIKEN — When Andrew J. Trapp wanted to do something for his home parish, he decided to expose the falsehoods in a popular book. The seminarian of the Diocese of Charleston held a series of three classes from July 25 to Aug. 8 on “The DaVinci Code” at St. Mary Help of Christians Church because Catholics were confused by historical references used by the author, Dan Brown.
“One of my aunts asked me about it over Christmas break,” Trapp said. “She’s an educated woman with 12 years of Catholic schooling, and she was troubled by the content, so I assumed that many people in the pews felt the same way.”
“The DaVinci Code” is a novel that presents as factual such claims as: Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus, and the church impugned her reputation for centuries in an attempt to cover up the marriage; Jesus was only “a mortal prophet” and was declared divine by the Council of Nicea; Mary Magdalene was head of the church until Peter and the Apostles wrested control from her; and the New Testament was a fourth century invention. Brown also maligns the Knights Templar and the spiritual organization Opus Dei. He cites the Gnostic writings — whose authors have no standing in the community of Scriptural exegetes — and other questionable sources.
“The book is fiction, but he presents his heresies as if they were proven fact. Most ideas in the novel can be easily dismissed, but Catholic education has not been the strongest in recent years, so it’s easy to fall into what Mr. Brown was saying,” Trapp said.
The second-year theology graduate student at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, took passages from the book and refuted them line by line. He prepared detailed handouts and listed his sources as he went along. Despite his elaborate preparations, however, he did get caught short on a couple of questions.
“All I can do is promise to talk about it next week and try to be honest. It’s been a trial by fire,” he said.
He said that Father Jim LeBlanc, pastor of St. Mary, attended the talks and helped out with a thorny question now and then. Some of the 50 or 60 participants in the classes wanted to know whether or not Jesus could have had siblings, and would not Jesus’ celibacy have been so unusual at the time to bear mention in the Scriptures? The word used for “brothers” in the New Testament can be translated to mean cousins or close friends, and Catholic theologians have determined that Mary, Jesus’ mother, lived her life as a virgin. The answer to the second question was easy: “Jesus was not afraid to break social and religious norms like dietary laws and worship rules, the buying and selling in the temples,” Trapp said. “Marriage was not an unbreakable norm either. There are exceptions in Jewish law and examples in the Old Testament. The Essenes were celibates, as was John the Baptist.”
Considering the announced sales of “The DaVinci Code,” Trapp anticipated that it would be popularly defended in his classes. He discovered, however, that less than half the parishioners had actually read it and that few were taken in by it. That suited Trapp, who used the presence of the falsehoods as a means of grace.
“We tried to emphasize in each class that these claims were a challenge and an invitation to learn the truth on our own and to grow in our prayer life. If you were taken in, it might indicate a less than strong relationship with our Lord — or else you could not swallow those lies,” Trapp said.
Andrew Trapp is three years from priestly ordination and is a graduate of Aquinas High School in nearby Augusta, Ga. He is the son of Don and Beth Trapp of Aiken and the brother of Lindsay.
To help refute the anti-Catholic bias of “The DaVinci Code,” Trapp recommends Amy Welborn’s book “De-Coding DaVinci” (Our Sunday Visitor Press) and “The DaVinci Hoax” by Carl Olsen and Sandra Miesel (Ignatius Press).
Online resources can be found at www.tektonics.org/davincicrude.htm, and www.crisismagazine.com/september2003. Published August 19, 2004, The Catholic Miscellany