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Professor consults for ‘The Da Vinci Code’

Kate Antonacci | Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Theology professor Father Richard McBrien is helping “crack the code” – as promotional ads for “The Da Vinci Code” movie say – as a consultant for the Sony Pictures film based on the widely popular and controversial novel by Dan Brown.

“According to the terms of my contract, I’m not at liberty to discuss my role as a consultant to ‘The Da Vinci Code’ film, other than to confirm that I am, in fact, a consultant and that I have been in touch with [director] Ron Howard and others involved in the production of the film,” McBrien said Tuesday.

“The Da Vinci Code” book, released in April 2003, immediately became the subject of much conversation and furious religious debate for its claim that Jesus may have been married to Mary Magdalene, a figure often depicted in art and literature as a prostitute. She is depicted in the Bible, however, as a devoted follower of Jesus and the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection.

The film on this book will be in theaters May 19, 2006.

McBrien commented on the novel in the ABC Documentary “Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci,” which aired Nov. 3, 2003.

“I did comment on the novel in an ABC documentary that has been re-aired several times,” McBrien said. “It was my original appearance on that documentary two years ago that led the producers of the film to approach me to become a consultant for the film version of the novel.”

McBrien wrote two of his weekly columns for the Catholic press about the ABC documentary.

“A mere discussion of such an hypothesis is guaranteed to bring some people out of the proverbial woodwork, and it did. Reactions to the documentary, even before it was actually aired, were intensely emotional,” McBrien said in a Nov. 24, 2003 column.

McBrien said he received reactions “across the religious spectrum” about his appearance in the documentary.

“I think what bothered most critics was the fact that the question [of Jesus being married] was even being raised and that I was open to discussing it,” he said in his Dec. 1 column.

McBrien said he did receive positive reactions, as well.

While McBrien said in his Nov. 24 column that Jesus could in fact have been married, there is no evidence in “the New Testament or in Christian tradition that he was.”

In McBrien’s Catholicism book, he said there is no evidence that Jesus was married and that “what evidence does exist undermines such a claim,” according to the Dec. 1, 2003 column.

McBrien also said Jesus’ divinity still would not be compromised if he had, in fact, been married.

“As St. Paul reminded us in the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus was like us in all things except sin (4:15). The sexual expression of love within marriage is not sinful,” McBrien said in the Nov. 24 column.

Brown’s book has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for Hardcover Fiction for 138 weeks. “The Da Vinci Code” was named book of the year at the British Book Awards in April 2005.

In addition to Howard, Oscar-winners Akiva Goldsman (a screenwriter) and Brian Grazer (a producer) are also involved in the film. Actors Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Ian McKellen star in the film.

“I won’t see the final product until everyone else does when the movie comes out in May,” McBrien said.