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Opus Dei Response to Director Ron Howard

"Catholics Are Victims of an Offense"

ROME, MAY 16, 2006 (Zenit) - The press office of the Opus Dei Prelature sent this statement to us on Friday in response to comments by the director of the soon-to-be-released film "The Da Vinci Code."

* * *

On Thursday the Italian press published interviews with Ron Howard, director of "The Da Vinci Code" film. In statements attributed to him, Howard said that "to deny the right to see the film is a fascist act," and also "to tell someone not to go see the film is an act of militancy and militancy generates hatred and violence." The Opus Dei is mentioned several times in these interviews. The phrases seem to refer to recent statements by Church authorities.

I would ask Ron Howard to keep calm and express himself with respect.

It is not wise to lose sight of the reality of the situation: This film is offensive to Christians. Howard represents the aggressor, and Catholics are victims of an offense. The one offended cannot have his last right taken away, which is to express his point of view. It is not the statements of ecclesiastics or the respectful request of Opus Dei -- to include a notice at the beginning of the film that it is a work of fiction -- which generates violence. It is rather the odious, false and unjust portrayals that fuel hatred.

In his statements, Howard also repeats that it is simply a film, an invented story, and that it must not be taken too seriously. But it is not possible to deny the importance of the movies and literature. Fiction influences our way of seeing the world, especially among young people. It is not right not to take it seriously. Artistic creativity certainly needs a climate of freedom, but freedom cannot be separated from responsibility.

Imagine a film that says that Sony was behind the attacks on the Twin Towers, which it promoted because it wanted to destabilize the United States. Or a novel that reveals that Sony paid the gunman who shot the Pope in St. Peter's Square in 1981, because it was opposed to the Holy Father's moral leadership. They are only invented stories. I imagine that Sony, a respectable and serious company, would not be happy to see itself portrayed in this way on the screens, and that it would not be satisfied with an answer such as "Don't worry, it's only fiction, it mustn't be taken too seriously, freedom of expression is sacred."

In any case, those who have taken part in the film's project have no reason to be concerned. Christians will not react with hatred and violence, but with respect and charity, without insults or threats. They can continue to calculate tranquilly the money they will make on the film, because the freedom of financial profit seems to be in fact the only sacred freedom, the only one exempt from all responsibility. They will probably make a lot of money, but they are paying a high price by deteriorating their prestige and reputation.

I hope the controversy of these months will not be sterile but serve to reflect on the relative character of financial profit when high values are involved; on the importance of fiction; on responsibility, which always supports and protects freedom.

[The statement added:]

The plan of Opus Dei's Communication Office in regard to this case may be found on the Web page www.opusdei.org, which explains in detail its position over these months.

[From] Manuel Sánchez Hurtado, in charge of relations with the international press, at the Opus Dei's press office in Rome

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