May 19, 2006

Priest’s life collides with The Da Vinci Code

By Sean Gallagher

Father John Wauck says that his life has “collided” with Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code.


Father Wauck studied Renaissance history and literature at Harvard University, where the novel’s main character, Robert Langdon, is portrayed as a professor of “symbology.”

Father Wauck is also a member of Opus Dei, which in the novel is portrayed as an organization that will use all means, including murder, to gain control of the Church.

Finally, Father Wauck resides at Opus Dei’s world headquarters in Rome, which, in the novel, is erroneously portrayed as being in New York.

“Having an academic background in history and a personal knowledge of Opus Dei made the experience of reading The Da Vinci Code a bit surreal,” he said in a recent e-mail interview with The Criterion, “probably a bit like what a real intelligence officer goes through when they see a James Bond film. There are a couple of points where it makes contact with reality, but the rest is pure fantasy.”

Because of the connections between his own life and the novel, Father Wauck has been questioned by reporters and other interested people on numerous occasions.

As a result, in the months leading up to the May 19 release of the motion picture adaptation of the novel, Father Wauck set up his own weblog about it. It is titled “Da Vinci Code & Opus Dei,” and can be found at

On this Web site, readers can find Father Wauck’s “Da Vinci Code Catechism.” (See sidebar reprinted with permission.)

“My purpose in writing ‘The Da Vinci Code Catechism’ was two-fold,” he said. “I wanted to provide a quick, single-page antidote to the major theological problems raised by the novel, and I wanted to suggest that the truth proclaimed in the Christian Gospel is infinitely richer, more mysterious and more beautiful than the rather feeble, fictitious neo-paganism of The Da Vinci Code.

“It’s like comparing a rich red wine to ordinary, tasteless tap water.”

Father Wauck currently teaches a course on literature and the Christian faith at the Opus Dei-run Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

A former editor of The Human Life Review, he has published articles in several publications, including The Christian Science Monitor and The American Scholar.

Before his ordination to the priesthood, Father Wauck served as a speechwriter to former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey.

Some Catholics are asking themselves whether or not they should see the film, and Father Wauck offered this advice.

“Everyone has to make up their own mind, but in general I don’t see much reason—unless you have some professional commitment—to spend money on a film that paints such a false and negative picture of the true bride of Christ,” he said. “As literature, the book is lousy, and I don’t expect the film to be much better.”

Considering that many people will likely see the film, Father Wauck had some advice for Catholics who might be asked about it in conversations.

“I would immediately point out a few of the more ridiculous historical mistakes and falsities in the novel—the non-existence of the Priory of Sion, for instance—to show that it can’t be taken seriously,” he said, “and then use the book as an opportunity to discuss the concerns—for good or ill—that the person may have with the Catholic faith.” †


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