THE Scottish Catholic Church is counter-attacking The Da Vinci Code by sending out hundreds of DVDs to schools and parishes lambasting what it calls the "nonsense" of the book and film.
One of the church's leading intellectuals, Professor Emeritus Patrick Reilly, appears in Debunking the Da Vinci Myths, saying its inaccuracies are equivalent to claiming John Knox was a child abuser.
Reilly's assault on the "monumentally inexcusable nonsense" of Dan Brown's book will be sent to all 60 Catholic secondary schools and 500 parishes and is deliberately timed to coincide with the release of the movie.
The Da Vinci Code has so far sold 40 million copies worldwide. The movie version, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, is expected to bring dark tales of alleged misdeeds by the Catholic Church to an even wider audience.
In the book, two code-breakers try to track down the truth behind the Holy Grail. Central to the story, and most controversial, is the claim that the Holy Grail is really the bloodline descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, a fact which the Church is alleged to have covered up.
Reilly, Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Glasgow University, told Scotland on Sunday: "Brown's story is completely baseless historically: it's monumentally inexcusable nonsense. Dan Brown flouts the facts. A three-year-old's letter to Santa is better-written."
Reilly has vowed to use the release of the film as an opportunity to re-educate people about the Catholic faith.
"We must correct the inaccuracy that the book suggests. The debate and controversy will grow even further upon the film's release. And while it may seem like picking a quarrel with Balamory or the Teletubbies, because of the book's pop culture appeal it's about setting the record straight.
"When dealing with a historical figure in a fictional context, writers have to be very careful. It's like someone producing a book or a film saying that John Knox was a child abuser."
Reilly has joined forces with the Catholic Church to release a DVD de-bunking the Da Vinci "myths".
The content of the DVD will include a talk Reilly gave to the University of Glasgow's Catholic Chaplaincy last Wednesday.
Church spokesman Peter Kearney said: "Dan Brown's story is a flawed work of fiction. This DVD will go through the book's flaws and failings and explain things perhaps lost in the stoked-up publicity machine Sony Pictures have so far managed to generate."
In the DVD, Reilly also attacks Brown for:
• Wrongly accusing the Christian Church of being opposed to sex, and misogynistic;
• Potentially misleading people who are unaware of the story of the Holy Grail and the history of Christianity into reading the book as truth;
• Referring to himself as a Holy Grail expert;
• Showing no respect for Catholic beliefs in Jesus.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop of Genoa, broke the Church's official silence on the controversial book last month when he told an Italian newspaper: "It astonishes and worries me that so many people believe these lies."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, added to the controversy last week, when he said as part of his Easter Sunday sermon: "Conspiracy theories will not weaken the Gospel."
Ripples of concern have also been felt in other parts of the world. Earlier this month, the Christian Council of Korea applied for a provisional injunction to stop the release of the film.
Deeply devout Catholic sect, Opus Dei, has also voiced concern, asking for a disclaimer to be placed on the film. The US branch of the organisation said it had written to the film's distributors, Sony Pictures, to ask the studio to emphasise that the film was a work of fantasy.
The group wants "references that hurt Catholics" to be removed from the film version. The book portrays Opus Dei as a power-hungry movement bent on covering up the truth about Christ's bloodline.
UK director of Opus Dei, Jack Valero, told Scotland on Sunday: "Our response is not to fight but to inform people. This is a teaching not a fighting moment in time. The real Jesus Christ is far more exciting than the pathetic little man that Brown depicts."
The Opus Dei community are planning on hosting talks and seminars the length and breadth of the UK, as a backdrop to the film's cinema release next month.
Valero continued: "Having seen the trailer to the film it looks pretty horrible, especially the depiction of the Opus Dei monk. I hope the film as a whole is mature enough not to offend anyone. The movie makers are like King Kong and we [the Catholics] are like the young girl screaming: 'Don't squash me.'"
The Da Vinci Code movie will open this year's Cannes film festival on May 17, two days before it is released worldwide. The Da Vinci Code book is still in the UK's top 10 bestsellers chart.
Sony Pictures was unavailable for comment.
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