Chaplains brace for opening of 'Da Vinci Code' at base theaters
May 19, 2006
WIESBADEN, Germany — Chaplain Paul Passamonti plans to stand near a theater exit to hand out copies of a book that refutes “The Da Vinci Code.”
Another military chaplain in Europe, Collin Grossruck, is encouraging the faithful to send him an e-mail if they have any questions about Gnostics, Opus Dei, the “secret gospels” or the Holy Grail. The Army captain says he wants to set the religious record straight because many soldiers “are spiritually discouraged” by aspects of Dan Brown’s best-selling book, turned movie.
“The book insists the Bible is a deliberate deception, and that [people’s] spirituality, which gives them comfort and strength, is wrong historically,” said Grossruck, a Protestant chaplain. “That’s a pretty heavy load.”
It may be weighty to some, pure entertainment to others, but Friday’s release of the movie adaptation of Brown’s novel is drawing a lot of interest, at home as well as abroad.
“There is a buzz out there,” said Moreno L. Alarilla, chief of the food and theater division for AAFES-Europe. “I’m anxious to see it.”
While the much-anticipated movie debuts Friday in the United States and Europe, Army and Air Force Exchange Service theaters in Europe won’t get copies until June 2, Alarilla said. The two-week lag time is fairly typical, he added, and has nothing to do with any controversy the movie has spawned.
Six AAFES theaters in Europe will get first crack at the flick, which runs 2½ hours. The half dozen locations are at RAF Lakenheath in England, and Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden and Würzburg in Germany. Each community will keep the movie for about a week before it gets farmed out to other installations, Alarilla said.
Broadly speaking, the movie, like the book, revolves around a religious mystery that puts two people in peril as they work to solve a series of clues that have been protected by a secret organization since the early days of the Christian church.
Passamonti, a Catholic chaplain and Army captain based in Stuttgart, isn’t kidding when he talks about maybe handing out material that’ll challenge some of the film’s central points. In a way, he adds, Brown’s book has done some good because it has compelled people to learn more about their faith and what’s behind it.
The movie “shouldn’t threaten anyone’s faith, but if it causes people to ask questions about faith or life or history, then it’s a great opportunity for the Church to present the truth,” said Chaplain (Cmdr.) Michael Parisi, the deputy chaplain for Navy Region Europe in Naples, Italy.
Parisi, a Catholic priest, views “The Da Vinci Code” as make-believe.
Army Chaplain (Col.) Gregg Drew, a Protestant based in Giessen, said much of Brown’s novel, from a historical and religious sense, is pure fiction, something neither the author nor moviemakers dispute.
Still, he believes the controversy has given him and others in the chaplaincy “a good platform to teach” people about Christianity.
Asked if he plans to see the movie, Drew said probably, though he hopes he doesn’t fall asleep, given its length.
The book “wasn’t that exciting to me,” Drew said. “It’s not like picking up J.R.R. Tolkien.”