CNN Cites Fictional Book 'The Da Vinci Code' In Report on the Catholic Church

Has CNN's integrity sunk so low that it is now using works of fiction as sources to round out its own reports?

While covering the story of Fox News reporter Greg Burke moving to the Vatican's own communications team, CNN mentioned his membership in Opus Dei and referenced the organization's (quite negative) portrayal in the fictional book and movie The Da Vinci Code.

Correspondent Lisa Sylvester reported that "Burke is not a clergyman, but he is a member of the influential conservative lay group known as Opus Dei, depicted in Dan Brown's popular book and the movie 'Da Vinci Code' as a powerful and secretive group of fixers within the Catholic church." Sylvester later noted that the "popular depiction" is false, but that didn't stop her from including it in the report.

And the report included a helping of snark from David Gibson of the Religion News Service. Gibson criticized the Catholic church's communications strategy, and took a shot at the image of the church hiring an Opus Dei member.

"You've got the Vatican hiring a guy from Opus Dei less than a week after the pope's number two, Cardinal Bertone, said look, the media is turning this all into a Dan Brown novel, all this leak scandal and everything. Well, cardinal, if it's not a Dan Brown novel, you went and turned around and hired a guy from Opus Dei. How is that going to play out?" Gibson quipped.

Sylvester made sure to include the church's pedophilia scandal in the report, as well as other events CNN considers "controversial" like the Vatican's "crackdown" on American nuns.

Below is a transcript of the report, which aired on June 26 on CNN Newsroom at 9:50 a.m. EDT:

CAROL COSTELLO: The Vatican is hoping a fresh face will help its image, and the person it's bringing in is actually an outsider to the church, and he's not even a priest. Here's CNN's Lisa Sylvester.

(Begin Video Clip)

LISA SYLVESTER: (voice-over) In an unprecedented move, the pope has hired a new public relations guru from a most unlikely place. Fox News reporter Greg Burke, who covers Rome, is switching sides, becoming the Vatican's senior adviser for communications. Burke told us his role will be to contribute an outsider's perspective to Vatican meetings, to shape strategies once decisions are made, and to help the Vatican avoid some PR problems. And experts say he'll have his hands full.

DAVID GIBSON, Religion News Service: It's really the best move the Vatican has made in a long time. But whether it's going to be enough, I don't know. They've got a lot of problems internally, with their communications strategy and also presentation.

SYLVESTER: Unlike most top Vatican officials, Burke is not a clergyman, but he is a member of the influential conservative lay group known as Opus Dei, depicted in Dan Brown's popular book and the movie "Da Vinci Code" as a powerful and secretive group of fixers within the Catholic church. Burke told us he is a dedicated numerary in the organization, committed to staying celibate and unmarried, and it's a big part of his life.

GIBSON: You've got the Vatican hiring a guy from Opus Dei less than a week after the pope's number two, Cardinal Bertone, said look, the media is turning this all into a Dan Brown novel, all this leak scandal and everything. Well, cardinal, if it's not a Dan Brown novel, you went and turned around and hired a guy from Opus Dei. How is that going to play out?

SYLVESTER: Gibson does say that while Opus Dei is highly effective and influential in the Vatican, it is not a sinister organization like the popular depiction. Burke will start his new job amid an unfolding Vatican scandal involving the leak of internal documents and the arrest of the pope's butler. Also causing controversy, the recent crackdown on American nuns, the censure of a nun's writings, and over the past few years, the pope's handling of the pedophilia scandal. Burke says he will not work from the press office, but instead will be based in the powerful office of the Secretary of State.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN Vatican analyst: It's the place where the ultimate insiders, the power brokers and movers and shakers are located. So the fact that Burke is going to be working out of that space indicates that they mean him to be a real insider, somebody who's going to be sitting at the table when the sausage is ground.

SYLVESTER: (on camera) It also represents another American in the Vatican inner circle that now has several.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014