ABCNews.com: Catholic Diocese ‘Cracks Down’ By Denying Movie Filming?

ABCNews.com, reporting on the Catholic Diocese of Rome refusing permission to Ron Howard’s plans to film the movie prequel to Dan Brown’s "The DaVinci Code" in two historic churches, used loaded wording in the headline: "Church Cracks Down on New ‘Da Vinci’ Film."

The lead for the report, written by Phoebe Natanson and Luchina Fisher, also used similar imagery to describe the Catholic Church’s refusal: "Once again, the Catholic Church is coming down hard on writer Dan Brown, the author of ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ The producers of Brown's latest thriller to be made into a film, ‘Angels and Demons,’ have been banned from filming key scenes inside any church in Rome, on the grounds that the book is "an offense against God," according to a church spokesman.

Speaking of "coming down hard," wasn’t Brown doing just that in "The Da Vinci Code" by depicting the Catholic Church as a nefarious organization?

When one thinks of "crackdowns," the image that usually comes to mind is an oppressive regime suppressing demonstrations, such as the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, or the People’s Liberation Army’s massacre of student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Instead, ABC News saw fit to use it to describe the Catholic Church’s perfectly legitimate authority to deny the use of its facilities.

The local Catholic authorities had refused the film makers permission last year in 2007, but that detail wasn’t revealed until Monday, when "Sorrisi e Canzoni TV," an entertainment magazine in Italy, printed an interview with Monsignor Marco Fibbi, spokesman for the Diocese of Rome.

Later in the report, Opus Dei, a devout Catholic organization, is described as "conservative." The report also quotes extensively from Bill Donohue and his Catholic League, who had protested both "The Da Vinci Code" novel and movie. Interestingly enough, neither Donohue nor the Catholic League are labeled as "conservative" as they often are.

ABC News is not alone in using loaded terms in covering the Catholic Church. In May 2008, the AP described the Church as "slamming the door on attempts by women to become priests." Of course, one shouldn’t forget how the media has used terms such as "God’s Rottweiler" and "hard liner" when Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States in April.

When "The DaVinci Code" book came out in 2003 and the film adaptation came out in 2006, ABC News was among the many mainstream media outlets hyping the Dan Brown production, as MRC’s 2006 Special Report, "The Trashing of Christ," by Tim Graham demonstrated. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas hosted an hour-long "Primetime" special in November 2003, which as Graham put it, "softly recounted the Code’s ‘legends’ without much opposition." ABC News also devoted 26 segments to "The Da Vinci Code" movie before and during its release in 2006.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center