Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Question: What do you get when you put together The Da Vinci Code, a deranged former medical student and a knife? Answer: a priest fighting for his life, and one of his parishioners in serious condition.

25-year-old Marco Luzi went to Santa Marcella Catholic Church in Rome, asked to see the priest, Father Canio Canistri, age 68, and then stabbed the priest in the neck and stomach with a knife he had hidden in a cloth. Antonio Farrace, a 78-year-old retired policeman, came to Fr. Canistri's aid and is in the hospital in serious condition. Luzi wounded two more people while fleeing from the scene, and was then captured by police.

In addition to having a psychiatric history, Luzi was apparently obsessed with apocalyptic notions, fed by The Da Vinci Code. In the apartment he shared with his mother, police found apocalyptic notes, material on the Antichrist, the phone number to L'Osservatore Romano, and a large reproduction of Da Vinci's The Last Supper, with a note pointing to one of the Apostles, saying, "This is the hand in which a knife is hidden." He told police he was Antichrist, that he heard voices telling him to attack Fr. Canistri, and that he had watched The Da Vinci Code the night before the attack.

Naturally -- to the extent they pay any attention to this incident -- we can expect the it's-only-a-movie crowd to weigh in against the idea that The Da Vinci Code, for all its anti-Catholicism, had anything to do with inciting this murderous attack on a Catholic priest. A movie is only a movie, after all; it's only make-believe; movies don't affect people's behavior; and this guy was already a nutjob to begin with.

That movies don't affect people's behavior must be why book publishers didn't bother to redouble their efforts to hawk Dan Brown's novel when the movie came out; that must be why merchandisers figured the movie would not make people want to part with their money to buy shirts, games, and other Da Vinci Code junk; that must be why cable outlets didn't bother to cash in on the Da Vinci Code craze by airing "debunk Christianity" programming; in fact, that must be why advertising isn't a multi-squillion-dollar industry.

And of course, it has nothing to do with why Fr. Canistri is fighting for his life at this moment. God come to his assistance -- and ours.

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