Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Just watched Angels and Demons

While it was in theatre and still a new release, I didn't watch Angels and Demons, but I now have a monthly pass where I can rent an unlimited number of movies, so I decided to rent it and to evaluate it.

=== WARNING: Spoilers ahead ===

I must say it's not as bad as I thought it was. There are movies which are probably worse, and there was a little bit of counterbalance, although not much. Maybe 80% portrayed the Church in a negative light and 20% was positive.

I took down a few little notes of inaccuracies from the movie, and here they are:

1) Perceived conflict between religion and science
This was a big thing which I knew would be present in the movie. A couple of times they did say that science and faith are not in conflict, but the theme of the movie was that the Catholic Church is against science and actively trying to destroy it. This has been going on for centuries. One group, the illuminati were a peaceful group of people who wanted to explore science, but the Church ruthlessly destroyed and killed members of the group. The movie is about the attempts of the Illuminati to find vengeance for these injustices. Obviously, the Church is not against science. I have written extensively on this subject. Check out more on this on my blog here, and here.

2) Some clergy shown very "ordinary"
This is more of a pet peeve, and may actually reflect something of a truth, but a lot of the cardinals were portrayed as smoking, using their cell phones and camcorders, and often not as prayerful individuals. They are often shown are rude, and sometimes even power-hungry. I believe the portrayal of cardinals in this movie was somewhat lacking.

3) Preferiti
The term preferiti is used in the movie to indicate 4 cardinals they believed had the highest chances to be elected pope. The actual term is papabile, and often a pope is chosen from someone who is not a member of this group.

4) La Purga didn't happen
The movie is centered around the Illuminating seeking revenge for when 4 of its members were branded by the Church then killed. This was known as La Purga in 1668. Only problem is it never happened. It's funny because in the movie, Robert Langdon is surprised when he mentions La Purga and no one there knows what it was. Maybe those guys were from reality.

5) The Camerlengo was a priest
Ordinarily a camerlengo is a cardinal, but in this movie, a priest was the camerlengo

6) Worshipping the Sun?
Prof. Robert Langdon tells his assistant that the reason the tombs are facing East is that they are worshipping the Sun. When asked why they are doing this, he says they just took that tradition from the pagans. He goes on to say a similar thing happened with December 25th. Truth is, Christians do not worship the Sun and to do so is idolatrous. Christ rose gloriously to spread his light on the world on Easter. The Sun represents the rising Christ.

As for December 25th, it is held as almost common knowledge that Christians "took over" this holiday from the Romans, but I have not found convincing evidence of this. No matter what the case, Christians are worshipping the Jesus Christ at his birth, so that's the main point. It may be that Christians were celebrating on December 25th BEFORE the Romans, who were celebrating the feast of Sol Invictus. The first reference of the Roman celebration dates to the fourth century. Also, December 25th has a lot of symbolism anyway, such as being the shortest day of the year (or so the ancients thought). Therefore it represented Christ's light beginning and growing ever stronger.

7) Protests at St. Peter's Square
Maybe I'm a little naive, but any time I've seen coverage of a large papal event at the Vatican, I have never seen major protests in St. Peter's Square. However, in the movie, it seems there are protests going on all over the place during the papal election. It seems rather odd.

8) Papal autopsy prohibited
I have no real information on this issue and I'm not sure if the information is even available to the public, but I have not heard anywhere that papal autopsies are prohibited by law. I guess it is something I will have to research.

9) Vatican Archives
The Vatican Secret Archives are indeed highly restricted. There are about 52 miles of shelving and 35,000 unique documents. Access has been loosened somewhat from previous years and now about 1000 researchers enter the Archives annually. No "browsing" is permitted. Those with permission to enter must request a specific manuscript by title.

It is possible that a researcher could have made multiple requests for access to the archives and have been denied. However, I am very skeptical of the oxygen situation and the ability of the rooms to lock with people inside unable to escape. This seems like a pretty glaring engineering error.

10) Papal election errors
Many errors are made concerning papal elections. It is stated that two thirds of the vote will never be reached unless a new approach is taken. However, if the College of Cardinals is unable to attain two thirds of the vote, then half will suffice (after a certain number of voting rounds). Also, it is said that only a cardinal can be elected, which is false. Any Catholic male can become pope, theoretically. Finally, they say since there is no other choice, they can elect a non-cardinal via a process known as election by adoration, which doesn't actually exist. There is not provision in Church law for an election other than by ballot.

11) Great Elector
A Church position which is purely fictional is that of "Great Elector". No such role exists in the Church. Furthermore, the movie claims that the cardinal with this title is barred from being elected. In reality, no cardinal is barred from being elected.

12) Many Pope Marks?
This is small, but perhaps the most surprising error of the movie because it is so obvious. A cursory glance at the list of popes shows there has never been a Pope Mark, yet a character in the movie says there have been many Pope Johns and Pope Marks, so this new pope wanted to be Pope Luke. Seems like such a big oversight which was so easy to catch.


These are some of the observations I made of the movie. I think it's important for Catholics and others to realize this is a work of fiction. It's funny because a lot of people know so little about the Catholic Church that they would be susceptible to believing this film. Truth is, the facts are out there. You just have to look.


  1. Hey Phil,

    I would have to say I think this is your best post ever. It does not have a negative tone to it, is informed, and does not make any assumptions. Great Job, a pleasure to read

  2. I'm not a fan of Dan Brown. The man wrote one plot, and keeps reusing it in every book. And the ideas he presents in his novels are grossly under conceived, prone to wild inaccuracies, and depend entirely on his inclusion of cute trivia to be appealing.
    Oh... the December 25th thing... research the Persian deity Mithras, who dates back to about 500 BCE. I can't confirm anything about it, but most of my brief investigations into pagan influences on Christianity have led me that way.


  3. there have been pope marks how could you not know this?

  4. true.. facts are just out there, then why can't you see it?

  5. December 25th is when Christ was conceived she was born in September so this is where that day came from not pagans

  6. ''it's important for Catholics and others to realize this is a work of fiction.''
    Exactly, so no commentaries

  7. I still read wrong facts in these statements for sure with 25th of december, actually the Quote of tom hanks in the movie is true, Jesus and maria and josef were in an barn, with the animals outside, this could never be in the winter, 2) indeed did the romans celebrate sol invictus on this date, its no coincedens that this pegan celebration falls togehter with the modern days Christmas celebration, all created in Concillions with emperor Constatin at the head of all, to create Peace betweens cristians and pegans among the civilianz, Pure facts of God JHWH and his son and his goal, and the reason for everthing happening is at the most important source of all! His Word the Bible and not that of men with there crazy ideoligies and Signs and images

  8. Election by Adoration - or Acclamation - did used to exist and several Popes have been elected that way, the last being Innocent XI in 1676.
    Acclamation was abolished in 1996 with the issue of Pope John Paul II's Universi Dominici gregis.

    In the film, Robert Langdon never tried to state that Christians worshiped the Sun, he said that "New religions often adopted pagan holidays to make conversion less of a shock" which as an historian, I know is entirely true.
    If the Bible is entirely correct about the birth of Christ then there is no possible way it could have been in the late part of December as it states that shepherds were tending to lambs in the fields and as The Holy Land is in an area of The Northern Hemisphere, lambing season is in May/June.

    In the film, there weren't protests in St Peter's Square, there were people having heated discussions and at one point, a scuffle broke out. Please don't be naive enough to think this wouldn't happen at such an important time for the Catholic Church, however Catholics may see the Pope spiritually, there will still be an awful lot of politics involved in the election and people from different countries, even different continents, will have very differing views on who they want as the next Pope. Until the election of John Paul II, there hadn't been a non Italian pope since Adrian VI in 1523 and until the current Pope, every one had been European with the Exception of St Peter and as Catholicism is spread all over the world, it is, strangely, the largest religion in the United States, and also, every country in South America is deeply Catholic so to think that people aren't going to show deep passion during Conclave is plain silly