Recently, the Catholic Church voiced its criticism of the blockbuster movie Avatar, claiming that the movie encourages the worship of nature and is at odds with Christian theology.

Several years ago, the Church voiced its opposition to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.  The criticism had the effect of making the book even more popular, as many people read it in an effort to determine what, exactly, was so offensive.  As a practicing Catholic, I was intrigued.  It’s possible that I may have read the book anyway, since it’s my type of story, but the Church’s criticism ensured that I would read it.

What was my opinion of the controversy?  Much ado about nothing.  I thought that the book told a good story, but it was just that – a story.  While Brown portrays aspects of his books as realistic, they are nonetheless shelved in the fiction section.

When it comes to Avatar, I find it hard to believe that any intelligent person would see the movie as anything but fiction with some nice eye candy.

I am puzzled at seeing the Church portray works of fiction as being such a threat to Catholicism.  Fiction, by definition, is something that is made up.  Attempting to commence a serious debate about a work of fiction conjures up the mental image of Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

Another puzzling aspect is the choice of works to criticize.  The Da Vinci Code did portray certain aspects of the Church in a negative light, but it’s hardly the most negative portrayal of Catholics in popular fiction.  One of my favorite authors, the late William X. Kienzle, often portrayed seriously flawed Catholic clergy in his books – and Kienzle was a former priest himself.

If you take a look around the book store or movie theater, there are lot of books and movies that would be more appropriate targets of criticism.  It would make more sense to criticize movies that glorify senseless slaughter (and thus marginalize the value of human lives).

Honestly, if the Church wants a fair fight, they should limit their criticism to non-fiction books.  I have no doubt that they are many non-fiction books that are in disagreement with Catholicism.  Their authors may be happy to engage the Church in meaningful discussions of the differences.

It would seem that the Church is choosing targets based on the popularity of the work.  This seems slightly absurd.  When engaging in criticism, why not lash out at those that are most deserving of the criticism, rather than shooting at the targets that ensure that the criticism will spill the most ink on newspaper pages?  In the words of Martin Sheen’s character in The American President, “You Fight the Fights that Need Fighting.”

In closing, I respectfully ask the Catholic Church to avoid commenting on fiction in the future.  Fiction works are not intended to be accurate portrayals of the facts, but are intended as pure entertainment.  When I have questions about theology, I’ll consult the Catholic Church.  When I have questions about works of fiction, I’ll consult secular sources.