© 2009 by James J. Drummey, C.R. Publications space
On May 15, 2009, the movie Angels & Demons debuted in theaters and viewers were exposed to another Dan Brown production that offers fast-paced entertainment interspersed with gratuitous slanders against the Catholic Church. As in The Da Vinci Code, Mr. Brown dispenses more whoppers than Burger King. To those who argue that these books, and the movies based on them, are only fiction, we say that fiction can have a powerful effect on the uninformed, especially when the author claims that much of what he writes is “FACT” or is based on solid historical research.
In Angels & Demons, symbologist Robert Langdon discovers evidence that an ancient secret society known as the Illuminati, thought to have vanished from the pages of history, has surfaced in Rome and intends to detonate an antimatter bomb in the Vatican during a conclave to elect a new Pope. The quotations that follow are taken from the Pocket Books paperback edition of the book published in 2001.
Angels & Demons (FACT page): CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research located near the Swiss-France border, has produced particles of antimatter, which is “the most powerful energy source known to man …. A single gram of antimatter contains the energy of a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb - the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.”
Truth: CERN says that it is not possible to use antimatter as an energy source, that it does not make antimatter as described in the book, and that antimatter is “perfectly safe, given the minute quantities we can make. It would be very dangerous if we could make a few grams of it, but this would take us billions of years.”
Angels & Demons
(p. 31):
“Outspoken scientists like Copernicus …. were murdered. Murdered by the [Catholic] church for revealing scientific truths. Religion has always persecuted science.”
Truth: Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Polish astronomer and devout Catholic who theorized, contrary to conventional wisdom, that the earth revolved around the sun. His theories were circulated in a manuscript entitled Six Books on the Revolutions of the Celestial Orbits, which he dedicated to Pope Paul III. He died of natural causes in 1543.
Angels & Demons
(pp. 31-32):
“But in the 1500s, a group of men in Rome fought back against the church …. The Illuminati. Yes …. Of course, the Illuminati were hunted ruthlessly by the Catholic Church.”
Truth: The Illuminati were founded in 1776, not the 1500s, and were never hunted by the Catholic Church.
Angels & Demons
(p. 32):
“Yes. Galileo was an Illuminatus.”
Truth: Since Galileo died in 1642, 134 years before the founding of the Illuminati, he could not have been an Illuminatus.
Angels & Demons
(pp. 32-33):
Galileo “had been arrested and almost executed by the church for proclaiming that the sun, and not the earth, was the center of the solar system …. So the church tried Galileo as a heretic, found him guilty, and put him under permanent house arrest.”
Truth: Actually, three Popes honored the Italian astronomer (1564-1642) for his scientific work. But in 1616, Pope Paul V ordered Galileo to stop teaching the theory that the sun was the center of the solar system because he thought that it contradicted the Bible. Galileo agreed not to promote this doctrine, but in 1632, he wrote a book defending it. He was tried in 1633 before the Holy Office, which found him “vehemently suspected of heresy” and sentenced him to house arrest. There was never a threat of execution, and Galileo’s confinement was comfortable and sometimes luxurious. When he was dying, he received a special blessing from Pope Urban VIII.
Angels & Demons
(p. 44):
“Langdon had spent his career studying religious history, and if there was one recurring theme, it was that science and religion had been oil and water since day one … archenemies … unmixable.”
Truth: A recurring theme in Dan Brown’s books is the Catholic Church’s alleged “fear” of science and its alleged efforts to persecute scientists. The truth is that it was the Catholic Church that invented modern science and sparked the scientific revolution. Fr. Nicholas Steno, a Catholic priest, has been called the father of geology; Fr. Roger Boscovich has been credited as the father of modern atomic theory; and some 35 craters on the moon are named for Jesuit scientists and mathematicians. (For more on this, see the book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas H. Woods Jr.) As J.L. Heilbron of the University of California at Berkeley, who is not a Catholic, has pointed out: “The Roman Catholic Church gave more financial aid and social support to the study of astronomy” from the 12th to the 18th centuries “than any other and, probably, all other institutions” (The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories, p. 3).

On his website, Brown says that “I see science and religion as the same thing. Both are manifestations of man’s quest to understand the divine. Religion savors the questions, while science savors the quest for answers. Science and religion seem to be two different languages attempting to tell the same story, and yet the battle between them has been raging for centuries and continues today.” The battle rages because scientists, and writers like Dan Brown, refuse to acknowledge that there should be no conflict between scientific and religious truth since God is the Author of both.
Angels & Demons
(p. 110):
“So you believe God is fact, but we will never understand Him.” “Her,” she said with a smile. “Your Native Americans had it right.” Langdon chuckled. “Mother Earth.”
Truth: God is neither man nor woman, but rather a pure Spirit with no gender or sexuality. We call Him “Father” because Jesus told us to do so. The Our Father is not a declaration that God is male, but an analogy to help us understand something about the nature of God, namely that He exhibits those good qualities that we associate with fathers: protective love, fidelity, leadership, strength, security, and stability.
Angels & Demons
(p. 114):
“It was the traditional seal of the Vatican - the sacred symbol of the Holy See or ’holy seat’ of government, the seat being literally the ancient throne of St. Peter.”
Truth: While Peter established the Catholic Church in Rome and was martyred there around A.D. 65, he never had a throne there. He was too busy building up the Church and evading those who eventually crucified him to sit “literally” on an ancient throne.
Angels & Demons
(pp. 126-127):
“In 1857, Pope Pius IX decided that the accurate representation of the male form might incite lust inside the Vatican. So he got a chisel and mallet and hacked off the genitalia of every single male statue inside Vatican City. He defaced the works of Michelangelo, Bramante, and Bernini.”
Truth: Sheer nonsense. Blessed Pius IX was a great patron of the arts and never went on an anti-genitalia rampage.
Angels & Demons
(p. 155):
“Sixteen sixty-eight. The church branded four Illuminati scientists with the symbol of the cross. To purge their sins.”
Truth: There were no Illuminati scientists in 1668 since the Illuminati did not come into existence until 1776.
Angels & Demons
(p. 177):
“The secret Vatican Archives …. are rumored to hold such treasures as Leonard Da Vinci’s missing diaries and even unpublished books of the Holy Bible.”
Truth: There are no unpublished books of the Holy Bible. The 73 inspired books that belong in the Bible were identified at the Council of Hippo in 393 and the Council of Carthage in 397.
Angels & Demons
(p. 181):
“The early cross, Langdon knew, was the most common symbol of the four elements - four arms representing Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.”
Truth: The early cross was the symbol of the instrument upon which Christ was crucified for our sins. He transformed a symbol of shame into an instrument of salvation.
Angels & Demons
(p. 223):
“Langdon also knew that Raphael, like other religious artists, was a suspected closet atheist.”
Truth: A “suspected” closet atheist? This about one of the most famous religious painters in history, who served two Popes and was named by Pope Leo X in 1514 as chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Angels & Demons
(p. 224):
“Even in the 1600s, the Pantheon, with its tremendous, holed dome, was one of the best known sites in Rome. ’Is the Pantheon even a church?’ Vittoria asked. ’Oldest Catholic Church in Rome.’”
Truth: The Pantheon, originally a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods, became a Christian church in the seventh century. The oldest Catholic Church in Rome is the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which was given to the Church by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century.
Angels & Demons
(p. 242):
“Why would Christians want their tombs to face the rising sun [in the east]? We’re talking about Christianity … not sun worship.”
Truth: Christian tombs faced east because Christ is expected to come from the east at His Second Coming (cf. Matthew 24:27).
Angels & Demons
(p. 242):
“Halos, like much of Christian symbology, were borrowed from the ancient Egyptian religion of sun worship.”
Truth: Many things that are part of Christian worship - incense, candles, holy water, processions, vestments, the ring in marriage - were borrowed from paganism. But even paganism had some elements of truth in it, and Christianity took those elements of truth, gave new meaning to them, and gave them a holiness they did not have before.
Angels & Demons
(p. 243):
“And yet according to the Bible, Christ was born in March, so what are we doing celebrating in late December?”
Truth: The Bible does not say that Christ was born in March. We don’t know exactly when He was born, but the Church chose December 25th to replace the pagan festival of the “Unconquered Sun” with the birthday of the “Unconquered Son.”
Angels & Demons
(p. 243):
“The practice of ’god-eating’ — that is, Holy Communion - was borrowed from the Aztecs.”
Truth: Holy Communion could not have been borrowed from the Aztecs since they didn’t come into existence until 1,300 years after Christ gave us the Holy Eucharist.
Angels & Demons
(p. 255):
“BBC did a historical a while back on [Winston] Churchill’s life. Staunch Catholic by the way.”
Truth: Winston Churchill was not a Catholic, staunch or otherwise.
Angels & Demons
(p. 481):
“Peter’s faith in God was so steadfast that Jesus called Peter ’the rock’ - the unwavering disciple on whose shoulders Jesus would build his church. On this very location, Langdon realized - Vatican Hill - Peter had been crucified and buried. The early Christians built a small shrine over his tomb. As Christianity spread, the shrine got bigger, layer upon layer, culminating in this colossal basilica. The entire Catholic faith had been built, quite literally, upon St. Peter. The rock.”
Truth: For once, Dan Brown got something right.
Angels & Demons
(pp. 534-535):
“God is not some omnipotent authority looking down from above, threatening to throw us into a pit of fire if we disobey. God is the energy that flows through the synapses of our nervous system and the chambers of our hearts. God is in all things!”
Truth: This statement, from the priest in charge of the conclave assembled in Rome to elect a Pope (!), is an endorsement of pantheism, the false philosophy that says everything is divine and that there is no distinction between God and the created world.
Angels & Demons (the movie): When a new Pope is elected at the end of the film, Robert Langdon, who is played by Tom Hanks, expressed satisfaction at the new Pope’s name. There have been many Marks and Johns, said Langdon, but this is the first Pope named Luke.
Truth: Yes, there have been many Popes named John, twenty-three of them to be exact, but only one named Mark. He reigned from January to October of 336.
On his website, Dan Brown says that “Angels & Demons is primarily a thriller - a chase and a love story. It’s certainly not an anti-Catholic book.”
Truth: That claim is refuted by many of the statements we have quoted from the book, and there is further evidence of Mr. Brown’s bias against the Catholic Church. In a pamphlet entitled Angels & Demons: More Demonic Than Angelic, William A. Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights recounts some casual conversations that a Canadian Catholic priest had with members of the film crew shooting Angels & Demons in Rome in 2008. The priest, Fr. Bernard O’Connor, was not in clerical clothes during two informal encounters with the crew and wrote of his experiences in the magazine Inside the Vatican. He said one production official told him that “the wretched Church is against us yet again and is making problems.” Speaking of Dan Brown, he said: “Like most of us, he often says that he would do anything to demolish that detestable institution, the Catholic Church. And we will triumph. You will see.” Another movie official told Fr. O’Connor that “the Catholic Church must be weakened and eventually it must disappear from the earth. It is humanity’s chief enemy. This has always been the case.” He said that “the public is finally getting our message,” and he credited “radio, television, Hollywood, the music and video industries, along with just about every newspaper which exists, all saying the same thing.” Rather than see this book and movie as a problem for the Church, however, Catholics should use this critique not only to show how wrong Dan Brown is about virtually everything Catholic, but also to spread the truth about the Church founded by God Himself, the Church that St. Paul called “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).