First Amendment Takes Another Hit

Let’s imagine that a reporter (or a blogger!) attends a political event where a politician accuses specific opponents of being homosexuals and child molesters. The journalist writes a report about the event that includes the charges leveled by the unbalanced politician, quoted verbatim. The article even includes a rebuttal from the slander victim. Nevertheless, the writer and the publisher of the article eventually find themselves as defendants of a slander action, presumably along with the idiot who made the comments in the first place.
Would the case get thrown out of court, as it amounts to nothing more than a truthful account of a public event? Not if the writer works in Pennsylvania, or apparently even in the United States:

The Supreme Court refused Monday to step into a lawsuit against a newspaper, leaving the media in Pennsylvania legally vulnerable when they report defamatory comments by public figures. …
The justices’ decision not to consider the case was a victory for the former mayor and current council president of Parkesburg, Pa., who sued when the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., reported that a council member claimed they were homosexuals. The newspaper reported the councilman also had issued a statement strongly implying that he considered the two officials to be “queers and child molesters.”
The newspaper quoted the council president as saying that if the councilman had made comments “as bizarre as that then I feel very sad for him and I hope he can get the help he needs.”
At issue is the neutral reporting privilege which allows the press to convey a reputable public figure’s defamatory comment as long as it is reported neutrally and accurately.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that no such privilege exists, though the privilege is recognized by some state and federal courts.

I wish I could be shocked at the Supreme Court’s refusal to affirm what should be common sense, but after watching them approve the BCRA, they’ve completely lost any credibility on the First Amendment. This is just another example of a court so devoid of common sense that they cannot distinguish between the idiot who makes slanderous statements and the people who make sure that the idiot gets identified. Shouldn’t the people of West Chester know that their elected official uses character assassination for political gain?
The Daily Local News did not create the accusations; they only reported them, fairly and accurately. The citizens of West Chester found out what a despicable character they had elected to the city council and that allowed them to kick him off the council at the next election. It appears that the plaintiffs only included the Daily Local News in their lawsuit in order to take advantage of the deep pockets of the newspaper, rather than appreciating their role in shaming a backward and ignorant fool.
So the reward for telling the truth to the citizens of West Chester is that the Daily News and the reporter now have to defend themselves in the same manner as the idiot who made the public statements they reported. Anyone with a lick of common sense and any understanding of free speech would see the injustice inherent in this resolution. Unfortunately, those qualities elude the Pennsylvania legal system and apparently a majority of the Supreme Court.

Google Makes Good

Yesterday I asked whether I had angered the Google powers, as suddenly CQ had disappeared from the results of their searches. Rob from Say Anything told me that he and I had made the same mistake: selling ad space and subdomains to a company that creates “link farms” that leverages Google searches for sales opportunities. Neither Rob nor I did enough investigation to understand the implications of the business plan. Although the folks at Business Barn treated me well and never lied to me, had I known that their business practices would get CQ banned from Google, I would have declined.
I received an e-mail from Business Barn ending our current relationship — perhaps because my Google ranking disappeared overnight — but offering me a new deal with free hosting and unlimited bandwidth. I have turned it down and deleted the subdomains that caused the problems with the Google search engine. I also replied to the comment that Google left on my original post explaining what happened — and they were kind enough to send this response:

Thanks for letting us know; I’d
expect to come fully back into the index
within 1-2 days.

So just to make sure everyone knows, Google didn’t delete CQ from their search engines for political reasons, and they’ve actually been very good about letting me know what the problem was and responsive to my solution. I’ll be looking forward to visitors from Google searches later this week …

Housecleaning In Iraqi Security Services?

The newly-elected Shi’ite leaders of Iraq want to clean out the ex-Ba’athists who have returned to work in the new Iraqi police, setting up what could be a major division within the forces that Iyad Allawi has slowly rebuilt to credibility:

Members of the Shi’ite coalition that won Iraq’s elections are demanding that the new government, when it is formed, cleanse the security services of terrorist informers and Saddam sympathizers as its first order of business.
Pressure for a purge of the new services is coming from within the ranks of the United Iraqi Alliance, many of whose mainly Shi’ite members complain of being harassed by Sunni officers much as they were persecuted under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
“There’s a certain grass-roots feeling on the Shia side, a concern at what they claim to be a sort of re-Ba’athification process in the security ministries,” said a senior British diplomat, who spoke to a small group of reporters on the condition of anonymity. “They feel that something needs to be done about it.”

The Shi’a have a point, although they may carry it too far. Having true Saddamite sympathizers in the police and security forces will eventually undermine the confidence that Iraqis must place in them for security to improve. The significant numbers of Saddam’s henchmen who continue to operate outside the law and target civilians and security personnel make these people suspicious; to whom is their loyalty given? No one can blame the Shi’a for being nervous about that or wanting to minimize the risk.
At the same time, as long as ex-Ba’athists remain outside the system, they will remain a threat. If de-Ba’athification can be done properly, having men with experience in security that have loyalty to the new democratic government will allow for more efficient progress in creating a secure and stable Iraq. It also shows that the Sunni do not need to consider themselves pariahs, but partners in a multilateral representative government. Simply flushing out everyone who ever had a connection to the old regime may simply convince the dead-enders that they have no future in either direction and take their frustration out on everyone.
The US is right to caution the new government about acting precipitously. The best solution for the moment is to get as many Sunni participating in the democratic process and give them hope that their voices will be heard.

Congress To Debate Life And Death

After the passions have cooled a bit, Congress intends on taking up the central issues that surrounded the Terri Schiavo case to determine whether federal action is needed to protect the rights of the disabled under guardianship regarding so-called “end of life issues”. The New York Times report makes clear that partisanship does not appear to be a problem, as both parties have called for hearings to make sure people like Terri have better protection in the future:

On Sunday, lawmakers of both parties agreed that Congress has a role to play in such cases and should contemplate legislation that would give added legal recourse to patients like Ms. Schiavo. While it is difficult to predict whether such a measure could pass, the Schiavo case has clearly pushed thorny questions about end-of-life care to the fore on Capitol Hill, as well as in state legislatures around the nation.
The Republican-controlled House already passed a bill that would allow the federal courts to review cases like Ms. Schiavo’s, in which the patient has left no written instructions, the family is at odds and state courts have ordered a feeding tube to be withdrawn. That bill evolved into one that was narrowly tailored to Ms. Schiavo.
Now some Democrats, prodded by advocates for the disabled, say Congress should consider whether such a law is needed.
“I think we should look into this and very possibly legislate it,” said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, who opposed Congressional action in the Schiavo case. Mr. Frank was speaking on Sunday on the ABC News program “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” Mr. Frank added: “I think Congress needs to do more. Because I’ve spoken with a lot of disability groups who are concerned that, even where a choice is made to terminate life, it might be coerced by circumstances.”

While I disagree with the NYT’s analysis of this as an “end of life” issue — Terri’s life only became endangered when Judge George Greer ordered her death by dehydration — I think that the developments in Congress provide some hope that we can avoid a repeat of this situation. We seem to have moved from a presumption of life to a presumption of whatever one’s spouse or guardian wants, regardless of any conflict of interest, and that rightly worries advocates for the disabled under guardianship. Most disabled people who require guardians cannot speak for themselves, and absent written instructions on their wishes for care, the decision to kill them when they suffer no terminal disease — and especially when other family members want to care for them, as in Terri’s case — should receive the strongest kind of skepticism.
Mark Steyn puts it brilliantly, as always, in his column today, titled “No Compelling Reason To Kill Terri Schiavo”:

I’m neither a Floridian nor a lawyer, and, for all I know, it may be legal under Florida law for the state to order her to be starved to death. But it is still wrong.
This is not a criminal, not a murderer, not a person whose life should be in the gift of the state. So I find it repulsive, and indeed decadent, to have her continued existence framed in terms of ”plaintiffs” and ”petitions” and ”en banc review” and ”de novo” and all the other legalese. Mrs. Schiavo has been in her present condition for 15 years. Whoever she once was, this is who she is now — and, after a decade and a half, there is no compelling reason to kill her. Any legal system with a decent respect for the status quo — something too many American judges are increasingly disdainful of — would recognize that her present life, in all its limitations, is now a well-established fact, and it is the most grotesque judicial overreaching for any court at this late stage to decide enough is enough. It would be one thing had a doctor decided to reach for the morphine and ”put her out of her misery” after a week in her diminished state; after 15 years, for the courts to treat her like a Death Row killer who’s exhausted her appeals is simply vile.
There seems to be a genuine dispute about her condition — between those on her husband’s side, who say she has ”no consciousness,” and those on her parents’ side, who say she is capable of basic, childlike reactions. If the latter are correct, ending her life is an act of murder. If the former are correct, what difference does it make? If she feels nothing — if there’s no there there — she has no misery to be put out of. That being so, why not err in favor of the non-irreversible option?

The facts of the Terri Schiavo case are complicated, contradictory, and evoke the strongest of emotions. That is precisely why we need to have a system set up to protect those who cannot speak for themselves. We cannot wait until one of these cases becomes so emergent that we have no recourse but demonstration and raw emotion. Bad decisions inevitably follow from that. Congress should take up this question and others like it, including whether the solutions should come at the federal level at all or rather provide a second line of fact-finding after the state level.
This is how we work within the system to keep injustice from occurring again. Encourage your representative to get involved in reaching a bipartisan consensus on how to protect those who are not dying from being killed through legal machinations.

Hijacking Terri

When does advocacy turn from focusing on an injustice to focusing on yourself? After spending Saturday taking phone calls on our radio show and reading today’s USA Today article about the increasingly chaotic demonstrations outside Terri Schiavo’s hospice, I would say that the time has arrived. Randall Terry, the radical anti-abortion activist who had mostly disappeared from national view over the past few years, has suddenly grabbed the stage in Florida, and his followers have stopped taking their cues from Terri’s family:

Tension mounted outside Woodside Hospice here, where Schiavo was in her 10th day without food or water. Bobby Schindler, Schiavo’s brother, told the protesters they aren’t helping his family by getting arrested.
Karl Henderson, 25, of Denver Bible Church, took issue with Schindler. “We should be able to take her water if she’s dying,” he said.
“You’re not speaking for our family,” Schindler said.

Randall Terry used his platform as a self-styled spokesman for the Schindlers to accuse Jeb Bush of lacking manhood and stirring the natural anger over this injustice to demand that Bush act outside the law to override the courts:

“If Gov. Bush wants to be the man that his brother is, he needs to step up to the plate like President Bush did when the United Nations told him not to go into Iraq,” Randall Terry, a protest organizer, said of the governor. “Be a man. Put politics aside.” …
Among the messages on protest signs Sunday: “Barbara Bush: Are you proud of your sons now?” “Stop the American Holocaust!” “Send in the National Guard!”

It wasn’t just the Schindler’s suppporters who appear to have hijacked the demonstrations, either. The Communists arrived to tell the world that people should die when their brains don’t function, a piece of advice we wished they would have taken a century ago:

After remarks by Randall Terry — an activist against abortion rights who has been acting as a spokesman for Terri Schiavo’s family, the Schindlers — members of a group calling itself the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigades seized control of the microphones and blasted Terry as a “Christian fascist thug” trying to interfere in “the most intimate affairs of life and death.”
“[Terri Schiavo’s] brain is not functional. It’s not going to recover. Let her die in peace,” pleaded Sunsari Taylor, a member of the group.

OK, folks. This has dissolved into a tragic circus, where the people supposedly supporting the Schindlers won’t listen to them and the Communist Youth Brigades steal microphones to get themselves air time. The emotions have run away with the argument, to the point where conservatives have now started to argue for the executive to outgun the judiciary and impose its will regardless of the law.
It’s time to put the signs down, and start praying for Terri. We need to fix the system, not trash it completely, and we need to stop giving air time to the most radical elements on both sides so we can determine the best way to do so.

How To Treat A Legend

For decades, no one has embodied the spirit of the Los Angeles Dodgers more than Tommy Lasorda. As a player, his heart far outstripped his talent, despite his oft-repeated (and hilarious) claims that the Dodgers would have been better off optioning off Sandy Koufax and keeping him on their major-league roster. As a talent scout and a minor-league coach, he developed some of the Hall of Fame talent that he later coached to two World Series with Walter Alston, and himself led the team to four World Series appearances in twenty years, winning two of them.
But more than his impressive record, Lasorda has imprinted his personality on his beloved Dodgers and the Los Angeles region. He still lives with his family in the middle-class neighborhood of Fullerton instead of tony digs in Bel Air or Beverly Hills, and rather than shut himself off from baseball’s fans, he seems to light up in their presence. I met him briefly twenty-three years ago after his first World Series win, late at night at a Los Angeles hotel with his family waiting for him. Instead of just graciously shaking my hand and moving on — which I would have understood entirely — he spent at least 20 minutes talking to me and my friends about the Dodgers and the Fernando Valenzuela phenomenon. He clearly loves the Dodgers, the fans, and Los Angeles itself.
Unfortunately, during the brief ownership of Fox, the organization appeared almost ashamed of Lasorda. They gave him a title but obviously never felt comfortable with him, giving him almost nothing to do. Lasorda never said a word about it but his enthusiasm noticeably dimmed for the team and organization that he spent a lifetime building and promoting. Now that Frank McCourt has taken over the ownership of the Dodgers, the Los Angeles Times reports that Lasorda almost seems reborn:

In one week alone, he led the pitchers through bunting practice, coached first base in an extra-inning game, tossed high-decibel motivational gems at minor leaguers as he walked around the clubhouse, hit ground balls to infielders during batting practice and chased foul balls during a simulated game.
He mingled with fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures. He entertained the 14-month-old son of General Manager Paul DePodesta, granted numerous interviews and appeared via satellite on Fox News and CNN to discuss steroids in baseball.
The Dodgers appointed their Hall of Fame manager senior vice president in 1998, after he served as interim general manager. The ill-defined position sometimes left Lasorda wondering what to do, and vulnerable to charges of forcing himself on a baseball operations department that did not seek his advice.
But new owner Frank McCourt has embraced him, and Lasorda has returned the embrace. McCourt last month asked Lasorda to serve as a senior advisor, reporting directly to the owner, and to represent the Dodgers whenever needed.
“There are so many things he can do for us,” McCourt said. “Nobody loves the Dodgers more. There is so much knowledge Tommy has. He knows everybody. I can learn a lot from him.”

I know that some baseball fans have never felt much affection for Lasorda, considering him something of a clown or a fool with his many motivational stories of his years in baseball which often transform themselves into rather tall tales. No one can question his lifetime commitment to the game, however, or his heart. He continues to demonstrate why so many more people continue to hold so much affection and respect for the man who swears he bleeds Dodger Blue. Three cheers for Frank McCourt for understanding how to honor Lasorda — by allowing him to keep contributing meaningfully to the game and the team he loves so much.

Iraqis Grab 131 Terrorists Targeting Kerbala

Iraqi security forces have demonstrated their increasing effectiveness by leading a raid on a terrorist stronghold outside of Kerbala, capturing 131 operatives, many of them the foreigners that cause the worst attacks on Iraqis and Americans:

Iraqi soldiers, backed by US helicopters, are reported to have seized 131 suspects in a dawn raid on insurgents planning attacks on the holy city of Kerbala.
The Defence Ministry says troops also retrieved tonnes of explosives.
The Defence Minister, Hazim al-Shaalan, described it as a very successful operation based on intensive surveillance.
Several suspected militants were reported killed in the operation, which began late on Friday and culminated in the dawn raid just outside Kerbala, about 100 kilometres south-west of Baghdad.
Officials say say those arrested included foreigners using fake Iraqi identification papers.

Next week brings an expected large pilgrimage to Kerbala for Arbain, one of the mourning rites of the Shi’a. Undoubtedly, the Wahhabist Sunni foreigners expected to cause a civil war by butchering Shi’ite pilgrims during one of their major observances. With the foreign networks already declining due to significant leadership losses and the general contempt for them that has grown tremendously in Iraqi society, the loss of 131 terrorists signifies a tremendous blow to their operative capacity.
I wonder if Joe Biden and the editorial board of the New York Times, who spent so much oxygen eight weeks ago telling Condoleezza Rice that the Iraqi security forces had zero credibility, might be considering that their own credibility has dropped farther into negative numbers with each successful operation they conduct.

Have I Angered The Google Powers That Be?

While Charles at Little Green Footballs and Michelle Malkin point out that Google refuses to acknowledge their sites as “news” despite Google’s linking to other, less savory sources as news, it appears that Google has stopped recognizing Captain’s Quarters’ existence on the Internet altogether. I received this e-mail from CQ reader Ed Davidson this morning:

I have been using the search criteria “captains quarters” on Google for a considerable time. Your blog was always the lead link returned and it was a convenient way for me to do a two click connection.
Google no longer will return your link with “captains quarters” or “captains quarters blog” or “” in their search function.

Of course, I decided to check this out — and sure enough, Ed’s alert is accurate. Check out this search. While my old Typepad site comes up as the first hit, my main site has disappeared entirely. You can find Captain’s Quarters Family and Golf Resort and a number of other similarly-named hotels and inns, but you can’t find my blog — not even when you redo the search to include the word “blog”.
Now why would that be? I haven’t ever criticized Google, as far as I know, and I use it almost every day. Maybe that will change. Ed’s explanation is as rational as anything I can figure out:

You must have been bad. Real bad.

UPDATE: Apparently, I have angered the Google powers, but it has nothing to do with politics. See this post at Say Anything for an explanation. I’ve removed the links — the company that contracted me for them wants to back out anyway — and I’ll give Google a few days to see if they fix the issue.

Second British Newspaper Notices We’re Winning, American Media Still Clueless

The Guardian (UK) follows up on a report yesterday by the Financial Times that the Iraqi elections have severely undermined at least the native insurgency, and have even resulted in an internecine war among them:

The Iraqi resistance has peaked and is ‘turning in on itself’, according to recent intelligence reports from Baghdad received by Middle Eastern intelligence agencies.
The reports are the most optimistic for several months and reflect analysts’ sense that recent elections in Iraq marked a ‘quantum shift’. They will boost the government in the run-up to the expected general election in May. …
One foreign intelligence report cites a recent incident in which members of the al-Dulaimi tribe, previously known for their antagonism to the coalition and the new government in Iraq, shot dead a number of Islamic militants from outside Iraq, whom they believed responsible for killing a senior al-Dulaimi sheikh. Although the sheikh was a senior police official and thus a ‘collaborator’, tribal elders felt that his death had to be avenged. The killings show tribal allegiances will triumph over any supposed ‘international jihad’, the report said.
The number of attacks on coalition forces has fallen since the election in January while strikes on the new Iraqi police forces and army have continued. Analysts say that this shows that locals – who favoured international targets – are abandoning violent tactics for the moment while the ‘jihadis’ – previously responsible for most of the attacks on locals – are still active.
Last week militants killed 15 Iraqi soldiers, assassinated a senior commander and murdered five women in an ambush.
Intelligence officials believe that ordinary Iraqis are increasingly turning against the militants.

Now they’re starting to fighting amongst themselves, which usually indicates a terminal condition for insurgencies. After all, the native Ba’athists want to live in Iraq, while the foreign Islamists only want to stay in Iraq for specific reasons that have nothing to do with joining Iraqi society. They want to use the Iraqis to create a greater ummah and an Arabian tyranny that has passed from favor.
The combined pressure of credible American power and Iraqi freedom has created a crucible which has crushed the so-called insurgency and will cause it to completely collapse, probably within weeks. If the Saddamite remnants can work out a realistic amnesty program, probably involving the identification of Zarqawi network managers, the Sunni will finally start fully participating in the political process and the Islamists will have lost Iraq for good.
Remember when we spoke last year, in the apex of the insurgent attacks prior to our election, how the terrorists attempted to stage a Tet Offensive? It appears that’s exactly what happened — except this time, the majority of the American public didn’t fall for it. They’ve lost, and they know it, even if the Washington Post and New York Times still has failed to report it for a second day now.

Dowdifying The Vatican Response To The Da Vinci Code

Maureen Dowd greets the most holy of Christian holidays by reducing the conflict between the Catholic Church and Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code, to a whiny complaint about the all-male priesthood. Typically, she talks about a subject on which she knows little and focuses on the most superficial aspect of it to make a facile point about the supposed misogyny of the Church.
And a Happy Easter to you, too, Maureen:

Some may mock the Vatican for waiting until everyone on earth has read “The Da Vinci Code” to denounce “The Da Vinci Code.”
I am not one of them. It’s Easter, and I don’t want to blot my catechism.

Of course she’s not one of them. Oh, wait, yes she is:

Mr. Brown’s zippy version has Jesus and Mary Magdalene marrying and having children. This “perverts the story of the Holy Grail, which most certainly does not refer to the descendants of Mary Magdalene,” Cardinal Bertone said. “It astonishes and worries me that so many people believe these lies.”
The novelist is not the first one to conjure romantic sparks between the woman usually painted as what one writer calls “the Jessica Rabbit of the Gospels” and the eligible young Jewish carpenter and part-time miracle worker.
For years, female historians and novelists have been making the case that Mr. Brown makes, that Mary Magdalene was framed and defamed, that the men who run Christianity obliterated her role as an influential apostle and reduced her to a metaphor for sexual guilt.
The church refuses to allow women to be ordained as priests because there were no female apostles. So if Mary Magdalene was a madonna rather than a whore, the church loses its fig leaf of justification for male domination and exclusion.

Oh, please. The book bases itself on an ancient heresy called Gnosticism, as anyone familiar with early Christian history knows just from reading the summary. (Disclosure: I have not read anything else but that, which I will address in a moment.) Gnostics believed that the Gospels and Jesus’ teachings hid deep secrets that the Apostles never directly revealed about God and the world. Instead of accepting the Word as revealed in the Gospel as the full truth and voice of God, they insisted that Jesus left secret instructions about salvation that God wished to remain hidden except to the select few in on the secret.
This heresy had two destructive elements to it. One, it dismissed the Gospels as subordinate to this supposedly secret series of teachings. Two, it turned what was meant to be the salvation of the entire world into Christendom’s first tinfoil-hat brigade, where conspiracy theories about the nature of Christianity abounded. It didn’t help that Christianity spent much of its first three centuries underground, its adherents persecuted by the Romans. Gnosticism failed, largely as a result of its own exclusionary nature, but the peculiar desire in humanity to see patterns and conspiracies where none exists always made us vulnerable to Gnostic-like fables.
As the primary apologetics resource for Catholics shows, the Catholic Church has several points besides the fantasy about Jesus and Mary Magdalene on which it objects to Brown’s novel:

The problem is that many of the ideas that the book promotes are anything but fact, and they go directly to the heart of the Catholic faith. For example, the book promotes these ideas:

* Jesus is not God; he was only a man.

* Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

* She is to be worshiped as a goddess.

* Jesus got her pregnant, and the two had a daughter.

* That daughter gave rise to a prominent family line that is still present in Europe today.

* The Bible was put together by a pagan Roman emperor.

* Jesus was viewed as a man and not as God until the fourth century, when he was deified by the emperor Constantine.

* The Gospels have been edited to support the claims of later Christians.

* In the original Gospels, Mary Magdalene rather than Peter was directed to establish the Church.

* There is a secret society known as the Priory of Sion that still worships Mary Magdalene as a goddess and is trying to keep the truth alive.

* The Catholic Church is aware of all this and has been fighting for centuries to keep it suppressed. It often has committed murder to do so.

* The Catholic Church is willing to and often has assassinated the descendents of Christ to keep his bloodline from growing.

Catholics should be concerned about the book because it not only misrepresents their Church as a murderous institution but also implies that the Christian faith itself is utterly false.

It appears that the Church has quite a few more problems with Brown than just the depiction of Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus or even that she had the authority of an Apostle, an idea that only has credence if one consults the Apocrypha, those early Christian writings that have always been specifically excluded from the Gospel. However, in MoDo’s narrow and shallow little world, the biggest complaint that she sees is the one which appears to animate all of her writing — the victimization of women. She ignores all of the assertions made by Brown’s novel that strike at the very heart of the faith, such as stripping Jesus of His divinity and the notion that the Church condones murder to cover up the supposed fraud on which Christianity is based, to deduce that the Vatican’s biggest problem is that The Da Vinci Code might endorse the ordination of women as priests.
I have not yet read Brown’s book, but not because the Vatican tells me not to do so. I don’t have much time for outside reading, thanks to my blogging schedule, although I’m working on a non-fiction book about Ronald Reagan which I hope to review for you soon. My study of Christian history would probably keep me from enjoying this fantastical and essentially ludicrous plot anyway, plus the pompous nature of Brown’s claim to have researched the issues involved (see the Catholic Answers link for their specific rebuttals) would make it off-putting to me. Also, my friend North Star Steve has read the book — and told me he hated it, mostly finding it utterly predictable and poorly written.
Should the Vatican have given the book any further credence by warning Catholics about reading it? Given the plot of the novel, remaining silent in the face of such insult would be asking a lot of any organization, even the Church. Unfortunately, Brown’s research claims might convince less-prepared Catholics to swallow some of his fiction as fact, a complaint I often have with Hollywood historical movies as well. For the truly shallow, such as Dowd, it probably can’t possibly do any more damage to their intellect than they have already experienced.