At the height of the popularity of The Da Vinci Code, I was writing a bi-weekly op-ed column for a local broadsheet, and I got into a on-print tussle with another columnist, a “veteran” thirty or forty years my senior. In a column, I mentioned a couple of factual references in Dan Brown’s novel and, a few days later, without mentioning my name nor the title and date of my piece, the old man dismissed everything in the novel as fiction and scoffed at how anyone could claim there was anything factual in it. Apparently, in his mind, anything mentioned in a fictional novel is necessarily fiction. I shot back in my next column and a senior editor emailed me to let it go because in-fighting on print among columnists was frowned upon.
It’s been fifteen years since The Da Vinci Code came out and I am currently reading Dan Brown’s latest, Origin. No, I don’t think he’s the greatest novelist that ever lived but I do find him entertaining. On the page preceding the prologue of Origins is the following note:
All art, architecture, locations, science, and religious organizations in this novel are real.
I giggled to myself and wondered if Mr. Brown ever stumbled upon that Jurassic columnist’s scathing words about The Da Vinci Code and if the note was inserted for the benefit of the old man.
The point is, if a fictional novel mentions Christmas Day as falling on December 25th of every year, the reference does not automatically transform Christmas-is-on-December-25th into fiction. Only fools think that way.
But enough about old fools. There were a few things that piqued my interest as I read Origin, among them—an explosion at the Cathedral of Seville (fiction), how Beethoven managed to discern sounds after going deaf (fact) and the existence of another pope and a papal seat in Seville, Spain (fact).
Yes, that third item is a FACT. The Palmarian Catholic Church exists. It was founded by Clemente Domínguez who claimed that he was ordered by the Virgin Mary to rid the Catholic Church of heresy. He ascended the papacy as Pope Gregory XVII claiming he was crowned as pope by Jesus Christ in a vision. Priests and bishops were named. The Roman Catholic Church was outraged and excommunicated them. Read its history; it’s quite fascinating in a way that’s guaranteed to make your eyes roll.
The current pope, the fourth since the church’s establishment, goes by Pope Peter III. The seat of the church is El Palmar de Troya (in the photo above) in Seville. It has money and it has dioceses in Spain, Europe and the United States.
It’s easy to dismiss the existence of the Palmarian Catholic Church as preposterous—ridiculous, even. After all, especially for faithful Catholics and non-Catholic traditionalists, there is only one Catholic Church and one pope. But it bears pointing out that there are mainstream religions today that were initially breakaway factions from the Catholic Church. The most obvious example is Protestantism.
Martin Luther (no, not Martin Luther King) was a priest who was vocally against the practice of selling “indulgences” by the Catholic Church. “Indulgence” is the reduction of punishment for a sin. Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, published in 1517, for which he was excommunicated, is popularly believed to have started the Reformation which gave birth to Protestantism. A slew of religions including the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran Churches all sprang from Protestantism. Based on 2015 statistics, Protestants (including Anglicans) constitute more than 50% of all Christians. A case of the breakaway group becoming more dominant than the original group over the centuries.
Will the Palmarian Catholic Church grow in strength the way Protestantism has? Who knows?