The gentleman who is teaching the Da Vinci Code Historical Seminar in Eden Prairie's "Adult Academy" is a retired Navy officer named George Tkach (pronounced "t'kosh"). When I talked to him yesterday he described himself as a "major fan of art history" who is "deeply interested in the Gnostic Gospels and Coptic Christianity." He was trained as an engineer, he said, and Da Vinci had always been a sort of hero to him.
George Tkach is a nice man. He chatted amiably about the lecture he's planning. But not until he'd asked me a pretty blunt question.
GT: Are you a Catholic, by any chance?
DIH: Yeah. Sure.
GT: And have you read the book?
[Full disclosure: I read as much of it as I could stand. It's a really lousy book.]
GT: That's good. Some dioceses have outlawed the book, you know. Several bishops have forbidden their members to read it.
[Full disclosure: I called the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and asked if this was true. After an astonished "What?", the spokesman there said, "I never heard of such a thing."]
Mr Tkach is not a Catholic and has no direct experience of Opus Dei. He did have some friends who were members, and he found his experience with them "unsettling." I asked if his friends found it unsettling. He said no, in fact they were still members.
Opus Dei, he said, is "Not a part of the Catholic Church.It's an arm of the pope. They're patterned on the Jesuits. The Jesuits' motto is 'The end justifies any means.'"
[Full disclosure: This makes Mr Tkach an even crappier Latin student than I was. The Jesuit motto, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam, is most commonly translated as "To the greater glory of God."]
This guy is teaching a seminar?