It should be taken as a compliment to Catholicism that, at least within the domain of pop culture, the most acclaimed cases leveled against it do not engage it with arguments, but instead with contrived historical narratives, many of which rise barely above the level of pure myth. Following the lead of “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels and Demons,” and “The Golden Compass” is a new film released in Germany on the grotesque but apparently fascinating yarn of Pope Joan .

Die Päpstin ,” as the German filmmakers titled it—is a rather banal reworking of “Pope Joan,” meaning, literally, “The Popess” or, as someone suggested to me, “The Popette.” As the Telegraph reports today, the film has—as was surely its intention—fueled controversy over the status of the Pope Joan fable. Count me among those who think the question of evaluating the legend should be left to historians of the upright variety, not Hollywood directors.

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