Skip To Content
Israel News

Rabbi: ‘Da Vinci’ Paints Skewed Picture

Rabbi Michael Lerner didn’t let an archbishop’s presence at his elbow keep him from throwing a few jabs at the Catholic Church during a recent panel discussion on “The Da Vinci Code.”

During the May 31 forum at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in San Francisco, Lerner — a Jewish Renewal rabbi from Berkeley, Calif., who edits the leftwing Jewish journal Tikkun — described “The Da Vinci Code” as “remarkably ill informed,” “vulgar” and “distorted in its history.” But Lerner told the mostly Catholic audience that the central plot conceit — that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children whose descendants became French royalty, and that the Vatican conspired to cover it all up — should spark discussion on why, in many religions and cultures, women are marginalized and sexuality is demonized.

“There is lots and lots of blood on the hands of this church,” he said. “It’s time to get over the make-nice and talk really frankly with each other.”

Through it all, Lerner was seated next to the archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer — who became the city’s prelate after his predecessor, William Levada, was tapped by the pope to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog. The archbishop said that while there is “much to be ashamed of,” the Catholic Church has admitted, and apologized for, past transgressions.

The forum’s third panelist was Kelly Macatangay, a Menlo Park, Calif., database analyst and a member of Opus Dei, the real-life conservative Catholic group cast as the heavy in “The Da Vinci Code.” Macatangay gave a PowerPoint presentation on Opus Dei, describing it as an integral part of the church that promotes a personal contract to live every aspect of life as a devout Catholic.

In response, Lerner noted that Opus Dei’s founder, Spanish priest Josemaría Escrivá, was “a fan of Spanish fascism” who “explicitly praised Hitler.”

“These are matters close to my heart. A significant part of my family was wiped out by the fascist movement in Europe,” Lerner said.

After the event, Lerner sold and signed copies of his recent book, “The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country From the Religious Right” in the church’s lobby; nary a copy of “The Da Vinci Code” was in sight.

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.