Rorate Caeli

The most powerful lobby in the world

If you doubt who they are, just watch what happened to the maligned Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, now under siege.

In the debate on the imposition of a change of the legal definition of marriage in the French Republic to include counternatural unions, millions have marched in the largest protests seen in the country since the 1980s, the "Manif pour Tous" (a wordplay with the euphemistic name given by the governing Socialists to the legal aberration they propose, "le mariage pour tous", "marriage for all"). From traditional Catholics to concerned agnostics to the brave members of the largest Muslim and Jewish minorities in Western Europe, a large portion of French citizens have taken to the streets to make their voice heard.

A leading voice has been that of Chief Rabbi Bernheim. His words for the natural law definition of marriage were so profound Benedict XVI mentioned them in his last great Christmas Address to the Curia. As we reported in December, he said:

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.

Bernheim had stepped over a red line. A Rabbi in the Great Synagogue of Paris since 1997, and the Chief Rabbi of France since 2008, he had stood in the way of the most formidable lobby in the world. He had to be taken down. His failings, which, though serious, had apparently not bothered anyone before, at least not enough to be revealed, suddenly came to the fore. As the Guardian (and several other sources) reported on Wednesday:

Bernheim's troubles began last month when a blogger accused him of copying a 1996 text by the late French post-modernist philosopher Jean-François Lyotard to use in his 2011 book Forty Jewish Meditations.

Bernheim responded by saying he was a victim of Lyotard's plagiarism of notes from lectures he had delivered in the 1980s when he was Jewish student chaplain in Paris. ...

Last week, another blogger accused Bernheim of plagiarism in a 2002 book and L'Express magazine revealed he had not earned the prestigious rank of philosophy professor that was often attached to his name.

Although his official biography did not mention him passing the agrégation, the highly selective examination needed to qualify as a professor, Bernheim never disputed the title when it appeared in newspaper articles and publicity for his books.

Bernheim has so far refused to resign: "It would be an act of pride and against the collegial structure that presides over decisions. I assume my functions fully." It is quite possible he is quite aware that those who wish to force him to quit have appeared from nowhere just to question his authority on the major issue being debated by French society. His failings in areas of his life did not, and could not, diminish the great truth that he has vigorously defended on the nature of men and women,  marriage and family life.


P.S. Good for Bernheim. On a much less relevant level, we in Rorate also knew we had crossed a line when we posted Fr. Dariusz Oko's major article "With the Pope against the homoheresy" - it is astounding how much hostility, agitation, and false accusations have, as if by a magic coincidence, been raised against us since immediately after that article was posted. We were warned by close friends that there would be consequences if we posted it. Or maybe it has been a just a great coincidence, who knows?...


[UPDATE (1300 GMT):] The Chief Rabbi tendered his resignation today, in an afternoon meeting of the Central Israelite Consistory of France.