Saturday 24th February 2018

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Culturally Catholic France

January 10, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

On December 8 of last year, The Washington Post featured an article by James McAuley entitled: “In secular France, Catholic conservatism makes a comeback.” It sounds good, no? Maybe.
McAuley begins by pointing to the success enjoyed by François Fillon in the presidential primaries in France. McAuley describes Fillon as a man viewed in France as “a crusader in the throes of a holy war,” who “campaigned mostly on a genteel conservatism of economic restructuring and strengthened national security,” appealing to “a wave of nostalgia for a nation of traditional families and quaint village churches” that feels itself “under siege from the dual threats of multiculturalism and Islamist terrorism.”
It is a pattern that is emerging in much of Europe, as evidenced by the vote by the British to exit from the European Union and the rise of right-wing populist leaders such as Viktor Orban in Hungary and Marine Le Pen in France.
But McAuley sees something additional happening in France. He writes, “In a country that firmly defines itself as ‘secular’ in its constitution, Fillon’s unexpected victory represented an astonishing prospect: the political reawakening of Catholic France after decades of slumber.” McAuley contends that the “slaying of an 85-year-old village priest in July by Islamic State-inspired militants” has led many in France to believe that “the essence of France” is under attack.
Fillon is described by McAuley as a “fervent Roman Catholic” with a platform that defends “family values,” which is “often translated into staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and, lately, to adoption by same-sex parents. In short, what he promises is a return to his nation’s roots. And in his eyes, those roots are fundamentally Catholic.”
It is at this point that things get curious. We have heard in recent decades of how “secular” France has become, of how only a tiny portion of its population attends Mass on a regular basis, that France is only “culturally Catholic.” How does that fit into McAuley’s thesis?
To deal with that question, we need to ask ourselves what it means to be “culturally Catholic.” McAuley cites Fr. Mattieu Rougé, the pastor of Paris’ St. Ferdinand des Ternes Catholic Church. “We have a secular state but not a secular society,” said Matthieu. “The majority of the French,” even those who do not attend Mass any longer, “have studied in a Catholic school, they marry in churches, and they baptize their children. They are Catholic,” he said. “All our streets, the names of our towns and villages — everything is related in some way to the Catholic faith.”
This means that many of the French men and women who voted for Fillon saw him as a defender of “Catholic values” that they associate with Fr. Rougé’s vision of what it means to be French. They were not voting for a stronger bond between the state and the Catholic Church.
McAuley underscores this reality by pointing to Philippe and Sandrine Mathieu, 51 and 41, respectively, who “work in a framing shop near Chartres Cathedral. Although they described themselves as non-practicing Catholics, both said Fillon’s Catholic identity appealed to them at least as much as their perception of his seriousness. ‘For 20, 30 years, there’s no social cohesion in France,’ said Philippe Mathieu. ‘We’ve lost our values.’ Asked to define these values, Sandrine Mathieu explained that they had sent their children to local Catholic schools instead of public schools because ‘there they say, Bonjour, madame’.” The Mathieus did not point to a recitation of the Sign of the Cross.
McAuley sees this new attraction to Catholicism in France as part of the “emergence of a new French conservatism increasingly focused on the concept of patrimony, an amorphous sense of cultural inheritance largely unrelated to matters of policy or the economy.” Which means that their Catholicism has little to do with the teaching authority of the Church, and more to do with their hope that Catholicism can provide, in MacAuley’s words, support for “traditional family values, authority and a sense of the moral order. Members of the clergy explain this increasing embrace of religion in the context of recent terrorist attacks, which they say have drawn many secular French Catholics back into churches for the first time in years.”
I don’t think I’m being unfair, then, when I say that for cultural Catholics what is important about Catholicism is not that it is true in a theological sense but that it can be employed to buttress France’s cultural patrimony against the Islamization of Europe.
Many readers of The Wanderer have heard these sentiments before in another context. They are near-to-indistinguishable in their logic from the theories of Charles Maurras, the mid-20th-century French writer and politician sometimes described as a “Catholic atheist.” What Maurras wanted to preserve was what he called France’s “pays reel” against the inroads being made in the country by the “pays legal.”
By pays reel, he meant the France rooted in the customs and local pieties of the common people, the France of Charlemagne, Roland, and Joan of Arc. In contrast, the pays legal was the France of the secular intelligentsia and the international bureaucrats who came to power in the years after the French Revolution. Maurras saw Catholicism as a healthy strand in the cultural heritage of France, something that could be used to create a society separate and distinct from the forces arrayed against it in the mid-20th century. He didn’t believe in God or the Church, but since his fellow countrymen in the pays reel did, he encouraged their religious beliefs.
François Fillon does not view Catholicism in the same way as Maurras. From most accounts, he is serious in many respects about the faith. But those in France who are “cultural Catholics” do, whether or not they have ever heard of Maurras. The question is whether their cultural Catholicism will be of much help in preserving France’s national culture. An “amorphous sense of cultural inheritance” is not what French men and women in the past meant when they referred to France as “the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church.”
There is nothing morally reprehensible, or un-Christian, about turning back waves of Muslim refugees, insisting instead that they be given the military protection and charitable assistance that they need in their countries of origin or in international safe spaces. But it can result in some disturbing scenes on the nightly news.
A determination to protect their freedom of religion can give the French the resolve needed to deal with this challenge. It will give them a way to convince themselves that they are entitled to what Thomas Jefferson called in the Declaration of Independence the “decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Freedom of religion is guaranteed even by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Rights, the secular elites’ preferred legislative authority.
But won’t it have to be a real religion to do that, not some quaint folkway interwoven in the nation’s “amorphous cultural inheritance,” rather than something analogous to a fondness for Breton fiddlers and escargot? One would think so. People don’t man the barricades at moments of crisis to defend such things.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

World famous preacher Billy Graham dies at 99

MONTREAT, North Carolina, February 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – World-famous American evangelist preacher Billy Graham has died. William Franklin Graham Jr. was born on November 7, 1918 and raised on a dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. He converted to evangelical…Continue Reading

Pope’s special envoy in Chile sex-abuse case hospitalized on first day of investigation

ROME, February 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Just one day into his investigation of alleged sex abuse cover-up by a bishop in Chile, the Pope’s special envoy in the “Barros case” has been hospitalized after suffering gallbladder complications, Church officials in…Continue Reading

FRENCH CATHOLICS TO PRAY NATIONAL ROSARY

PARIS (ChurchMilitant.com) – Catholics in France are rallying for a nationwide Rosary on April 28. In the past five months, Church Militant has reported on about a half dozen national Rosary rallies organized in countries such as Poland and Ireland. Inspired by…Continue Reading

Told he has not long to live, Catholic Studies founder Don Briel reflects on dying well

Don Briel, founder and longtime director of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, was diagnosed in mid-January with two forms of acute leukemia. He was told the cancers were untreatable and he had a month…Continue Reading

Pope Francis says Paul VI will be canonized this year

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2018 / 08:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his annual Lenten meeting with the priests of Rome last week, Pope Francis confirmed that Blessed Pope Paul VI will be made a saint sometime this year. “Paul VI…Continue Reading

Pope reappoints O’Malley to head further work of safeguarding commission

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2018 / 05:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has reconfirmed Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also reconfirming seven members…Continue Reading

The Latest: Trump to visit Florida after school shooting

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s response to the Florida school shooting (all times local): 11:36 a.m. President Donald Trump says he’ll visit Parkland, Florida, the site of Wednesday’s shooting that killed 17 people. Trump said from…Continue Reading

U.S. bishops: federal budget should not be balanced ‘on backs of the poor’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the Trump administration’s 2019 federal budget proposal on Monday, the U.S. Catholic bishops are urging for a budget that shows greater concern for “‘the least of these” and warning that the U.S. “must never seek…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood sticker stirs controversy at Connecticut Catholic high school

A Connecticut high school student may have to decide whether to remove a Planned Parenthood sticker on her laptop or leave her Catholic school after administrators told her to remove it, her parents said. Sophomore Kate Murray’s parents told the Greenwich Time that…Continue Reading

Fr. James Martin: ‘People take the Bible…out of context’ on homosexuality

February 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual acts should be taken in “context” with Biblical times, Jesuit Father James Martin toldGeorgetown University students recently. Martin said as well that Catholics who support gay “marriage” should have no problem…Continue Reading

Mississippi state house votes to ban abortion after 15 weeks

JACKSON, Mississippi, February 2, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A bill banning abortion on babies more than 15 weeks old passed the Mississippi state House today 79-31. House Bill 1510 would make Mississippi the state with the most pro-life laws if it…Continue Reading

All But Three Democrats Voted to Allow Unlimited Abortions Up to Birth

Just three Democrats in the U.S. Senate supported a bill on Monday that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks when unborn babies are capable of feeling pain. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which has strong public support from Republicans…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

Catholic Bishop Denies Communion to Pro-Abortion Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin: “Until He Repents of His Sin”

Pro-life Catholics who wish Catholic Church leaders would step up and deny communion to leading politicians who support abortion are getting good news today. One Catholic bishop is denying communion to pro-abortion Democrat Dick Durbin, a top Democrat in the Senate who has long supported and promoted abortion. Durbin joined other Democrats to block a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois says Durbin is “cooperating in evil” and persisting…Continue Reading

CDL. MÜLLER: TALK OF ‘PARADIGM SHIFT’ A LAPSE INTO MODERNISM

ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) – The Vatican’s former doctrine chief is warning against re-interpretation of Church doctrine. In a First Things article Tuesday, Cdl. Gerhard Müller slammed recent talk of a “paradigm shift” in relation to Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the pastoral care of families. The former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Müller observed that “In commenting … some interpreters advance positions contrary to the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, by effectively denying that adultery is…Continue Reading

State senator rebuffs Planned Parenthood activists: ‘Abortion is murder’

BOISE, Idaho, February 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Mainstream media is slinging mud at a pro-life Republican state senator in Idaho after he was filmed in a heated exchange with a dozen or so pro-abortion college students affiliated with Planned Parenthood, telling them that abortion is “murder.” When State Sen. Dan Foreman (R) canceled a meeting with University of Idaho students on Monday, the Planned Parenthood

Catholics urged to affirm ‘liberating truth’ of Humanae Vitae

The document ‘defended the integrity of married love and warned us against the danger of reducing sexuality to a source of pleasure alone’ The “liberating truth” of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” is as relevant today 50 years after its promulgation, and maybe even more so, said Archbishop of Denver Samuel Aquila in his new pastoral letter, “The Splendor of Love.” “The 50th anniversary of ‘Humanae Vitae’ is an occasio

Correcting Fr. James Martin

Fr James Martin SJ has tweeted his rage against the firing of a gay teacher from a Catholic School. The story is here in the New York Times. It concerns a female Catholic school teacher who “married” her girlfriend and was then dismissed from her job. Fr Martin tweets: Again, where are the comparable firings of straight employees who do not follow Catholic church teaching? Men and women living together before being married? Divorced and remarried without…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Myth And The God-Given Order

By JUDE DOUGHERTY “The Myth of Scientific Objectivity” is the title William A. Wilson gave to an insightful article recently published in Modern Age (November 2017). Wilson examines how unacknowledged beliefs often influence investigation, especially in the so-called social sciences. Scholars whose work focuses on colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, he believes, are especially…Continue Reading

AWOL Conservatives Desert The Culture Wars

By JACK KENNY While fiscal conservatives are still reeling from the latest spending spree sanctioned by another congressional budget-be-damned continuing “irresolution,” social conservatives may be suffering a similar sense of betrayal over a recent decision to ban an exhibit by MassResistance at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week in the Washington, D.C., suburb of…Continue Reading

Youth’s Predicament… The Longing For Love And Meaning

By GEORGE A. KENDALL Living in a nursing home has had an unexpected effect on my life — putting me in more contact with young people than I have been used to since I was young myself (about a hundred years ago). I am talking about the nurse’s aides who provide the day to day…Continue Reading

Notre Dame Professor… Criticizes University’s Provision Of “Simple Contraceptives”

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNA/EWTN News) — After the University of Notre Dame announced it would fund “simple contraceptives” in its insurance plan, one Notre Dame professor has criticized the move, calling it “a giant leap into immorality.” “Now the University [of Notre Dame] is to be sole funder and proprietor of a contraception giveaway,” wrote…Continue Reading

Fulton Sheen’s Final Resting Place Not Yet Final

NEW YORK (CNA/EWTN News) — Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s niece has said her uncle’s remains belong in Peoria, Ill., but a lawsuit seeking his internment there has been returned to a lower court for further consideration. “I just hate that this is dragging on and on and on,” Joan Sheen Cunningham said, according to The New…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. We have always been taught that there are eight Beatitudes, but when I read Matt. 5:3-12, it seems that there is a ninth beatitude, the one in verses 11-12. What do you think? — M.C., via e-mail. A. Verses 11-12 read: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you…Continue Reading

Our Hearts Are Like A Marketplace

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Third Sunday Of Lent (YR B) Readings: Exodus 20:1-17 1 Cor. 1:22-25 John 2:13-25 In the second reading St. Paul tells us Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom. We see in the Gospel reading that when our Lord overturned the moneychangers’ tables and drove out the dealers and their animals, the Jews immediately ask…Continue Reading

Cardinal Zen . . . “A Schismatic Church With The Pope’s Blessing Will Be Horrible!”

By DIANE MONTAGNA ROME (LifeSiteNews) — Hong Kong’s Joseph Cardinal Zen issued another strongly worded criticism February 13 of the Vatican’s proposed deal with China’s Communist regime, suggesting it would amount to a papal endorsement of schism. “There is no reason to fear a schismatic church created by the [Communist] Party. It will fade with the collapse of the regime,”…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… The “Inner Room” Of Lent

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “Go to your inner room and pray to your Father in private.” Another Lent is upon us. With the Mass of Ash Wednesday we hear once again the Lord’s call to grow into a deeper awareness and love of the Father who is always lovingly aware of us. The tasks of Lent in prayer, fasting,…Continue Reading

The Sacraments Instituted By Christ . . . Delving Into The Great Mystery Of The Eucharist

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 16 The Holy Eucharist is the greatest Mystery left to our faith by Our Divine Redeemer. Thus, to delve into it is something we do on our knees, as it were, spiritually speaking, since we are considering the Presence of a Divine Person under the appearances of bread and wine. We have His word…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Agnes Of Bohemia

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the thirteenth century, many alliances were solidified by a marriage between members of royalty from other nations. There were also quite a few royal persons who were known for their holiness by following Christianity, including St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Ludmila and St. Wenceslaus of Czechoslovakia. Related to all of these saints, Princess Agnes also…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Margaret Of Cortona

By CAROLE BRESLIN Great sinners make great saints. It takes a strong-willed child to become a saint. These are statements which would easily fit saints such as Mary Magdalene and St. Augustine. In the thirteenth century, a young lady free in spirit and strong in will led such a life that she was essentially driven from her home village, but…Continue Reading