Thursday 23rd March 2017

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.

Raymond Desouza . . . Shield of Faith PART 4

Chris Manion . . . European Union's Demographic Whimper; Vatican Hosts The Enemy; Can Rogue Federal Judiciary Be Controlled?

 

Chaput: Everyone who’s a legal citizen should come pray for immigrants

Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 18, 2017 / 05:32 am (CNA).- As fears of deportation threaten to keep many immigrants home from a prayer service on Sunday, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is calling on citizens and legal residents to attend the…Continue Reading

Rabbi says Pope’s homilies could threaten Catholic-Jewish relations

March 13, 2017 An Italian rabbi has raised a protest against the topic of a conference to be held by the Italian Bibilical Association: “Israel, people of a jealous God. Consistencies and ambiguities of an elitist religion.” Rabbi Giuseppe Laras…Continue Reading

This man drives for Uber to spread the pro-life message

TROY, Ohio, March 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – As an abortion abolitionist, Bryan Kemper wears many different hats – including sharing the pro-life message while driving for Uber. “I am in an area where I drive a lot of college students…Continue Reading

The secret obsession that will destroy modern feminism

March 8, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – What does it mean to be a woman? Planned Parenthood and the modern-day feminist movement are profoundly confused about this. Today is International Women’s Day. Planned Parenthood and its allies would have people believe that…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood refuses Trump offer to give up abortions and keep funding

March 7, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood has declined an offer from President Trump to keep – and possibly increase – its federal funding in exchange for ceasing to commit abortions. The proposal was an “impossibility” for Planned Parenthood officials,…Continue Reading

Pope’s Address to Roman Clergy (Part I)

The Holy Father’s Meditation The Progress of Faith in the Life of a Priest “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). This question arose spontaneously in the disciples when the Lord was speaking to them of mercy and said that we…Continue Reading

Southern MN Catholic diocese files bankruptcy over abuse claims

MINNEAPOLIS — The Catholic Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday, the 14th U.S.  Catholic diocese nationwide and third in Minnesota to do so in the face of mounting claims of sexual abuse by clergy. The…Continue Reading

Trump hit with ultimatum on global ‘atrocity’

An organization representing the sentiments of more than a quarter-million Americans is asking the nation’s new U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, to urge the global body to launch a campaign to protect Christians and other Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/03/trump-insider-hit-with-plea-to-stop-genocide-of-christians/#5TeczOEyZqlCUFew.99

Cardinal Cupich: No Immigration Agents In Catholic Churches Without Warrant

CHICAGO — Archbishop Blase Cupich told Chicago’s Catholic priests Tuesday not to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on to church property without a warrant. In a letter to the archdiocese’s priests, Cupich said the Archdiocese of Chicago “stands in…Continue Reading

Scholas Occurrentes: Another Vatican-Soros Connection?

After our recent report about Pope Francis’ praise of a Soros-funded left-wing organization called PICO — People Improving Communities through Organizing — we have been informed by some Spanish-speaking sources about a connection between Pope Francis’ papal foundation Scholas Occurrentes…Continue Reading

Ohio bishops support bill protecting clergy’s religious liberty in same-sex ‘marriage’

COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 28, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — In a rare move of legislative activism, all of Ohio’s Roman Catholic bishops officially expressed support for the state’s proposed Pastor Protection Act (HB-36). The Catholic Conference of Ohio (CCO) testified last week…Continue Reading

Leaders call for Catholic sanctuary movement to blunt deportation crackdown

MODESTO, Calif. (CNS) — The push for sanctuary was on a lot of minds at the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements. Concerns about President Donald Trump’s intention to deport millions of unauthorized immigrants rose throughout the Feb. 16-19…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

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “An Introduction To The Problem Of Euthanasia”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, a 150-page treatise on all of the aspects of euthanasia, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have covered the definitions of the varieties of…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Cardinal Cupich tells national TV audience: Church ‘stands with’ immigrants

Town Hall meetings are out of fashion for certain Republican congressmen who have spent the start of 2017 dodging Democratic Party activists. But Cardinal Blase Cupich got an altogether warmer reception when he used a nationally broadcast town hall this weekend to tell recent immigrants, “the church stands with you.”

Gorsuch defends Hobby Lobby, religious freedom at confirmation hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Sen. Orin Hatch, R-UT, gave Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch the chance to explain how an important religious freedom law is applied today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Regarding whether the Obama administration’s birth control mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), Gorsuch ruled it “failed to meet RFRA’s standard,” Hatch recalled. While on the Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch sided with the majority in Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius. The…Continue Reading

House bill’s ‘life protections’ said laudable, other aspects ‘troubling’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The inclusion of “critical life protections” in the House health care bill is laudable, but other provisions, including those related to Medicaid and tax credits, are “troubling” and “must be addressed” before the measure is passed, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee. Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, who is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, sent a letter March 17 to…Continue Reading

Canon lawyers and theologians to hold conference on ‘deposing the pope’

PARIS, March 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Canon lawyers, theologians, and scholars will be meeting in Paris in two weeks to discuss a topic that has never been the focus of a Catholic conference before: How to depose a heretical pope. Titled Deposing the Pope: Theological Premises, Canonical Models, Constitutional Challenge, the conference seeks to explore the mechanisms that are built into the Catholic Church for dealing with a pope who openly teaches falsehood and even…Continue Reading

‘To hell with accompaniment’: Catholic prof points to damage Pope Francis is causing the Church

March 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — American Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor is famous for answering a pronouncement by leftist author Mary McCarthy that the Eucharist is a “symbol” by exclaiming, albeit in a shaky voice: “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it!” Relating this encounter in a letter, O’Connor added: “That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101… The Early History Of The Eugenics Movement

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of more than a thousand pro-eugenics quotes, including those by Margaret Sanger, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + “The eugenic movement, therefore, cannot be a short campaign like many political…Continue Reading

Restoring The Sacred The High Drama Of Palm Sunday

By JAMES MONTI As we advance through the later days of Lent, it is certainly not too soon to begin turning our attention to the days for which we are preparing, beginning with Palm Sunday, the great portal to Holy Week. Palm Sunday is one of the solemnities of highest drama in the liturgical year.…Continue Reading

The Pelosi Principle

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: This column was released March 15, one day before the House Budget Committee narrowly approved the Republican health-care bill.) + + + Suppose the federal government confiscated 90 percent of the income of every private sector worker who earned more than the poverty level. Then suppose the government used…Continue Reading

Jacques Maritain . . . On The Person Of The Church And Her Personnel

By JUDE DOUGHERTY At a time of when strong ecclesiastical leadership is warranted as the West drifts further from its historical anchorage, the voice of Church seems to be muted or confused. With reason, Pope Francis has been accused of deliberate ambiguity, given that he has not responded to repeated calls for clarification of his…Continue Reading

Should Some People In Irregular Unions Receive Communion?

By JOHN YOUNG A Catholic couple living in an adulterous relationship are not necessarily subjectively in a state of mortal sin. Objectively their state of life is mortally sinful, but there is such great ignorance today about marriage and sexual relationships that we can’t presume that these people are subjectively guilty of mortal sin, and…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Die To Sin And Live In Righteousness

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fifth Sunday Of Lent (YR A) Readings: Ezek. 37:12-14 Romans 8:8-11 John 11:1-45 As we draw near to the end of Lent, there is more that is removed from our senses when we come to Mass. The statues are covered, the music is supposed to be more solemn, the Mass itself is more simplified; everything is…Continue Reading

Sermon XXXIX: On Lent I

By POPE ST. LEO I (AD 390-461) (Editor’s Note: This sermon was delivered during the Lenten fast by Pope Leo the Great, whose date of birth is cited as AD 400 as well as AD 390. This is a translation of a sermon from Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series: volume XII, in the public domain. We have generally…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Contraception Dooms Secularism While Religion Grows

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Is the Trump victory, with the accompanying new wave of sexual morality and respect for life, the first hint of a societal sea change born, ironically, of contraception? It turns out that religious people have more babies and thus pass on the faith while secularists are self-obsolescing. It’s “news” that seculars are dying out because…Continue Reading

What Is Faith?… Original Sin And Answering More Objections

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 29 In this article we continue providing replies to objections against the Bible narrative about the fall of our first parents. Fourth objection: If the serpent that tempted Eve was not a real serpent but an evil spirit disguised as a serpent, why did God punish the whole serpent tribe by cursing them from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist: Sacramental Sacrifice

By DON FIER Part 3 The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as we saw last week, is a true sacrifice in the fullest sense of the word “because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], n. 1366). The perfect sacrifice of Christ on Calvary becomes present and actual each time the Holy…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Toribio Alfonso De Mogrovejo

By CAROLE BRESLIN Those who wish to attack the Catholic Church usually bring up two “weapons”: the Crusades and the Inquisition, which started in the Middle Ages. The Spanish Inquisition had the most just procedures and did not exile the Jewish people the way England (in 1290) and France (in 1306) did. In the late 16th century, King Philip II…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. José Gabriel Del Rosario Brochero

By CAROLE BRESLIN At the tip of the South American continent lies one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with its towering Andes Mountains, lush valleys, beautiful plateaus, and colorful glaciers. (Los Glaciares National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Andes Mountains.) Argentina, the eighth largest country in the world, established its nationhood in the…Continue Reading