Monday 26th June 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.

Hey Democrats: You Might Win More Elections If You’d Stop Killing Your Voters in the Womb

Democrats keep puzzling about why they are losing so many elections, but they do not seem to want to hear the answer that so many people are giving: abortion. Pro-life advocates — Republican, Democrat, independent and otherwise – have been…Continue Reading

Only Pope Francis can end the ‘apostasy’ his words have caused: Italian monsignor

ROME, Italy, June 21, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis could stem the “confusion and apostasy” now rampant in the Church among priests and bishops by “correcting” his own “ambiguous and erroneous words and acts,” said an Italian monsignor and former…Continue Reading

New Pontifical Academy of Life Appointee Supports Euthanasia by Starvation

An ethics study group for the Italian Jesuit magazine Aggiornamenti Sociali, headed by Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, a newly appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a theologian of the Northern Italian Theological Faculty of Milan, has joined Italian…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood wants to have a center in Reading High School; you can help stop it

ACTION: Planned Parenthood does not belong in our schools. Contact the Reading School Board at this link. Planned Parenthood is anything but helpful for teenagers, with all the ways the abortion giant has corrupted and confused them through explicit sexual advice,…Continue Reading

Fireworks at U.S. Bishops’ meeting as Francis-appointed Cardinals oppose permanent religious liberty committee

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, June 15, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted 132 to 53 today to approve the establishment of a permanent Standing Committee for Religious Liberty. Five bishops abstained from voting. The USCCB formed the Ad Hoc…Continue Reading

What can priests practically do to combat the porn epidemic?

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2017 / 02:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Online pornography is one of the fastest growing addictions in the United States, on par with cocaine and gambling. Once confined to the pages of a smuggled Playboy magazine, pornography…Continue Reading

Catholic community offers prayer, supplies for London fire victims

London, England, Jun 14, 2017 / 01:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Westminster offered their prayers and local parishes opened their doors to offer aid and supplies to those affected by a massive fire at an apartment complex…Continue Reading

Ohio tries again to ban abortions after heartbeat begins

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – On Tuesday, two Ohio representatives reintroduced legislation protecting babies with detectable heartbeats from abortion. Last year, Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed the measure when it came to his desk. The human heart begins…Continue Reading

Abortion clinic loses fight to silence LifeSite, but plans emergency appeal

TORONTO, June 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — LifeSiteNews won a victory in court today by successfully opposing a publication ban on the identities of abortionists targeting a pro-life activist. But the legal battle continues as the Crown in Ontario has signalled…Continue Reading

Incredible Story . . . Winner of ‘Romania’s Got Talent’ is a 14-year-old girl without arms and femurs

June 6, 2017 (Family News) — When she first showed up in front of the cameras at the live show, with her serene sweet face, she looked as a much smaller child. She is a short person because her legs…Continue Reading

Bring Back Christendom

By now you may have come across the controversy spun up over the weekend when Rep. Clay Higgins, the new congressman from Louisiana’s 3rd District, sent an outraged reaction to the London Bridge jihadist attacks over Facebook. The bulk of…Continue Reading

The Organization Every Parent Needs to Know About

Did you know there’s an organization of pediatricians and other child health professionals whose policies likely support your values as Catholic parents and grandparents? The American College of Pediatricians (not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics) actually…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 . . .

Why Cardinal Sarah terrifies his critics

A growing crowd wants Cardinal Robert Sarah’s head on a platter. Open a liberal Catholic periodical and you are likely to find a call for the dismissal of the Guinean cardinal who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship: “It’s past time for [Pope Francis] to replace Cardinal Sarah” (Maureen Fiedler, National Catholic Reporter); “New wine might be needed at the Congregation for Divine Worship” (Christopher Lamb, the Tablet); “Curia officials who refuse to get with…Continue Reading

Illinois Catholic bishop decrees no Holy Communion, funerals for same-sex couples

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Ill., is calling on priests there to deny Holy Communion and even funeral rites to people in same-sex unions unless they show “some signs of repentance” for their relationships before death. The decree by Bishop Thomas Paprocki also said that people “living publicly” in same-sex marriages may not receive the sacrament of confirmation or be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a process by w

Trump’s Nationalism Is Consistent With Catholic Social Doctrine

Leading American bishops have complained about the “harshness” of Trump’s campaign rhetoric and called for an end to deportation of aliens until the “broken” system can be fixed. Yet, despite this opposition from the Church’s hierarchy, Trump won 52% of the Catholic vote (to Hillary’s 45%), a historic margin for a Republican. How to explain this contradiction? Real simple. The laity get it better than the bishops. Trump’s nationalism is fully consistent with Catholic social…Continue Reading

No More Excuses, It’s Time to Defund Planned Parenthood

As the healthcare bill makes its way through whatever the Senate is doing with it, one provision is absolutely non-negotiable: The bill needs to defund the nation’s largest abortion giant, Planned Parenthood. They committed 328,548 abortions last year, which is equal to one of every three abortions in the country. Just because the Hyde Amendment states that taxpayer monies cannot be used to directly fund abortion, it does not prohibit tax dollars from paying for…Continue Reading

Four Cardinals release letter asking to meet Pope about ‘confusion and disorientation’ in Church

fourcards

ROME, June 19, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Four Cardinals have publicly released their letter to the Pope from April 25, 2017 unsuccessfully asking him for a private audience to discuss “confusion and disorientation” within the Church after the publication of the Pope’s April 2016 Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. In the letter Cardinals lament the great division in the Church on basic morality as a result of the pope’s exhortation. “And so it is happening — how painful…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Our Lady Of Fatima: The May Apparition

By FR. SEAN CONNOLLY (Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles on the one hundredth anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima. Fr. Connolly is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.) + + + 1917 was a tumultuous year that would forever change the face of the world. The…Continue Reading

Atheist Christian Haters Win In Court

NEW YORK — Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented June 20 on a First Amendment case that dealt a blow to religious liberty. The full text follows: + + + For 75 years, Bayview Park, in a Pensacola, Fla., neighborhood, has been home to a large cross. The 1941 wooden cross, erected by a New…Continue Reading

A Long History Of Leftist Hatred

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., who aspired to end his life as a mass murderer of Republican congressmen, was a Donald Trump hater and a Bernie Sanders backer. Like many before him, Hodgkinson was a malevolent man of the hating and hard left. His planned atrocity failed because two Capitol…Continue Reading

An Act Against Secular Leftism’s Top Dogma: Climate Change

By SHAUN KENNEY (Editor’s Note: Shaun Kenney is a former executive director of American Life League, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, and an op-ed writer and ghostwriter for various publications and personalities in Washington, D.C.) + + + Finally, President Trump withdrew the United States of America from the Paris…Continue Reading

“Most Courageous” Parish Priest . . . Plans To Start Retired Life As “Hermit Monk” In Maui

By DEXTER DUGGAN A veteran clergyman described by an admirer as “the most courageous priest in our San Diego Diocese” warned at his pre-retirement party that although the priority of Christianity is saving souls, he was hearing more from prelates concerned about earthly matters than religious ones. Fr. Richard Perozich, sometimes involved in news events…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Our Savior And Redeemer… The Ascension And Pentecost

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Those people who believe in the Lutheran myth of “sola Scriptura” have a big problem to solve. They cannot explain the fact that Jesus spent forty days with His apostles, teaching them, reminding them of what He had taught them before, and preparing them for their mission, but there is absolutely nothing written in the…Continue Reading

Acts Of The Penitent — Contrition

By DON FIER As we briefly surveyed the history of the sacrament of Penance last week, we saw that significant changes in its outward form took place over the course of the centuries. In her first years, the Church experienced remarkable growth despite facing great persecution — it was a time of many martyrs. “The early Christians,” explains Dr. Alan…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I have heard it said that homosexual behavior is one of the sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance. Is that true and, if so, what are the others? — T.S., Arizona. A. In Holy Scripture there are four sins in this category, so called because in each case the victims of these sins cried out to the…Continue Reading

Whoever Receives You Receives Me

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Thirteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a Romans 6:3-4, 8-12 Matt. 10:37-42 In the readings today we hear about our own dignity as Christian persons and also about the way we, as Christian people, are to treat others. We look first at the point of our own dignity. In the second…Continue Reading

The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum . . . The Wanderer Interviews Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ

By CHRISTOPHER MANION (Editor’s Note: The Wanderer first published this article on Summorum Pontificum on July 19, 2007, and we are reprinting it here in view of the upcoming ten-year anniversary of Pope Benedict’s landmark motu proprio, which allowed priests to say the Traditional Rite of the Mass without asking for permission. (This interview appeared in two parts; we will…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Gennaro Maria Sarnelli

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the history of the Church saints have commonly lived at the same time and worked together for the Kingdom of God. Pope St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John of Avila (of the Cross) and St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori and Blessed Gennaro Maria Sarnelli. Blessed Gennaro was…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. John Francis Regis

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the late 16th century, Calvinism began to make significant advances in the Catholic population of France. More and more Catholics left the faith, or simply stopped going to Mass and practicing their faith. Then God sent a man to the French who preached tirelessly and then spent hours in the confessional, helping the penitents return to…Continue Reading