Catholicism’s Vital Forces: Finally Seeing Reality!

On May 5, La Croix published a survey on the subject of “Why Catholic families have difficulty passing on their religion,” pointing out that in France 91% of Muslims, 84% of Jews and only 67% of Catholics retain their religion from one generation to the next. Admittedly, the minority phenomenon no doubt goes a long way to explaining the high rate of transmission in Muslim and Jewish families, whereas disaffection is more likely to affect a “majority” religion in a socio-political context where Christianity is marginalized.

That said, this “majority” status of Christians is now outdated, with only 25% of 18-59 year-olds declaring themselves to be Catholic, compared with 43% twelve years earlier. The situation is therefore worrying. La Croix notes, however, that some of the faithful pass on the faith far better than others:

“These observant and rather conservative Catholic families successfully steer their spiritual reproduction, carefully selecting the religious socialization of their children (Catholic schools, youth movements, friendship circles).”

And the fact that Catholicism is becoming a minority religion accentuates this phenomenon, notes Yann Raison du Cleuziou, interviewed in the La Croix article:

“In a minority landscape, a religion tends to restructure itself in order not to disappear. This reconfiguration leads to an intensification of the “familiar” around distinctive practices.”

Drawing Conclusions

What’s extraordinary is the incredible contrast between the fairly unanimous agreement on the observation, relayed even by La Croix, a newspaper hardly known for its “conservative” positions, and the total absence of conclusions drawn from this observation! What more will it take for our Catholic elites to understand that what attracts and remains fruitful in the Church is in no way akin to the hackneyed assumptions of progressivism?

These assumptions—ordinations of married men and women, blessing of same-sex couples, acceptance of contraception, softening of Christian morality, etc.—have solved nothing wherever they have been used. Wherever they have been implemented (as in Protestantism), they have solved nothing, if not simply worsened the situation. So why do these demands occupy such a disproportionate place in the concerns of the media and religious bodies? Why do we remain with an overly horizontal vision of the Church, where grace no longer seems to count, where the priest is desacralized to ward off any form of “clericalism?” And why is it that those who, on the contrary, advocate a return to a certain verticality by placing the Eucharist, properly celebrated, at the center of Christian life, the regular practice of confession, the promotion of adoration and popular piety, are given too little encouragement and support by the authorities, when they are not simply persecuted?

“Progressive” Christians are our brothers and sisters, and have the right to express their positions—which should nevertheless be circumscribed by the Magisterium. But is it normal, when they are a minority and far from representing the Church’s vital forces, for there to be such a gap between the power they still wield and the reality of the grassroots of French Catholicism, which is poorly represented at all levels and sometimes even suspected of being too conservative?

Is Vatican II Really Under Threat?

In an interview with the Jesuits of Hungary published on May 9, Pope Francis expressed his concern: “the resistance [to the Vatican II Council] is terrible;” “there is an incredible restorationism;” the fruit of a “nostalgic illness;” “the danger today is the return to the past, the reaction against modernity.” This is how he justifies his motu proprio Traditiones custodes (2021).

Apart from the Society of St. Pius X, whose canonical position means it is not affected by this motu proprio, and a few easily identifiable traditionalist figures, it’s hard to understand who the Pope is talking about! And yet, the Pope’s remarks are unusually violent, targeting a small part of his flock—he castigates his own sons, without ever naming them precisely or demonstrating the validity of his accusations, as if “modernity” were in itself unassailable. He discredits an entire movement which is not homogeneous, and most of whom no more question Vatican II (which they have not read) than ordinary Catholics.

In the present context of the “collapse” of Catholicism (G. Cuchet), is the priority really to punish indiscriminately the faithful who don’t recognize themselves in the description given of them? And thus marginalize a part of the Church that is bearing much fruit, fervently practicing a beautiful liturgy, transmitting the faith better than elsewhere, inspiring vocations? The “tradiyionalists” are not the only ones to have stood firm on these issues—they are part of the much broader conservative orbit evoked by the La Croix survey. Our poor European Church is already far too fragmented, so why exhaust ourselves in vain divisions instead of trying to unite all its vital forces?

Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind courtesy we are publishing this article.

Featured: Wrisberg epitaph, central panel: Distribution of the divine graces by means of the church and the sacraments, Hildesheim Cathedral, by Johannes Hopffe; painted in 1585.

The Child: Sign of Our Contradictions

The child has become the symbol of the deep contradictions of our modern societies. On the one hand, children are almost idolized; they are pampered like never before; they are spoiled and overprotected. We live in an era of the “child king” who must be able to do almost anything he wants, any constraint or discipline being rejected as outdated: the very principle of authority, and of parental authority in particular, is looked upon with an evil eye, as a vestige of obscure times fortunately over.

The modern child no longer needs teachers—he builds himself. The school’s function is no longer to transmit knowledge, but to accompany the toddler’s “freedom” to develop his self and to acquire by himself the knowledge he needs. Even in politics, the voice of youth is sacralized; it is only necessary to see how the world has bowed in admiration before the fierce injunctions of a 15-year-old girl castigating the whole world, saying good and evil as if she were wisdom incarnate! Today, in any field, being young is an asset, much more than the experience of age.

Ignorance of the Child’s Good

On the other hand, the child does not exist; he has been totally “invisibilized,” becoming the taboo of a society where the adult must also be able to do whatever he wishes, his will taking precedence over the good of the child. Because the fundamental modern principle is selfishness—advertising repeats it to us endlessly—and the adult still has the power of decision to the detriment of his offspring, thus sacrificed to the desiderata of the adults.

Thus, the child is subjected to the whims of men and women who can decide to eliminate it before it is born, or to “manufacture” it by genetic manipulation, and even to rent the services of a “surrogate mother.” There is very little concern for the interests of the child that is cherished and nurtured.

In the case of abortion, one is convinced that what is wriggling in the mother’s womb is only a vulgar mass of cells that one has no scruples to destroy and evacuate, because it cannot be a little man, even when, In the IMG (medical termination of pregnancy), abortion attacks a full-term baby, a terrible and yet totally legal murder which hardly moves the consciences of our beautiful souls, adepts of the absurd slogan “My body belongs to me!”

In the case of genetic manipulation, PMA or GPA, when it is not a question of a stable couple (a single person or two of the same sex), we force ourselves to believe that a child has no need of a father and a mother and that it is just as well to have two fathers, two mothers or only one parent, man or woman, because nothing should hinder the modern will to follow one’s desires, the “right to the child” having ousted the “right of the child.”

The incoherence reaches its paroxysm when the “precautionary principle” is preached to us, which is blindly applied to certain sensitive subjects, such as the climate and which disappears completely from the horizon when it is a question of the child who hinders the good pleasure of the adults. While it is impossible to prove, and therefore to be certain, that the aborted embryo is not a human being or that producing children in test tubes without a father or a mother is not seriously harmful, we blithely persist in superbly ignoring these uncertainties, even though they should oblige any honest mind to renounce such practices precisely because of the well-understood “precautionary principle.”

The Demographic Challenge

Two other serious subjects in the news confirm our point: immigration and pensions, whose clumsy and yet empty reform by Mr. Macron has unleashed an opposition that goes far beyond the framework of this badly made law. In these two cases, no political solution can be viable without a strong recovery of our birth rate. In other words, encouraging the French to have more children is the indispensable prerequisite for considering the assimilation of immigrants (while reducing their numbers) and guaranteeing the sustainability of a pay-as-you-go pension system. However, this is a taboo subject that very few dare to tackle in the political and managerial class. It is all the more criminal that France, like Europe—whose demography is catastrophic (the birth rate in the EU is 1.5, while the renewal of generations is only guaranteed beyond 2.1)—is slowly dying out, with all that this means in terms of aging populations and loss of dynamism and creativity.

If we add to this a certain ecological ideology which sees man as a predator to be fought and which therefore advocates not procreating any more, we have a complete picture of our inconsistencies which are hurling us straight into the wall.

It is nevertheless curious that an era claims to love children so much and yet is determined not to have any more or to kill those who could be born!

Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind courtesy we are publishing this article.

Featured: Mother with Child, by Léon Perrault; painted in 1894.

Why are There so Few Christians in the West?

Christianity has become a minority religion in Europe, the place of its influence: how did this come about and what is the future of Christians in the West? Why are there so few Christians in the West?

” For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things” (Phil 3:18-19). Do these lines of St. Paul, written two thousand years ago, not apply to our present world? Let us add this question asked by Christ: ” But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). These words challenge us, when the question of God seems to be of little interest to Westerners, when they are in the minority in believing in God and even less in practicing what the religion of their fathers prescribes for them, even though no one here can ignore the existence of Christianity, even though many people are unaware of what it actually is and what it teaches.

Many books have been written on the reasons for the de-Christianization of the West, its secularization and the fall in the number of practicing Catholics. External and internal causes are usually put forward. Among the former, we can largely mention the long movement of emancipation of man from his traditional dependencies (God, nature, culture), with the nominalist revolution and the affirmation of sovereign reason from the Renaissance onwards; thus, without denying faith at first, God was progressively put aside. At the personal level on the one hand, the rise of individualism, to the detriment of holism, caused a dissociation between spiritual life, belonging to the private sphere, and public life. [In politics, holism refers to a society where the group, the whole, predominates over the individual, the part.]

At the political level, on the other hand, a clear separation between the temporal and spiritual orders was established, giving total primacy to the former. With the French Revolution and the disappearance of “Christendom,” the movement accelerated and sometimes took on a strong anti-Christian tone, as in France with the secular laws that led to the 1905 separation. At that moment, God’s sovereignty over the city was largely destroyed—there yet remained to destroy the sovereignty of the natural moral law and the heritage of culture so that the will of man would no longer have any obstacle. We are there today, gender theory and Wokism being the final stages of the deconstruction of the classical anthropology shaped by Christianity.

On the side of internal causes, by oversimplifying, two types of explanations clash. The “progressives,” who had hoped that the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) would mark a clean break with the past, believe that the decline of Catholicism is due to the Church’s still reactionary positions, positions that are not understood by our contemporaries; they therefore advocate an opening to the world and its demands, especially moral ones (contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, abolition of celibacy for priests and desacralization of the office, ordination of women, etc.). Some “traditionalists” defend the exact opposite point of view: Vatican II caused a rupture in the Church’s Magisterium and in its liturgy, a rupture caused by a rejection of the past and an excessive openness to the world, which manifested itself in a generalized stampede that explains the sharp drop in religious practice and vocations; the remedy would be a “forgetting” of Vatican II and a certain return to the pre-conciliar Church. Between these two somewhat caricatural extremes, there are all kinds of nuances, including those who consider internal causes to be negligible.

External justifications have certainly played a major role in the decline of Christianity in Europe. As for the internal causes, the “progressive” explanations are far from reality. This does not validate the opposite thesis, which holds Vatican II responsible for the Church’s ills: rather than seeing in the Council a “break” with the past, we believe with Benedict XVI that it marked a necessary “renewal in continuity.” The post-conciliar drifts, which are real, have undoubtedly had an influence on the crisis in the Church, but they are not sufficient to understand its extent, since the other Christian confessions have undergone an equally rapid decline without a council or liturgical reform. My purpose here, however, is not to discuss the correctness or otherwise of these statements, but to suggest another key to understanding the crisis; one that is by no means contradictory, but on the contrary complementary to the explanations that have just been briefly mentioned.

“Real” Christians Always in the Minority?

The question is, why has the West become the only place in the world where religion has been evicted from the public sphere, where the question of God has been evacuated from official bodies, where the number of practicing Catholics is around 1 to 2%, whereas once upon a time in Europe there was a “Christendom” where 95% of the population was baptized? The idea to be discussed is the following: in any era, have not the people who really, deeply and freely live the Christian faith always formed a small minority, even in a system of Christianity? In other words, don’t most of them follow the external requirements of the dominant religion, under social pressure or habit? This is what Pierre Manent seems to think in his latest book on Pascal: “For those who look at things coldly, the most significant fact would not be the authority acquired by Christianity, but, on the contrary, the theoretical or practical atheism of the immense majority of human beings, including Christians.” If this intuition is correct, this does not mean that Christianity is reserved for an “elite” as if it were a gnosis; on the contrary, and history proves it, it is addressed, as the Gospel affirms, to those who recognize themselves as “little” and not to those who claim to be “wise” or “intelligent” (cf. Mt 11:25 and Lk 10:21).

In the course of history, a religion has only imposed itself durably on peoples through political support, exerting a certain social pressure, within the framework of holistic societies where the group took precedence over the individual. Globally, Christianity does not escape this pattern. Its vocation, as Christ has shown us, is to spread, not by force of arms, but by preaching, without violating consciences, and even more by witnessing to the point of martyrdom. This “poor” way of operating leads to free and profound conversions, but always in a minority. Even the passage of God made Man on earth did not bring about massive adhesions: although God became incarnate in Jesus, most of His contemporaries did not embrace His teaching. Some theologians have seen in the episode of the ten lepers healed by Christ, only one of whom returned to thank Him (cf. Lk 17:11-19) the image of faith, which is shared by only a small percentage of men (10% here). When Constantine promulgated the Edict of Tolerance of Milan (313), Christians represented 5% of the population of the Empire; a rate that varied, however, according to the territory: Rome, the most Christianized city in Italy, had about 10% of Christians; they were around 20% in Egypt, 10 to 20% in Africa and 30% in Asia Minor. And whenever evangelization has been carried out in this spirit, as in Asia from the 16th century onwards, i.e., without any political support, the fruits have been magnificent, revealing an admirable faith and great courage among the converts—but they have always represented only a small part of the population.

It could be rightly argued that in these last cases of evangelization, Christians remained a minority because of the hostility of the political authorities towards the Church, which often went so far as to carry out terrible persecutions to try to eradicate it.

In short, Christianity only began to gather large sections of the population when politics did not threaten it, and even more when it supported it. After the Edict of Milan, which instituted a kind of religious freedom, Christianity spread, including in the upper echelons of the state. A “neutral” political power in religious matters having never really existed, the Empire, under Theodosius, ended up making the religion that had become dominant the state religion (edict of Thessalonica in 380). Thus, Christianity inaugurated a new status, that of the Christian State, where temporal power and spiritual power were both linked and yet distinct, in a balance of power that would continue to vary over the centuries.


Thus was established in Europe “Christendom;” history forged two different systems in the East and in the West. Byzantium, in the East, heir to the Roman Empire, after the fall of Rome, perpetuated a “caesaropapist” regime characterized by a Church largely subject to the emperor. In the West, the barbarian invasions destroyed the Empire and, with it, the central political power, opening the way to feudalism: in the chaos that settled in, the Church was the only bulwark, the only entity safeguarding knowledge and capable of transmitting it. Unlike in the East, the spiritual was more or less equal to the temporal. This led to a system in which each of the two powers retained its independence, the Church having to resist for a long time the attempt to take control of politics, hence the endless quarrels that ran through Western Christendom. In both cases, however, the Christian faith was defended by princes who were themselves Christians; in these holistic societies, the unity of religion was an essential factor of the temporal common good, which is why the attack on this unity was a common law offence that the political authority could repress, in the same way as offences such as theft – it is important to remember this when referring to an institution such as the Inquisition, in order to avoid any anachronism.

In “Christendom,” Christianity was the state religion—which does not mean that it was a “theocracy”—and the vast majority of the people could only be Christians, since social pressure was in that direction and non-Christians had an inferior status that did not allow them to exercise political responsibilities within the city. Until quite recently, all civilizations functioned more or less in this way, in a rather coercive manner, ignoring individual freedom and the dignity of the person. This is particularly true of Islam, which, unlike Christianity, has made little progress in these respects. [Theocracy in the sense of political authority exercised by the religious. Cardinal Charles Journet has shown that even a bull like Unam sanctam (1302) by Boniface VIII did not fit into this framework].

There is indeed an essential difference between Christianity and Islam which partly explains the evolution of Christian societies and the immobility of Muslim societies: Christianity is a religion of faith whereas Islam is a religion of law (Cf. Rémi Brague, The Law of God). In other words, adherence to Christianity is manifested by a personal act of faith that is supposed to be free and enlightened, i.e., by a gesture that deeply engages the whole person, including his or her conscience. Whereas it is sufficient to observe the law of Islam in its letter in order to be a Muslim. Thus, the Christian faith requires a much stronger commitment than obedience to an external law—even if the latter can be demanding, as during Ramadan. And this explains two essential things: why the concept of individual freedom, with its accompanying notion of personal dignity, could only emerge in Christian lands; and why, as soon as the social and political pressure imposing the state religion was relaxed, the religious practice of Christianity dropped sharply.

In other words, the aspiration to freedom, not only legitimate in itself, but also the undoubted fruit of authentic Christianity, has exploded the holistic societies of the Ancien Régime, which maintained religious unity through a certain social pressure incompatible with the new freedoms. Religious pluralism became inescapable. These political transformations, which owe much to Christianity and whose starting principle was sound, occurred in a context of often anti-Christian governments that had a false conception of freedom. If the desire for freedom is a spontaneous and legitimate impulse, it must be limited, especially by the natural moral law, and be at the service of the temporal common good. When this desire is no longer limited and the human will is left to its own devices, drifts are inevitable, as we see only too well today.

What Future?

This too brief historical detour provides some keys to understand the considerable decline of the Christian faith in the West and the low level of religious practice. Certainly, one can regret the positive aspects of Christianity, beautiful pages of our history having been written during this long period. But, in spite of the obvious drifts today, no one would want to return to a holistic society imposing a religious unity that would be largely artificial, and to renounce the positive contributions of modernity in terms of freedom, justice, and the functioning of a state of law. Because Christianity is a religion of faith, Christendom collapsed because it had become an “empty shell”: when the governing elite casually frees itself from common morality without being reprimanded by the high clergy (only two of the last Bourbons did not multiply their mistresses in the eyes of everyone), it is the sign of a regime that is no longer Christian in name only. [Perhaps Christianity would have endured if Christianity had been a religion of the law?]

History, however, shows that men live their faith better when politics and religion work together. Today, in Europe, the temporal and the spiritual are separated and Western regimes proclaim themselves “neutral” with regard to all beliefs, relegating Christianity, which has shaped our civilization, to the same level as other religions. In fact, this neutrality is largely illusory and every regime is driven by a philosophy that secretes its own morality. We have thus reached a situation where Christian morality is rejected in favor of a mortifying relativism that nevertheless has its own ethics and dogmas, which are very rigid, and which can be summed up in human rights and the “refusal of all discrimination.” The notions of good and common good have disappeared, our democracies being reduced to a procedural system that is supposed to guarantee to each one the faculty to pursue his own ends.

Such a system—without objective limits—inevitably leads the majority, or more precisely the active and organized minorities, to impose their ideology on all. In this unstable context, Christians are not oppressed; they benefit like everyone else from a real religious freedom. [Clauses of conscience are nevertheless violated.] But if they want to live their faith deeply, they are confronted with continuous daily worries, especially for the education of their children—they have to juggle constantly to get around the multiple disorders generated by this disruption of morals, to be more often than not against the current and vigilant to resist all sorts of poisons.

Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind courtesy we are publishing this article.

Featured: Ruin of a Church, by Rudolf von Alt; painted in 1849.

Is There a “True Islam?”

In his book, Sur l’Islam [On Islam], Rémi Brague gently mocks Pope Francis’ 2013 statement that “true Islam and a proper interpretation of the Koran are opposed to all violence.” “True Islam?” In this fascinating book tinged with caustic humor, striking by its erudition and its clarity, Rémi Brague puts things in their right place: by seeking to apprehend Islam under its different facets, without any positive or negative a priori, he shows that there is no “true Islam” and that it cannot exist because it does not recognize an authoritative magisterium, as it is the case in the Catholic Church. The Islamic terrorist who kills “unbelievers” can claim to be a “true Islam” just as much as the Sufi who is immersed in his meditations.

In order to understand what Islam is, therefore, what the Islamic vision of God and the world is, Brague explores its “fundamentals,” and in particular the Koran, which, since the Mu’tazilite crisis of the ninth century, has been fixed as the uncreated word of God dictated to Muhammad. This essential aspect explains an important part of the Muslim reality. The Koran contains a number of legal provisions, often extremely precise and dealing with daily life in some of its smallest details, making Islam more than a simple religion, “a legislation,” writes Brague—a “religion of the Law.” “In this way,” he continues, “when Islam, as a religion, enters Europe, it does not do so only as a religion…. It enters as a civilization that forms an organic whole and proposes well-defined rules of life.”

In Islam, reason can in no way be the source of the obligation of law, the law comes directly from God, via the Koran itself, the uncreated word of God. And when contradictions arise, they are resolved by the theory of “abrogation” which gives primacy to the most recent Koranic verse, which is always more severe than the previous one—thereby relativizing the more tolerant passages towards Jews and Christians that are usually put forward.

Thus, since there is only God’s law, the concept of natural law is meaningless and there can be, in theory, no common rules for Muslims and “unbelievers.” The consequences of this approach to law, a discipline that dominates all others in Islam, are important, notably through its repercussions on morality and the relativization of principles that we consider universal: what God wants is good; therefore what the Koran requires can only be good, including what Muhammad did, who is the “beautiful example” that God recommends to follow (Koran XXXIII, 21). Thus, murdering, torturing, conquering by the sword, lying (taqiyya), multiplying wives (including very young ones, since Muhammad consummated his marriage with Aisha when she was only 9 years old)—none of these actions are bad since they were done by the “Prophet”. Of course, no Muslim is obliged to do the same, but at least he can do so without betraying his religion.

Islam and Europe

Another theme on which Brague sets the record straight: the contribution of Islamic civilization (in which Christians, Jews, Sabians and Zoroastrians played a significant role) to Europe in the Middle Ages. Admittedly, the Arab sciences, at that time, were more developed in the Islamic than Christian sphere, but, tempers Brague, “Islam as a religion did not bring much to Europe, and only did so late,” while Western Christianity never completely ceased intellectual exchange with Byzantium, which enabled contact with Greek culture to be maintained, and which Islam in no way sought to assimilate.

For about five centuries, Islam, as it were, interrupted its cultural development and gradually allowed itself to be overtaken and dominated by Europe, causing intense humiliation among many Muslims—this is what Brague calls the “ankylosis” of Islam. Today, if it were not for the manna of oil, the Muslim countries, scientifically and militarily weak, would have no bearing at the international level. Their asset is nevertheless their strong demography, coupled with massive immigration to Europe, which has allowed the installation of vast Muslim communities, financed by the money of black gold. This is another, more patient but undoubtedly more effective way to win and thus take revenge on the past. When will we realize it?

Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind courtesy we are publishing this article.

In the Footsteps of Pascal

Pierre Manent has published a new book, entitled Pascal et la proposition chrétienne (Pascal and the Christian Proposition). It is a rich and dense work which seems to us to be of the utmost importance. It is nevertheless a demanding work, and I fear that many of our contemporaries will not be able to penetrate it, so much has Christianity in particular and the question of God in general have become foreign to their preoccupations and even to their culture.

It is on this theme that Pierre Manent’s reflection opens. The doubt that assails Europeans, the self-hatred that they often manifest, the forgetfulness and even the rejection of their history, stem from the fact that “Europeans do not know what to think or what to do with Christianity. They have lost the intelligence and the use of it. They no longer want to hear about it” (p. 7). We no longer perceive the new radicality of Christianity, nor do we measure the change brought about, after the Reformation and the Wars of Religion, by the progressive implementation of the “sovereign State” which, in the name of a supposed philosophical and religious “neutrality,” has ended up monopolizing all authority, including the spiritual authority of “values”—”There is no law above that of the Republic”—so much so that the power of the Sovereign State has become limitless.

A Religion Like No Other

Now, it was in the middle of the 17th century that the sovereign State was being fashioned, and it is in this unprecedented context that Pascal, in an unfortunately fragmentary and unfinished way, reflected afresh on the “Christian proposition,” to use Pierre Manent’s expression, namely that of the Christian faith, of the very possibility of the Christian faith. Because of this reflection, Pascal is particularly adapted to our time, a precious guide, but a guide difficult to follow without a sure master to lead us. This is what Pierre Manent does in a pedagogical and luminous way, by developing for us the way Pascal envisages this “Christian proposition.”

We know that Pascal was very engaged in the quarrel between grace and freedom and that he chastised the Jesuits for advocating a more accommodating religion so as not to see so many lukewarm souls, indifferent to the Gospel, drift away from the Church—the parallel with a certain current situation will not escape anyone! Yet, Pascal pleads, Christianity is not a religion among others. He does not justify it by the authority of the Church or of Scripture, but by the unique fact that it alone “adequately accounts for the principal ‘contrariety’ of the human condition, divided between greatness and misery” (p. 361)—it alone also dares to go against some of the most universal springs of human nature, such as love of enemies or forgiveness of offenses. The dogma of original sin accounts for this “contrariety”: “Certainly nothing strikes us more harshly than this doctrine [of original sin], and yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves. The knot of our condition takes its twists, and turns in this abyss. So that man is more inconceivable without this mystery than this mystery is inconceivable to man” (Pensées, 122, quoted on p. 239-240).

The Enlightened Choice of the Heart

Pascal is not a theologian who seeks to rationally prove the existence of God. Faith does not need proofs; these are addressed to reason but it is not there that faith is decided: it is a gift of God who puts it in the heart of man. Pascal thus seeks to address the will—the famous “wager”—more than the intelligence, an approach which, nevertheless, is in no way opposed to reason: “The prophecies, the very miracles and the proofs of our Religion are not of such a nature that one can say that they are absolutely convincing, but they are also of such a nature that one cannot say that it is to be without reason to believe them” (Pensées, fr. 682, quoted p. 316). And Pierre Manent adds: “Nothing is more foreign to Pascal than the ‘leap of faith.’ He gives us rather a course of reason which leads us to a choice of the heart, of the knowing heart” (p. 361), because it is not a blind choice, but a reflected and enlightened one.

And yet, Pascal points out, few seem to make this choice: “The most significant fact is not the authority acquired by Christianity but, on the contrary, the theoretical or practical atheism of the immense majority of human beings, Christians included” (p. 365). Today even more than in Pascal’s time, the idea that the only great matter of life is the choice of God with what it implies for the salvation of the soul or its eternal loss does not interest many people. This brings us back to the problem of God’s grace being offered to all, and human freedom having that power to refuse it. “There is enough light for those who only wish to see, and enough darkness for those who have a contrary disposition” (Pensées, 139, quoted on p. 367).

To make the believer and the non-believer “live together” is not easy: the solution of modernity has been to push religion to the margins of public life. Pascal does not provide a political solution; but he does provide us with a demanding path, and one that is adapted to our time of incredulity: “And all we need to know is that we are miserable, corrupt, separated from God, but redeemed by Jesus Christ; and this is what we have admirable proof of on earth” (Pensées, fr. 402, quoted on p. 406).

Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind courtesy we are publishing this article.

Featured: “Blaise Pascal” portrait. Unknown artist, ca. 17th century.

Asking the Question of God

Likely for the first time in the history of humanity, a civilization officially has no God; its authorized authorities act in all things as if God did not exist. This civilization is ours, the West, once Christian and now profoundly de-Christianized in record time. Of course, everyone can believe, practice a religion, but faith is now a private matter that is not supposed to encroach on the public sphere.

The alternative is very simple—either God exists or He does not; there is no third position. Officially, as a state institution, we have therefore made a choice: He does not exist. Although our regimes claim to be “neutral” (“secular”) and think they have achieved this neutrality by protecting freedom of religion and worship—within the limits of public order—they are, in fact, atheists. In our historically unprecedented situation, perhaps this is the lesser evil and ultimately the only viable balance that still maintains a certain civil peace.

Rejection of God without Consequences?

That non-believers, who have apparently become the majority, are satisfied with this state of affairs or even defend it, seems normal and natural. On the other hand, it is more surprising on the part of believers—is it not extraordinary that they never question the rejection of God within our overdeveloped societies and its possible consequences? Historically, is there no link between the erasure of God from the city and from consciences, on the one hand, and the slow decline of an apostate Europe, on the other? Is it a mere coincidence that, in this context, criminal materialistic ideologies arise in the West, at the origin of two atrocious world conflicts, a real European collective suicide? Is there also no link between this erasure of God and the exacerbation of a Promethean hubris which claims the autonomy of man, of his all-powerful will unbound by any limit, moral in particular?

In our postmodernity, we benefit from unprecedented living and health conditions, and yet malaise has never been so widespread; many of our contemporaries claim to be less happy than previous generations. Is this crisis not the consequence of the inner emptiness that drives us, of the absence of meaning given to our lives? Certainly, even if the subject is taboo, the main dimension of the crisis we are experiencing is spiritual and has to do with the ignorance of God.

The weakening of Christianity leads to a growing misunderstanding of the Christian universe. The vision of the family and children, the concept of natural moral law have become inaudible to many, often more out of inculture than hostility. During a recent debate between Fabrice Hadjadj and Antoine Bueno on birth control, the latter dared to make this revealing admission: “I understand almost nothing of my opponent’s answer. We don’t speak the same language.” These words are terrible in that they show how the fractures are worsening to the point where we no longer understand each other, so that any minimum common basis for living in society in peace and respect for the other is gradually disappearing.

The Triumph of Manichaeism

And this worrying factor is amplified by the extension of the obligatory thinking that reduces the complexity of the world to a Manichean vision. The subjects on which debate becomes impossible, for which an “official truth” exists, are constantly expanding: abortion, gender, Covid, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict—thus feeding conspiracy fantasies. On these issues, opponents of the dominant doxa are not treated as legitimate challengers, which should be self-evident in a democracy, but as enemies to be eliminated: one does not discuss with such people, one discredits them, one criminalizes them, one excludes them from the perimeter of respectability so that, in the eyes of the media, they no longer exist.

I don’t see how to resolve the fractures mentioned above, symptoms of the “decivilization” and “barbarization” of our societies, without succeeding in re-Christianizing a part of the French. I am intimately convinced that it is the radiance of all the holy souls who sincerely seek God, the prayers that go up to Him untiringly, that prevent the world from completely unraveling—hence the crucial importance of contemplative religious orders.

In the Bible, indifference to God is common; and even when God became incarnate in His Son, how many listened to Him and believed in Him? In the Old Testament, the chosen people often denied God; we are analogously in a comparable situation. I am not saying that our misfortunes are a divine punishment, I am saying that the rupture with the supernatural order has also broken the harmony of the natural order, which thus goes adrift: the flouted natural laws are enough to make us lose our footing according to the normal course of things. And in the Bible, each time, the only remedy was to return to the God of the Covenant. Perhaps we Christians should take the Bible a little more seriously.

Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind courtesy we are publishing this article.

Featured: “Funeral of the Anarchist Galli,” by Carlo Carrà; painted in 1911.

Maritain’s Political Relevance

The work of political philosophy of Maritain (1882-1973) is of the utmost importance and remains for us a sure guide to get our democracies out of the impasse in which they are engaged.

Our Western democracies are sick. The participation of citizens has decreased, because many no longer feel represented or think that elections do not change anything, regardless of the candidates elected, as the important decisions are taken elsewhere. This crisis in our political systems highlights the two historical versions of democracy. The first, which can be called “substantive democracy,” recognizes the notion of the “good,” with politics defined as the search for the common good. The second, “procedural democracy,” sidesteps the question of the “good” by simply issuing rules so that each person, free to determine his or her own “good,” pursues his or her own ends.

Maritain foresaw these two versions of democracy, but he died (in 1973) before “procedural democracy” could take hold, taking its own logic to its logical conclusion, which is what we are seeing today. If Maritain is known to be an ardent defender of the democratic regime, he is also an ardent defender of “substantial democracy,” which is why this attachment did not prevent him from remaining throughout his life an assertive anti-modernist, in particular in that he never ceased to defend the classical philosophy inherited from Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas, whose reception he contributed to widen—it is thus a misnomer to label him as a “Christian democrat.” In order to understand this, let us briefly summarize Maritain’s conception of democracy.

It is based first and foremost on a vision of society, of man and his freedom, which is rooted in the teachings of Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Man is a social animal and society a natural reality: the central question of politics is therefore to determine the conditions that allow man to live well, that is to say, according to virtue, which is acquired through education and asceticism, an exercise that requires effort but whose crowning achievement is the gaining of freedom, which alone allows for the mastery of passions. Thus, “man is not born free, except in the radical powers of his being: he becomes free,” writes Maritain in Principes d’une politique humaniste (Principles of a Humanist Politics). The freedom that leads to a relative autonomy of the person does not consist, therefore, in emancipating oneself from all rules or in choosing those that suit us, but in conforming to a natural order willed by God that goes beyond us—man is not the primary source of meaning, he is part of a whole, in an ordered universe from which he cannot emancipate himself at will. This approach to society places at the center the notion of the good, the good of the person and the good of the community; the person being subordinated to society in the temporal order, and society to the person in the spiritual order (cf. Du régime temporel et de la liberté , On the Temporal Regime and Freedom), politics being defined as the service of the common good.

This general framework having been established, Maritain takes note of the end of Christendom, that is to say of a religiously homogeneous Christian society governed according to Christian principles—”sacred Christendom” which Maritain admired in spite of certain excesses, such as the fact of putting force at the service of God in a context certainly different from ours. In short, the religious pluralism of our societies—religion no longer discriminates in terms of rights—imposes other relationships between the spiritual and the temporal. Starting from this inescapable observation, Maritain defends the idea of a communitarian and personalist democracy—its proper end is the common good, essentially the right earthly life of the multitude. It is thus at the same time material and moral; and it is opposed to individualism, the society not being a simple aggregate of independent individuals which ignores intermediary bodies and the notion of common good.

This organization presupposes an eminent respect for the dignity of the human person, which is why Maritain defends a demanding conception of human rights, whose philosophical foundation is the natural law, which is “a participation in the eternal law”: “In reality,” he writes, “if God does not exist, there is no obligatory power of the natural law” (La loi naturelle ou loi non écrite). Maritain was aware, however, that it is impossible to develop a common rational justification of these rights among beings of different cultural, philosophical and religious traditions. On the other hand, he thought, “men mutually opposed in their theoretical conceptions can arrive at a purely practical agreement on an enumeration of human rights” (L’Homme et l’État , Man and the State).

His substantive conception of democracy led him to distinguish the nation, which is a community generally created by nature, from the political body or political society, a human reality born of reason, of which the State is only a part, an instrument at the service of the whole. The appearance of the State was in itself a progress. Unfortunately, it developed at the same time as the modern absolutist conception, which led to the notion of absolute sovereignty, first of the king, then of the nation (or of the people), a notion that Maritain vigorously rejects. “In the eyes of a sound political philosophy,” he writes, “there is no sovereignty, that is to say, no natural and inalienable right to a transcendent or separate supreme power, in political society. Neither the Prince, nor the King, nor the Emperor were really sovereign, although they bore the sword and the attributes of sovereignty. Neither is the State sovereign, nor even the people. God alone is sovereign. [Of the people as a political body we must say, not that it is sovereign, but that it has a natural right to full autonomy, or to govern itself” (L’Homme et l’État , Man and the State). And to do this, Maritain employs the notion of vicariance developed by St. Thomas Aquinas, the leader being vicar of the multitude. He recognized the legitimacy of the diversity of regimes to designate this leader, far from a certain idolatry of democracy, however, “a state of civilization where men, as individual persons, designate by free choice the holders of authority, and where the nation controls the state, is of itself a more perfect state” (Les droits de l’homme et la loi naturelle, The Rights of Man and Natural Law). Although the Enlightenment, Rousseau and Kant had permeated democratic thought, Maritain saw in the emergence of this regime a profound historical process of which the Gospel was a generating principle, as Bergson had noted.

Another Democracy

Today, the Maritainian conception of democracy has become suppressed. He himself did not see coming all the logical consequences of the modern thought which sought the complete emancipation of the human will from any limit imposed from the outside, whether it comes from God, nature, culture or tradition. The modern dogma is that man must be able to build himself alone and to decide alone what he is, even up to the choice of his sex. The natural law, unbearable limit to the desires of man—desires that are transforming quickly into rights today—was swept away in this movement amplified by the moral revolution of the 1960s. A profound distortion of human rights followed, diverted to the benefit of a blind egalitarianism in the name of an absurd fight against any “discrimination.” Thus, human rights have undergone an indefinite extension of subjective rights that are more and more delirious and that have emptied themselves of all substance, making them even harmful to the common good and rendering any “purely practical agreement” between civilizations, as Maritain hoped, totally utopian.

In short, today a meaningless procedural democracy triumphs, subject to the tyranny of minorities well established in the circles of power and the media, which has led to the erasure of politics, already well undermined by the supremacy of economics in the context of liberal globalization. This democracy no longer offers an exciting common destiny to its citizens—it consecrates the fracture of the country between a privileged fringe and a declassed majority that no longer feels represented; it can only lead to a populist reaction in the best of cases, to chaos or to an authoritarian regime in the worst.

This is why it is urgent to rethink another version of democracy, the substantial one whose outlines Maritain has traced for us. In this sense, he has opened up a path towards which we must turn one day.

Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind assistance we are publishing this article.

Featured image: “The Rain It Raineth Every Day,” by Norman Garstin, painted in 1889.

Ever More Fractures

Without being pessimistic, we all feel that we are living in a new and difficult period, with serious threats on the horizon that create a climate of uncertainty and anxiety. And if the health crisis contributes to this climate, it is neither the origin nor the main reason. Rather, it seems to me, this reason is rather to be sought in the worrying fact that everywhere divisions increase, fractures grow; to the point that what constitutes the nation, a community welded by a history, a religion, a culture and values—fruit of a long civilization—is bursting apart under the blows of an individualism which managed to erase the very notion of the good (so that each one must be free to determine “his” good) and thus necessarily of the common good.

Four Major Fractures

Without being exhaustive, I would cite four major fractures to illustrate my point, all of which contribute in one way or another to the atmosphere of existential insecurity that is developing.

1. The social fractures that draw two very unequal France: The one that benefits from globalization—the “France of the top” or the Anywhere which shamelessly sells off the sovereignty of the nation; and the one that suffers from it—the “peripheral France” or the Somewhere, which has formed the large battalions of the Yellow Vests, and bolsters one part of the “anti-vaccine passport” movement.

2. The anthropological fractures that have proliferated ever since the modern philosophies of deconstruction ousted the classical vision of man as a created being endowed with a nature of his own that cannot be denied or violated without serious damage, with a clear limit set by natural law. The first step was the separation between fertility and sexuality, brought about by the pill, which contributed to putting all forms of sexuality on the same level and allowed, afterwards, to think of fertility outside sexuality. In this deadly logic, after having trivialized abortion, we have come to legitimize “marriage” between people of the same sex, then to deny sexual difference and to allow the manufacture of children as simple products, and this is far from over.

3. The demographic divide, resulting from a drop in the birth rate, in France as in all Western countries, compensated in the early 1970s by labor immigration, which quickly turned into a massive immigration that was never controlled, bringing in large Muslim minorities and a number of insurmountable problems of assimilation, education, social distress, delinquency, etc. Islam has thus formed expanding communitarian zones—the “lost territories of the Republic”—where French law no longer penetrates.

4. The ecological divide: Not a week goes by without the announcement of “climate chaos,” as if the coming “catastrophe” were real. That there is an ecological emergency is obvious. But is it by infantilizing the population, by playing on fear with binary and guilt-inducing speeches that we are really going to move things forward?

Division Everywhere

Oppositions and divisions have always existed and are even consubstantial to the functioning of a democracy. In the past, during the “Cold War,” these were not small when they concerned the “choice of society” between a Marxist left-leaning towards the Soviet Union and a liberal right close to the United States. However, the differences remained mainly confined to political aspects. Today, they have invaded all areas. There is nothing that cannot be contested and questioned: Everything has become a reason for quarrelling; almost nothing is stable and acquired anymore. There is no longer a common basis for a peaceful life in society. History, religion, culture, the principles that forged our Christian civilization and more particularly the nation of France with its vision of man, all this is questioned, rejected or dismissed (by “wokism,” for example), remnants of an obscurantist past that must be quickly forgotten.

From such a basis, divisions and fractures are inevitable and are bound to multiply. The logical outcome of such an evolution is either civil war or the establishment of a directive regime determined to impose its views by marginalizing or silencing the recalcitrant.

Is this not the path we are already on? Denouncing abortion or “marriage for all,” crucial “societal” subjects that should be at the heart of the debate of ideas, is more and more akin to the crime of opinion, as we saw in August with the showing of the film Unplanned. It is the same for all the “advances” that methodically deconstruct man. Thus, the field of freedom of expression is gradually being restricted as society disintegrates, a harbinger of a disturbing evolution.

In this serious context, Christians have a primordial role to play, certainly made difficult by the deep dechristianization and their own divisions, but facilitated by the supernatural hope that they carry within them.

Christophe Geffroy publishes the journal La Nef, through whose kind assistance we are publishing this article.

The featured image shows an oil on panel portrait by Nadine Callebaut.

Traditionis Custodes: Mistep Into Incomprehension

Incomprehension is what predominates when reading the motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes and the accompanying letter to the bishops. One does not understand the justification or the necessity of such a document, and all the more so because the Pope has legislated on the basis of an incomplete argument and false information.

The Incomplete Argument

To say that John Paul II’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei was motivated only by “an ecclesial reason to recompose the unity of the Church” is not accurate. Certainly, that was a major reason, but there was another reason omitted by Francis: “All the Pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended ‘harmony’ which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit” (Ecclesia Dei n. 5-a).

False Information

Pope Francis affirms that the generosity of John Paul II and Benedict XVI was used by the traditionalists to oppose the Mass of Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, by putting in danger the unity of the Church. He has thus said: “The opportunity offered by St. John Paul II, and with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, to restore the unity of the ecclesial body, while respecting the various liturgical sensibilities, has been used to increase distances, to harden differences and to build oppositions that wound the Church and hinder her progress, exposing her to the risk of division…. But I am also saddened by the instrumental use of the 1962 Missale Romanum, which is increasingly characterized by a growing rejection, not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Second Vatican Council, with the unfounded and untenable claim that it has betrayed Tradition and the ‘true Church’…. It is increasingly evident in the words and attitudes of many that there is a close relationship between the choice of celebrations according to the pre-Vatican II liturgical books and the rejection of the Church and its institutions in the name of what they consider to be the ‘true Church.’ This is behavior that contradicts communion, feeding this impulse to divide.”

The very vocabulary used by Francis is that of the Society of St. Pius X. The “true Church!” No traditionalist, faithful to Rome, uses it! So, his statement is true if we limit ourselves to the Society of St. Pius X. But it is false if we apply it to the vast majority of the “Ecclesia Dei” movement; that there are cases that correspond to what the Pope says is true, but they are very much in the minority: why apply a collective punishment for the fault of a few? Would it not have been enough to crack down on those? Obviously, we do not live in the same world as the Pope or his advisors, because their world simply does not correspond to reality; they see it as a homogeneous world that is in fact that of the Society of Saint Pius X alone! Who is advising and enlightening the Pope on these matters?

Based on biased information about the real situation, it is made to appear that the Pope is responding to a demand that is only that of a small minority who have always been fiercely hostile to the Extraordinary Form.

The Pope’s Objective…

…and its predictable dramatic consequences: “It is to defend the unity of the Body of Christ that I am obliged to revoke the faculty granted by my predecessors. The distorted use that has been made of it is contrary to the reasons that led them to grant the freedom to celebrate Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum.”

In wanting to defend unity, this motu proprio will bring misunderstanding, confusion, drama and finally stir up divisions instead of reducing them. It will achieve the opposite of its objective! In one stroke of the pen, it sweeps away 35 years of efforts by John Paul II and Benedict XVI to calm the situation and bring about a peace that is imperfect but real. Even the synthesis of the CEF, though not very benevolent towards the traditionalist world, recognized that Summorum Pontificum had led globally to a “calmed situation,” which our investigation has largely confirmed.

It will reawaken the liturgical war, exacerbate the resistance of the traditionalists, and, above all, lead to a number of departures towards the Society of Saint Pius X (which must be delighted with this motu proprio which will feed their troops and confirm what they have been repeating since 1988, namely that Rome cannot be trusted; thus confirming their refusal of any reconciliation) – all precisely what John Paul II and Benedict XVI had been able to avoid by their attention to this traditionalist world. This risks becoming an immense mess.

Let us add an important remark from a historical and psychological point of view. Paul VI was ready to make concessions on the Mass, if Archbishop Lefebvre had not rejected Vatican II (it was the famous declaration of November 21, 1974 against the “modernist Rome” of the Council that caused the problem). But John Paul II and Benedict XVI understood that liturgical appeasement was the necessary condition for the most reserved traditionalists to open up to the Council and assimilate it. By tightening the grip on the Mass, Francis will achieve the opposite result to the one legitimately sought.

Double Standards?

The tone of the motu proprio and of the letter is so harsh and severe against the Traditionalists that one cannot help but think that there is a double standard. While Francis insists so often on mercy, leniency, forgiveness – while he is so patient with the Church of Germany which is on the verge of schism – he, the common Father, does not show even a hint of love or understanding for those who are nevertheless a small part of his flock! In these documents, the traditionalists appear as harmful, who are just being tolerated in “Indian reservations,” until they fall into line; the stated objective being to make them disappear (without ever questioning whether they could bring something to the Church, in terms of youth, dynamism, vocations). Are there so many convinced practicing Catholics in the West that it is necessary to drastically limit a part of them?

Recent history has shown that despising and persecuting the Traditionalists in this way does not help them to evolve. On the contrary, it stirs up the resistance of the most hardened. They become more rigid; and this goes against the desired goal of promoting unity.

Let us pay tribute here to the French Bishops’ Conference for their communiqué of July 17, which shows esteem for the “traditionalists:” “They [the bishops] wish to express to the faithful, who usually celebrate according to the missal of Saint John XXIII and to their pastors, their vigilance, the esteem they have for the spiritual zeal of these faithful, and their determination to pursue the mission together, in the communion of the Church and according to the norms in force.”

Contempt For The Great Work Of Benedict XVI

These two documents of the pope turn, without any nuance for the work of reconciliation of John Paul II, and especially of Benedict XVI, starting from an analysis of the facts which is false, and proceed right up to cancelling the essential contribution of the pope emeritus who had distinguished the two ordinary and extraordinary forms of the same Roman rite. In so doing, the Pope also eliminates the legal existence of the former Extraordinary Form (as if it no longer existed), thus plunging the Church back into an endless liturgical dispute over the legal status of the Mass of St. Pius V. We return to the regime of tolerance according to more severe modalities than those of 1988, that of the “merciful parenthesis…” which is hardly merciful anymore! That is to say, a setback of more than thirty years by a single act of government.

What Strategy Of Rome Can We See In The Background?

The two documents of Francis show very clearly that the Pope wants to eradicate the Traditionalist world in the Church, to make sure that the Mass of St. Pius V disappears – everything is done to prevent this movement from growing (prohibition of any new group and an obstacle course for the diocesan priest who would like to celebrate with the old Ordo). Everything is being done so that in the long run the traditional Mass will be celebrated only in the Society of Saint Pius X and its satellites.

It seems, therefore, that the Pope’s strategy is to push the recalcitrant towards the Society of St. Pius X, so that the whole of the Traditionalist world will find itself there – they will thus be perfectly controlled and isolated in an “Indian reservation,” cut off from Rome and the dioceses, but with which a minimum link can be maintained in order to avoid a formal schism. This explains why the Pope no longer seeks reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, but shows great generosity towards them by recognizing the full validity of marriages and confessions, by encouraging them to be received in churches during pilgrimages, etc. All this is consistent – and the exact opposite of all the past efforts of John Paul II and Benedict XVI – for the unity of the Church.

Liturgical Exclusivism?

Is this motu proprio not an opportunity for those institutes that refuse to celebrate the ordinary form (which, let us specify, are in the minority within the “Ecclesia Dei” galaxy) to question themselves very seriously about the liturgical, theological and ecclesial validity of this refusal?

Since 1988, the popes have invited us not to refuse the very principle of the celebration of the new Ordo (it is true that the positions of the Ecclesia Dei Commission have fluctuated on the subject, and not helping to clarify it), which in no way takes away from the charism proper to these institutes for the old Mass. Benedict XVI was very explicit in his 2007 letter to the bishops and, in this regard, it must be noted that the lines have hardly moved since then. By obeying the Pope on this crucial point, would not these institutes demonstrate, by their very example, that Francis is wrong in his analysis?


All this is sad because it is unjust; and it is therefore legitimate to complain about it, to argue, to ask tirelessly for a reform of this motu proprio, or for the most flexible application of this text possible, while respecting the authority and the function of the Pope. The bishops will have an essential role to play. Everything will depend on the way they apply this motu proprio – the first reactions observed are encouraging, and I thank those bishops who are concerned for their entire flock.

It is also up to them to bring back to Rome more accurate information about who the traditionalists really are. Recent history has shown that they are not used to letting themselves be done for without reacting. Let’s hope that most of them do not fall back into a “resistance” that turns into revolt and open disobedience. The example not to be followed is that of Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X; and we can see where that leads. It is hard to suffer for the Church, but it cannot fail to bear fruit.

Christophe Geffroy publishes the magazine, La Nef.

The featured image shows the Madonna of Misericordia, by Piero della Francesca, ca. 1460.

About A Certain Left

In these pandemic times, even more than usual, how can we not be struck by the sheepish conformism of our fellow citizens, and by their lack of thirst for freedom, happily sacrificing it rather than accepting the inevitability of risk related to the use of freedom? The way in which the government has infantilized the French since the first lockdown – without even considering that it could have played the trust card, thus sparing social relations and the economy – and the fairly general acceptance of this humiliating situation – have revealed the stranglehold of power and the media on minds less and less able or willing to emancipate themselves from this double tutelage.

If the health crisis is an exemplary case study of this lack of love for freedom, it is unfortunately far from the only one. Anti-racist laws, laws of historical memory, etc., have long been limiting freedom of expression, while giving ad hoc organizations undue power to exercise vigilant policing of thought, when existing laws were more than adequately sufficient. But the machine went into overdrive with the emergence of gender theory first, then with “decolonial” theses and “cancel culture,” and now with “wokism.”

Against The Most Basic Common Sense

All this nonsense should never have expanded beyond the small groups that conceived it, so much does it clash with the most basic common sense. Nevertheless, it has firmly planted itself through the complicity of the cultural world and the media, all won over to the most progressive ideas. This system, which guarantees political correctness, blocks all debate, eliminates or disqualifies all opposition and thereby hinders freedom of expression.

The strong tendency to want to silence the opponent, especially by demonizing him, is, in France, the prerogative of a certain left. It was again observed quite recently when a minister dared to evoke the presence of “Islamo-leftism” at the university. While that is obvious for all to see, this left did not even seek to respond by way of debate, and instead took offense at such audacity and demanded that the minister apologize or resign.

I am talking about a certain left; but it is clear that it increasingly encompasses the whole of the left, even the environmentalists. Admittedly, there are the Chevènementistes still attached to the nation, or intellectuals who escape these sectarian ways and who still call themselves left-wing like Jacques Julliard, Natacha Polony or Michel Onfray – not to mention Jean-Claude Michéa who does not consider himself to be left but socialist. Alas! However sympathetic they may be, they hardly count for much on the left any longer – and many others, such as Alain Finkielkraut, have ended up leaving the left to think freely.

Hatred of Historic France

The characteristic of this left is its visceral hatred of France taken in the totality of its historical being and especially of its Christian dimension. No doubt it draws its repulsion from the Revolution and its consequences. Marxist internationalism, calling for the union of the proletarians of all countries, has contributed to this rejection of the nation and engraved in stone its schema of thought: history is governed by the struggle of the victims against their oppressors; yesterday the proletarians against the bourgeois, then the “democrats” against the ever-reviving “fascism;” today the “racialized” against the Whites, Muslims against Westerners, women against men, the LGBT against the whole earth. In short, it is always a question of pitting men against each other, the good against the bad, until the supremacy of the “bad guys” is overthrown, including by violence – hence, by the way, the explanation of the moral posture that the left likes, based on victim ideology, a person of color, a Muslim, a woman, a homosexual – being by nature a victim of the white, heterosexual and Christian patriarchal order. No social friendship, not even a simple peace, is possible according to this revamped Marxist logic that stirs up divisions: it is a political philosophy of civil war.

No society can endure in self-hatred as this sectarian and deeply anti-democratic left pushes us to do. This left succeeded in imposing its deleterious and crazy vision because of the cowardice of the “silent majority” which just ends up accepting everything. But far worse is the absence of a concerted opposition, even among the other lefts who all got on the progressive train by abandoning the social and latching on to rights, and which, with a few exceptions, have still not grasped the primacy of the war of ideas and its cultural dimension.

Christophe Geffroy is the founder and publisher of La Nef. Books include, Faut-il se libérer du libéralisme? Rome-Ecône: l’accord impossible? L’islam, un danger pour l’Europe? and Benoît XVI et la paix liturgique. This article appears courtesy of La Nef.

The featured image shows, “The Martyr of Equality. Behold the Progress of our System,” a colored lithograph, dated 1793.