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Theme: France – The Prodigal Daughter

January 11, 2007

Telegraph: France ‘no longer a Catholic country’:

Barely half the French population describe themselves as Catholic, according to a poll released yesterday, sparking a leading religious publication to declare France “no longer a Catholic country”.

A poll published in Le Monde des Religions yesterday showed the number of self-declared French Catholics had dropped from 80 per cent in the early 1990s and 67 per cent in 2000 and to 51 per cent today.

The number of atheists has risen sharply to 31 per cent from 23 per cent in 1994.

In its institutions, but also in its mentalities, France is no longer a Catholic country,” wrote Frederic Lenoir, editor in chief of Le Monde des Religions.

French Catholicism, while suffering during the Revolution, did not begin its real decline until 1905, experts say, when pre-war France was declared a secular state, all funding of religious groups was stopped and religious buildings were declared the property of the state.

Yesterday’s poll showed that only 10 per cent go to church regularly — mainly to Sunday mass or christenings. Of the 51 per cent who still call themselves Catholics, only half said they believed in God. Many said they were Catholics because it was a family tradition…

Pope Pius X – Vehementer Nos – On the French Law of Separation – 11 February 1906:

Our soul is full of sorrowful solicitude and Our heart overflows with grief, when Our thoughts dwell upon you. How, indeed, could it be otherwise, immediately after the promulgation of that law which, by sundering violently the old ties that linked your nation with the Apostolic See, creates for the Catholic Church in France a situation unworthy of her and ever to be lamented? That is, beyond question, an event of the gravest import, and one that must be deplored by all the right-minded, for it is as disastrous to society as it is to religion.

(…)

That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based, as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own. We owe Him, therefore, not only a private cult, but a public and social worship to honor Him. Besides, this thesis is an obvious negation of the supernatural order. It limits the action of the State to the pursuit of public prosperity during this life only, which is but the proximate object of political societies; and it occupies itself in no fashion (on the plea that this is foreign to it) with their ultimate object which is man’s eternal happiness after this short life shall have run its course. But as the present order of things is temporary and subordinated to the conquest of man’s supreme and absolute welfare, it follows that the civil power must not only place no obstacle in the way of this conquest, but must aid us in effecting it. The same thesis also upsets the order providentially established by God in the world, which demands a harmonious agreement between the two societies. Both of them, the civil and the religious society, although each exercises in its own sphere its authority over them. It follows necessarily that there are many things belonging to them in common in which both societies must have relations with one another. Remove the agreement between Church and State, and the result will be that from these common matters will spring the seeds of disputes which will become acute on both sides; it will become more difficult to see where the truth lies, and great confusion is certain to arise. Finally, this thesis inflicts great injury on society itself, for it cannot either prosper or last long when due place is not left for religion, which is the supreme rule and the sovereign mistress in all questions touching the rights and the duties of men.

(…)

And now We turn to you, Catholics of France, asking you to receive Our words as a testimony of that most tender affection with which We have never ceased to love your country, and as comfort to you in the midst of the terrible calamities through which you will have to pass. You know the aim of the impious sects which are placing your heads under their yoke, for they themselves have proclaimed with cynical boldness that they are determined to “deCatholicise” France. They want to root out from your hearts the last vestige of the faith which covered your fathers with glory, which made your country great and prosperous among nations, which sustains you in your trials, which brings tranquillity and peace to your homes, and which opens to you the way to eternal happiness. You feel that you must defend this faith with your whole souls. But be not deluded—all labor and effort will be useless if you endeavor to repulse the assaults made on you without being firmly united. Remove, therefore, any causes of disunion that may exist among you. And do what is necessary to ensure that your unity may be as strong as it should be among men who are fighting for the same cause, especially when this cause is of those for the triumph of which everybody should be willing to sacrifice something of his own opinions. If you wish, within the limits of your strength and according to your imperious duty, to save the religion of your ancestors from the dangers to which it is exposed, it is of the first importance that you show a large degree of courage and generosity. We feel sure that you will show this generosity; and by being charitable towards God’s ministers, you will incline God to be more and more charitable toward yourselves.

As for the defense of religion, if you wish to undertake it in a worthy manner, and to carry it on perseveringly and efficaciously, two things are first of all necessary: you must model yourselves so faithfully on the precepts of the Christian law that all your actions and your entire lives may do honor to the faith you profess, and then you must be closely united with those whose special office it is to watch over religion, with your priests, your bishops, and above all with this Apostolic See, which is the pivot of the Catholic faith and of all that can be done in its name. Thus armed for the fray, go forth fearlessly for the defense of the Church; but take care that your trust is placed entirely in God, for whose cause you are working, and never cease to pray to Him for help.

For Us, as long as you have to struggle against danger, We will be heart and soul in the midst of you; labors, pains, sufferings—We will share them all with you; and pouring forth to God, who has founded the Church and ever preserves her, Our most humble and instant prayers, We will implore Him to bend a glance of mercy on France, to save her from the storms that have been let loose upon her, and, by the intercession of Mary Immaculate, to restore soon to her the blessings of calm and peace….

See also:
Wikipedia: 1905 French law on the separation of Church and State
Mary Jo Anderson: Faith of the Eldest Daughter – Can France retain her Catholic heritage?
BBC News: The Deep Roots of French Secularism
Slate: Is France Getting Religion?
Chiesa: In a Very Secular France, Nicolas Sarkozy Is Breaking a Taboo
Time Archive: Rebellious Eldest Daughter (1957)
Pew Forum: 100th Anniversary of Secularism in France
NewAdvent: France

Related Posts:
Theme: The Hope of Christendom

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