Saturday, May 18, 2013

What do these young French Catholics want?

Protesters at a March '13 Paris anti-SSM demonstration.
(© 2013 Jean-François Gornet)
Much to the surprise of everyone, the strongest, most vocal resistance to same-sex marriage comes from the people of France. Once storied for their sexual laissez-faire, and reputed to be one of the most thoroughly secularized cultures on the planet, more and more French people are discovering that they're still Catholic after all these years.

Of course, it can't come as a bigger surprise to anyone other than the rest of the French population. Christine Pedotti, editor-in-chief of the pro-SSM magazine Témoignage chrétien ("Christian Testimony"), remarked to Marie Lemmonier of Le nouvel observateur ("The New Observer"), "It is a real groundswell ... These young conservative activists obey the Church hierarchy and are addicted to family values and genuflecting. This is the new face of the Church." 

And it's a face she and other progressives don't like:

According to Pedotti, the uncertainty of today's society makes Catholics "crave for authority." [Ah, here comes the psychobabble.] They love — sometimes even idolize — the pope, and hate the 1968 generation, which they consider as the root of all even, the people who are responsible for the Church’s decline. 
"They have made obedience to the Church the most important aspect of their faith, which can sometimes prove counter-intuitive when they fail to follow the strict commandments of the institution. They would rather be in the wrong than challenge the rules," Pedotti explains.
"When you have no backbone anymore, you need to have a body armor. It's like the ‘lobster complex’ coined by French psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto to describe the transitional period that teenagers go through, where they act like a lobster, which sheds its outer shell and hides while waiting for the new shell to grow," explains Nicolas de Brémond d'Ars, priest and psychologist. He finds it regrettable that among the adepts of this new trend, the more progressive young Catholics do not have their say. [Mais naturellement ... why would one expect to hear "progressive" voices in a conservative movement? Would you expect to hear an apologia for Obamacare at the next C-PAC convention?]

Ah, I see. This new wave of conservative French kids don't have the backbone to ... cave in and go along with the rest of European society? They're lobsters forming body armor because they blindly follow Pope Francis rather than blindly follow Nicolas Sarkozy? (Have we really, really established as a fact that they're following anyone "blindly"?)

Seriously, what kind of "backbone" does Père Nicolas or Mlle. Pedotti demonstrate by going along with the crowd? As Chesterton pointed out in The Everlasting Man, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." Cast them from the Catholic Church for their progressive stance, and plenty of other churches stand ready to take them in; no jail cell, no rack, no auto-da-fé awaits their schism. The priest might lose his job, but he'd almost certainly have a new one very soon after that with some Protestant communion or secular college. Dissenting from the Catholic Church takes no real courage; in some social and professional circles, it's almost a requirement. As rebellions go, there's almost no up-front cost.

As far as the "craving for authority" goes — that's pure balderdash, especially the part about their preference to "be in the wrong rather than challenge the rules". Mlle. Pedotti is so caught up in the mythos of progressive-underdog rebellion that she doesn't have the perceptiveness to see that the political and social dynamics have reversed themselves. Progressives are not rebelling against The Establishment; rather, progressives have become The Establishment. Progressives are now setting the rules and dictating the Preferred Narrative, and the conservatives are now the counterculture doing the authority-questioning. 
Blessed John Paul, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have given these young Catholics permission and encouragement to be signs of contradiction — to assert eternal verities and human realities, to affirm that acts can be intrinsically evil and to deny that evil has a right to be done, to draw lines in the sand and declare, "You shall not pass!" (or, in this case, «Vous ne passerez pas!») The craving isn't for authority but for certainty, for the ancient transcendentals the progressives thought discarded and useless, for holiness and sanctity in a world given to baseness and makeshift "spirituality", for a greater meaning and purpose in life than to eat, work, sleep, f**k and die.

They crave the Gospel, a desire French secularists have struggled long to mortify. And through these young people, the first, wayward daughter of the Church is making her way back home again.  
Vive la France.