Sam Gregg on the rise of young, fearless, dynamically orthodox Catholicism… in FRANCE!

Here is another – stop what you are doing and read this – article.

At Catholic World Report there is a piece by Sam Gregg about what’s going with a rise in France  of … Catholicism.  It is packed with interesting information, names, and analysis.

France’s Catholic Revolution

While Mass-attendance rates have steeply declined over the last 30 years, today France is witnessing the rise of an increasingly self-confident—and dynamically orthodox—Catholicism.

When many think about France and religion today, the images that usually come to mind are those of a highly secular society with a growing Islamic presence: a combination of widespread indifferentism, epicurean Voltairans, persistent anti-Semitism, increasingly radicalized Muslims, and now jihadist-inspired and organized terrorism. But now even some secular French journalists have started writing about a phenomenon that’s become difficult to ignore: an increasingly self-confident Catholicism that combines what might be called a dynamic orthodoxy with a determination to shape French society in ways that contest the status quo—both inside and outside the Church. [There’s that ad intra and ad extra thing I refer to pretty often.  Consider: If we don’t have a strong identity as Catholics, and if we don’t know what Catholics believe or we don’t know how to communicate it without waffling and temporizing, then why should anyone in the public square listen to us?  And we must be in the public square, with a strong and smart Catholic identity.  This is where I direct you back to my constant drum beat about the renewal of traditional liturgical worship!]

On October 30, readers of France’s main center-right newspaper, Le Figaro, woke up to the headline “La révolution silencieuse des catholiques de France.” What followed was a description of how those whom Le Figaro calls France’s néocatholiques have come to the forefront of the nation’s political, cultural, and economic debates. Significantly, the new Catholics’ idea of dialogue isn’t about listening to secular intellectuals and responding by nodding sagely and not saying anything that might offend others. Instead, younger observant Catholics have moved beyond—way, way beyond—what was called the “Catholicism of openness” that dominated post-Vatican II French Catholic life. While the néocatholiques are happy to listen, they also want to debate and even critique reigning secular orthodoxies. For them, discussion isn’t a one-way street. This is a generation of French Catholics who are, as Le Figaro put it, “afraid of nothing.


That’s how it starts.

There are some provocative paragraphs (for the Left.. heh).  For example:


In recent years, we’re heard much about the Church as a field-hospital. It’s true that the French Church finds itself providing much help to the many people damaged by the culture of cynicism, economic statism, self-loathing, and hedonism bequeathed by France’s May 1968 generation. The new Catholics, however, also recognize that no-one is supposed to remain perpetually in a field-hospital. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  And another thing… lots of people DIE in field hospitals!  A field hospital is where the second moment of patching up takes place, after the battle field corpsman stops some of the bleeding, before the wounded are sent on to a higher level facility.  It often happens that the wounded don’t get out of the field hospital alive.  This is the Church Militant, after all.  We don’t want people to die, to fall away from the narrow path, to drift into error and spiritual peril (Fishwrap).  Christ died for all, but not all will accept what Christ did for then and be saved.  This happens in the Church: people fall aside and are lost.  And if parishes are supposed to be “field hospitals”, they had better be good, faithful parishes, where the wounded can find good salvific help.  I’m not saying that parishes are not field hospitals.  I’m saying that not everyone in field hospitals will be saved.  But I digress…] Nor are they interested in affirming mediocrity. Instead they have chosen to live out what Benedict XVI suggested would be Western European Catholics’ role for the foreseeable future: a creative minority — one that imaginatively engages culture from an orthodox Catholic standpoint in order to draw society closer to the truth, instead of meekly relegating Catholics to the role of bit-players in various secular-progressive agendas.


I also found this interesting:


Perhaps the most evident sign of this sea-change in French Catholicism is what’s called La Manif pour tous. This movement of hundreds of thousands of French citizens emerged in 2012 to contest changes to France’s marriage laws. La Manif’s membership traverses France’s deep left-right fracture. It also includes secular-minded people, many Jews, some Muslims, and even a good number of self-described gays. Yet La Manif’s base and leadership primarily consist of lay Catholics. Though the French legislature passed la loi Taubira legalizing same-sex marriage in 2013, the Socialist government has subsequently trod somewhat more carefully in the realm of social policy. After all, when a movement can put a million-plus people on the streets to protest on a regular basis, French politicians have historical reasons to get nervous.

Since 2012, La Manif has continued shaping public debate. This ranges from challenging attempts to impose gender theory through the educational system to disputing proposed changes to adoption and IVF laws. In doing so, it has been visibly supported by many bishops and even-more-visibly by many more young priests. Some of the latter are heavily active on Twitter and widely-read social media such as Padreblog. In certain cases, some names of the rising generation of French clergy—such as Abbé Pierre-Hervé Grosjean, Abbé Pierre Amar, Abbé Guillaume Seguin, and Abbé Antoine Roland-Gosselin—are better known than many French bishops.



Read the whole thing there.


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  1. SpanishCatholic says:

    Truly wonderful news! May the Church’s Eldest Daughter be the spark to reignite and revitalize the Catholic Faith in Europe. Little by little slowly but surely.

  2. disco says:

    Only Catholicism can destroy Islam

  3. donato2 says:

    well put disco

  4. redshoes says:

    Was it not the French who first “turned around” the altars in the 1950’s?

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    Excellent news indeed. Thanks Fr. Z.

    Back in mid-October there was good news out of Poland in an article by Filip Mazurczak in Crisis Magazine titled “Poland’s Presidential Election and the Future of Catholicism.”

  6. WmHesch says:

    Totally dreaming on this one, but perhaps… Just perhaps… Thousands of Frenchmen are visiting Churches right now they previously thought were museums and it initiates a mass conversion. They realize this was an attack on their culture, and rediscover that it’s a Christian one. A strong French leader (of Bourbon-Orleans descent) emerges, rallies his people, and (after 3 days of Darkness and the next conclave), with the blessing of Leo XIV (Papa Burke), he undertakes the Last Crusade.

  7. Hugh says:

    Fr Z, your pushing of the field hospital analogy further than the limit of our comfortable imagining is, so to speak, just what the doctor ordered. My related thought, in the context of the current mercy-without-repentance fad, is this: imagine a field hospital that only administered pain-killers. The patients would be, thus, feeling no pain. But they would not get better. They would languish in their condition, and many would perish.

  8. JabbaPapa says:

    I read this yesterday, and it’s excellent, and true.

    This movement started at the World Youth Day of Pope John Paul II in Paris.

  9. Christ_opher says:

    I have lived in France for approx 10 years and can honestly say that the article is an exaggeration. There are pockets of resistance within France to the cumbya mentality but cumbya is alive and kicking.

    Confession and daily mass is not offered in many places and there is a shortage of good Priests.

    Yes many Catholics marched against the bending of gender identity and same sex marriage but these ideologies continue today. We are stuck in a difficult position because we have two small children 2 & 3 years’ old and we cannot send them to school because of how the gender agenda is going to be taught to them. At the same time we have asked to allow our oldest child to start catechism as she is capable of understanding and we were rejected because of the rules on age in our Parish. Sadly we weren’t even offered a trial for her! Strangely the Mass Reading on the Sunday that our Daughter was rejected was about the disciples and the Children and rejecting children.

    A half an hour weekly catechism would have helped us to be more confident in allowing our 3 year old to start at school.

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  11. taffymycat says:

    it would be a miracle if france were to emerge with the devotion and steadfastness in catholicism that it exhibited before the French revolution.

  12. Athelstan says:

    I have lived in France for approx 10 years and can honestly say that the article is an exaggeration. There are pockets of resistance within France to the cumbya mentality but cumbya is alive and kicking.

    This is a good point, which confirms what I have heard from others on the ground. *Some* upwards tick here and there, but claims of a surge seem to be overstated.

    I like Dr. Gregg but it’s hard to avoid some odd impressions in this essay. The narrative is that the French Church is coming back to life and that it is mostly the achievement of the neocatholiques, in the image of the late Cardinal Lustiger, archbishop of Paris until 2004; the massive size of the manif protests is credited to this resurgence. Yet while the protests had a visible Catholic element (even with some bishops’ backing), much of it seems to have been more of a broad cultural resistance not necessarily explicitly Catholic. Likewise, the long-term impact of Cdl. Lustiger, for all the daring of his appointment by John Paul II and his witness on moral doctrine, seems harder to detect – however modestly vocations might have increased during his tenure, the number continues to be paltry by pre-conciliar standards, and includes many foreign priests.

    Meanwhile, surprisingly little attention is given to traditionalism in France. Granted that it remains a small minority, even in France. But it exhibits an energy and vitality out of all proportion to its numbers, and it is growing. As has been mentioned here before, the number of traditionalist priests will outnumber the rest by the mid-2030s on current trends, and *that* will have massive consequences for French Catholicism by the mid-21st century. It is worth noting that Gregg highlights Bishop Rey of Frejus-Toulon as a promising young bishop, but does not note that he has more aggressively embraced restoring tradition than any other bishop in France – and that, not coincidentally, his diocese has more vocations than any other, Paris included.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    What I have always noticed in Europe, in France, Ireland, England, Malta, Italy, is that the culture of Catholicism lies just beneath the surface. Scratch a socialist and he may show up a Catholic. Seriously, Americans sin greviously in thinking that Americans are so much more religious and less the secular than Europeans. It is simply not true. The difference has to do with the Protestant foundation of America, and the fact that the laws reflect Protestantism rather than Catholicism.

    In Europe, people do not have to pretend to be religious or belong to a Church, but when push comes to shove, they would rather identify with the old ways of Catholicism.

    However, I firmly agree with the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel who stated that the most anti-Catholicism he ever met was in Ireland, that a deep-seated hatred of the Church festers there.

    When Americans stop being proud and thinking they are superior to others in the world, they will begin to realize that the resurgence of the Faith could very well happen in Europe, rather than in the States.

  14. JARay says:

    Any sign of hope always brings joy to my heart.

  15. “The new Catholics, however, also recognize that no-one is supposed to remain perpetually in a field-hospital.”

    Or, as I like to put it, “come as you are doesn’t mean stay as you are.

  16. Chuck3030 says:

    I disagree with the notion that the Church is merely a field hospital: the Church is a full military at war (hence the moniker “Church Militant”).

    We have a chain of command (God > Pope > Bishop/Abbot > Priest > Deacon/Brother/Sister > Lay folks), field hospitals (Confessionals) and surgeons (priests, exorcists), ROTC/OTS (Minor and Major Seminary), battlefields (souls), soldiers (the faithful), air support (Angels), infantry reinforcements (Saints), armories and ammo dumps (Catholic book stores/libraries), ammo (Prayer Books and Sacramentals), scouts (Missionaries), forward bases deep in enemy territory (Churches, Chapels, etc.), enemy forces (Satan and Co.), etc.

    I could go on, but I think I get the point across…

  17. Tony Phillips says:

    Désolé, je ne peux pas lire the whole thing over there parce que Le Figaro is behind a mur de payer.

  18. Hugh says:

    Great analogy, Chuck3030

  19. bookworm says:

    I first made this comment on another blog after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and I think it also applies here: while we Americans may diss the French as “cheese eating surrender monkeys”, this shows that in some ways, they are (or at least can be) tougher and more courageous than we are.

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