"Game Over" for France, or will someone do something about it?

La France se déchristianise à vive allure – France is de-christianising rapidly

My translation from French

The IFOP Institute has just made a survey on Catholicism in France for the daily La Croix. The result is mind-blowing:

  • Whilst, in 1965, 81% of the French declared themselves as Catholics, they were no more than 64% in 2009.
  • More serious: whilst 27% of the French went to Mass once a week or more in 1965, they are no more than 4.5% in 2009.
  • At a doctrinal level, generally, it's a catastrophe: 63% of practicing Catholics think all religions are the same; 75% ask for an "aggiornamento" of the Church on contraception and even 68% for abortion.
  • As for communion with the Roman Pontiff, the situation is no better: only 27% of practicing Catholics consider that Benedict XVI "rather well" defends "the values of Catholicism" (personally, I don't even understand the question, but that doesn't matter) when 34% think he defends them "rather badly".

That's the least we could say, that in view of the figures, it is urgent to change the strategy and reunite the living forces of French Catholicism to re-evangelise the former Eldest Daughter of the Church! To find all the survey data (in French): "La Croix".

Some of you might wonder why so much is being written about France on an Anglican blog. I repeat the fact that our combat and aspiration to the fulness of Catholicism is part of a wider context. We are being called by the Pope to help the whole Church get back onto her feet.

Indeed. There is nothing new here, but it is more dramatic than we expected. Either it's all over in this country or the Roman Authority will decide to do something about it. The first problem is bad Bishops trying to apply the dinosaur ideology of the 1970's (cultural Marxism, etc.)! The first thing to do is a complete reform of the Episcopate, and perhaps doing away with the old territorial dioceses that have become obsolete white elephants. Replace them with five or six Apostolic Vicariates directly under the jurisdiction of the Pope (via the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith like the future Anglican Ordinariates). These Apostolic Vicariates would call all hands on deck from the Summorum Pontificum communities (traditional rite) and reform of the reform communities like the Petits Gris or the Communauté Saint-Martin and those secular clergy who want to be Catholics. Perhaps even a priest or two from an Anglican-Catholic Ordinariate happening to live in France… It is urgent also to rebuild the stable rural ministry and allow priests who want to work in the country areas to do so, even though not all parishes could have a priest at first. It would be a travesty to confine the evangelisation work to cities. I would also recomend that celibate priests should live in communities of three or four, praying the Office together and to make High Mass possible.

If anyone in the Vatican is reading this, please pass on the suggestion to the appropriate office!

Update: Article in Deborah Gyapong's blog – a quote from the last part:

I think the Holy Father has heard the cry of the Eldest Daughter of the Church and that's why he sent our dear former Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Ventura to France.

Ventura played a key role in Canada in what looks like a counterrevolution to the Quiet Revolution that emptied Quebec's churches out in the 1970s and the small "s" spirit of Vatican II, aka the "hermeneutic of rupture." Of course he did not do this alone–but the timing of his arrival–the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and almost a year ahead of Pope John Paul II's 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto, coupled with his faithfulness and graciousness to all, has had a dynamic effect on the springtime I see in many places in the Canadian Church.

When the Canadian bishops said goodbye to him last fall at their annual plenary, the room was full of love for this man. There was no division among bishops that one might place on different ends of the spectrum. It struck me how Ventura was a sign of unity for Canada, someone who always kept the whole Church in mind.

So all of you who have concerns for France, pray for her Nuncio.

Author: Fr. Anthony Chadwick

Father Anthony Chadwick was born in the north of England into an Anglican family. He was educated in one of the Church of England’s most well-known schools, St. Peter’s in York, at which he was nurtured in the Anglican musical tradition. After several years studying and working in London he studied theology at university level in Switzerland, Italy and France. Still living in France, he has been a priest of the Traditional Anglican Communion (under Archbishop Hepworth) since 2005. Fr. Chadwick is charged with chaplaincy work among dispersed Anglicans in the north of France, is married and lives in Normandy. His interests outside the Church and directly religious matters include classical music, DIY and sailing. As a non-stipendiary priest, he earns his living as a technical translator.

18 thoughts on “"Game Over" for France, or will someone do something about it?”

  1. "The first thing to do is a complete reform of the Episcopate, and perhaps doing away with the old territorial dioceses that have become obsolete white elephants. Replace them with five or six Apostolic Vicariates directly under the jurisdiction of the Pope (via the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith like the future Anglican Ordinariates). "

  2. Quoting the above, I cannot think of a more counterproductive suggestion. First, it simply will not do, from an authentically Catholic ecclesiology, to simply abolish wholesale local particular churches in favor of Vicariates under the Roman Curia. The papacy was not designed to be a world-wide superdiocese. (I am aware, of course, of what happened in 1801, but that was done by Rome under protest at the insistence of Napoleon….it is not a suitable precedent for national church reorganization.) Second, such a suggestion ignores the efforts of the late Cardinal Lustiger and his like-minded ecclesial colleagues to blaze a different and authentic Catholic path that is neither liberal and secular nor "Lefebvrist" and reactionary. One also thinks of the Catholics in Taize and the Jerusalem Community, neither of which are SSPX traddies or "reform of the reform" people. Many of these men have been promoted through the ecclesiastical system in the last decade or so through the auspices of John Paul and Benedict. Perhaps the future of the French Church belongs to them and not the squatters at St. Nicolas or the understandably angry parishioners in the Diocese of Evreux.

    1. Angry in DC, First to suggest that all the Society of St. Pius X is 'angry" is one of the reasons why you are just as worst as the left-wing CAtholics.

      The Society of St. Pius X and the PArishioners of diocese of Evreux are not angry but tired of the Catholic Bishops in France who are not loyal to the Pope.

      And yes there are elements of the Society who are nationalistic in France but to suggest that they are an angry bunch is stupid.

      French Bishops in Some dioceses refuse to allow the Tridentine MAss in their dioceses and its frustrating for Traditional Catholics in many dioceses and they turn to the SSPX.

      YOu are not practicing a true spirit of Christian charity but one of division.

      The French Church is dying and the Traditional Catholic Movement in France is stronger. There are more Vocations to the Priesthood in Traditional orders in france than the Diocese of France.

  3. I was certainly exaggerating when I suggested the wholesale abolition of the French hierarchy. Also, it won't happen. However, things are so bad in France (and some other European countries) that the provincial dioceses will simply go out of business in a few years' time and be absorbed by a small number of future mega-dioceses based in cities like Paris and Lyons. Parochial Catholicism has already disappeared in most places.

    I also agree that many reform of the reform communities – I alluded to them in my article – are probably more representative of the future than the SSPX or the "angry traddies". I attended a conference in Versailles organised by an association that works for reconciliation between different groups of Catholics, and I saw a very healthy attitude among Summorum Pontificum communities like the Fraternity of St Peter. I am also very impressed by the Communauté Saint-Martin, founded by Cardinal Siri in the 1970's and doing first-rate pastoral work in a number of French dioceses. They are reform of the reform Novus Ordo.

    I should add that those communities were founded outside the jurisdiction of the local bishops, and more recently were able to establish themselves in dioceses where the bishop was a true liberal (tolerated anything and everything) or conservative like a few recent Benedict XVI appointees.

    But, the fact remains there are some very bad bishops here in France. The situation of Europe is critical – same thing every time: Islam and secularism…

  4. Interestingly, with regard to the idea of "Apostolic Vicariates" in France to resolve their problems, my initial idea about this whole "personal ordinariates" scheme led me to draw similar conclusions on a bigger scale, when I first heard about it. I hardly think it would be prudent to do away with territorial dioceses altogether, but I can't help but wonder whether the Holy Father is hoping for more personal divisions – a pretty radical reform of how the Church shepherds the flock – within the Church, rather than just territorial divisions as has been the ancient tradition.

    I'm even brought to mind of a situation in Russia not that long ago when Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (or maybe it was long enough ago that it was Kirill's predecessor Alexey) took umbrage at the fact that Benedict was placing Roman Catholic bishops as territorial bishops in parts of Russia where the validly ordained bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church were already heads of Christian dioceses there. Usually in traditionally Orthodox areas (apparently… I admittedly don't know much about these things) the Vatican has treated their (Russian Orthodoxy's) bishops as the heads of the particular church in that area for all Christians, even Roman Catholics, but have placed ordinaries in those areas for pastoral reasons. Benedict apparently reversed that tradition by establishing Roman Catholic dioceses and Kirill (or Alexey) was very upset.

    And now, lo and behold, we now have in the West a system in which the ordinary of certain groups of Catholic Christians is a true ordinary but supersedes the territorial ordinary without either diminishing the other, and the arrangement is specifically designed to accommodate differences of ancient tradition. (And all of this happens at the same time that there are serious talks of a great rapprochement between Moscow and the Vatican because all ecclesiastical disputes within the nation of Russia have been resolved… though sadly not outside of Russia.)

    I can't help but think that this whole "personal ordinariate" system is specifically designed with applications for the broader church in mind. I can imagine a future in which the ordinaries of groups of Christians have both territorial and personal attachments, and where Catholic Christians would be tied to a "rite" of Catholic expression that has its own governance (under the supervision of the CDF) without barring Catholics from freely communicating (in the religious sense) with the communities of Catholics outside of their rite.

    Just imagine a Catholic Christianity in which, in a given territory, Tridentine Catholics, Novus Ordo Catholics, Anglican Catholics, Orthodox Catholics, (and, who knows?, maybe someday Lutheran Catholics and Baptist Catholics and what-have-you, God willing) will worship under the same Pope, under the same creed, in nearly perfect unity, without division except insofar as they are divided by differences in liturgy and governing structures.

    I don't think it's such a far-fetched idea… and I hope and pray that the Holy Father's plan, if that's what it is, succeeds.

  5. I hope we recall the 3rd Republic –

    "The new administration of Emil Combes applied the 1901 law ruthlessly and religious orders found it very difficult to gain legal authorisation. 81 congregations of women and 54 of men were dissolved. By 1903 over 14,000 schools run by unauthorised orders were closed.

    In 1904 members of religious orders were forbidden to teach. Almost all religious orders were banned. Their property was sold often at well below its real value.

    Between 30,000 and 60,000 priests and nuns were exiled."


  6. When one views the depressing statistics on the Church in France, relative to life issues [2/3 of the laity demanding a relaxation of orthodox teaching on the sin of abortion), it is obvious that Humanae Vitae is not being taught in the schoolrooms. What is overlooked is the fact that other salient stats do indicate that French laity are twice-removed from that doctrine taught in Credo of the People of God! Thus it is that catechesis in the post-conciliar era has been a resounding failure. Why blame Catholics of tradition for a lack of charity, when they do point to the fact that the Church in France is dying from doctrinal starvation? Far better to remember the episcopal motto of Abp. Marcel LeFebvre, Credidimus in Caritatis, when the Saints declare it an act of charity to openly defend the Faith Catholic whenever it is in danger of outright distortion or compromise.

  7. Breaking according to the French Site Paix Liturgique some dioceses and French Region like the Diocese of Versailles and the Diocese of Toulon about 26 percent of Catholics attend Mass. I don't know where the La Croix got 4.5 percent?

    According to the Same Site Paix Liturgique, Practicing Catholics in Versailles want to Celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form about 34 percent.

    The Diocese of Versailles, Paris, Lyon and Frejus Toulon have a higher percentage of Mass Attendance than the rest of France. The rural areas are devasted by priest shortages though and less mass attendance.

    1. I can well believe that Mass attendence figures are proprtionately higher when the diocesan Bishop is orthodox and encourages vocations and stability in the parishes. Also, the Church does better in cities than in the countryside.

      I think it would be a mistake to abandon rural ministries. Perhaps found special priestly societies specialised in rural ministry? Are the traditionalist societies giving this any thought?

  8. The French have always liked to think of themselves as world leaders and free thinkers. When civilization collapses in the EU, the first country to go will be France. Traditional values have been laid aside due to an historical anti-Catholicism developed by so many free thinkers that the country is ripe for Islamic conversion. The French really deserve that!

    1. I think you could say as much for any western country. The Americans invading Irak for oil, the British Empire in India and the Far East also to exploit natural resources, the Nazis and the Fascists in the 30's and 40's. Perhaps I am naive, but I see little sign of civilisation breaking down in the EU. Perhaps the EU itself might lose credibility and the European countries will reclaim their sovereign independence. Perhaps it might be like in 1945 when the Pope will be the only moral authority left – and would help rebuild a new European Union, but based on Christianity and not secularism.

      A European being elected in 2005 was the answer to our prayers. Had we got a non-European Pope, it would have certainly meant that Europe was definitively a lost cause. This is not so. There is still hope.

      Do we have to be so negative? I think the French cities could well go under – in time (about 20-30 years at the current rate of immigration), but as the Germans found between 1940 and 1944, the French countryside is very difficult to occupy and keep under control!

      England's Chamberlain signed a pact with Hitler in 1939, but we were able to fight their Luftwaffe. England was not occupied as some kind of divine punishment.

      Perhaps the real French will stand up and resist. This country (I live in Normandy) happens to be where the traditionalist reaction has been most active, and where it has been the laity that took militant initiatives. Perhaps on account of those people, France may become Christian again.

      Hope springs eternal…

  9. Against this evidence, our only consolation remains in hope that a reversal will happen when the post-conciliar Church and peculiarly the modernist french bishops will acknowledge that they erred for almost half a century, or when these same obsolete bishops will retire and be replaced by more traditionalist ones: Of course, where is the “new Pentecost” that pope John scheduled?
    Anyway this reversal will be heartbreaking for many.

  10. My gratitude to Ludolphus for correcting my Latin.
    I pray that this exchange of opinions among those who have the best interest of the Church in mind (sentire cum ecclesia) will dare to exemplify to the world at large that charity conquers all.

  11. I guess the SSPX is active in Rural dioceses in France as well.

    Since many French Bishops refuse to implement Motu Proprio. They were the most vocal about it. Many frustrated Catholics turn to the Chapels of SSPX because of that.

    1. We should not forget that the Society of St Pius X has its own ongoing dialogue with Rome in view of full organic unity and being established as a personal episcopal jurisdiction or "ordinariate" (if that formula is used for them).

      I wish the SSPX all the best, and hope some of the rough edges will be knocked off in the coming months and years.

      I, as a TAC priest, have found a lot of sympathy here in France with Summorum Pontificum community priests, like the Fraternity of St Peter and the Institute of the Good Shepherd. It would be nice to find as much sympathy with the SSPX.

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