Saturday, September 13, 2008

Laïcité - Pope urges France to re-think its secular republic

Pope Benedict XVI has urged Christians in ‘secular’ France to make their voices heard in the public realm, declaring ‘politics and religion must be open to each other’.

Cranmer is delighted to say that he fully accords with His Holiness on this, and looks forward to being invited to the Vatican for a private audience to discuss the details over wafers and wine. He would be happy to philosophise on the 1905 concept of ‘laïcité’ which has no easy translation into English: it is not ‘secularism’ - as frequently defined by the clericalism it opposes - but more a term for the separation of church and state. Intrinsic to it are various Enlightenment notions of liberté, including freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion. And it is predicated upon the post-Enlightenment settlement of the division between the private realm of spiritual belief and the public realm of political policy. Laïcité is a founding principle of the French Constitution, which states in its First Article: ‘La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale.

But erstwhile Catholic France – known as Rome’s ‘eldest daughter’ since Frankish king Clovis converted in the fifth century - is presently confronting a substantial transformation in its religious landscape. The country has the largest population of Jews and Muslims in Western Europe. Despite its deeply Catholic roots, of the 75 per cent of the nation's 62 million people who are baptised, fewer than 5 per cent attend Mass every week. And many of its centuries-old cathedrals are crumbling in towns that lack money or the motivation to renovate them.

But it is the growing number of Muslims whose ‘public’ customs – such as the wearing of hijabs - have resulted in a severe restriction of such expressions of religious adherence in government-owned buildings. The laïcité which applies to the church must also apply to the mosque. And yet these two religions are clearly not held as equals by the secular Republic, and obviously not by the Pope.

His Holiness rightly asserts that ‘the presence of Christian values is fundamental for the survival of our nations and our societies’, and he appears to be meeting President Sarkozy in one of those illogical, postmodern ‘third ways’ which permit mutually exclusive concepts to fuse into an oxymoronic nebulous entity which feels more than it means.

Thus we have a papal blessing upon the notion of ‘positive secularism’ – which will uphold the Republic’s demand for the separation of church and state while creating space within the public realm for religion. Curiously, the very act of inviting His Holiness to the Elysée Palace is the incarnation of the concept, for it is clear from this photograph that the Pope was not asked to remove his rather prominent cross or any other religious symbols he was wearing.

Pope Benedict said it was ‘fundamental on the one hand, to insist on the distinction between the political realm and that of religion in order to preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the State towards them’. But he added that societies must also be ‘more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to - among other things - the creation of a basic ethical consensus within society’.

The problem then is égalité, for secularism demands a ‘neutral’ religious outlook, such that what is permitted to Christianity in the public realm must also be granted to Islam. And if La République does not oblige, the EU will enforce it under its Human Rights anti-discrimination legislation.

The President’s ‘cultural Catholicism’ is weak, and only a vibrant and vehement expression of Christianity will fill the spiritual void which is being occupied incrementally by a very different brand of clericalism. While he is intent on rejecting the ‘negative laïcité’ of restriction in favour of a ‘positive laïcité’ of mutual benefit, the President speaks of a hope in faith which must be extended not only to Christian groups, but also to those religious groups which are inimical to France’s Christian roots.

It may be ‘madness’ to ‘deprive ourselves of religion’, as the President said. But, in the last analysis, there may be some expressions of religion of which it is undoubtedly better to be deprived, and the French may one day thank God that religion is subjugated to secularism.


Blogger PG said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

13 September 2008 at 08:30  
Blogger mckenzie said...

laïcité the absence of religious involvement in government affairs and government involvement in religious affairs.

What could His Holiness have up his sleeve? There are numerous ways of killing a cat other than choking it with cream!

13 September 2008 at 09:24  
Anonymous churchmouse said...

Protestants protest against the imposition of Roman Catholicism, pg; but we do celebrate Communion in the same tradition: wafers and wine. We call it Eucharist.

BTW, and not speaking for His Grace, of course - but some of us are no more enamoured of Popes than we are of sarko.

13 September 2008 at 09:26  
Blogger mckenzie said...

Incidentally, stop bitching about having an audience with the Pope and get over your self, you're dead!

13 September 2008 at 09:34  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr McKenzie,

Communing with the dead (Mary and a plethora of saints) is fully provided for in Roman Catholic tradition and endorsed by doctrine. However, they tend not to pray to His Grace.

Mr PG,

Perhaps you have had a humour bypass. His Grace's communicants are better acquainted with his affections.

13 September 2008 at 09:54  
Anonymous Scallywag said...

Well there's plently of scope for improvement here in France where regular attenders at Mass account for as much as 1.9% of the population on a good day. This may have something to do with the priest:church ratio which is about 1:14 where I live.

13 September 2008 at 10:59  
Anonymous len said...

By the rejection of God by the New world Order being set up in europe a vacuum has been formed.
This is in the process of being filled by radical Islam.
Only the presence of the holy Spirit will stop this process!
No pope, archbishop,religious, or political system will reverse this process!

13 September 2008 at 11:00  
Blogger Christian said...

I am presently writing an extended essay on French secularism and I must emphasis to your grace that secularism in France has always, historically, meant the systematic elimination of all religion from French public life and that the 1905 law saw the theft by the State of all Churches and religious houses in France. Any Tory should see such a violation of conscience and property rights as utterly abhorrent. Monks were lead out of monasteries they had occupied for a thousand years but soldiers with fixed bayonets!

The long history of secularism in France is surely the best explanation for the fact that it is the most irreligious historically Catholic country in Europe. 150 years of Republican education have seen to that.

I see your point about Islam but you would do well to remember that France still has a strong Traditionalist movement - ie a movement that sees the alienation of France from its roots and its historical instability and knows that the solution is a return to La France Ancienne. Monarchy, Christianity and Order. It is in this movement (which is increasingly strong) that we must place our hope in.

PS: It surprises me enormously that an Archbishop such as yourself would ever approve of the secular state since the Church you formed has as its bedrock the union of Church and State!

13 September 2008 at 12:47  
Anonymous Katy said...


Have you entirely lost the plot?

"the 1905 law saw the theft by the State of all France... Any Tory should see such a violation of conscience and property rights as utterly abhorrent."

Well, the sentiment is very true; but you're asking Abp Cranmer to agree?

13 September 2008 at 13:45  
Anonymous legitimist leon said...

Until the French restore their King, they shall know no peace.

13 September 2008 at 16:49  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

" illogical, postmodern ‘third ways’ which permit mutually exclusive concepts to fuse into an oxymoronic nebulous entity which feels more than it means."

This makes Islam the greatest ally of postmodernism. Normalising it requires the abolition of meaning and truth.

13 September 2008 at 21:08  
Anonymous Brita said...

len@11:00 a.m: good sense well expressed as always; thank you.

I also interpret His Grace as intimating that it is essential for Christians to unite under the Spirit of Christianity. At the same time, though, I believe that no one communicant should try to enforce political-economic unity. I am among those who distrust 'Holy Romans' for political and economic ambitions that extend beyond their own borders.

I also believe that, during the establishment of its power base, the 'secularist' euSSR has no qualms about allying itself with its enemy (RC Christianity)-indeed, it has another such bond with Islam.

Might that triple 'alliance' be the crux of the politico-religious situation? Conquerors from the continent have a history of turning the people they rule against each other (the Normans encouraged hatred between Celts and the English, for example). The principle is "Divide and Conquer" -in Biblical terms: "A house divided against itself cannot stand" (St. Mark - haven't time to get the full citation).

My suggestion is that the euSSR has encouraged - nay: required - immigration and tolerance of eastern religions, and so set up its end-game for domination of previously Christian member states. This is especially possible in light of the hatred propagated by Islam and the Koran - and I'm grateful to Cranmer's website for clarifying that part of the puzzle. The problem that remains to be solved, as someone pointed out on another thread, is: How will euSSR will subjugate the winner of that contest? Might they intend, perhaps, to unite both parties against a common enemy?

P.S [Being atheist, euSSR of course doesn't understand that Christianity, as Len indicates, is much more than an intellectual argument. That's why Marxists at blackboards sneer at defenceless students: "Forget your beliefs. Just consider the 'facts'...."]

13 September 2008 at 21:32  
Blogger McKenzie said...


You make interesting prophesies which I do not find wholly/holy disagreeable. However, you are an odd kind of atheist. Len says that he believes the Holy Spirit to be crucial to man's survival against the New World Order, which you say is "good sense well expressed", and I can only agree. You also say that Christianity is much more than intellectual argument, by which I can only assume that you have empathy towards 'belief'.
From a Christian perspective, I sense the Holy Spirit at work in your thoughts. Let It flow in, embrace It and rejoice! Pray, and then pray again: do this for one week and I am sure you will receive answers and a great peace in your heart.

13 September 2008 at 23:00  
Anonymous Brita said...

I think my modifier is logically placed, and that Communists in the euSSR are atheists).

However, I explore possibilities that might help me and other Brits/Christians to move towards ameliorating the mess we're in: beleaguered as we are and subjugated to the euSSR. I appreciate any feedback that could advance that exploration-hence the posts.

If I know something about Marxism: modern professors forced it on me. They could not convert me because - in my second round of studies - I knew more than they expected. So--- I'm acting out one of their favourite words and 'subverting' their doctrine.

Thank you for your concern, then. I have been following your spiritual advice, and more, for many a year.

Dominus Tecum.

14 September 2008 at 00:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With much of the population functionally atheist why not just have a vote on it instead of assuming religion has a mate in high office and sneak in that way.

14 September 2008 at 01:40  
Blogger McKenzie said...

Apologies! I must seem to have a holier than thou personality. It really is just concern though. However, in this case completely misplaced. I am completely guilty of having the capacity to be a prat.
I am constantly frustrated with the in-house bickering though between CofE and Rome.
Another thing which frustrates me is the lack of communion with God which our politicians seem to display. Both sides seem to be playing tennis in the media, and neither has any clear narrative or vision for the future, and this I believe is due to the lack of communion with God.
David Cameron needs to engage the nation with consistency and clear vision about where he will lead us. At the moment it is apparent to me that he does not have communion with God: Gordon Brown never has had real communion and his judgment has been clouded from the start, he seems to be searching for the 'trick that will do it'. There is no trick, the solution to our dilemma is not simple, but the first step is.
I find myself drawn to Rome so to speak, but this is because I cannot understand in my heart exactly where the Church of England is trying to go. But I can see the wonderful wisdom of God at work here and appreciate the balance we have in our nation. This is what I believe was lacking in a certain nation which unleashed the horrors of WW2. Adolf Hitler most certainly did not have communion with God, and I think had there been more balance in the nation he would have never crawled out of that back room where it all started.
So basically I say sorry again, its just simply the fact that I thought to myself 'this is no atheist'. Hardly anybody else is shouting, so I am! There is always the risk of making a complete twat of one's self, but hell, I have weathered that one many a time.

14 September 2008 at 08:38  
Anonymous TheTruthIs... said...

All we need is some ex-Bown Shirt German telling people what to do - what next, birth control?

The Pope is about as right-on as Mary Whitehouse at an Ann Summers party.

26 September 2008 at 16:20  

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