It has been about five years since the young, mostly Berber proletariat of the dingy Paris, Lyons, and Marseilles suburbs took to burning its proletarian neighbors’ cars, and there is a looming feeling among French Catholics that something is still not quite right in the woods. There are indications that both French- and Church-government officials want France less Catholic and more Mohammedan: To this end, these officials have taken in many cases to preferential treatment of Saracens.
Consider: Back in 2006, a young married man from the Val-d’Oise déapartment north of Paris noticed a giant inflatable prophylactic next to a school and did what any decent man would do: He popped it. In September of last year, he was fined nearly €10,000. Meanwhile, the young Berber miscreants mentioned above have not repented of their ways, burning French flags and defacing public property. The rarity with which they are reproached for their behavior is not surprising to anyone familiar with the communist mayors and inattentive police forces who run the communes of Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris’s worst suburbs—and when the miscreants are apprehended, they are generally condemned to symbolic penalties, such as community service or one-euro fines.
More puzzling than routine communist-condoned disorder is the attitude of the French bishops toward this. On February 8, 2010, Bishop Dominique Lebrun of Saint-Étienne showed up at a mosque to, as Fr. Régis de Cacqueray put it, “apologize” for his aggravated flock: “Some Christians” he explained,
have a hard time understanding the presence of Islamic centers of worship on a territory they consider their own. These sentiments are unjust, and, so far as I am able by the grace of God, I wish to ask pardon.
Monsignor Lebrun may have been following the lead of Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (admittedly not officially a part of the hierarchy of the Gallican Church), who, just days earlier, had blamed Europeans’ “fear” of the increasing visibility of Islam on the continent on “ignorance,” on “people who have never met Muslims and who base their thoughts on what they see or hear on television.” In almost the same breath, Cardinal Tauran deplored the “lack of culture in general and in particular the lack of religious culture” in European politics. It is unclear what he meant by “culture” or to which religion he was referring.
The Gallican Church was on a roll in February 2010. In the wake of Switzerland’s bold band-aid solution of banning minarets for fear of “becoming like France,” the National Assembly of France had debated banning the burqa in most public places. Once again the Lay Republic clashed with the Catholic clergy: Bishop Michel Santier of Crétil warned that “if we want the Christian minorities in Muslim countries to have full rights, we must in our own country respect the rights of all believers to practice their respective beliefs.”
It is, of course, unfair to paint the entire French episcopate with the same broad brush. During the burqa debate, Archbishop Robert Le Gall of Toulouse may have affirmed that he was “happy that there is a mosque in Toulouse,” but that was only a qualification of his opinion that the roots of France “are Christian.” The archbishop of Paris, André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, was for his part kind enough to extend a message of solidarity to the Christians of Turkey after the brutal knife murder of Vicar-Apostolic Luigi Padovese in Anatolia by his fanatical Mohammedan chauffeur.
Still, one is surprised not to hear French bishops speak up more on behalf of their own flock. There is, for instance, evidence that conversions from Islam to Christianity are blithely underreported. An acquaintance of mine tells me of his recent visit to a 10,000-strong, largely Algerian neighborhood in the Paris area and his astonishment that there were no mosques or halal shops. “They’re all Catholics here,” someone explained to him. Since almost no native Algerians were Catholic when the French pulled out of Algeria, these must be relatively recent converts. What kind of aggravation have they suffered at the hands of their former coreligionists—and why are French Catholics being asked to reach out to Algerian-descended Mohammedans and not to Algerian-descended Catholics?
Perhaps the following comparison may give a hint. The infamous Front National is routinely branded a fascist party. Considering the steady inroads the party has been making on the electoral turf of not only the old center-right parties but the increasingly vacuous Socialists, that fact is likely born of a desperate attempt by the ruling blocs to instill in the French populace a fear of a terrorizing paramilitary organization out to establish some sort of S.S. Yet the Front has never engaged in violent activity. Mohammedans in France (and elsewhere) have, repeatedly. It seems fairly clear which party has terrorized the republican and ecclesiastical governments of France into submission.