1. Is there really a schism in
French Catholicism? ifillifininininnumillim By FR. ROBERT ROUQUETTE, S.J.
THERE is a lot of talk of an uneasiness in French Catholicism. This impression is based on some noisy show of opposition to the liturgical reforms; some books and articles; a flood of tracts against the Council, the episcopate and Pope John's aggiornamento; and the pastoral experiments in .progress.
But how representative are these demonstrations? "It is undeniable thai there is a crisis for some people," we wrote some months ago in an Austrian review (Wort und Wahrheit, April, 1965), "but to measure its depth seriously, a sociological study according to the methods of opinion-testing would be necessary." Since then such an inquiry has been completed by the French Institute of Public Affairs.
The results were published in La Vie Catholique (June 9). These results confirm what we assumed in the article cited above, that is, "We have been inclined to exaggerate the importance of a small number of malcontents more noisy than numerous."
Here are the most characteristic data of this inquiry. Two Frenchmen out of three are aware of the changes in the liturgy. What is most striking for the majority (87 per cent) of those aware of the changes is the use of the French language in the Mass.
In answer to the question: "In general, do you think the changes are a good or a had thing?" 73 per cent of those replying considered them a good thing; only 9 per cent considered them a bad thing and 18 per cent did not give an opinion. It is, then, a small minority that is opposed to the liturgical reform : 9 per cent — only 6 per cent of regularly practising Catholics.
The two principal reasons given to justify approval of the new liturgy were, on the one hand: "We can understand it"; and on the other: "The faithful take a larger part and are associated with the celebrant."
Among the 6 per cent of practising Catholics who remain in rebellion against the new liturgy, there are, very likely, to be counted the small, active minority who are opposed in principle to everything the Council does. What does this indicate?
It is striking that the most important motive advanced for opposing the new liturgy is simply that it is new: "We are accustomed to something else, it is contrary to our traditions; this is a change ..." (5 per cent out of the 9 per cent opposing change).
Good people. then, have been disturbed by the changes: "I no longer recognise my Mass." an old man said to me. Not. however, that age is the problem. In the investigation, the same proportion of young and old were favourable to the reforms; 74 per cent of those between the ages of 20 and 34: 74 per cent of those over 65,
It is among the rich bourgeoisie that reform is least popular, only 65 per cent of the industrialists and merchants questioned favoured reform. There is in France a solid bourgeoisie, of age-old tradition, austere and hard-working often well-educated, which is by instinct conservative in every field and opposed to everything new.
A banker told Me that, according to him, nothing should be changed in religion, not even the external forms, otherwise it would all collapse. The kindest thing one can say of such an opinion is that it ignores all history.
But at a deeper level, the reason for the dissatisfaction of many is revealed by the second motive advanced to justify the opposition: "It is contrary to religion, it interferes with recollection."
Many of the most faithful consider the liturgy, especially the Mass, as a practice of private and interior piety. a time of silent prayer in which one enters into personal contact with God.
Certainly the liturgy should be nourished by one's regular prayers. In turh personal prayer derives its raison d'etre and its power from the liturgy of the eucharist and the other sacraments: but, despite all this, the Mass is not an interior prayer.
The proof is that the priest who celebrates Mass does not have a moment to himself but pronounces vocal prayer from beginning to end. The Mass is a ommunity action—centred in he euchanst through which the 'ex* of God is constituted and tan ifested .
Traditional French bourgeois
circles, being deeply individualistic. are more opposed than others to this community spirit. And one must admit that too often under the pretext of a community Mass. the faithful are overwhelmed by a flood sof long-winded and tasteless commentary which does not permit a collective recollection.
Another form of opposition conies from the Intellectuals, the humanists, most of them professors of the classics who lament the neglect of Latin which they consider to be the foundation of Western civilisation and the mainstay of the French language, Usually these intellectuals are opposed to conservatives in social and political matters. They only want to save the Latin language and .Gregorian chant and they have formed a league, Una Voce.
The members of this league arc generally moderates. They recognise that the use of modern languages has advantages, but they regret that French has been imposed. They would prefer that the faithful be able to choose between a Mass in Latin and a Mass according to the new liturgy. This is a reasonable request and compliance with it might be a worthwhile ternporary measure, but could involve practical difficulties.
In addition. certain prejudices underlie the intellectuals' demands. It is doubtful that classical culture is necessary for spiritual formation and the maintenance of civilisation, even for a people like the French who historically are a fusion of Celts. Latins and Teutons.
Furthermore, classical culture is today, even in France. a luxury and a privilege constituting a kind of aristocratic intellectual elite. It could be said that the liturgy in Latin is a lii gy of the culturally rich and does not suit a Church which wants above all to be the Church of the poor, in conformity with the spirit of the Gospel.
These humanists are equally shocked by the inevitable malapropisms that crop up in the official translations of the liturgical texts. These translations were carefully prepared by teams of well-known writers.
They were preceded by the long preparatory work of authors of missals in French and by an intense Biblical movement to which we owe, among other
things, the celebrated Bible cd Jerusalem; they are, none the less, relatively hastily composed and capable of improvement.
The true difficulty has a different source: the Bible readings of the present missal are illsuited to the world of today. They are often unintelligible without a solid Biblical background. The fragmentary character of the Introits and the prayers for the Offertory and the Communion are often disconcerting.
Proclaiming them in language understood by all makes the difficulty of these texts the more obvious. But the Roman Commission for Liturgical Reform has undertaken the immense task of redoing the lectionary of the Mass. These inevitable defects will disappear when the liturgical reform, now barely begun. has been completed.
Meantime, a patient and solid initiation of the faithful in the spirit of the Bible is necessary if the liturgy is to he truly accessible and intelligible.
These two forms of opposition—from the traditionalists and from the humanists—are not dangerous; they are neither violent nor noisy; they are resigned and quiet, often dejected, but respectable. They should in time fade away. as new customs take over, to be themselves in turn menaced by conformism and rigidity.
The real opposition comes from elsewhere. It identifies itself with the violently anti democratic and anti-Gaullist forces of the extreme right. These are the activists who have several times attempted to assassinate the President of the Republic.
It is significant that all the newspapers, reviews and magazines which express this religious and political opposition are in sympathy with the extreme right, seeking to prolong the nationalist Action Franfaise movement.
Action Francaise, inspired by the great atheist writer, Charles Maurras, was a powerful monarchist political movement to which many Catholics belonged before the Second World War. The movement was condemned by Pius XI because of its exaltation of violence. its moral pragmatism expressed in the slogan "politics first", and because of the atheism of its originator who defended Catholicism solely as a force of conservatism and order.
The politico-religious opposition finds recruits among those who feel rejected by the present social structures; the former collaborators with the Hitlerian occupation: the old militants of the ().A.S.. who organised the putsch against the FrancaAlgerian accords: the opponents of decolonialisation; the officers deeply embittered by the aban. donment of North Africa after so many men had been sacri ficed; and in general Catholic "integralists" who are themselves for the most part in favour of nationalist and antidemocratic politics of the .extreme right.
One finds a detailed study of the positions of this integralism in a lengthy, anonymous volume which appeared in 1959 under the title Pour Qu'il Regne (That fle May Reign. "he" being understood to be Christ).
I have summed up these positions in the article in tVori and Wahrheit cited above: "The dominant idea of Polo Quit Regne is that the 'Revolution' is a work of the devil, an absolute evil. By Revolution one must understand everything that has issued, closely or remotely, from the French Revolution of the eighteenth century: democracy, separation of Church and State, social movements.
"Against this Revolution one must establish the social reign of Christ, a noble aim surely, but understood in a very special way. It is not a question of these cracy strictly speaking. but of seeking the establishment of a social and political order which would relate itself explicitly to the Catholic faith,• as did the society of the Ancien Regime. at least in principle.
'In particular. the establishment of this social reign of Christ demands that Catholics war against what Pour Qu'il Regne calls the Fifth Column of the Revolution, that is, the infiltration of the spirit of the Revolution into Catholicism— a 'progressivism' where they see Marxism more or less disguised.
"This Maude', progressivism is looked upon as the outcome of the liberalism of the nineteenth century, the Sillon movement, the Americanism of the time of Leo XIII and modernism. Everything that does not revolve on the axis of political and social reaction of the extreme right is treated as Marxian progressivism.
"The papers and pamphlets advocating the philosophy of which Pour Qu'il Regne is the clearest expression. discern such a Marxian progressivism. conscious or unconscious, in all apostolic undertakings begun by the late Cardinal Suhard and in everything that resembles aggiornmnento or reform . ." The author of a book that contrasts Pius XII and the Council of John XXIII, affirms the existence of a general COI1Spiracy of subversion, in which Communism would be only one of the means of subversion and which would have for its aim, among other things, to lead the Church to betray Catholicism (eic) by altering the faith through Teilhardism and Modernism: undermining discipline by democracy, liturgy by innovations and morality by developing feelings of guilt of which anti-colonialism and the repudiation of anti-Semitism would be the expression.
Extremists vocal ' An anonymous book, The Black Book of the Catholics of France, which openly charges the Archbishop of Cambrai imbecility, goes so far as to esplicitly cast suspicion on the bishops of being bought by Moscow's money or being paralysed by the words which Soviet spies have wrung from them.
For these extremists, the Council is one of the aspects of political. social and religious subversion. In Rome itself the review Borghese is of the same inspiration. The extremists go on repeating and writing that the Council is introducing disorder and anarchy into the Church.
Archbishop Leon Duval of Algiers recently elevated to the Cardinalate by Pope Paul VI, is especially vilified because of his irenic attitude during the Algerian war. He is treated as a traitor to the Church and to country.
To these extremists. the least innovation is scandalous. For having permited priests not to wear the soutane in the streets, the Cardinal of Paris is practically called a Free Mason (let my readers not forget that in Continental Europe Freemasonry is generally violently anti-religious and anti-clerical).
Catholic journals which are not of the extreme right are stigmatised as Crypto-Communist organs; the Catholic Scot* Movement of France is accused of Marxism because it undertakes the education of the masses; picket lines disturb the conferences of the editor of Informations Carholiques Internet:inflates who has just been named a member of the Roman commission on communications media; the pretext for these demonstrations was that Informations had published too favourable an article on the Polish movement Pax.
Not a schism However, the coadjutor Archbishop of Rouen, Andre Pallier, in an impromptu conference on May 9, 1965, evoked the possibility of a schism "Which", he said, "would extend, it is true, to only a small group!"
To this statement, said in passing, the world press gave a reverberation which astonished the archbishop. He explained that in speaking in haste of a schism. he did not intend the word in the strict sense of an organised denomination. still less of a Church with schismatic bishops, but only of a group of men who tend to separate themselves from the Church.
We cannot remain indifferent regarding our brethren who feel themselves threatened in their adherence to the visible Church, in spite of the uncontrolled passion that animates them and the violence which they use.
But these extremists do not make a schism; a celebrated pastor like Abbe Michonneau or a young bishop like Gerard Huyghe, Bishop of Arras. have fcircefuuly reminded us in this connection that what should disturb us is rather the immense multitude of .1he baptised who remain indifferent — practically cut off from the Church and the faith.