Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have Catholic fundamentalists prevailed over Catholics?

France has apparently become ‘Christianophobic’. 

A distinguished source at the Institut Civitas is adamant about this. 

This country – the jewel in the crown of Christianity and Enlightenment – is now afraid of Christianity. It fears it and fights it …

Three artistic productions that went on show over the past ten months seem to offer concrete proof of this:

- Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucifix in a glass of urine, by American artist Andres Serrano, exhibited in Avignon for three weeks.
- On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God by the Italian Roberto Castellucci (staged for ten nights in Rennes and 13 nights in Paris).
- Golgota Picnic by the Argentine-born Rodrigo Garcia (staged ten times in Paris and five times in Toulouse).

In all three cases, what has hit the headlines is the reaction of protestors who have described these shows as ‘blasphemous’. In actual fact, the photographer posing in front of his work certainly did not look upset as hammer blows rained down on his exhibit.

The same can be said for the two plays: the ‘fundamentalists’ have been a stroke of luck. The peak was reached a week ago in Paris with Golgota Picnic, which became a kind of national symbol for the calvary of religious persecution suffered by French Catholics. What would Iraqi Christians say about all this?

So times are changing, fast. Exactly 12 months ago – too long ago, before the new era of Christianophobia – the film Of Gods and Men (original title Des Hommes et Des Dieux) was enormously successful: 3,204,170 spectators not including DVD sales. Commentators at the time – in complete contrast to those of today – were asking themselves what lay behind this renaissance and this renewed interest in Christianity! It was late 2010, and the winds have changed since then…

So can over three million spectators only be considered a tiny detail compared to the few hundred spectators who actually bought tickets to see these scandalous productions? Though it is true to say that three million people, even four if you count DVDs, are nothing when you compare them to the tens of millions who have heard about these productions thanks to the advertising guaranteed by none other than... Civitas! 

How could this institute, so disapproving of these productions, have committed such a gross miscalculation? Could Civitas – and I am referring to its leaders, not to the respectable good faith of its members – have another goal in mind when raising such a storm?

On its website, the institute describes itself as a ‘political movement’ which brings together ‘secular Catholics committed to the establishment of Christ’s social monarchy in countries and peoples in general, in France and among the French in particular.’ It goes on to say: ‘The Institut Civitas is a programme of political and social reconquest which aims to re-Christianise France.’ It does not refer in any way to ties with hardline members of the Society of St Pius X, which is against any agreement with Rome and which was openly present at the demonstration, nor to the disappointed followers of Marine le Pen who have not accepted her defence of secularism.

There remain two strange aspects to this case:

- The first is the attempt to make people believe that the danger of Christianophobia is threatening France while all the facts (including the success of Of Gods and Men) clearly demonstrate the opposite. It is therefore obvious that this strategy had two aims: one of generating publicity and the other of preparing the ground – using this slogan carried around at the demonstrations: ‘France is Christian and must remain so’ – in order to launch another fundamental struggle: Islamophobia, a fear of Islam.

- The second: Civitas’ demonstrators wanted to appear as neutral ‘Catholics’, without pertaining to any particular group, rejecting any ‘fundamentalist’ labels. And they almost succeeded in this, despite the precision of their anti-Roman, anti-pope speech. After all, the press has ended up calling them ‘Catholic fundamentalists’, but the first despatches actually referred to ‘Catholics’.

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