Monday, August 18, 2008

Back to Church?

Bernard Girard notes changes in the religious behavior of the French and wonders if this might connote a sharpening of class divisions. A speculative but thought-provoking comment. And as a bonus, a link to a note on Sarkozy's upcoming meeting with the pope, whose defense of the indissolubility of marriage will not prevent him from entering the divorced president's palace via la petite porte.


Leo said...

Girard's theory strikes me as based on flimsy anecdotal evidence. I can testify to an opposite behavior in several religious ceremonies I recently attended where people from the same "aisées" classes displayed a perfunctory composure and showed no expression of deep faith.
I don't know if there is a return to a "société de classes", but I personnaly believe (again from personal experience) that, if there is one, it is more rooted in different attitudes towards the Law and the institutions than towards religion.

Anonymous said...

The blog post by Mr.G is quite anecdotal but informative and certainly has a nugget of truth in it. French Catholicism is very much a "High Church" affair. More Bossuet than Léon Bloy in its attitude and composure. Saint-Sulpice or a parish in St.Germain-en-Laye would be the last places I'd look for charismatic behavior or PDAG (public displays of affection for God).
The CEVIPOF could verify this (they've likely published on it), but I do believe the demographics of church-goers are not in their majority from the upper or upper-middle-class. Many are, but a stroll in your random church in a random village on a random Sunday will likely show that most arent. Indeed, those volunteer lay persons who keep the parish life going are not rich (more likely lower middle class, in genteel poverty as F.Scott Fitzgerald would say).
Another comment on things in his blog post - first, going for communion. I was taught - meaning made to feel guilty should I break the rule(!) - that if you miss mass one Sunday you couldn't go for communion the next time you went. You'd have to go to confession, confess your sin of missing mass, and then hop! you can go for your wafer the next mass: "But don't miss mass again or else!" would shout dear ole Father O'Devlin. Now, as Mr.G observed, there were all those people going for communion (as opposed to remaining in the pews perhaps remunating on when they'll go to confession to get back wafer-eating privileges...), hmmm. Amongst those in line to receive the eucharist, none of them missed mass the previous Sundays? Looks like there's some "relâchement" going on here - getting soft and avoiding le confessional.:-)
Another thing, the return of a "société de classe"? This leaves me perplexed because after about two or three years living here (I've been here 14 yrs), I figured out just how class-based France is. Its subtle in its subtle, unspoken codes, but it is reality. I live surrounded by, among and with those French which one could qualify as the "France d'en-bas", the lower class. For them, France is a "société de classe". My in-laws would be like "duh! hello!" if I told them that France may be going back to a class-based society.
I'm not a modern-day Tocqueville-like expert of France, ahem, but still it seems like wishful thinking to say France is not a "société de classe".

Chris P.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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