Sunday, April 28, 2013

Will "Zombie Catholicism" Do In the Socialist Party?

The term is not mine. "Zombie Catholicism" is an invention of the indefatigable demographers Hervé Le Bras and Emmanuel Todd:
Hervé Le Bras : Dans notre livre, nous avons pointé ce qu’on a appelé « le catholicisme zombie » : malgré la disparition quasi complète de la pratique religieuse, qui ne concerne plus que 6% des Français, et 1% des 18-24 ans, il reste une manière de vivre, nous disons une « anthropologie » façonnée au cours des siècle par l’Eglise catholique.
Their analysis is that the progress made by the left in the 2012 election came about because the Right had moved to far toward the extreme, putting off these "nonpracticing Catholic" voters, whose natural political valence was in the center-right, the Christian Democrat vote, if you will:
Si le PS avait bien analysé sa progression en 2012, comme nous l’avons fait dans notre livre, il aurait vu qu’elle est due à une maladresse de la droite, qui s’est déportée trop à droite. L’UMP a oublié la composante démocrate-chrétienne de son électorat.
But the gay marriage law has alienated these same voters, according to Le Bras, and this will cost the PS in the next election:
Avec le « mariage pour tous », le PS vient à mon avis de s’aliéner ce qui a été à la base de son succès lors des dernières élections. C’est une erreur électorale énorme. Il ne pouvait peut-être pas le prévoir.
This is such a controversial interpretation, however, that even Le Bras's co-author does not agree with him:
Cela dit, Emmanuel [Todd, ndlr] n’a pas la même interprétation que moi. Son idée, c’est que le « catholicisme zombie » est un peu une façade, dans ces manifestations. Selon lui, c’est en réalité la droite dure qui a pris argument du « mariage pour tous » pour passer à l’offensive. Il a ainsi remarqué que les députés qui étaient les plus en pointe dans les manifestations provenaient plutôt de régions laïques – Mariton, Copé, etc. – pas forcément de régions catholiques.
I haven't studied this question, but my instincts incline me to agree with Todd. Nevertheless, I thought that this analysis was worth signaling to readers, who may have additional points to add to the discussion.


Anonymous said...

Based on what I've seen, I tend to agree with Todd too. Center-right Catholics separate mariage à la mairie and mariage à l'église. The word "mariage" for gay mariage displeases them, but after the January protests, when the extreme right took over and gays started to get beat up, that drunk politician tried to beat up Taubira for allegedly "smirking", gay couples being beaten bloody... they stopped associating with the protest and with the movement. The vociferous right does not a majority make. :p :p Many find that intolerance distasteful (along the line of "let these poor people marry if they want to, it's not their fault they're like that". So, not quite gay friendly, but as long as it's strictly a townhall ceremony, they keep their sentiments separate from policy.) I haven't met a French person yet who really believed that civilization would fall, as some on the right tried to say, or that letting gays adopt kids was tantamount to murdering them (yes, a député said that). There's a lot more opposition to gays adopting children than to gay mariage, actually. Hollande's inability to make good on other promises bothers them much more.

Mitch Guthman said...

I sincerely hope that everyone is right about the politics of this and that the lunatic antics of the right force the wavering center and left to accept this as fait accompli and move on to more important issues. Also, I do understand that for some people this is an important issue of human rights. Nevertheless, it is incomprehensible to me that at a time when France is confronted with such grave challenges, the first Socialist government in generations has apparently chosen to live or die on this particular hill.

I do not wish to give offense to anyone and I can only speak for myself but same sex marriage really doesn’t seem to be remotely as important as mass unemployment, the economic crisis, the euro crisis, the disintegration of the European Union and dealing with the problems of immigration and integrating (or not integrating) a large Muslim population without ripping the fabric of French society to shreds.

With everything else that’s going on did gay marriage really have to be the first and highest priority of Hollande’s government?

Mr Punch said...

In the US, same-sex marriage has been adopted largely in "blue" states with heavily Catholic populations - most recently in Rhode Island, traditionally the most Catholic state.

massilian said...

When all is said an done and the chatter about present french politics at rest the serious book (Le mystère français) by Le Bras and Todd is well worth reading and with attention. I learned a lot.

Passerby said...

It's an established fact that "nonpracticing Catholic" have been on the rise for decades. Practicing catholics are a small minority. All across the country churches are empty, and in the country-side it's commun to have only one priest in charge of 2-4 churches (service rotates each Sunday in a different village).

The authors are right to point out that nonetheless the majority of people view themselves as catholics, and the norm remains to marry at the church, to have children baptised, and to lesser extend to show-up at mass on Christmas eve.

However, I doubt that these "zombie catholics" shaped the last election. I'm extrely skeptical about this analysis trying to depecit them as a center-right phenpmenom. These "zombies" can be found on the polical spectrum from center-left to extreme right.

My view is reinforced by the variety of backgrounds of the anti-mariage protesters. Neither UMP, FN or center right movements got momentum from these "zombies" demonstrations.

FrédéricLN said...

After some thinking…, I will agree with Le Bras rather than Todd.

At first, the Roman catholic protesters were not supported by Ms Le Pen and did not support her. They were quite happy to highlight the support of other religions leaders, namely Jews (former "Grand Rabbin" Bernheim) and Muslims, neither of whom are most FN militants' cup of teas.

BTW, a substantial report by NouvelObs among (not zombie) catholic protesters :

Second, I was surprised by number of "non-pratiquants" (Roman Catholic people who do not express religious views or attend religious offices) who were highy motivated and totally integrated into this "anti" movement. Granted, most of the leaders expressed religious beliefs and motivations; but the individuals were not asked about their conviction. There was kind of an obviousness everybody should share "humanist" convictions such as "la filiation Père-Mère-Enfant, whatever her/his religious beliefs. And kind of a deafness towards the "equality" motivation as expressed by the "pro".

I find the idea of "zombie catholicism" quite adequate to describe that: shared convictions, values, and views of life, that historically come from European monotheist religions, but appear to be "common knowledge" also to people who did not attend mass or catechism.

I should add that some of the "pro" militants I know are Roman Catholic believers (and possibly "pratiquants") and I also know many Roman Catholics (including myself) who don't take part to the "anti" movement and don't refuse the Taubira law. But let's put it this way: many other Catholics, when hearing us on this topic, show incomprehension. They tolerate our view, but just don't get the reason why it could hold.

And I think it's the first time I see such mutual incomprehension, within French politics, at least the right-agains-left ideological gap of the late 70's.

FrédéricLN said...

oops, "at least since the…" in the last sentence.

BTW, I disagree with Le Bras on "la droite … s’est déportée trop à droite. L’UMP a oublié la composante démocrate-chrétienne de son électorat."

The Catholic supporters of the "anti" movement did, as far as I know, vote for Sarkozy at the second turn, for this very reason (gay marriage).

I don't think there are a significant number of "démocrates-chrétiens" amont French voters. This ideological family is still alive in the intelligentsia and among political leaders — such as masonry is, or marxism, maybe. But there is not much electoral weight behind any of the three.

Democrats in the American meaning of the word voted for Hollande, opposing Sarkozy's pro-wealthy policies ("le Président des Riches") and hoping more openness and policy seriousness from Hollande. Many of them would have supported Fillon or Juppé. But the much larger number of FN first-turn voters would not have supported Fillon or Juppé, and many of them could vote for Hollande instead.

My two cents based on local and qualitative "feeling", surely with a MoDem bias. I did not investigate in-depth vote motivation research findings.

FrédéricLN said...

... Second thought: Le Bras may be right and myself wrong. I wrote that "démocratie chrétienne" hasn't any electoral weight any more; but after all, it never had since the end of Le Sillon. There were and are "zombie christian-democrats parties" or opinion movement, hidden behind the "right against left" match.

Maybe it's a kind of common ground, not to all French, but to 60-65% (excluding, basically, Parisians on one hand, and nationalists on the other hand). A silent majority who tolerates the match between the Parisian clans, as long as some basic common knowledge is not hurt. And ideas such as "the State can spend ever more and never reimburse", or, on a different level, "Same sex pairs should be able to build families exactly the same ways men-and-women pairs do" likely hurt this common knowledge. Even if no Administration expressed such caricatural views.