A Recent Attack Against Catholics in Paris: Why Do They Hate?

06-13-2021Weekly Reflection

The Archbishop of Paris lamented an attack on Catholics taking part in a procession commemorating the city’s 19th-century martyrs. Archbishop Michel Aupetit deplored May 30 the “anger, contempt and violence” directed at the group of around 300 Catholics, including children and elderly people, taking part in the “March of the Martyrs.” “Last night, here, there was a demonstration of anger, contempt, and violence.” The archbishop was speaking at a Mass marking the 150th anniversary of the Catholic martyrs of the Paris Commune at the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Otages, built in honor of hostages killed on May 26, 1871.

The May 29 procession started from the square de la Roquette, where Archbishop Darboy was killed on May 24, 1871, and made its way toward Notre-Dame-des-Otages. As soon as the group left the square, those in the procession were subjected to jeers and whistles, reported the French weekly Famille Chrétienne. A few minutes later, a group of around 10 men physically attacked the procession, tearing down flags and throwing projectiles. A video posted on social media showed black-clad, Antifa demonstrators punching and kicking participants in the procession. Two elderly people were reportedly knocked to the ground, with one later requiring stitches for a head injury. Around 50 demonstrators then blocked the procession near the Church of Notre-Dame de la Croix de Ménilmontant. Organizers asked those taking part in the procession to take refuge in the church, where Paris auxiliary Bishop Denis Jachiet decided that the procession should not proceed to Notre-Dame-des-Otages.“We waited and prayed until the police extracted us,” the event’s organizer told Le Figaro newspaper, adding that mothers and children were “in shock.”

As reported, the historical background to this event was the so-called Paris Commune of 1871. The revolutionary party which took possession of the city after the siege of Paris by the Prussians began, in the last days of March 1871, to arrest the priests and religious to whom personal character or official position gave a certain prominence. No reason was given for these arbitrary measures, except the hatred with which the leaders of the Commune regarded the Catholic Church and her ministers. At the head of the first group of martyrs was the Archbishop of Paris, Georges Darboy,. His fellow sufferers were: the Abbé Duguerry, curé of the important parish of La Madeleine, an old man, well-advanced in years, but bright and vigorous; the Abbé Allard, a secular priest, who had rendered good service to the wounded during the siege, and two Jesuit Fathers Ducoudray and Clerc. After several weeks of confinement, first in the prison or Mazas, then at La Roquette, these six prisoners were executed on 24 May. There was no pretense made of judging them, neither was any accusation brought against them. The archbishop absolved his companions who were calm and recollected. They were told to stand against a wall, within the precincts of the prison, and here they were shot down at close quarters by twenty men, enlisted for the purpose. The archbishop's hand was raised to give a last blessing: "Here take my blessing", said one of the murders and by discharging his gun he give the signal for the execution.

(2) The Dominican Fathers, who perished the following day 25 May, belonged to the College of Arcueil, close to Paris. The excitement and anarchy that reigned in Paris,and the insults that were levelled at the prisoners as they were led from one prison to another prepared them for the worst; they made their confession and prepared for death. Father Captier, whose strong faith sustained his companion's courage, turned to them: "Let us go, my friends, for the sake of God". The street was filled with armed men who discharged their guns at the prisoners as they passed. Their dead bodies remained for twenty-four hours on the ground, exposed to insult; only the next morning, when the troops from Versailles had conquered the Commune, were they claimed by the victims' friends and conveyed to Arcuil.

(3) The third group of martyrs perished on the 26th of May; Over fifty prisoners were taken from the prison of La Roquette and conducted on foot to this last stronghold of the revolution. Among them were eleven ecclesiastics: three Jesuits, four members of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart and Mary, three secular priests, and one seminarist. All displayed heroic courage, the best known among them was Father Olivaint, rector of the Jesuit house of the Rue de Sèvres, who thirsted for martyrdom. After a painful journey through the streets, which were filled with an infuriated rabble, the prisoners were lead into an enclosure, called the cite Vincennes, on the height of Belleville. Here they were hacked to pieces by a crowd of men, women, and even children. There was no attempt to organize a regular execution like the one at La Raquette; the massacre lasted an hour, and most of the bodies were disfigured beyond recognition. Only a few hours later the regular troops forced their way to La Roquette, delivered the prisoners that still remained there, and took possession of Belleville, the stronghold of Commune. The Basilica of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre in Paris was built in reparation for the wickedness, crimes, and hatred of the Paris Commune.

The end of the nineteenth century into the twentieth century was characterized in many places by nihilists, socialists, and communists causing death, destruction, and mayhem against the established order. A working definition of nihilism is the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless. A prominent commentator on Russian nihilism is Fyodor Dostoevsky in his novel called The Demons. It’s worth reading.

An article in the New Criterion described the novel this way: …a band of young nihilists and socialists unleashes murder, riot, and arson in a provincial Russian town. Despite their ugly pranks, scandalous libertinism, and incendiary radicalism, they are until the apocalyptic denouement indulged and flattered by their elders: liberal elites who suppose that proximity to the “new ideas” will get them noticed in the highest social circles of progressivist Petersburg. This suicidal clownishness is characteristic of late modernity since the French Revolution, an epoch in which convulsions of ideological insanity have periodically torn apart physical and political bodies across the globe. The United States has long avoided such fits, but it seems our hour has come round at last. At its sesquicentennial, Dostoevsky’s novel is as fresh and urgent as it was in 1871. The essay goes on to note: “No one understands late-modern liberal oligarchs and their nihilistic children better than Dostoevsky.” A modern Dostoevsky is Alexander Solzhenitsn and his writings and novels where he describes the horror of Soviet communism. This horror continues in the communist government of China and its persecutions of Christians and its use of concentration camps.

We see the rush of mainstream media, academe, Hollywood, politicians to bow low before Antifa and the whole panoply of so-called woke destruction, murder, riot and arson now called “the cancel culture” whose cult is frankly destruction. The question is asked what can one feel “as the old liberal elites hoist the banner of today’s young nihilists and socialists—a sordid band of intellectual hacks, political opportunists, virtue signalers, swindlers, sociopaths, and true believers who seem to have stepped directly from the novel’s pages? What is the pathology of groups like Antifa and woke hate-groups, who claim to fight racism by being racist themselves. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. Human nature was created in God’s image and likeness and made for God as St. Augustine reminds us: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and we are restless until we rest in you. When there is the rejection of God, His Christ, and true religion, there will be pseudo-religious substitutes based solely on the things of this world and/or an imagined god created by the minds of human beings, the worship of self. This “god” will always do their bidding. The list of these religion-substitutes can be quite long and can contain some good things but they cannot substitute for God. Political ideologies, the environment, new age, the occult, mediums, seers, fortune-tellers, Satanism etc. function as religion-substitutes along with money, fame, and power.

Emile Cammaerts is the author of a famous quotation (often mistakenly attributed to G. K. Chesterton) in his study on Chesterton:” When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing. They then become capable of believing in anything” This desire to please the world and adapt to the lateness political and social doctrines has infected the Church and is part of a real crisis of faith which has led to an anti-church a metastasizing cancer within the body of the Church leading to heresy and apostasy. A sad example of this is the Church in Germany where many are in heresy and in de facto schism rejecting foundational teachings of the Catholic Church. This exists in the U.S. where there is a rejection of the Church’s teachings on human sexuality, family, gender, and the natural order established by God seeking to subordinate the Church to the latest canons of political correctness, ever increasing and changing.

The fury and hatred directed against Catholics in Paris this past May and against the Paris Martyrs is a sign of something else. It was not an accident that Dostoevsky’s novel about the nihilists of his time is called The Demons. In 1972 Pope Paul VI gave a now-famous reflection on Satan. He listed signs of the Evil One: where the denial of God becomes radical, subtle and absurd; where lies become powerful and hypocritical in the face of evident truth; where love is smothered by cold, cruel selfishness; where Christ's name is attacked with conscious, rebellious hatred, where the spirit of the Gospel is watered down and rejected where despair is affirmed as the last word. In another place he lamented that the “smoke of Satan” has entered through a crack in the Church. This should not surprise us that the Evil One continues his warfare and rebellion against Christ and His Church and he attacks to sow disunity and rebellion and hatred noted by Pope Paul.

The solution is not despair but hope and fidelity to the Catholic Faith of all times. Christ has won the victory. The Blessed Virgin has a special role in the victory over Satan, apostasy, heresy, hatred and despair especially through her Rosary. Her Immaculate Heart in union with the Sacred Heart of her Son will triumph, In the meanwhile the sacrifice of the Mass, prayer, penance, the adoration of the Lord in the Eucharist, the Rosary are our signposts to victory as we remember the Martyrs of the Paris commune and pray for the conversion of the nihilists and their modern progeny to the Catholic Faith of Christ.