Catholicism and Crisis in Modern France: French Catholic Groups at the Threshold of the Fifth Republic

Catholicism and Crisis in Modern France: French Catholic Groups at the Threshold of the Fifth Republic

Catholicism and Crisis in Modern France: French Catholic Groups at the Threshold of the Fifth Republic

Catholicism and Crisis in Modern France: French Catholic Groups at the Threshold of the Fifth Republic

Excerpt

In certain respects French Catholic institutions resemble our solar system. Lay Catholic groups gravitate around a central element or "sun," some being quite close to it while others are in orbits farther removed. The "sun" in this case comprises the totality of ecclesiastical institutions--in Rome as well as in France itself.

Because this cosmological image must be considered in a political sense, it is greatly complicated and thereby loses much of its orderliness. In the first place, the ecclesiastical nucleus of French Catholicism has no single, unified political behavior pattern. Secondly, political activity seems to increase as one moves away from the ecclesiastical nucleus. It is greatest among political parties, none of which is explicitly Catholic. Finally, the "gravity," or the force holding all elements of French Catholicism together, cannot be fully grasped with the tools of political analysis used in this book. This force is faith, and it, rather than any political considerations, explains the stable structure of French Catholicism.

But despite the limits to a thorough understanding of the structure of French Catholicism, much can be learned from studying each of its major elements in turn. The ecclesiastical nucleus is particularly significant indirectly, for it provides keys to the political behavior of the groups "in orbit" around it. It directs some of them; others it coordinates, and still others it merely advises.

The ecclesiastical nucleus can also have a direct political influence through declarations, announcements, and articles issued by priests and bishops or other dynamic clerical leaders.

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