Was Simone Weill correct when, from London in 1942, she declared 'Cette guerre est une guerre des religions?' For her the clash of the Allies and the Germans was 'un drame religieux'. 1 It was certainly a conflict of ideologies: democracy, communism and nazism. The Church saw it in a particular light. Largely disdainful of democracy after its experience under the Third Republic, on both the warring sides it saw elements of a new paganism that might jeopardise its very existence. Faced with the two heathen creeds that threatened to dominate Europe, and abhorring both, Church leaders, Catholic and Protestant, had to set priorities. Only slowly did they realise, as did some of the politicians--not all at Vichy were collaborationist--that the evil on their doorstep was more menacing than that which might sweep down upon them from the Russian steppes and overrun Western Europe.
Spurning both ideologies, the bishops had nevertheless to make choices. Leading Churchmen held no love for the British, who had immediately made common cause with the Russians when the Nazis launched their attack on the USSR; they could not forget what they saw as the Allied betrayal of France in 1940 after the prudent but, as they saw it, ignominious retreat from Dunkirk, and the refusal of Churchill to commit warplanes to help stem the German advance. For them de Gaulle, particularly in view of his previous close connections with Marshal Pétain, having allied himself with the British and, as Dakar and Syria proved, not hesitating to fire on his fellow countrymen, had put himself beyond the pale. The terrible Allied bombings, which brought suffering to innocent civilians, and the onslaughts of the Maquis, which the bishops characterised as terrorism, made them close ranks round Pétain even more. The Resistance they felt to be misguided, or even antipatriotic. Christians that joined it were branded as disloyal to their Church.
On the other hand they felt threatened by extremists at Vichy and out-and-out collaborationists in Paris. In Vichy Maurrassians (who had conveniently forgotten their previous anti-German stance) hobnobbed