Laurent Dandrieu is the author of a remarkable essay entitled Église et immigration, le grand malaise (Presses de la Renaissance, 2017) [The Church and Immigration, the Great Unease]. In an opinion piece published on December 18, 2018, in Le Figaro, he shows how Francis’ preoccupation with migrants converges with the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration” on three points, starting with “the idea that migration is...a fundamental good for world progress;” then the fact that “only the interest of the migrant is considered;” finally, on the reproaches made to “journalists guilty of propagating an anxious view of immigration,” exhorting them to contribute to the “conversion of attitudes and to favor this change of comportment toward migrants and refugees.”
Pope Francis’ messages on migrants have aroused numerous critical reactions, direct or indirect, coming from diverse quarters. Among the indirect criticisms is that of Monsignor Luigi Negri, bishop emeritus of Ferrare in Italy, who stated in Il Giornale of January 8, 2018, “Integration must be reasonable, and they cannot open the gates as if this were a festival, without submitting the economic costs, and the human and cultural costs of immigration, because that would demonstrate an ideological blindness. I am Catholic and even if I am for welcoming refugees, this welcome cannot be made without measure because otherwise it will lead to the crushing and elimination of our society.”
In this interview, the Italian prelate reaffirmed that Islam has “more of a political vocation than a religious one. It is more than a faith, it is a law, a statute, summed up by the term Sharia.”
In the head-on criticisms, that of French journalist Laurent Dandrieu is distinguished by the thoroughness of his documentation. He is the author of a very remarkable work: Église et immigration, le grand malaise: le pape et le suicide de la civilisation européenne [The Church and Immigration, the Great Unease: the Pope and the Suicide of European Civilization] (Renaissance Press). Questioned by the network Liberty TV on September 3, 2017, he said, regarding the last message of the pope for the World Day of Migrants called, “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees,” that many people, defending the pope’s remarks since the beginning of his papacy, have said that this was a discourse which was purely evangelical, that he was only acting out of charity, and that the pope was completely within his role in making this speech. One can see there that he is making a properly political message since one can list no fewer that 21 concrete political measures that the pope has recommended to countries.” And in addition, “The pope stipulates that in virtue of the centrality of the human person, migrants’ security must always systematically come before national security. Now one cannot have personal security without national security. The great absence in these texts are the national populations...there is an absence of reflection and consideration for the common good, which is still the doctrine of the Church.”
One can consider the good of persons without being concerned about the common good
On the site Boulevard Voltaire, on September 5th, in response to the critics of Fr. Laurent Stalla-Bourdillon, Laurent Dandrieu replies, “What is really disturbing about the pope’s message is the seeming denial to Europeans the right, or the concrete possibility, to defend their national identity—a struggle with which the Church could identify to the detriment of her universal mission, but of which she can no longer deny the legitimacy. (...) Personal security is not possible without a political, judicial, and legal framework to protect it and, in Europe, in the 21st century, this framework is called the nation.
“The real debate is to know if, in pleading that the personal security of migrants must always have priority of national security, Francis does not deny even the possibility of a common good for the people of Europe. The real debate is knowing if ‘the principle of the centrality of the human person’ that he puts up front to justify this priority can only be applied to migrants, and is to be denied to the populations of the receiving countries in refusing this national security that is the concrete condition of their personal security.”
“Yes, it is to those objections, which are serious and which very much torment Catholic consciences, that we would have liked Fr. Stella-Bourdillon to respond. But that would necessitate a reflection which consents to recognize, following St. Thomas Aquinas, that the social doctrine of the Church cannot be content with considering the good of persons taken as individuals, without at least caring about the common good of natural communities, because these natural communities are the ordinary and natural framework for the good of the people; that the ‘unconditional acceptance of person’ necessarily has limits, which can only be exercised in the measure where it does not ruin the common good. In short, there exists a thing called politics, which is neither obscene nor vulgar, but is the very noble art of preserving the conditions of the ‘tranquil state of the city,’ of which St. Thomas Aquinas spoke. This tranquil state of the city is the condition sine qua non for man to achieve his ultimate, supernatural destiny.”
The temptation to secularize eschatology
In a debate with Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, organized by Famille chrétienne and published on March 2, 2017, Laurent Dandrieu responded, “That national identity must be open is evident. We all have foreign contributions in our entourage. The real question is to know whether these contributions have reached a critical mass which breaks the equilibrium that defines our identity, if this flood that brings to Europe millions of immigrants who arrive with a culture radically foreign to ours does not threaten us in our very being.”
“It is clear that in France, with Muslim communalism, the no-go zones, the suburbs where regularly resounds the cries of “Allahu Akbar,” and where the flags of Algeria or Morocco are brandished on all occasions, the national identity is under pressure, in fact totally expelled from certain areas. The French are shocked to hear the Church repeat as a mantra that we can solve the migrant crisis through integration, while they see very well that even with previous generations, this integration is broken, indeed has become a “disintegration.”
Later, Dandrieu denounced a “prophetic vision of immigration”: “the conditions under which the State can regulate migrations are not defined in the Church’s discourse; the right to protect the national identity is never mentioned. Quite the opposite, there is an absolutization of this “fundamental human right,” of each one “to establish there where he finds the best opportunity” (Benedict XVI). And a prophetic vision of immigration—John Paul II viewed it as a sign of God’s plan of redemption, Benedict XVI “a prefiguration anticipated of the city of God without borders.” In view of this eschatological vision, we can well see that the rights of the nations are condemned to nothing.
“The temptation to secularize eschatology, to make the kingdom of Heaven an earthly objective, is dangerous! When Scripture tells us that there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither man nor woman, it is not saying that there is no difference between the sexes! Likewise, the City of God without borders does not have a vocation to realize itself here below, because borders are a vital necessity for political communities, for which the Church has always recognized that necessity.”
Dandrieu concludes, “it is not a question of denying to the pope the right of political speech. But this speech is unjust when it only takes into account the short term interest of the migrants. The stability of European nations is the condition sine qua non of the aid that we can bring them. And charity must take into account prudence, the common good, and must not sacrifice the nearest to the furthest. Now, the suffering of Europeans has come into the field of vision of the Church: the obsession with the welcoming of migrants has devoured everything.”
Are the only worthy peripheries exotic?
In a private opinion piece appearing on the site of Le Figaro, on January 23, 2017, the sociologist Mathieu Bock-Côté aligned himself with Laurent Dandrieu in this fundamental debate on immigration. He denounced the unfounded accusations made against the critics of immigration, “In reading Dandrieu, we understand that the Catholic Church, and much more Pope Francis, see in the great migrations a powerful momentum which mixes the peoples and could push them to form a new, finally unified humanity, as if the divisions of the world into peoples and civilizations were a historic fracture that it was finally possible to repair. Humanity could once more experience unity; the cosmopolitan city will be a redemption. Naturally, those who are not enthusiastically in favor of this programmed dissolution of the nations are cast as villains. They are accused, according to the ritual formula, of retreating into nationalist ideas of identity. They would not know to celebrate the global interbreeding.”
But for Mathieu Bock-Côté, the heart of the debate is not to be found there. “Dandrieu explores the relations between Catholicism and Islam. It goes without saying that in the measure where massive immigration corresponds to the implantation of Muslim populations in Europe—who generally do not integrate, perhaps because they do not gain by it, and perhaps because they do not want it. Nevertheless, Dandrieu leads the discussion onto the theological plan, far from the clichés repeated by the uneducated commentators who often speak of religion in making the promotion of an exasperating reactionary irenism. Cannot the two religions almost be made into one, as numerous Catholic authorities seem to be suggesting today? Are not these authorities pushing the interreligious dialogue to the point of losing sight of the singularity of their own religion? The bizarre discourse on religions that has dominated the public mind pushes us to believe that they are all interchangeable—which Dandrieu does not believe—in giving the example of the link to violence. Today’s terrorism is not without a flag.”
To finish, “Dandrieu also poses the question as to what the Church gains in disdaining the people who historically have been confided to her. In claiming to be absolutely universal, has Catholicism forgotten the intimate and even irreplaceable link that it has forged with European civilization? We have a right to fear the de-Christianization of Europe. But we can also fear the de-Europeanization of Christianity. As Dandrieu notes, Pope Francis, who has decided that the future of Catholicism would be found in the margins, does not seem to be too interested in the margins of European civilization, whether these millions of de-Christianized French, who carry in them not nostalgia for a Christian world, but for a world where the Cross can again say something. Are the only worthy peripheries exotic?
Where, then, would we go to seek refuge?
The most poignant criticism addressed to Pope Francis on his attitude vis-à-vis Islam comes from Muslims who have converted to Catholicism. On December 25, 2017, they sent a letter containing these sorrowful affirmations: “allow us to say frankly that we do not understand your teaching about Islam, . . .If Islam is a good religion in itself, as you seem to teach, why did we become Catholic? Do not your words question the soundness of the choice we made at the risk of our lives? Islam prescribes death for apostates (Quran 4.89, 8.7-11), do you know? How is it possible to compare Islamic violence with so-called Christian violence? 'What is the relationship between Christ and Satan? What union is there between light and darkness? What association between the faithful and the unfaithful?' (II Cor. 6: 14-17). In accordance with His teaching (Lk. 14:26), we preferred Him, the Christ, to our own life. Are we not in a good position to talk to you about Islam?
We do not confuse Islam with Muslims, but if for you ‘dialogue’ means the voice of peace, for Islam it’s only another way to make war. Also, just as it was in the face of Nazism and Communism, naiveté in the face of Islam is suicidal and very dangerous. How can you speak of peace and endorse Islam, as you seem to do: ‘To wring from our hearts the disease that plagues our lives…Let those who are Christians do it with the Bible and those who are Muslims do it with the Quran.’ (Rome, January 20, 2014). That the pope seems to propose the Quran as a way of salvation, is that not cause for worry? Should we return to Islam?
Certainly, the temptation is strong to think that speaking in an Islamophilic tone will prevent more suffering for Christians in those countries that have become Muslim, but apart from the fact that Jesus has never indicated any other way than that of the Cross, so that we must find our joy therein and not flee with all the damned; we do not doubt that only the proclamation of the truth brings with it not only salvation, but freedom as well (Jn. 8:32). Our duty is to bear witness to the truth 'in season and out of season' (II Tim. 4:2), and our glory is to be able to say with St. Paul: 'I did not want to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified' (I Cor. 2.2).
The pro-Islam speech of Your Holiness leads us to deplore the fact that Muslims are not invited to leave Islam, and that many ex-Muslims, such as Magdi Allam, are even leaving the Church, disgusted by her cowardice, wounded by equivocal gestures, confused by the lack of evangelization, scandalized by the praise given to Islam…
We are under the impression that you do not take your brother Bishop Nona Amel, Chaldean-Catholic Archbishop of Mosul in exile, seriously, when he tells us:'Our present sufferings are the prelude to those that you, Europeans and Western Christians, will suffer in the near future. I have lost my diocese. The headquarters of my archdiocese and my apostolate have been occupied by radical Islamists who want us to convert or die...' (August 9, 2014)...
This is a matter of life and death, and any complacency towards Islam is treasonous. We do not wish the West to continue with Islamization, nor that your actions contribute to it. Where, then, would we go to seek refuge?"
The signatories ended their letter with a pressing supplication:
"Allow us to ask Your Holiness to quickly convene a synod on the dangers of Islam. What remains of the Church where Islam has installed itself? If she still has civil rights, it is, on the condition that she does not evangelize, thus denying her very essence."