France: Pope’s letter to the French bishops on secularism

Source: FSSPX News


John Paul II has invited France to the “respect of a healthy secularity”, in a message addressed to the president of the French Bishops Conference, Mgr. Jean-Pierre Ricard. This long letter from the pope, written in the perspective of the centenary of the law of separation between Church and State – promulgated on December 9, 1905 – was published on February 12.

In it the pope justifies the separation of the Church and the State in the name of the common good of everyone: “The non-confessionality of the State, which is a non-interference of civil power in the life of the Church and other religions, as in the spiritual sphere, allows all of the components of society to work together at the service of everyone and the national community.” Repeating his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, he condemned a “type of ideological secularism or hostile separation between civil institutions and religious confessions” (no. 117), immediately expressing his wish that: “instead of being antagonistic, social forces will be ever more at the service of the population of France as a whole. I am confident that such a step would allow you to cope with new situations in French society today, in particular in the pluriethnic multicultural and multiconfessional context of recent years.”

Further on, John Paul II indicated the role that Christians could play as a part of a secular and democratic society: “In the name of their faith, Christians, personally or in associations, must be able to speak publicly in order to give their opinions and express their convictions, contributing on that account their own part to democratic debate, questioning the State and their fellow citizens on their responsibilities as men and women, particularly in the domain of fundamental human rights and the respect for man’s dignity, the progress of humanity which cannot be at any price, of justice and of equity, as well as the protection of the planet, so many domains which engage the future of man and humanity, and the responsibility of each generation. It is at such a price that secularity, far from being a point of confrontation, is a true place for constructive dialogue, in the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity, to which the people of France are so rightly attached.”

In line with the pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II, this letter on the secularity demonstrates that any notion of the Social Reign of Christ the King has been discarded. From a merely sociological point of view, the historian Emile Poulat points out in La Croix of February 14 a persistent misunderstanding: “The real questions are those of the power of the Church over society and the absolute liberty of conscience demanded by the partisans of secularity. And it is certainly on this point that they are waiting for the Church. The Church certainly allows freedom of conscience but not as an absolute. There is therefore a misunderstanding which is yet to be resolved.”