Many should be aware of the massacres and massive human rights violations visited upon the Catholic Church during the French Revolution, especially in the Vendée, but there is another more recent period in French history in which the Church was violently oppressed that has received far less attention. Historian Jean Sévillias Quand les catholiques étaient hors la loi (When Catholics were Outlaws) covers the period from 1876-1906 when the democratically elected French governments dedicated to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity arrested and deported over 30,000 priests, brothers and nuns for the crime of being members of Catholic religious congregations. The full weight of the state, police, army, and judiciary was brought to bear on these souls who dedicated their lives to God in prayer and ran schools, hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, etc. I begin with this historical overview because France is once again entering a period of social turmoil with strong religious overtones.
Promoting laicité (secularism, or the aggressive separation of Church and State) is still a feature of French governments in the 21st century. Wearing traditional Islamic headscarves, large crosses or other religious jewellery and even Jewish Kippas in French public schools was made illegal in 2004. Discriminating against those who believe in God and manifest their faith publicly in how they dress is sadly a regular theme of the different French Republics. To be fair, the 2011 French law that banned the wearing of the Burqa in public was not mainly an anti-Islamic measure but was motivated more from concern that these women were suffering from dehumanizing sexual discrimination.
Attending the third massive pro-natural marriage national protest in five months, I saw a face of France that is rarely on display. La Manif Pour Tous (The Protest Open to All, a play on Le Mariage Pour Tous, the French legislatures homosexual Marriage For All law), featured mainly young adults and couples with small children marching along the Seine 10 abreast as far as the eye could see. This superbly organized protest actually featured 3 routes that converged just beyond the Eiffel Tower at the Invalides for the final combined rally. Sound trucks moved with the people who carried blue, white or pink flags with the image of a man and woman holding hands with a young boy and a young girl, the logo of the movement. They mainly chatted and smiled, but the light-hearted mood was interspersed with repeated chants: Un Père, Une Mère, Cest élémentaire! (A father, a mother, its elementary!) and François, ta loi, on en veut pas (François [Hollande] we reject your law). Most popular by far, however, was, On ne lâche rien! (We will never give up!)
When more than one million people repeatedly take to the streets and protest against a democratically elected government, something significant is happening, even if the mainstream media tries to minimize it. Few pundits thought that French President François Hollande would ignite a social firestorm simply by fulfilling his electoral promise to legalize homosexual marriage. Some of the questions for those witnessing the outrage in France over the issue are: Why have we not seen the same kind of societal rejection of same-sex marriage in the 13 other nations that have passed such legislation? Is the flame of moral conscience and family values more alive in France than elsewhere?
The answer to the latter question appears to be yes. The more interesting follow-up question is why? I think a large part of the reason is demographic. France has the highest fertility in Europe, better than practically every other industrialized country, with 2.08 children per woman. Drilling down into the societal average, however, one finds that not all groups are having the same number of children. As in the United States, social liberals in France have none to one child on average while social conservatives have two or more children. There is no doubt that immigrants and traditional Catholics are having larger families than the French average, and this is leading to practical social consequences.
The French pro-marriage marchers were sending a message that they are done meekly submitting to the liberal agenda. We may indeed be witnessing the end of the age when leftists imposed with impunity on the whole of society whatever they wished. One protestor told a reporter that he wanted to be able to say I was here in May 2013. He was making a cultural reference to May 1968, when large and violent protests brought down the government and started a social revolution that eventually included free love, divorce and abortion on demand. There is a clear before and after in French society with an entire generation referred to as 68ers.
La Manif Pour Tous could herald the beginning of a new era, one with a traditional social program. A growing conservative cohort of French under the age of 40 is rejecting the liberal values of the 1968 generation. Among the large population of immigrants, this protest against the current French liberal order, especially unemployment and social exclusion, turned violent in 2005 and 2012. La Manif Pour Tous represents a much more organized and politically potent movement. Over 12,000 French mayors for instance came out in support and announced that they would refuse to celebrate same-sex marriages. The anti-homosexual marriage protests covered the entire country in hundreds of cities and towns and not just the capital, showing strong grass-roots support.
The last time so many people rallied for a cause in France was in 1984 when a giant Paris protest stopped the Socialist government of President François Mitterand from nationalizing all the, mostly Catholic, private schools. It is clear that this current Socialist government, however, is quite determined and not especially interested in respecting the peoples wishes. They planned on pushing a wider agenda with same-sex marriage and homosexual couples adoption of children as only the first step. Next up was Gender education in schools to indoctrinate children into accepting the full panoply of sexual perversions as normal and acceptable practices. I suppose they reasoned it would be hard to justify making Heather Has Two Mommies required reading before homosexuals could legally marry.
Liberalizing euthanasia is another prominent item on the to do list of the French Socialists. Its legalization would bring France into line with the most progressive countries of Europe, The Netherlands and Belgium. It also fits in well among the cost-cutting measures that are being forced on the government by the economic crisis (an updated version of Jonathan Swifts A Modest Proposal almost writes itself); though the Socialists cannot be accused of being seriously interested in making budget cuts. They recently saddled French taxpayers with millions of extra Euro in expenses when they decided the government socialized medicine system would now cover 100% of the cost of all abortions and birth control for teens.
The only impediment to getting along with this program of upending and trampling on basic societal values is the huge mass of protestors who did not supinely go away after they rammed through their same-sex marriage law. Rather, crowds defending marriage and family paralyzed Paris while happily chanting We will never give up! These are, by the way, the very same people who seem to be having the largest numbers of children. Good luck building a viable society based on homosexual marriage and hedonistic leftism. History and demography are not on the side of the destroyers of marriage and children.