Catholic group in France sued for publishing Church teaching on homosexual civil unions
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March 4, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Renaissance catholique, a French lay association of traditional-minded Catholics, has been indicted for calling “to discriminate against a group of people because of their sexual orientation.” That offense is included in the list of “racist” crimes in the French penal law dealing with media offenses.
The whole process was initiated by “Stop Homophobie,” an association that has the ear of the authorities, and it is not simply a show of impatience with a private association that has different views: The words which are being characterized as a hate crime are a summary of a 2003 note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presided at the time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI.
It is precisely the condemnation of the legalization of civil unions for homosexuals that is being called to the attention of the French penal courts, as summarized in the 2019 “Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time” by Cardinals Raymond Burke and Janis Pujats, as well as Bishops Athanasius Schneider, Tomash Peta and Jan Pavel Lenga, published at the time by LifeSiteNews.
Renaissance catholique published the complete text on its website, and it is that publication that attracted the attention of “Stop Homophobie.”
Renaissance catholique organizes yearly “summer universities”, Catholic book festivals gathering many Catholic authors, and other events, and also publishes many books, while editing a monthly magazine and publishing news on its website.
Jean-Pierre Maugendre, founder and executive manager of Renaissance catholique, has been cited in his capacity as legal representative of the association’s website. In an interview with LifeSite, Maugendre explained that he believes that the liberty of the Catholic Church itself is being targeted.
Here below is the full text of the interview.
LifeSiteNews: As you have just been informed, Renaissance Catholique has been indicted for “provocation to discriminate against a group of people because of their sexual orientation,” at the request of an association called “Stop Homophobie.” However, the incriminated text is not new — it was published in 2019 — and it is not an original text by your association. What exactly is the situation?
Jean-Pierre Maugendre: It is a text with double layers. The whole text is titled “The Church of the living God – the pillar and the bulwark of the truth,” a title taken from the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy (3:15), and it is relatively extensive since it is four pages long. It contains a number of reminders on the Creed, on the law of God, and finally on the sacraments, and in particular, in the part dealing with the law of God, there is a summarized quote from a declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of June 3, 2003, bearing the title “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons,” and it is this very precise and well circumscribed extract, consisting of only four lines, which is the subject of the complaint.
LSN: So this complaint is no less than a challenge to the teaching of the Church as expressed in a very sober manner.
J.-P. M: Yes, and I would like to submit to you the excerpt in question: “The civil power may not establish civil or legal unions between two persons of the same sex that plainly imitate the union of marriage, even if such unions do not receive the name of marriage, since such unions would encourage grave sin for the individuals who are in them and would be a cause of grave scandal for others.” This, then, is the incriminated text which summarizes an official text of the Magisterium, since it is a text of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; it is in line with the moral teaching of the Church of the past 2,000 years. So there is nothing very new, in fact.
LSN: Are you aware of the reasoning of the association that is suing you?
J.-P. M: For the moment, we know nothing more, as we were summoned last week with our lawyer, Jérôme Triomphe, by the examining magistrate, for a very formal interview whose objective was to know, on the occasion of this criminal damage action against us, if I was indeed the director of the publication and the person in charge of putting the text in question on the Renaissance catholique website. Did I acknowledge the facts? Yes indeed, I acknowledge the facts!
LSN: The incriminated text speaks of the serious sin of homosexuality, which is no secret since the Church has been teaching this for 2,000 years. In the present case we get the impression that “Stop Homophobie” is confusing moral law and civil law, that is to say that it blames the Church for pointing out that such and such a thing is a sin. Clearly they do not want the Church to present its moral teaching, but conversely, isn’t “Stop Homopobie” invoking a kind of counter-morality, a counter-religion?
J.-P. M: This will clearly be the fundamental question that will be addressed in this trial: Does the Church still have the freedom to have a moral teaching that is not modeled on civil legislation? Does the Church still have, and will she have in the future, the right to say that abortion, to use the expression used by the Second Vatican Council, is an “abominable crime”? In the secularized society in which we find ourselves today, does the fact that the political authorities completely identify the civil law with the moral law (where one deems that what is permitted by the civil law is moral, and that what is prohibited by the civil law is immoral), does this approach allow the Church to publicly express her moral teaching even though it is sometimes contrary to the civil law?
LSN: This in fact complements a discourse that has been around since the time of former French President Jacques Chirac, who claimed that there could be no moral law that would take precedence over civil law. It was about abortion, but others have said the same thing in other contexts.
J.-P. M: Of course, and it must always be remembered that this statement by President Jacques Chirac came a few days after the publication of the encyclical Evangelium vitae, and this denial, this refusal of the teaching of Evangelium vitae on the part of the President of the Republic was not a coincidence, because in the encyclical John Paul II was reminding us that the moral law stands above movements of opinion and public moods.
LSN: Since we are talking about the freedom of the Church, this is not the first time that the Church has been confronted with a kind of censorship by the civil powers. Today we think of China, but there have been other instances.
J.-P. M: Indeed, I have in mind that the Bologna Concordat of 1516, which regulated the relations of Church and State since Francis I, that is, under the French Monarchy and up to the Civil Constitution of the clergy, provided that the acts of the Holy See would only be circulated in France with the consent of the king and the parliaments. For this reason, the condemnation of Jansenism, with the Bull Unigenitus, and the decrees of application of the Council of Trent did not reach France, because the parliaments were opposed to them. So we’re in an old tradition, I would say the Gallican tradition. The advocates of “Stop Homophobie” might be surprised, but they are in line with this Gallican tradition of the political powers in France that do not accept that a spiritual authority, in this case the Church, can go over their heads and intervene directly with the Catholic faithful.
LSN: As you pointed out, it is the approach of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that is being incriminated. This is clear censorship of what the Church says. But very recently, last year, the Pope has been said to have shown a kind of indulgence, or even to have promoted civil unions for homosexuals. Could it be that the Pope’s attitude has facilitated the steps taken by “Stop Homophobie?”
J.-P. M: Undoubtedly, since today, the least we can say is that there is great confusion in the Church on doctrinal, moral, and liturgical questions, and even though the Pope may say otherwise, the world in which we find ourselves is such that a certain number of ambiguous remarks that he makes will be used in the sense of a break with the Tradition of the Church. The Supreme Pontiff has introduced two novelties: First of all, he speaks a lot without always having prepared his statements: on the plane, during meetings with journalists, etc., which was not done before. The other novelty can be seen, for example, in the encyclical Fratelli tutti, when the Pope says: “Let’s dream” and uses the personal pronoun “I.” In the past the popes did not use the personal pronoun “I,” they used the pronoun “We,” which was not so much a plural of majesty as the visible meaning of: “We, the successor of Peter, in apostolic continuity, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, this is what we declare to you,” which obviously gave an authority to these words that Pope Francis does not have when he says: “I dream.” His dreams are very interesting, certainly, but they do not have the authority of a Pope who, with the help of the Holy Spirit, positions himself in the continuity of two thousand years of the Church. We have really moved on to another mode of communication which is a profound factor of confusion on the one hand, and on the other hand, allows the use by the enemies of the Church of the ambiguities thus created.
LSN: Similar trials have taken place in France, where politicians Christine Boutin and Christian Vanneste were prosecuted for comparable statements, and they were eventually exonerated, often after a very long procedure. In your opinion, what is the point of this “judicial harassment,” if I may call it so? It is well known that trials are expensive and time-consuming: What could be the point, with so little chance of success?
J.-P. M: I believe that the goal is very clear, it is to inhibit any nonconforming word, it is to intimidate bishops, priests, lay people — since in fact we are only retransmitting the teaching that the Church has given us — so that they no longer dare to state things clearly. As you mentioned, besides the stigma to reputations in the media, these trials involve heavy expenses, and I think that the objective today is to intimidate a certain number of bishops, priests, lay people, who are going to let things slip by and say nothing so as to avoid fuss. Yes, I believe that we are facing a maneuver of intimidation.
LSN: Renaissance catholique publicized this lawsuit on Wednesday afternoon, have you received any support since then?
J.-P. M: I have received support from some priest friends and from Bishop Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop in Astana, Kazakhstan. For the moment I have not received any other ecclesiastical reactions, but associations or personalities have reacted. I am thinking of Alain Escada for Civitas, of Constance Prazel for Liberté politique, our friend Jean-Yves Le Gallou, of Gabrielle Cluzel for Boulevard Voltaire, and then of the very sympathetic and warm words of Guillaume de Thieulloy at “Salon beige.” I believe that all is grace, and if this can help to awaken consciences … The fundamental question is that of the freedom of the Church, since we are only at the end of the chain. The text that is being questioned is not mine, I am not the author, I am not the writer, I am not the inspirer, I am only an ordinary layman retransmitting to whoever wants to hear it what the Church has transmitted to him.
LSN: To conclude, I would like to go back for a few moments to the association that is pursuing you. The press release from Renaissance catholique explains that this association has received public subsidies; in addition, you recall that “Stop Homophobie” intervenes officially in high schools and in the workplace. Can we say that it is the moral voice of the secular religion?
J.-P. M: Yes, and it is really the fight of the earthen pot against the brass kettle or rather, I would prefer to say of David against Goliath. “Stop Homophobie” receives subsidies, as shown by the information I obtained on the official website of the Ile-de-France region, chaired today by Valérie Pécresse [center right], under the title, “The fight against homophobia, a priority for our solidary region.” A certain number of actions are presented, as well as the names of the associations supported, in particular through funding: The association “Stop Homophobie” is one of them. So we really have here something quite official, matching the spirit of the times, and the general feeling of the powers that be. It’s an element of a system that seeks to impose a certain form of single thought.
LSN: Lastly, how can people help you?
J.-P. M: I believe there are three ways to help us. First of all, there is prayer for us, to help us to remain in peace, in serenity, to fight the good fight, with strength; prayer also to enlighten the judges, because it would be better that the judgment rendered be favorable to us. The second way to help us is to make known the text, the complete text “The Church of the Living God, the pillar and support of the truth”: I think that all those who read this text will be impressed by the message of faith that is given by the two cardinals and the three bishops who signed it. It also helps to publicize our activities, as beyond these intimidating maneuvers, if we could disappear it would certainly please a certain number of people, that’s for sure. Finally, all of this involves worries, preoccupations and expenses, so it is possible to help us also financially to carry out this struggle, which is a struggle for the Church, for the freedom of the Church — this is not something we are doing for ourselves. I believe that in this process Renaissance catholique is not important, what is important is the freedom of the Church: Does the Church in 2021 still have the freedom to make known publicly the message that has been hers for two thousand years?