French Catholics take to streets as second lockdown bans public Masses again
FRANCE, November 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — As civil liberties have once again been suppressed in France by way of a second lockdown that is purported to be “breaking” a new wave of COVID-19, public Masses have been banned since November 3 and assistance at requiem Masses and weddings severely restricted. An emergency recourse in front of the highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, was unsuccessful in challenging the government’s decision to call public worship “unessential.” But on Sunday, demonstrations in front of the cathedrals of Nantes and Versailles as well as in Lyon brought hundreds together. This coming Sunday, other towns such as Paris, Orléans, Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast, Rennes and Vannes in Brittany, and probably many others will also be the scene of legal outdoor demonstrations asking “for the Mass.”
For the first time, five bishops and the representative of the French Bishops’ Conference decided to join the legal recourse against the ban on the Mass, arguing that not a single “cluster” of COVID-19 has been traced back to church gatherings. Interestingly, the French official “scientific counsel” that is behind many of the freedom-destroying measures being implemented in France was not in favor of banning public worship.
A mounting number of hospitalizations attributed to COVID-19 prompted French president Emmanuel Macron to announce a second lockdown that was inaugurated on October 29, in order, he said, to avoid “saturating” resuscitation beds — whose numbers, about 5,000 nationwide, have not budged since the first lockdown from March 17 to May 11 despite months of respite in summer during which contaminations progressed without an increase in the number of people who were actually ill. Neighboring Germany has five times as many beds and a much lower death toll than France.
The new lockdown will be catastrophic for local shops in city centers and is expected to deal a final blow to many restaurants, bars, tourism-related businesses, theaters, and special event–managers who already lost so much during the first confinement. All super- and hypermarkets, food shops, wine shops, tobacconists, and other so-called “essential” stores may continue to receive the public; schools up to middle and high school are open; and banks, public services, and transportation continue to function. All this, sometimes, with bewildering results: some metro lines in Paris are full to overflowing as construction work and businesses that do not receive the public are encouraged to remain functioning, albeit with distance-working whenever possible.
Ordinary people are required to sign a self-certification to go out for an “essential” activity as defined by decree (sport and walking are allowed within about half a mile of the home and for one hour), under threat of a 135-euro (about 150–U.S. dollar) fine. Three “contraventions” within a period of 30 days can be sanctioned by a fine of 3,750 euros, up to six months’ imprisonment, and loss of one’s driver’s license for up to three years.
Wearing masks outside is compulsory in many cities such as Paris, and even in the mountain paths of the Alps in some places. Children are expected to wear masks all day in school from age 6.
Many are terrorized by daily predictions of doom. President Macron introduced the new dictatorial measures by saying that doing nothing and waiting for herd immunity would lead to 400,000 deaths. This would be the incredible equivalent of 400 surplus deaths each day for over three years!
As things stand, there is no really significant surplus of overall mortality since the beginning of September, and questions have been raised in Parliament about the true cause of announced COVID deaths. There are a growing number of skeptics and groups challenging the government’s decision in many ways: on the grounds of individual rights; economic reason; public health (suicides are way up, and cancer treatments and diagnoses are often not taking place); the right of doctors to actually treat COVID-19 according to their own professional judgment before it gets bad... The list is endless. In a few days, a petition against compulsory masks for children garnered nearly 200,000 signatures.
Over 100,000 people signed a petition “Pour la Messe” (“for the Mass”) launched by two former college students of the ICES (Catholic University of the Vendée) telling Macron: “Man does not live by bread alone. We want to bow our heads in prayer. For our martyrs. For our assailants. For France. And also for you, Mr. President. We refuse to accept that fear should prevail,” they wrote.
A first, tenuous victory had already won when the announcement of the new lockdown on October 28 made clear that public Masses would be legal by exception on All Saints’ Day on November 1 and on All Souls’, the next day. There were reports of priests crying as they delivered their last homilies or gave the last blessing at the end of Mass. Bishop Bernard Ginoux of Montauban sent out a tweet on October 29 asking the faithful to “invade” their churches at Mass time.
The president of the French Bishops’ Conference also wrote an official letter to the government saying that churches are not known places of contamination and that Catholics are perfectly able to observe any necessary sanitary measures.
One day after the confinement decree made clear that public Masses were banned, several lay and religious organizations seized the Council of State to have it judge the ban contrary to the fundamental liberty to worship, disproportionate regarding the reality of COVID, questioning the announcement that “400,000” would die, and noting that there are a large number of exceptions to the lockdown. The AGRIF’s leading lawyer, Jérôme Triomphe (the AGRIF is a Christian defense league), also represented the traditional institutes the Fraternity of Saint Peter; the Institute of Christ the King; the Dominical Fraternity of Saint Vincent Ferrier; the Benedictine Abbey of the Barroux; and the Opus Sacerdotale, an association of diocesan priests.
These were the ones who showed the way in May, obtaining the legal right to worship during the weeks of “deconfinement” when Masses were still banned.
Jérôme Triomphe insisted particularly on the necessity of receiving the sacraments in order to obtain eternal salvation and the true presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. He added that the need for the sacraments is all the greater in a time of epidemic and that people need hope and community as suicides increase.
Other groups also came forward: the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX); “Liberté politique,” a conservative think-tank; “Civitas,” a political Catholic group to the “right” of the SSPX; groups of lay people from different parts of France; VIA (the former Christian Democrat party with former presidential candidate Jean-Frédéric Poisson).
By Monday evening, these groups and individuals were joined by the students of “Pour la Messe” and, even more significantly, by several individual bishops (Dominique Rey, Bernard Ginoux, Xavier Malle, Eric Aumonier, Marc Aillet, Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, David Macaire), representatives of the National Association of Catholic families and others. The decision of the bishops’ conference to join the legal procedures, represented by the auxiliary bishop of Versailles, Bruno Valentin, as such, was something new and even unexpected.
Sadly, the Council of State sided with the government, quoting the large numbers of “new cases” of COVID (which give no indication of contagiousness or actual illness) and saying exceptions were made to the stringent measures only to “avoid the most nefarious economic and social consequences that were noted during the first confinement.” Spiritual needs are therefore held for nothing. The Council said church services are prone to the circulation of “droplets” while singing and deplored that last summer, participants at Masses were not three feet apart and that priests often did not wear masks during ceremonies, while “old and fragile” people often join religious ceremonies. It called the ban “proportionate.”
At the same time, the Conseil d’Etat asked for the government to discuss possible changes by re-examining the “aptness and proportionality” of the measures while the “sanitary state of emergency” remains in place — as will be the case, save a miracle, until the middle of February and beyond, as the government is using every legal and political maneuver at its disposal to prolong freedom-suppressing measures.
But now the French are taking to the streets, saying public rosaries, and chanting the “Ave Maria” of Chartres in order to make clear that they have had enough.
Marc Billig, 53, said: “This time, it’s niet to computer Masses.” He declared a demonstration in Nantes on Thursday but did not expect 700 people — diocesan parishioners and members of traditionalist parishes — to join the Sunday morning rally.
Photos of the praying crowds circulated on social media and prompted a 22-year-old student from Versailles, Adelaïde, to call her friends through WhatsApp for spontaneous prayer in front of the Saint-Louis cathedral at 6:30 P.M. She kneeled on the steps of the building and heard praying behind her. When she turned around, she saw hundreds of people — between 500 and 600, according to the police.
Dozens of Catholics had the same idea in Lyon where they prayed in front of that city’s cathedral. Next week, Catholics intend to rally in the largest town square.
Sunday’s prayerful demonstrations were the first spontaneous rallies in France, and all expect the movement to grow. Bishop Marc Aillet has already blessed the initiative. In other places, priests have made clear that they continue to say Mass with their church doors open. A lot depends on the zeal of the police and gendarmes and the courage and astuteness of the faithful. At least they have shown they won’t be taking this lying down.