July 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – “Anti-Christian attacks in France quietly quadrupled,” said the headline of a recent story in RealClear Investigations by Richard Bernstein, former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times.
It's an interesting, well-documented piece that avoids explaining away the worrying phenomenon in a simplistic way. Although Muslims are more and more visibly present in France — and despite spectacular Islamic terrorist attacks on isolated persons as well as on groups such as in Nice or at the Paris Bataclan theater — desecrations of churches, chapels and cemeteries are often tracked down to “native” French vandals, the majority of whom are adolescents or young adults.
But while the story lifts a veil on the worrisome trend which only the more traditional right-wing press in France is covering regularly, it does not underscore what is often the root cause of something that is more than mere vandalism: sacrilegious attacks on places and objects that Catholics hold to be most sacred.
The real cause of the increasing number of attacks is often “Satanism,” said Bernard Antony, founder of the General Alliance against Racism and for the Respect of French and Christian Identity (AGRIF), in an exclusive interview with LifeSiteNews (read full interview below).
“So very often, Satanists are often involved,” Antony said.
“The most serious desecration now goes back a long way: it hit Saint-Tugdual in Brittany, a magnificent chapel entirely destroyed by fire: the guilty people were also a group of young adult Satanists. This frequent Satanist component used these desecrations to express its hatred of the Christian religion,” he added.
In 2018, police counted 127 thefts and 877 acts of vandalism: four times more than in 2008. 228 “violent anti-Christian acts” took place in the first trimester of 2019 alone, according to the Bishops’ Conference.
Thefts are one thing. Many French historic churches and the countless chapels that dot the countryside have valuable works of art and liturgical objects; robbery is nothing new.
The voluntary destruction of tombstones and crosses, church furniture and statues, arson and attacks against tabernacles is a growing problem. Many cases appear to be acts of wanton violence where the only intent is destruction and desecration.
A conservative website belonging to the blog network of Guillaume de Thieulloy, “L’observatoire de la christianophobie”(Observatory of Christianophobia), signals a number of incidents in France and many in the rest of the world.
One of the most recent desecrations it describes took place in Brittany last week, where the centuries-old parish church of Saint-Budoc of Porposder was “visited” by vandals. They not only stole the contents of the collection box: cigarette ends littered the floor around a statue of the Virgin Mary and vomit was found in the holy water fonts.
Not far from there the most photographed chapel of France, Saint-Samson of Landunvez, dramatically overlooking the sea from a high cliff, was burgled a few days before. A crucifix was found thrown into a trash bin.
In France, in particular, these destructions and desecrations of Catholic sites only make the national headlines when they are particularly grave. It is telling to compare this with even the slightest derogatory inscription on a mosque or synagogue which becomes top news and is usually followed by firm condemnations at government level.
One of the most spectacular attacks in recent months affected the graveyard of Terre-Cabade, a large cemetery near the center of Toulouse in the south-west of the country: 70 tombs and crosses were destroyed. On a previous occasion, the same cemetery having been vandalized, a local municipal counselor told the media that the desecration was not “racist” in character because no Jewish or Muslim tombs had been attacked.
The AGRIF, Alliance générale contrele racisme et pour le respect de l’identité française et chrétienne (General Alliance against Racism and for the Respect of French and Christian Identity) a defense league founded by Antony– also founder of the revived Chartres pilgrimage in the 1980’s – would later manage to obtain some appropriate condemnation for the anti-Christian nature of the act.
The AGRIF has also filed a complaint in the most recent Toulouse desecration. It cannot always intervene on the judicial level: the perpetrators usually need to be identified first for its lawsuits to have a chance of success.
One clearly anti-Christian act took place in the cemetery of Labry in the east of France in 2015. Several minors dressed in “Gothic” style turned crosses upside down, destroyed tombstones and plaques and inscribed Satanist graffiti. They told their judges at first instance that they wanted to “have fun” and “act against God and Jesus.” Nonetheless, the tribunal for minors of Briey decided there was no anti-Christian motivation.
It was only when the AGRIF appealed this decision that the appeal court judges acknowledged that the acts displayed anti-Christian “racism,” as such crimes are legally qualified in France.
The incident displayed two common characteristics of many of these acts in France: their specifically anti-Christian motives are very often downplayed by the civil and religious authorities, and they are regularly committed by “Gothic” or Satanist youths.
In his article for RealClearInvestigations, Richard Bernstein, underscores the fact that the wave of desecrations hitting cathedrals, chapels and churches cannot be systematically attributed to Muslims, but names an “ugly desperate social fringe” as mainly responsible for these attacks that hardly ever target persons, only buildings and symbolic objects. He quoted the left-wing anarchist daily Libérationthat “found that about 60 percent of incidents involved graffiti – satanic inscriptions, anarchist symbols, swastikas, or nationalist or neo-Nazi slogans.”
Many of the perpetrators, when arrested, “appear to be disaffected young people, or the psychologically disturbed or homeless, rather than members of organized groups advancing a political agenda,” he wrote. Bernstein also quoted the recent pedophilia scandals affecting the Catholic Church, even though in France it has been relatively preserved in this regard, as well as the Yellow Vest movement.
Bernstein quoted a number of evidently sacrilegious acts that took place over the last months – they involve defecation near statues, specific acts against consecrated hosts, defacing of crosses and statues. Is the cause the “loss of authority” of the Church invoked by one commentator, or the “impression that the Church is an obstacle to contemporary life”?
Christian Orthodox historian publisher Jean-François Colosimo told Bernstein: “Is it Christianophobia? No? Is it a loss of the sense of the sacred? Yes.”
Bernstein also wrote: “‘This kind of thing causes real consternation,’ Henri Lemoigne, the mayor of a town on the English Channel, told a Catholic magazine after someone broke into the tabernacle of the local church and scattered its contents on the floor, evidently in search of something to steal.”
This last remark embodies the way in which Bernstein, if Antony is correct, is off the mark. Direct attacks on consecrated Hosts, which Catholics know to be Christ Himself, are the mark of a direct enmity towards the Son of God, and many of the recent attacks he speaks of are deliberate expressions of hate against all things Christian, not from a secularist or social-revolutionary viewpoint but in homage to Satan himself.
Unfortunately – and here once again, Bernstein aptly underlines a common factor in these affairs – the Catholic Church is not taking this head-on. He quoted a revealing phrase by bishop George Pontier of Marseille and in the last stages of his presidency of the French Bishops’ Conference – incidentally, he was born in Lavaur whose cathedral was desecrated so recently – who told the National Catholic Register: “We do not want to develop a discourse of persecution. We do not wish to complain.”
“The Church's priority is inter-religious dialogue, to avoid conflict,” Bernard Carayon, mayor of Lavaur – who fears not to speak of Christianophobia – told Richard Bernstein.
LifeSiteNews' full interview with Bernard Antony of the AGRIF.
LifeSiteNews (LSN): From your personal knowledge, can you confirm that there are other perpetrators of these anti-Christian acts?
Bernard Antony (Antony): Yes, they are not always Muslims, and I cannot say that a majority of these acts are committed by Muslims. A number of desecrations are committed by Muslims, but the most recent fact that comes to my mind is the extraordinarily important desecration of the Terre-Cabade cemetery in Toulouse: there it seems once again that we are not dealing with Muslims. And as if by chance, the devastation took place right after the Gay Pride parade in Toulouse. The previous devastation whose perpetrators were arrested and in which the AGRIF was involved, young Satanists were convicted thanks to our action.
So very often, Satanists are often involved. For example, the attempted fire in Lavaur Cathedral, in which the AGRIF is also prosecuting, the perpetrator is also someone who has expressed his anti-Christian hatred, but he is not a Muslim.
The most serious desecration now goes back a long way: it hit Saint-Tugdual in Brittany, a magnificent chapel entirely destroyed by fire: the guilty people were also a group of young adult Satanists. This frequent Satanist component used these desecrations to express its hatred of the Christian religion.
LSN: It seems that these desecrations are often the work of young people. Do you see a cause for this hatred that is spreading among young people, Satanist hatred in particular?
Antony: Yes, several of my daughters who teach in secondary schools tell me that in the students’ bags, Satanist magazines are regularly found. There is a lot of Satanist literature linked to the phenomenon of so-called Gothic or Black Metal or Death Metal music, and others. This is an important factor, and I think it would be completely unfair to attribute these attacks to Muslims – we are not talking about Islamic terrorism here, which is a very important reality. I do not think that in the case of attacks against church buildings they are the majority component.
LSN: You avoid using the term ‘Christianophobia.’ Why?
Antony: I don't use it because it reminds me too much of the Soviet Union. After its extermination campaigns, after having created the Gulag, the USSR ‘softened’ its approach somewhat – if you can use the word – and created psychiatric hospitals. If you had ‘leninophobia,’ or ‘communistophobia’ or ‘sovietophobia,’ you would be sent to a psychiatric hospital. Why? Because a phobia is a mental illness. I therefore prefer to use, while not searching any quarrel with our friends who use the term ‘Christianophobia,’ the words ‘anti-Christian hatred’.
I am very wary of this psychiatric treatment, of this introduction of psychiatry into politics, because it is heavy with the menace of totalitarianism. We saw this with the Soviets and we can see it also with the neo-totalitarianism that is constantly progressing today.
July 18, 2019 update: This story has been updated so that quotes by Bernard Antony are properly attributed to him.