Napoleon, who was a brilliant strategist, often told subordinates that they should treat the pope as if he had 200,000 men at arms. In other words, the answer to Stalin’s cynical remark—“How many divisions does the pope have?”—was about ten, give or take, and they were extremely loyal and prepared to die.
This didn’t stop Napoleon from kidnapping Pius VI in 1799 when he refused to give up temporal authority (Pius died in France a few weeks later partly because of his imprisonment). His successor, Pius VII, believed in democracy and signed a Concordat with the “First Consul,” soon to be Emperor. But he, too, was arrested, as were several cardinals. All of which, more or less, came to an end when Napoleon fell and was exiled to Elba.
Relations between Church and State in France, however, have remained testy ever since, including this weekend’s confrontation over the effort of François Hollande’s French Socialists, who control all the important levers of political power at the moment, to impose so-called gay marriage on the nation—and while they’re at it, gay adoption, and government-funded artificial insemination for lesbian couples. That was too much for many.
In classic French fashion, a huge number of people went into the streets—descendre dans la rue being almost a formal political process in France. Numbers are always contested, but about 800,000 and perhaps as many as one million people—five times Napoleon’s figure—marched three different parade routes to the Eiffel Tower Sunday.
Five years ago, almost to the day, I wrote on this page about then-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech on the occasion of being installed as an honorary canon at St. John Lateran in Rome. He emphasized a theme he had written about several times earlier: The French are neglecting their heritage by ignoring France’s Christian past. Furthermore, he said, the Church should be more prominent publicly. French society needed what only it could bring.
Read More at firstthings.com . By Robert Royal.