An Excellent Explanation of French “Intégrisme”

This comment on Fr Smuts’ blog about Bishop Fellay, superior of the Society of St Pius X, calling the Jews the “enemies of the Church” is worth reading. Friends used to joke with me in private, calling them the “Waffen SS – PX”! Those priests are not all neo-Nazis by any means, some are good devout men who got into it because of the liturgically and doctrinally traditionalist stance, but others of those men have some very nasty ideological opinions.

During the occupation of France by the Nazis from 1940 until 1944, some Catholic minds thought Nazism would be useful to get their own back against the Socialists and Freemasons who were responsible for the separation of Church and State in 1905 and for anti-clericalism.

Of course, anti-semitism goes back further and is one of the most profound sources of embarrassment for the Church since the days of the Spanish Inquisition and all the way back in history. It was an important part of the late nineteenth-century anti-liberal conspiracy theories that blamed everything on the Jews, the Socialists and the Freemasons.

I am quite taken back by the motto adopted by Maréchal Petain – Travail, Famillle, Patrie. This is also the motto of a right-wing organisation (supported by the superior of my old seminary) based in – – – Brazil. Brazil, Paraguay and other South American countries were refuges for some of the worst Nazi rats when Hitler was defeated – if they had enough gold (which was stolen from the victims of the Nazis in the concentration camps). I don’t know if there is any connection, but the connection seems pretty obvious! I have to give it to my old superior that he did rebuke a seminarian who declared himself to support the neo-Nazi ideology! I remember… And I was in a clerical institute recognised by Rome.

French bourgeois Catholicism has a lot to answer for. Practically the whole working class in this country is alienated from the Church, that in spite of the generations of Marxist priests and bishops from 1945 up to about the John Paul II era. It is a sign of shame that there were many Catholic justes who did what they could to resist the enemy and save as many Jewish people as possible, but this was not the official policy of the French Church! They sacrificed their lives and were often atrociously tortured by the Gestapo before the relief of death.

Mourad’s account seems to be accurate according to my information and reading of writings of historians like Dr Luc Perrin of Strasbourg University. However, he overlooks something that he might be intending to describe in a future comment, the phenomenon of Intégrisme as a Papally-supported (Pius X 1903-1914) movement reaction against theological Modernism. This accounts for the name of the Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Pii Decimi or Fraternité Sacredotale Saint-Pie X.

Here is a link to my article on anti-Modernism in the pontificate of Pius X and up to the suppression of the Sodalitium Pianum headed by Monsignor Umberto Benigni in 1921 by Benedict XV – see Sodalitium Pianum.

I was “received” by the SSPX in June 1981 and attended their masses in London until leaving for France the following year. There were some good and devout people, but the cranks left me with a lasting impression. I spent some time at one of the Society’s schools in France from October 1982 until the Easter of the following year, learning French and helping with teaching English. It was an eye-opener to say the least, a lens through which I would have a critical view of Roman Catholicism for many years.

One again, I am spiritually exhausted and ask for your prayers and will need to address these questions much less frequently. It’s greasy, very dirty and like something I once trod on in the gutter – very unpleasant! It is nothing other than pure evil!

This kind of thing can be dealt only by prayer and fasting…

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14 Responses to An Excellent Explanation of French “Intégrisme”

  1. Stephen K says:

    Very interesting. I am loath to make sweeping statements here because when all is said and done, we often do not have exhaustive knowledge of individuals’ backgrounds, inner thoughts etc. We often extrapolate from singular incidents and apply one act or declaration onto many others. It is up to each of us to join our own dots.

    Having said all that, and, keeping strictly to facts not interpretation, I remember two incidents: (1) meeting Bernard Fay, former minister in the Petain government when he gave a talk on Leon de Poncins’ thesis on the dangers of Zionist Jews and Freemasons within the Vatican and Church; (2) being urged by three French seminarians to vote for the Nazi party in an election. A strong anti-Republican sentiment prevailed, and not just after the feast day Mass of “Saint Louis XVI”. There were songs: “Les Bleus sont la, le canon gronde, dites-les gars, avez vous peur? Nous n’avons qu’une peur au monde, c’est d’offenser Notre Seigneur!” Etc. One person I knew became a Foreign Legionaire, a senior figure in Le Pen’s National Front and was eventually murdered. The Crusades formed a motif for several individuals. At that epoch, books like Fr Denis Fahey CSSP’s notorious “The Kingship of Christ and the Conversion of the Jewish Nation”, “The Protocols of the Elders of ZIon”, and “Communism Unmasked” pseudonymously authored by Fr Gearon, an Australian Carmelite, circulated amongst those who were often the future grandparents of some of today’s eager-beaver traditionalists and ultra-montanes.

    What do these things add up to? Well, I think they simply reflect that people grow up with and/or adopt narratives that take hold of their hearts and fears. They are attracted to certain models and fear certain “others” and above all, fear and hate loss of control over their own preferences. None of us are pure and untouched by this common behavioural tendency, unless we take seriously the necessity of Buddhist detachment or Christian trust in the God who takes care of the swallows and flowers.

    But naturally, we also have a responsibility to sort out the merely eccentric from the nasty and malicious, and avoid or challenge the latter. Trouble is, we often disagree which is which. The realisation that this is a difficult conundrum leads me to the conviction that none of us should be jumping up and down about things like “true churches”, as if we could presume to know or belong to it. The cognitive dissonance is in imagining we can and still imagining that we are following Christ’s Way.

    I am reading an early 1930s novel by a Shane Leslie called “The Anglo-Catholic”. Does anybody know it? Something that has been said by some reader somewhere recently, to the effect that the 19th century Anglo-Catholic clergy were simultaneously ritualistic and significantly radicalised in terms of humanitarian advocacy for the poor and marginalised is very clearly illustrated in that novel: “high-church socialists” in other words. I like that. It seems that many of today’s ritualists and traditionalists are politically conservative if not fully right-wing. So the fault-line, the problem, the contradictions are not confined to the SSPX.

    • Lovely comment. We do need to take the moral high ground. The right-wingers will say that their system is the only alternative to the world being ruined by “degenerate” people who are not really human beings, so they can be put in concentration camps, made to work as slaves and killed when they are no good. Perhaps the right-wingers in question might be a little less extreme than the Nazis, but the same spirit would be there even if they didn’t kill anyone. The Germans and Italians weren’t the only ones. Our inglorious British Empire made people very miserable during the Boer Wars in South Africa! The people of India weren’t too happy either.

      The history of the Ritualist “slum” priests in Victorian England is touching. Arthur Henry Stanton was a prime example. They were radical and socialist in the best meaning of that word – not only were the poor deserving of our kindness and empathy, but they truly have rights to protest against their condition. Pope John XXIII as a young priest was suspected of Modernism when he stood up for the working men in a factory who were protesting for better working conditions and a living wage.

      Of course, socialism today is different. The trains go on strike for nothing nowadays, and it’s the private sector (and we the people) that suffers. That’s no longer socialism!

      The only way is proposing something else, not fighting the enemy because we don’t have the means to win, but having another vision, higher and more beautiful…

  2. ed pacht says:

    I assume that Mourad’s quotations are accurate and can see that they present an unpretty picture. However, what I see is a comment carefully constructed for the purpose of denunciation, and therefore selective in what it does present. The question immediately arises as to what he chose not to present. It is a very easy thing to make a selection of entirely true statements or events in order to depict one’s target in the worst possible light. I’ve been on the receiving end of exactly that, and, mea culpa, have answered in kind. That is not a constructive way to seek truth. If one concentrates on sewage, one will feel very dirty indeed. If one concentrates on the objective: clean water, ones attitude is entirely different.

    It has often been said that every heresy is simply the overemphasis of one truth at the expense of another truth. I see that as a general principle in politics, in economics, in the writing of history, in fact, in every avenue of serious inquiry. Things like this have been argued over and over again, with great fervor, and to what end? Do such arguments blend with the love of God for the vilest sinners, the love that brought Jesus to the Cross? Or do they move us beyond the hatred of sin to a hatred of those for whom He died and rose? I am a sinner, deserving none of the grace of God, and yet I know that His love for me is greater than the universe. Those who have committed (and indeed those who are still committing) what I see as grievous sins are the very enemies I have been commanded to love. That’s not easy – but it is a command. We may not be there yet, but we must continue to ask God to move us toward that goal.

    Father, you are exactly right. It is prayer and fasting that we require — as much for the reformation of our own souls as for the changes we would like to see in others.

  3. William Tighe says:

    The Brazillian “TFP” society to which you refer has as its title “Tradition, Family, Property,” which is not really the same thing as Travail, Famillle, Patrie.

  4. Stephen M says:

    Any subgroup which walls itself off with its own 900-page manifesto, which differs from its parent group’s 900-page manifesto by half a page, is likely to rot from the top down. This happens irrespective of the nature of the group: Orthodox, RC, Protestant, Christian, Muslim, sacred or secular, political or scientific. It’s part of the reason why abbots don’t bless their monks to go off and become hermits until they’ve worn the habit for a couple of decades, and why scientists are highly suspicious of other scientists who work alone and don’t submit papers for peer-review. The smaller the group, the easier it becomes to corrupt. That’s not to say that large groups are immune from corruption, they just resist it better. The difference is that the larger the group, the quicker it will heal itself. Contrariwise, a small group that has corrupted itself will all to often elevate its corruption to the level of virtue. Uncle Screwtape is particularly proud of that one, I imagine.

    Ed Pacht also makes a very salient point in observing that what is not said can be as important as what is said.

    La tragédie de l’Humanité

  5. Don Henri says:

    I don’t like much commenting on here, but I do now for the sake of objectivity on the conduct of French Bishops during the WWII. Mourad tells only a part of the story (as an Algerian he has, let’s say, a partial view of the event, due to the strange love/hate relationships between Algeria and France), and it would be intellectually honest from you to include in your article the following:

    Mourad seems to forget conveniently the role French Bishops had in saving as many Jews as was possible. Bishop Théas of Montauban was declared a right among the nations, as was Bishop Piguet who was deported in Dachau for helping Jews, and the Bishop Salièges you refer about, while a supporter of Pétain, was to the core an anti-nazi and had a solemn declaration condemning their policy and affirming the dignity of the Jew people, while France was occupied, risking his life in this.

    Our national Church had an attitude of support toward Pétain, but never, never, never condoned the Shoah to any extent, and many of its prelate supported the France-Libre of général de Gaulle (and of course not the internal Résistance largely dominated by communists).

    Our Bishops recognized as righteous among the nations:

    Bishop Salièges:
    Bishop Théas:
    Bishop Piguet:

    + pax et bonum

  6. Michael Frost says:

    As Fr. Anthony said so very well, prayer and fasting. We might also add almsgiving.

    And I’d add, esp. for us Americans, a better understanding of history. I’m not sure what kind and intensity of cognitive dissonance arose in France due to the initial fall of France (1940) but later the fall of Indo-China (1954) and then Algeria (1961), and I doubt I can even imagine it. I read an interesting book a long time ago in a history of nationalism class on France 1940, written very close to that year (I think by Marc Bloch/Dassault?). The trauma of this great nation and world power falling to Nazi Germany in such a short period of time…right after tiny Finland held off the giant Soviet Union’s onslaught…and then to be “saved” by the Americans and Brits. Esp. after having “won” WW I. Scapegoats and enemies of the people can seem to be everywhere, as Hitler’s paranoia showed in the German post-war reckoning of its fiasco in The Great War. Was bad enough that the leftist Popular Front seemed so incompetent in the 1930s. Only to be followed by successive weak Socialist governments in the 1950s (e.g., Mendes France). Then the people look for the great man (Gen. de Gaulle) to reestablish a resurgent nation, and it reestablishes its status by lashing out at its allies (USA, UK, & NATO). Creating new protective institutions (EU and its predecessors). And the military power (France’s stategic nuclear weapons). All to regain lost glory. I think we Americans always find it so strange that the French appear to glorify a monster like Napolean and an evil Revolution that spawned so much death and pain into the modern world. I guess it shouldn’t surprise us too much that there are some residual pockets of unchristian thought?

  7. Neil Hailstone says:

    As an ordinary Christian It seems obvious to me that ‘The Jews’ involved in the events of the Crucifixion were representatives of the whole of humanity with regard to humankind’s propensity to commit sin. I am surprised and disappointed that a Bishop with years of theological training behind him could think otherwise. Work and Family seem OK to me especially for Christians. Country however needs careful consideration. It can’t be ‘My country right or wrong’ for a start. And to my mind not a mindset of superiority against other countries and cultures.

  8. Neil Hailstone says:

    At the risk of incurring Fr. Anthony’s displeasure I would like to add a few further comments which may be a little controversial. I think we should bear in mind when passing comment on the Vichy Republic that the circumstances of the time were extremely difficult. The French Nation has suffered a total military defeat. Heavily armed soldaten were strutting about and orders were, being issued from the Kommandanteur. Civil order has to be maintained. What is the Hero of Verdun to do in these circumstances? What are the people to do? Many including members of the church decided that ‘Collaboration’ not used in the usual perjorative sense was a legitimate option. Some catholic christians in these dreadful circumstances sought refuge in the concept of La France Profonde et Catholique..

    My own researches into this across the years including conversations with people who were there at the time lead me to conclude that by no means all all who supported Vichy were anti semitic fascists. Many were taking what they believed to be the best honest option. As the Archbishop of York stated during the war ( in relation to the area bombing campaign by the Royal Airforce) sometimes in life there is no clear choice between absolute right and absolute wrong..

    Of course all of the usual racists, mountebanks,criminals and chancers featured prominently in the apparatus of Vichy but we must not, I think condemn all who supported it for what appeared to be good and honest reasons at the time..Especially, I would contend, the catholic clergy, of course, with exceptions.

    It is just so easy and personally satisfying for modern day authors, commentators and documentary makers to trawl through the dictionary and thesaurus to find strong adjectives to condemn everyone who supported Vichy. Hindsight without empathy and understanding of that period in history produced in the quiet and safe comfort of study or office perhaps with a glass of something pleasant to hand.

    • I would agree that intégrisme is more about anti-liberalism and anti-modernism and less about formal collaboration with the enemy. Hitler didn’t invent anti-semitism. The Spanish were roasting relapsi (forcibly baptised and then persecuted for practising their original religion) of both Jewish and Islamic origin during the heyday of the Spanish Inquisition and the Auto da fe.

      Jewish people have been persecuted throughout the history of the Church, accused of deicide. The more I think of those shenanigans, the more I think – Vive la Laïcité!

    • At the risk of incurring Fr. Anthony’s displeasure…

      Few things “incur” my “displeasure”, not that it really matters, since I prefer to believe I do this blog for the benefit of other people and not as a self-aggrandising exercise.

      What really irritates me is rudeness, aggressiveness, lack of empathy, unwillingness to “negotiate” one’s “position” (none of us are completely right). I’m fine with the discussion of different opinions and positions when there is respect and the absence of pressure to “convert” to the other side of the argument.

      It’s as simple as that.

  9. ed pacht says:

    I don’t know about you, Father, nor about others, but there is one thing that frequently does incur my displeasure, and that is my own views and the way in which I’ve expressed them. I am seldom, probably never, entirely right about anything . . . and I’ll hazard a guess that that is true of all of us. If we can remember that with any degree of consistency, our conversation will be both more pleasant and more constructive. There is no one that does not need to change and to grow into the fullness of the image of Christ.

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