Part 5


The Denigration of Catholicism

Marginalization was just a preliminary phase. It was completed by an operation of systematic denigration of Catholicism, beginning with open and shameless controversy over dogmas of the Faith. Here are some examples reported by Michael De Jaeghere:

"The biography of Jesus by Jacques Duquesne, published in 1994, presents a Jesus without miracles, without a Resurrection, without a redemptive mission ... preaching the Rights of Man in the company of His numerous brothers and sisters: 400,000 copies sold. And then came the natural follow-up, a life of Mary narrated in a book published in 2004 and contesting, all in one breath, the dogmas of the Annunciation, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, with a pause for a chapter entitled 'Mary, Mother of a Large Family.' [17]

"There were also recurrent campaigns launched against the authenticity of the Holy Shroud ... a methodical concealment of the scientific work and activities of the International Center of Studies on the Shroud of Turin ... Then, in the spring of 2004, came the television series Jésus après Jésus (Jesus after Jesus), by two unbelieving journalists, Jérôme Prieur and Gérard Mordillat, presenting the very existence of the Church as an aberration alien to the thought of Christ, and Catholicism as a particularly perverse variant of anti-Semitism. That series earned its authors an instant promotion as official media exegetes and theologians, making the rounds of television panels and radio programs to lend their 'scientific' backing to the campaign then raging against Mel Gibson's film, The Passion.

"In January 2005 came Traité d'athéologie (Treatise on Atheology) by Michel Onfray, a mediocre ... second-hand philosopher using his pen to resuscitate the hackneyed clichés of rationalism and anticlericalism. Here we discover that there is 'no conclusive contemporary document or archeological proof' to support any belief in the reality of the historical existence of Christ. 'No tomb, no shroud, no archives, except for a sepulcher invented by Saint Helen in 325.' That even the references found in the texts of Tacitus, Suetonius and Flavius Josephus were later interpolations made by monastic transcribers. That Jesus was invented by Saint Mark, who needed a miraculous personage to put a little life into a book of propaganda.

"According to Onfray, Christianity was an invention of Saint Paul, the fruit of his 'delirium' and 'hysteria,' his desire to 'turn everyone into a neurotic.' That his eulogy of chastity proceeds from 'sexual impotence or a problematic libido.' That the essence of Christianity is hatred of self, of the world, of women, of freedom. That the roots of anti-Semitism are to be found in the Gospels in some 250 passages 'which are openly anti-Semitic.' That the Catholic Church concluded a 'marriage of love' with the Nazis founded on the profound 'convergence' of their doctrines. That it has had a part in every totalitarianism and every dictatorship. That John Paul II is responsible for the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda," etc.

You may be thinking: What is there to be worried about? Onfray's ramblings are so far-fetched that they can never have any real influence. Don't be so sure!

"Best seller among the essays published in the first quarter of 2005, with a distribution of over one hundred thousand copies. And the weekly seminars hosted by the author in the Fine Arts Museum in Caen to initiate the public in his nickel-and-dime epicurianism are packed to the rafters.
"There's nothing new under the sun, of course, and the Church has always had to confront the contradictions of its enemies ... Two centuries ago, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and 19th century Scientism gave the signal for radical disputation against the Christian Faith, as seen in such works as Voltaire's L'Essai sur les moeurs (Essay on Morals), Ernest Renan's Vie de Jésus (Life of Jesus) and Salomon Reinach's L'Histoire générale des religions (General History of Religions). In these works we already find the essential points of criticism against Christianity, which are presented to us today as the latest findings of contemporary research.
TEXT BOX"The difference is that at the time, those publications were addressed to an educated, limited audience (which has been called the Voltairian bourgeoisie) and were opposed by the incomparable might of a Church whose power was at its peak. THAT HAS NOTHING IN COMMON WITH WHAT IS HAPPENING TODAY. Many of the readers of Jacques Duquesne's books have never studied any catechism: this book is their only contact with Christianity. And if such is not the case, it could be even worse: they may have been formed by modernist sermons, predisposing them to take the wild imaginings of the destroyers of Catholicism at face value."

De Jaeghere continues: "Renan was made an object of censure by the Church. Today, on the contrary, no methodical refutation of Onfray's theses has yet to be issued by the bishops --- who are (alas!) very careful not to cut their ties with the media powers by taking up an 'inopportune' defense of Catholic truth. That would surely be exposing themselves needlessly to accusations of behaving like the Inquisition: they do not necessarily have the vocation to martyrdom, even if that martyrdom were limited to being held in poor esteem by the powers that be. Or perhaps they are too busy running with the pack, issuing warnings against Mel Gibson's Passion to the remnant of their faithful. The detractors of Catholicism, flattered by the entire Catholic establishment, can thus afford the luxury of being agitators and nonconformists without any misgivings, combatting an institution that no longer defends itself.
"Jérôme Prieur and Gérard Mordillat's series (mentioned above) has been the object of only a modest episcopal warning, which indicates that it contains 'certain imprecisions' and 'a false and tendentious methodology' that consists in applying the term 'propaganda' as an equivalent for 'testimony,' but which also declares that it might be 'a useful tool for groups already well informed in the scientific works it alludes to.'

"Confronted with these juggernauts, what influence can be had by the good books that have also been published: Professor Jean-Paul Roux' biography, Jésus (Jesus) (Fayard, 1989); Father Bruckberger's L'Histoire de Jésus-Christ (Life of Jesus Christ) (DMM, 1992); Abbe Laurentin's Vie authentique de Jésus-Christ (Authentic Life of Jesus Christ) (Fayard, 1995); Professor Carsten Peter Thiede's study on the historicity of the Gospels, Témoins de Jésus (Witnesses for Jesus) (Laffont, 1996). The media powers decide which books have the right to be presented to the general public and which authors shall be reserved for reading by specialists or diehards.

TEXT BOX"Duquesne's book received rave reviews in all the major newspapers. It made front-page headlines in L'Express. Its author was invited to promote it on every television channel. [18] Better still, although Duquesne himself admits that he is no exegete but is merely popularizing, for the general public, books he has consulted or read, and even though he is actually utilizing a new vocabulary to recycle old heresies refuted a thousand times over, his book has made him something of a 'media expert.' It is now to him that radio and television will turn whenever they have a news item to treat that is even remotely related to the life of Jesus ...

"Theses extremely hostile to Christianity are being developed and magnified to the point of delirium in a new category of works which has been increasingly successful, and which could be called initiatory novels: Gerald Messadié's L'Homme qui devint Dieu (The Man Who Became God), for example, which presents Jesus as the fruit of an adulterous relationship by Mary (Laffont). [19] In this category of 'literature' we also find the most tremendous best seller of recent years, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code: 30 million copies [20] have been sold since it appeared in 2003, with translations in over forty languages. Published in French in April 2004, more than 1.5 million copies have been sold in that language. A film version has projected the intrigue onto the screen, with an estimated budget of $125 million.

TEXT BOX"We would like to dismiss this heap of ineptitudes with a shrug of our shoulders. But did you know that trips from the United States are being organized to follow all the traces of The Da Vinci Code ($2,300 per person)? And that certain visits to the Louvre are entirely centered around it (110 Euros admission fee)? Father Jean-Louis Schlegel, a former Jesuit, remarked in the October 26, 2004, issue of La Croix magazine: 'Even educated gulls are letting themselves be duped. Recently I heard a reporter hosting a show on the cultural network on Saturday evening, express his satisfaction that The Da Vinci Code had finally revealed everything the Church has always hidden and repressed!'"


17. Yves Chiron, in Alatheia magazine (October 3, 2004), points out some of the glaring blunders scattered throughout Duquesne's book. One of the more delightful of these is his reference to the famous British theologian "Paul" Newman! (The American actor would certainly be as surprised as we were on discovering his new identity, borrowed from the great Cardinal John Henry Newman.)
18. Not only in France. He has also been praised to the skies here in Canada.
19. This book is being put in the hands of students.
20. The total has now risen to 40 million copies.



HOME-----------------------CATHOLIC TRADITION