Thursday, August 15, 2013

Who Cares About the French Revolution?

At Dinner, my Father recently said "I need a summary of the French Revolution in three minutes. I keep hearing about the French Revolution these days, but I have no idea what it was or why I should care."

Challenge accepted Dad.  Somebody time me!

In France, the aristocracy (rich people) made all the laws.  The Church was infused into the aristocracy.

Important question 1: how did the Church become infused into the power structure of countries?  Was the Church bent on world domination?  That is the main narrative, but there is another explanation as well - a lot of countries invited the Church in to help run their countries because the Church was much better organized, it was international, and it was disciplined with laws and so forth - if you were a disorganized collection of tribes being occasionally sacked by barbarians, the Church offered a way to get a nation started.

But I've already digressed.

In 1789, the people "stormed the Bastille" and the overthrow of the rich and the Church was on.  Government by the people and for the people ("equality, fraternity, and liberty" was the motto). 
The revolution is often celebrated because who doesn't want to see aristocrats knocked off their perch?

Had it ended with the "Storming of the Bastille" and then a drafting of a constitution, then it would have probably been praiseworthy to some degree.

What is lost, forgotten, not talked about, and miraculously glossed over by the celebrators of the French Revolution is all the ABSOLUTELY INSANE MADNESS that followed for many years in the wake of the "Storming of the Bastille."

What probably did not begin as an anti-Catholic movement quickly turned into a perverted and horrendous and lengthy and awful persecution of the Catholic Church.

The French did not just set up a Constitution and settle down.

The French created a "Rational State" that exalted reason and set "thinking for one's self" as diametrically opposed to Catholicism.  Catholicism was then hunted down and eradicated in every possible way.

In 1790, all religious vows were suspended and the property of monasteries and convents were seized.  

Later in 1790, all priests and bishops were taken over by the state and forced to either renounce their vows or make new ones to the country.  Those who didn't make the vow were prosecuted and treated as criminals.

Tell me this from George Garlin doesn't sound familiar - "Processions were forbidden; crucifixes and religious artifacts were stripped out of churches. Government priests were granted freedom to marry, divorce was permissible, and marriage became a civil procedure."

And how about this from Stephanie Mann - "The Blessed Sacrament was desecrated, church furnishings and artwork wrecked, and churches destroyed in a massive campaign of iconoclasm. More than 200 non-juring priests and three bishops—those who would not take the required oath—were brutally massacred in Paris on September 2 and 3, 1793. Priests and nuns were also tied together and drowned in what revolutionaries called “Republican Weddings” in Nantes and Lyon. The Ursulines of Valencienne, the Carmelites of Compiegne, and groups of nuns from other religious orders were guillotined."

France went on to eliminate the 7 day week because it was biblically based, and created a 10 day week with every 10th day as a day of rest, thus forbidding the Sunday celebration.  

Catholic Holy Days were replaced with civil celebrations, and some of the most blasphemous events in the history of the Church took place during this time.  The defacto leader of the Revolution, Robespierre, celebrated a mockery of Mass where a paper mache mountain was built in Paris, and he descended from the mountain as God.  

Robespierre sent people out to French villages to create similar mockeries of the Mass whereby 

"A delegate arrives some days in advance, accompanied by a goddess, if the town itself cannot supply a suitable one. She is attired in a Roman tunic of white satin, usually taken from a theatrical wardrobe, and wears a red cap trimmed with oak leaves. Her left arm rests on a plough, in her right hand she holds a lance.. . . .Installed on an altar. . .she addresses the people who in return pay her homage. . . .Wherever possible a priest is procured to abjure his Faith in public and to declare that Christianity is nothing but a fraud. The festival ends with a bonfire in which prayer-books, saints’ images, confessionals, and other pieces of church furniture are burnt. Most of those present stand looking on in silence, struck dumb with horror and amazement; others, either drunk or paid. . .dance around. . ." (Marlin)

"Lady Reason" is worshiped in a blasphemous service held at the Cathedral of Notre Dame

The guillotine was fired up as the only way to truly eliminate those who opposed the revolution, and at the height they were slaughtering 10,000 people a day.  Nuns and priests were not spared (see my post here on the Nuns of Compiegne). 

As always is the case with evil, the "god" of the revolution, Robespierre, who initially fired up the guillotines, was himself guillotined.  "A house divided against itself cannot stand!"

This all matters for Catholics because many see comparisons and foreshadowings in our own country.  A revolution that looks like it is for "equality and liberty" where as at heart it is simply about one thing - the destruction of the Catholic Church should certainly sound familiar, especially on the heels of the passage of Obamacare and its attacks on religious liberty.  Another similarity with the revolution would be the fact that in the President's war room in the days leading up to the passage of Obamacare, one of a handful of people who had the President's ear was none other than Cecile Richards, the head of the greatest slaughterer of human beings in the history of the world - Planned Parenthood.  Is our country the land of "equality, liberty, and brotherhood" or is it slowly but steadily morphing into France at the turn of the 18th century.  Many people smart enough to look around are certainly warning that it looks like the guillotines are being dusted off and sharpened here in the United States.

You can't really understand where we are today in the USA unless you first understand the real story of the French Revolution.

You might also find my post (click here) helpful in explaining how both Christopher Nolan in his Batman Trilogy capper "The Dark Knight Rises" and Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" are attempts to warn us of what happens when a revolution rejects God, and thus inevitably spirals into madness, as the French Revolution did.  Is history bound to repeat itself?  

It was longer than three minutes...but some things need a little more time.


  1. This is an excellent post. Your description of the horrible anti-Catholic violence and mob rule is indeed accurate and too often glossed over. My only point of criticism would be to ask for an acknowledgement that revolutions (even bad ones) are not born from nothing. The extreme poverty of the peasantry and ridiculous wealth of the aristocracy played its part. The Church oftentimes being seen as too cozy with the powers-that-be made it easy for Robespierre to bring along many would-be loyal Frenchmen. I guess my only point is that the Church should be careful to speak Truth to all sides lest its viewed as too partisan and too comfortable with whomever is in power. Just my two cents. But well done for three minutes - give or take.

    1. Agreed, and I get into that a lot in the other post of mine that I link to above about Batman, Dickens, and the Church. If we shirk our responsibility (and gift) to care for the poor, we can't be surprised when things go horrendously wrong.

  2. ...we need a Revolution for CHRIST!

  3. Interestingly, you can read in the Catechism the criteria for legitimate armed resistance against the government. Then read the grievances set out in the Declaration of Independence (It's the stuff after the sanctimonious beginning that no one bothers to read). Even if we posit that they weren't grossly exaggerating (which they were), none of them separately or taken together come within a light year of justifying rebellion. As much as I dislike agreeing with a Leftist, I think the fictional hippie teacher in some high-school tv drama I can't recall nails it: "Happy 4th of July! When we celebrate the fact that a bunch of rich, white, slave-owning males didn't want to pay their taxes."

    1. I know the reference well because it was in a movie that I watched about every day the last month of college - Dazed and Confused. It wasn't such a great movie, but it is a FANTASTIC line!

  4. I have always wanted to read a book entitled "The French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Vatican II Revolution of 1962-1965" which would compare and contrast the three events. It is ironic that all the goals demanded and implemented for the destruction of the Catholic Church in the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution were finally implemented internally by Vatican II in what Pope Paul VI call the "auto-destruction of the Church" and the "smoke of Satan having entered the sanctuary": 1. Priest and nuns abandoning their vows, 2. The clergy profaning the Eucharist by de-throning the tabernacle to a broom closet, 3. Clergy and people "worshiping" each other in the Mass-facing-the-people, 4. Clergy hating the Latin language and liturgy, and hating/forbidding Gregorian Chant, 5. The 100% complete take-over of the clergy and the hierarchy by active members of the sodomitical community and Pope Francis not thinking that is a problem, etc.

    The last point (under 5, above) alone explains the "could care less" attitude of the clergy and hierarchy to the sex abuse scandal and also explains why the clergy don't take Catholic teaching or practice seriously. For most clergy, the purpose of the Church is to provide the clergy an opportunity to steal money from the collection plate donated by foolish old women.

    John D. Horton
    Colt, Arkansas