Catholics React to Le Pen’s Win

The once-fringe candidate is now a major contender in France’s presidential elections

by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D. • ChurchMilitant • April 24, 2017 36 Comments

PARIS – Hours after French political leaders Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron — both Catholics — won the top spots in France’s upcoming presidential run-off, the French bishops issued confusing voters’ guidelines that appeared to snub Le Pen.

Riding on a wave of anti-Islamist sentiment in the wake of recent Islamic terror attacks in Paris, Front National candidate Le Pen — dubbed the French Donald Trump — captured the second-largest percentage of votes in Sunday’s presidential elections, winning 21.53 percent, coming in only a few points behind center-left Emmanuel Macron, who won 23.74 percent.

Shortly after her win, Le Pen announced she was resigning from the National Front to “focus on being a presidential candidate.”

The two former outsiders are now the main contenders in France’s final round of voting, set to take place in May. With nearly 80-percent turnout at the polls, it was a resounding defeat for the Establishment — represented by the Socialist Party and Les Républicains — and brings an end to their 60-year reign; it’s the first time since the founding of the Fifth Republic that a center-right candidate isn’t in the run-off.

The French bishops’ guidelines issued Monday name no particular candidate, but instead provide a set of issues to consider. The issues are telling, leaning heavily towards a pro-immigration, pro-European Union stance, seeming to support Macron without naming him.

Signed by Secretary General Msgr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, the bishops’ statement declares that the faithful must focus on “the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed. To neglect the most fragile is to divide society.”

It goes on to emphasize the need to welcome migrants as well as commit to remaining part of the European project— positions directly at odds with Le Pen’s nationalist, anti-Islamist, anti-EU policies that have served as enduring planks in the National Front party platform.

The bishops’ guidelines come about a week after Le Pen admitted she was “angry” with the Church for meddling in affairs she claims are not within its ken. “I am angry with the Church because I think it interferes with everything except what it should really be concerned with,” she told French daily La Croix in mid-April.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” she continued. “Members of France’s bishops’ conference tend to meddle in affairs that do not concern them by trying to influence voters’ political opinions and attitudes.”

Le Pen, a divorcé who considers herself a catholique de parvis (a Catholic just outside the walls), does not oppose abortion, but is in favor of rolling back gay marriage and in vitro fertilization for gay couples. She took the lead among conservative Catholics after a money scandal ground Les Républicains candidate François Fillon’s campaign to a halt last fall.

Fillon was the surprise front runner at the time, conservative Catholics’ great hope of restoring a more pro-French, pro-family regime, until it was revealed he had paid out thousands to his wife and children for work they purportedly did not do back when he was prime minister.

In spite of Le Pen’s more conservative platform, Les Républicains is encouraging its supporters to vote for Macron, a Jesuit-educated liberal who supports same-sex marriage and immigration. Once a member of the Socialist Party, he worked as economic minister under President François Hollande, currently suffering dismal approval ratings. An April poll showed 70 percent of French think poorly of his presidential legacy; a year ago, he was at the lowest rating possibly in all of French presidential history, with a stark 4 percent approving of his job.

In the meantime, France’s Catholic conservative party, Sens Commun, insists it can vote for neither Le Pen nor Macron. “How can we choose between the chaos brought by Marine Le Pen and the political rot of Emmanual Macron?” asked President Christophe Billan.

Sens Commun arose from the wildly popular pro-family movement Manif Pour Tous, which has been arranging annual pro-family marches in Paris opposing gay marriage. It remains the largest pro-family demonstration in Europe, and involves Catholics, Jews, Muslims and atheists who argue that children have a right to a mother and a father.

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  1. The issue is not an issue of pro-family or pro-life anymore. Pope Francis made sure that Catholics do not back any sides anymore. But the issue is far deeper. All pro-family or pro-life work is doomed from the start because it accepts the Enlightenment. It starts with the Rights of Man, and Not the Rights of God. I am not French, and cannot vote, but I would vote, if I could for Le Pen. Because one needs to dismantle the Enlightenment, before we can proceed with, – not the Rights of Man- but the Dignity given to Man through God’s Love and Creation. A Dignity that cannot be legislated, because the Love and the Dignity given us, applies in different ways to everyone and in every different case, in proportion to God’s Graces, and the Goodness it can produce.

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