But on Thursday of last week, we saw a paradigm shift in not only American but in Catholic political praxis as the elegant Marion Maréchal-Le Pen stormed CPAC with typically French charm and esprit.
Niece of the better known (and decidedly more liberal and less Catholic) Marine Le Pen, and granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the Front National, a right wing French party that has served as the model for most aspirant political parties of the right throughout the West, Marion Le Pen gave the most decidedly and traditionally Catholic speech by a politician since the disastrous Second Vatican Council.
Channeling her populist grandfather and aunt, in her speech Le Pen lauded the “French blood spilt on American soil” during the American Revolution and with a nod to President Trump, stated that she wanted “France first for the French people.”
What a shocking idea.
Moreover taking aim at the lumbering, literally communist-infested EU, Le Pen used decidedly traditional and Catholic language. Le Pen wryly noted that plagued with “historic amnesia,” the “European Union is not Europe”; rather it is “an ideology without land, without people, without roots,” which “looks only to the future.”
And at one point with fiercely Frankish defiance, the platinum-haired descendent of Clovis and St. Louis King of France boasted, “I refuse the standardized world proposed by the EU.”
If this language sounds familiar to Catholics, it should, for until the advent of Pope Francis, modern Catholic pontiffs have been expressing similar concerns about Europe’s apostasy and demographic suicide.
In a forgotten interview for the documentary Bells of Europe: A Journey into the Faith of Europe, Pope Benedict XVI wrote of two Europes.
The first Europe, according to the Holy Father, is secular, deracinated and ideological, and according to the Holy Father, is rooted in “abstract anti-historical reason, which seeks to dominate all else because it considers itself above all cultures … and intends to liberate itself from all traditions and cultural values in favor of an abstract rationality.”
Taking a shot at the soulless morass of deracinated secular post-war Europe, Pope Benedict says with typical Bavarian bluntness, “we cannot live like that.”
In the same interview, the Holy Father speaks of the true Europe born, not only but importantly from the diverse tribes of European people, but from the “roots” of Christianity, “which created the continents fundamental values and great institutions, in the vision of the Christian faith.”
Either Marion Le Pen is an attentive disciple of Benedict XVI or the Frenchwoman is thinking along the same wavelengths as the 265th Pontiff.
In fact, Marion Le Pen outmatched Pope Benedict’s famous criticism of Islam in his 2006 Regensburg address, by stating that “France is passing from being the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam.”
Of equal importance to Catholics, Marion also gave a thundering endorsement of traditional Christian marriage. Unlike her prochoice aunt with whom she has clashed over abortion in the past, the plus joyeux Marion attacked “eugenics” and “the gender theory delirium.”
As one might guess, the response to Marion Le Pen’s speech in both the neoconservative and left wing press has not been positive.
The Washington Post’s always reliable Ishaan Tharoor, horrified that American and French populists may be locking arms in joint defense of the Christian West, writes with audible trembling that Penn is part of “a political faction linked to the dark remnants of European fascism.”
Yes, Mr. Tharoor’s statement is the typically New Left, Frankfurt School reductio ad Hitleram in which anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton is a fascist.
It is true, however, there have been a long list of unsavory characters associated with Le Pen’s party, Le Front National, and the party’s founder, Marion’s grandfather, Jean-Marie, has said some very rude and impolitic things.
However, Le Front National is largely representative of two hundred years of the French right in which a hodgepodge of often unpleasant and disenfranchised characters joined forces with genuinely devout French Catholic patriots.
Since the advent of Napoleon, the French Right has been a strange brew of Bonapartists or those who wanted a strong authoritarian rule with some of the liberal reforms of 1789; monarchists of wide and often fiercely contradictory stripes; and finally, conservative republicans who had thought the Revolution had gone too far. French conservatives were always culturally Catholic even when, like Napoleon, they openly persecuted the Church.
Thus it should be no surprise if some unsavory and fundamentally unCatholic French conservatives have been drawn to Marion Le Pen’s Front National.
However, it appears that the tides have turned and traditional Catholics are on the ascendency in the French right. An attendee of the traditional Latin Mass who was educated at a Catholic school run by a group of traditional Dominican sisters, Marion Le Pen has participated in the traditionalist Chartres Pilgrimage [promoted by The Remnant for 27 years, which has organized the official U.S. chapter on the pilgrimage. MJM], which, of course, has drawn criticism from the French press.
Le Pen on the 2017 pélerinage de Chartres
This is not to hold Marion up as a contemporary Joan of Arc. She’s not quite there yet. As much as she cultivates the image of a devout Catholic educated by traditional Dominican sisters, there is also Marion Le Pen the young divorcee who lacks solid Catholic formation and exhibits many of the obvious shortcomings of the post-Vatican II Catholic.
Nevertheless, Marion Le Pen’s speech at CPAC is a powerful sign that muscular Catholic politics is possible. As the Catholic neoconservative movement, midwifed by George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Fr. Richard Neuhaus, is consigned to the dustbin of history, and while the Catholic left sinks further down the foul swamp of degeneracy, socialism, and open borders, Marion Le Pen’s speech is a bright spark indicating that the eldest daughter of the Church may not yet be defeated.