Tuesday, February 5, 2013

God, Victor Hugo and French Church

Victor Hugo 1872
image wikimedia
Victor Marie Hugo (1802 – 1885) is in the news thanks to the Academy Award Nominations for the blockbuster musical Les Misérables (2012) based on his novel of the same name.

Victor Hugo embodies the highly critical attitudes towards religion that are present also in today's determinedly secular France. For example, French diplomats were in the forefront in the battle to prevent any mentioning of God in the European Union Charter.

In his poetry, Victor Hugo touches the soul of his people in a way that only native French speakers can truly appreciate. His poems were immensely popular during the 19th century and belong today to the national heritage of French culture. 

In his novels, Victor Hugo discusses French society as it is living through the turmoil between Royalists and Republicans, revolutions and wars. An important subject in his analysis is the Church.

Christ and France - beginning of the relationship
French have been and are an enormously important people among the nations of the earth. If you do not believe me just look at the Ellis Island in front of New York. Statue of Liberty is not just another piece of art - it symbolises much of what is dear to modern Western civilization dominating the world.

Because of this importance Jesus Christ and His enemy have been fighting and continue to fight for the soul of France, Sacre coeur, so to say.

Jesus Christ reached the French people early in European history. First he met them through the wonderful services of Saint Martin de Tours (316-397) or Martin le Miséricordieux. Officially, the Kingdom of God reached Franks when King Clovis I (466-511) was baptised in Christmas Day 496 in Reims. Jesus was there in the crucial battle and became his Lord. The Christian dynasty of Merovingians is crucial in the history of Europe and the British Isles and thus to the entire world.

Jesus Christ was there when Franks led by Charles Martel (688-741) were the last bastion of European Christianity against the deadly onslaught of Muslims in the Battle of Tours 721. Martel is the grandfather of Charlemagne (742-814), pater Europae.

Things started to go badly between Christ and France
Jesus Christ called Jean d'Arc (1412-1431) La Pucelle d'Orléans to crown the King of France in Reims where Clovis I had been baptised thousand years earlier. She did so but was
put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon for charges of "insubordination and heterodoxy" and was burned at the stake for heresy when she was 19 years old wikipedia
Before this crime against humanity on 30 May 1431at the Vieux-Marché in Rouen there had been other things that did not go unnoticed later neither by Voltaire nor by Victor Hugo.
It is true that it was an Italian pope Innocent III who instigated the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars. The merciless genocides during the twenty years of war were carried out both by northern and southern French barons.

The Languedoc now was firmly under the control of the King of France. The Inquisition was established in Toulouse in November 1229, and the surviving elements of Catharism were eliminated from the region, largely due to the infamous inquisitor Bernard Gui and his order of Dominicans.
The two things, Albigensian Crusade and Inquisition belong to the darkest pages in the history of the Church and are well remembered in France. (Victor Hugo wrote the play Torquemada in 1869 on inquisition and religious fanaticism.)
The list of things going bad is dark, long and sad. French religious believers against French religious believers as in the case of Cathars but now against the Huguenots. St. Bartholomew's Days massacre on July 23, 1572 in Paris

The massacre also marked a turning point in French Wars of Religion. The Huguenot political movement was crippled by the loss of many of its prominent aristocratic leaders, as well as many re-conversions by the rank and file, and those who remained were increasingly radicalized. Though by no means unique, it "was the worst of the century's religious massacres." Throughout Europe, it "printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion".
The persecution of Huguenots stains the period of le Roi Soleil Louis XIV as French clergyman Cardinal Richelieau (1585-1642) crushes in 1628 their stronghold of La Rochelle. He may have won that battle but the way a man of God treated fellow Frenchmen rivals with the worst atrocities conducted later by both sides in the 30 years war.

These Church Royalty things were vividly remembered also in the novels of Alexandre Dumas who was a close friend of Victor Hugo.

Not to mention witch trials so prominent in Victor Hugo's master piece The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831).

Les Misérables
The dark side of French church history was well known and was among the principal causes for the French Revolution that changed the entire world in 1787-99 and after that still affecting us all today.

Young Victor Hugo was nevertheless a good Catholic following the guidance of his mother Sophie Trébuchet (1772–1821). On the other hand, his father Joseph Léopold Sigisbert Hugo (1774–1828) was a child of Enlightenment and a freethinker in matters of religion. Mother Catholic Royalist remembering the glory of the House of Bourbon and father agnostic Republican whose hero was Napoléon Bonaparte.

The dark pages in the history of the Church in France was not the principal reason why Victor Hugo later became increasingly critical of Christian religion.

The real reason was his passionate feeling for justice and his horror on the indifference of Christian clergy to the suffering of les Misérables.

Faith in God
Although Victor Hugo fiercely criticized the Church and was apparently not a close friend of Jesus Christ he nevertheless did not deny God.
Hugo left five sentences as his last will to be officially published :
« Je donne cinquante mille francs aux pauvres.
Je veux être enterré dans leur corbillard.
Je refuse l'oraison de toutes les Eglises.
Je demande une prière à toutes les âmes.
Je crois en Dieu. »

("I leave 50 000 francs to the poor. I want to be buried in their hearse.I refuse [funeral] orations of all churches. I beg a prayer to all souls.I believe in God.")
French Church
Instead of repenting from the accusations of neglecting the orphans, the poor, the miserables, French Church actively condemned Victor Hugo and his today world famous writings.

Hugo never lost his antipathy towards the Catholic Church, due largely to what he saw as the Church's indifference to the plight of the working class under the oppression of the monarchy; and perhaps also due to the frequency with which Hugo's work appeared on the Church's Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Hugo counted 740 attacks on Les Misérables in the Catholic press).

Les Misérables contains solemn words from a secular prophet in the tradition of Old Testament prophets and Jesus Christ Himself.

French Catholic cardinals, bishops, priests and others did not see the truth they contain.

Royalists, the House of Bourbon, and the blindness and deeds of the Catholic Church in France explain Victor Hugo.

And Victor Hugo stands for the common man and woman in France who have a decent sense of justice and what is right and what is wrong.

French Christians have much to blame in themselves about the cold winds of secularism that blow today from Paris.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Christ and Cathars - Kate Mosse Labyrinth

Carcassonne today
Image wikimedia
The events around Massacre of Cathars are brought vividly to our minds through the novel Labyrinth (2005) by Kate Mosse and the currently running TV mini-series based on it.

Inquisition was established in 1184 in Languedoc south of France to destroy heretic Cathars. The twenty years Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229) aimed to physically annihilate them. "The last known Cathar perfectus in the Languedoc, Guillaume Bélibaste, was executed in 1321."

We can feel some of the cold hatred and horror of those days in the words of advise by the Cistercian Abbot of Cîteaux Arnaud Amalric (died 1225). Caesar of Heisterbach wrote later that when asked how to distinguish between Catholics and Cathars during the attack on Béziers July 22, 1209 he said

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius

"Kill them all. For God knows who are his."

This awful statement by a holy man of God is made even more chilly by the fact that it refers to the Bible giving the passage in the Second Letter to Timothy a tint of Satanic verse
Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.  Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
2 Tim 2:17-19 NIV
These events undoubtedly belong to the darkest chapters in the history of Christian Church together with such things as the Fourth Crusade or the way Conquistadors treated Middle American natives and others like them.

The yellow Cathar cross
sympathizers were forced to use it on their clothes  

Responsibility of Christ of His own
So where was Rex Regum during these horrible things done in His holy name?

For it was nobody else than the illustrious Vicar Christ Pope Innocentius III (1160-1216) himself who was directly responsible for the events by initiating and encouraging the persecution and destruction of Cathars.
"These heretics are worse than the Saracens!" exclaimed Pope Innocent III, and on March 10, 1208, he proclaimed a crusade against a sect in southern France that became one of the bloodiest blots in European history.
Time Magazine 1961
Could not Jesus to whom has been given all authority in heaven and on earth have prevented that His own do such horrific things against those considered heretics?

Resurrected Jesus had conquered Europe and the kings rulers of Italy, England, France, Spain, Germany and other nations obeyed the powerful Bishop of Rome. His Kingdom had grown and flourished through centuries and the Church was at the height of its power.

Could Jesus not have in many different ways prevented the massacre of Cathars?

And yet it seems He did nothing of the sort but allowed even the disgusting institution of Inquisition misusing every concept of truth go ahead under the sign of the holy cross.

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” John 11:37

Undoubtedly much of the antipathy modern French feel against the Church and the wish to be free of it as expressed in the French Revolution against the aristocratic Ancien Régime Ancien of kings, noblemen and prelates has deep roots in the Albigensian Crusade, the persecution of the Huguenots and other such things.

Current revival of the memories of the way Church treated Cathars is certainly giving strength to anti-Christian feelings not only in France but all over the world.

So where was Jesus?
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
John 18:36 NIV
Christian Church is not the same as the Kingdom of God.

My suggestion is that when facing the enormousness of the Universe we also consider issues that connect us to the facts of science and knowledge and have personal significance to us - for example, how we are made of star dust (Carl Sagan).

When facing the enormousness of the Dark Ages and the horrors of persecution of Cathars let us similarly consider issues that connect us to the facts of history and have personal significance to us.

Where is Jesus Christ in your own life?

Where was He when that tragic car accident happened taken with such cruelty away the beloved once?

Where was He when that illness changed your life forever and crushed your dreams?

Where was He when you were saved by the doctors and given a second try in this life?

Can you point out where Jesus is in your own life?

So how could you figure out using how Rex Regum rules His Kingdom?

'An enemy did this', he replied
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Matthew 13:24-30 NIV