The French Spring: the March for Marriage in Paris

On May 26, about a million people attended a March in Paris to protest the newly promulgated “loi Taubira” in France, allowing “gay marriage.” The last time so many people took to the streets in France was during the famous sexual revolution of May 1968.

Free love, free access to abortion, drugs, and complete license had been the demands of that generation so willing to feed its own desires at the cost of a cultural implosion. Though the generations to come would to taste the bitter fruits of these changes, the ‘68-generation was savvy enough to remain sufficiently bourgeois in order to maintain a wealthy life-style with much time for leisure, many divorces, few children, and millions of abortions.

The complete anarchy of some of its more radical offspring, such as the terrorist RAF in Germany, the Red Brigade in Italy, or l’Action Directe in France, was ultimately an unattractive goal for a generation keen on pleasure, wealth, and success. Seemingly, they had figured “it” out and have since then come into positions of power. Even those who had come close to the more anarchical, terrorist, or even pedophilic trends of the movement, like Joschka Fischer in Germany (who had been a member of militant groups and later became foreign minister) or Daniel Cohn-Bendit, now an MEP (and finally under scrutiny for his positive statements on pedophilia), had “it all.”

Their calculations had apparently worked out. Yes, there were the victims of abortion (both mothers and children), of divorce, and of drugs, but by in large the next generations followed in their parents’ footsteps: radical individualists with a strong dose of ambition and a leftist agenda—though perhaps a greater appreciation for the family as long as it made no all-too heroic demands.

What has now made its appearance over the past months on the stage of French history has taken many by surprise, most certainly the socialist government of François Hollande. It is a generation of students, of young and large families, as well as a fairly good representation of the middle-aged and elderly who have been coming to the three Marches for the Family (called “la Manif pour tous” countering the government’s “le Mariage pour tous”) this past January 13, March 24 and May 26. One stroller followed upon another, children were romping around, chanting “ta loi, François, on n’en veut pas” (“we don’t want your law, François”).

Where did all this enthusiasm and motivation come from to mobilize so many? Along with the one million participants, there were many young students who took care of security, collected money, handed out flags and whistles, and manned the many sound trucks driving around. Three marching-lines had started at different points of the city to meet in front of the Invalides. My husband, my daughter, and I attended the one going along the Seine – a seemingly endless line walking past the Eiffel Tower.

This enthusiasm had started with Blessed John Paul II and the generation he had formed through his World Youth Days. In 1980, he had come to France, trying to re-awaken her, reminding France of her vocation as eldest daughter of the Church and of the role she should play in the re-evangelization of the West. When over 1 million young met during the WYD at Longchamp in 1997, something was put into motion in France which had been preceded and was continued at other World Youth Days. It was further strengthened through the Pope’s clear messages, through his own witness, and his call to nothing less than sanctity.

Those marching on May 26 were mainly people from the upper bourgeoisie. A more varied public (people with same-sex-attraction, socialists, etc.) and a generally greater audience had attended the earlier “Manif” on March 24, which had been planned at the last minute in response to Hollande’s pushing the “gay marriage” bill earlier in order to avoid greater resistance.

This latest demonstration on May 26 was against a law already signed into power, giving homosexuals the right to “marry.” It was a warning to Hollande and his leftist government that the issue is not going away, that the majority of the French are against “gay marriage”; his was a quick ideological strike, not allowing any real debate on the issue.

Unexpected voices have made themselves heard, such as the mayor of the small town of Chasselas, Jean-Marc Veyron-La-Croix. Veyron-La-Croix is against homosexual “marriage,” though he himself is in a homosexual relationship. Additionally, the association Homovox has been uniting people with same-sex attraction to vocalize their opposition against homosexual “marriage.”

In France, socialists and communists traditionally go on marches and sign petitions. It is deeply engrained in the more conservative Catholic strata of society to stay out of politics – going back to their rejection of the Republic when they would have preferred a return to the monarchy; hence, it is an even greater surprise that these people are now going into the streets. Hollande has woken up a giant which has slumbered for many years, but which will not go to sleep again anytime soon.

Speakers at the Manif were comparing this movement to Solidarnosc of the Polish Steel Workers under Lech Walesa which brought Communism to its fall. The Leitmotiv was that the issue is not going away, that the people contesting this law will not be going away, and that they will protect the family and the innocence of its most vulnerable members by continuing their peaceful protest.

Only once before had a socialist government provoked the right sufficiently to go onto the streets, namely in 1984, when Président Mitterrand wanted to nationalize all private schools (most of which are Catholic). Mitterrand had more sense than Hollande and backtracked, so the initiative didn’t go any further than that. But now the battle-lines are drawn, and peaceful resistance will continue.

It is interesting that on the opposite sides of this spiritual battle are two men called “Francis”: the one is the president of the French Republic, the other one is the Pope who is known for his clear words in the debate about same-sex “marriage” in Argentina.

Pope Francis, like so many Catholic individuals, public speakers, and Catholic organizations focusing on the question, has shown that clarity on moral issues in no way contradicts compassion, nay that the one must flow from the other. To allow the homosexual agenda to destroy the family would not be compassionate. This would be a cruel injustice against present and future generations. The most innocent and vulnerable are at risk in this battle, for the laws to teach gender-theory in elementary school and allow gay couples access to IVF are being lined up at this very moment.

Marthe Robin, an important French mystic and victim soul who died in 1981, had prophesied that France would be at the beginning of a great spiritual renewal. Perhaps we are now witnessing this.

Marie Meaney, Ph.D. is the author of the booklet “Embracing the Cross of Infertility” which has also come out in Spanish, Hungarian, Croatian and German.  She is furthermore a specialist on the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil, and her book Simone Weil’s Apologetic Use of Literature: Her Christological Interpretations of Ancient Greek Texts appeared with OUP in 2007. She was an Arthur J. Ennis teaching fellow at the University of Villanova in Philadelphia before moving to Italy due to her husband’s work in 2010. Dr. Meaney received her doctorate and an M. Phil. in Modern Languages from the University of Oxford. She also obtained an M. Phil. in philosophy from the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein and a D.E.U.G. from the Sorbonne in Paris.
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