Friday, April 19, 2019

Notre Dame. Update: Revised. New Title "Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier"

I didn't have much opinion on the cathedral a week ago. Places of worship that have become mostly art and history retain some religious value, as we can contemplate those who built them, the "countless legions of the faithful, crossing every generation, hand-to-shoulder, in an unbroken line." From those vantage points, and supported by the art and architecture if they are done right and we are prepared, we can see God more clearly as well. However obscured a place becomes by culture and the ambiguities of history, that is not a small thing.

Yet it's not everything, and had I ever visited Paris I would likely have visited Notre Dame more out of obligation, or to see the art work, than for spiritual desire. Other, obscurer houses of worship may have been more important in the cause of Christ over the centuries. I can understand it meaning more to Roman Catholics.  I can well understand its importance to those who have a desire to preserve Western, especially French culture, even if they are now largely secular individuals.

If we are preserving something, that doesn't mean we are changing it. adapting it, or reinterpreting it. Change, adaptation, and reinterpretation will happen on their own, and we needn't hasten that.  Unless, of course, our desire is not to preserve something, but merely hollow out its insides and put it on as a mask. Dave Burge said that better:
1.  Identify a respected institution
2. kill it
3. gut it
4. wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect.

Because of the ridiculous things that have been said about how to rebuild the cathedral, or more precisely, the ridiculous things about how not to rebuild it, I find myself drawn to having an opinion after all.  Roman Catholics should have more say than others - odd, that this is not obvious.  The French (and I do not mean self-appointed spokespeople) should also have their views count for more than others. Again, obvious, except apparently not. One could argue that those two groups, and especially their intersection, should have controlling authority and everyone else should bug out. After that other Christians, other Europeans might be allowed to speak if not vote at this town meeting.  The rest of the crew - the artists, other religions, historians, architects and the like are free to speak up.  File amicus briefs (to switch metaphors) if they like.

Yet this looks like everyone is going to want to get their Spelling Reform in. The design should reflect a stronger environmental concern. This has previously been such a male-dominated place, we should stress the involvement of women. Well, yes.  Catholic women and French women, I think.  The point deserves some explanation.  If I, a Protestant, were asked or allowed to offer some opinion on what they should do, I would restrict myself to whatever general Christian insight I might have. That would certainly be influenced by my Protestantism - can't help that, even with effort - but I would not dream of trying to intentionally make it more Protestant. That would be cheating, intrusive, deceitful. French women and Catholic women might indeed see things a little differently than men, and that may come out in their opinions and contributions.  That's not only okay, it is good. That is the sort of change and adaptation that is inevitable and allowable. But an American female architect, speaking on behalf of women in general, should have no audience. Speak as an American, and the tiny voice that gives you, or an architect, and the tiny voice that gives you, and then also as a woman in general - but understand that this is also a tiny voice. Just because there are a lot of women in the world doesn't mean that those who appoint themselves spokeswomen should be listened to.

My method gives the current Pope far more say than I would like in this, but I don't see anything else for it. The priest who ran into the fire to save relics - maybe they should just give him the final say on everything. Let him choose the architects, the advisors, the committees. Yes, that's my revised opinion: Fr Jean-Marc Fournier is in charge of it all.


james said...

I had to snicker at this: "This has previously been such a male-dominated place, we should stress the involvement of women." The place is named "Notre Dame," and guess who is front and center at the altar.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I had missed that, so I guess I can't fault others for missing it as well.

Christopher B said...

I doubt anybody Catholic will have more than a token say in the rebuilding. The French have as much history as anybody of expropriating church property, and it only got worse after the decidedly anti-clerical Revolution. Notre Dame and most other churches belong to the government.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, the RCC leases the property, I just learned this week. It does change the picture. If the French government decides to go strongly in the direction of "Chapel of All Faiths - with Rose Windows and relics," it will be a clear signal for French Catholics where they stand, won't it? OTOH, this is the sort of issue that stiffens the spine of those who feel they have given ground, and given ground, and been accommodating, but this is a bridge too far. (Gay marriage is usually the final straw in the Protestant denominations, where people leave, saying "This is too much. Tolerance and endorsement are simply different things." I don't know of a case where someone said No, it was all fine where the Episcopal/Presbyterian/Lutheran/Methodist church was going, I thought it was great! Then they came up with this gay thing, and I hate those people, so I left.)

The question then will be whether they hold to that rebellion against the Spirit of the Age or whether they capitulate because they can't stand the ostracism. Jean over at Neoneocon made the change and held it after 9/11. The scales fell from her eyes. But Tom Friedman, Neil Young, and many others were originally moved by 9/11 but reverted back to the enforced opinions. They couldn't bear to be excluded, even for principle. Rebuilding Notre Dame will be a similar 9/11 moment for many. Surprising folk will endorse pro-Catholic, pro-Western Civ, pro-Christian sentiments, but most of those will recant. Not all. but most.

james said...

I'm afraid you're correct. But I can hope.
And while, as you point out, I don't have standing (neither French nor Catholic), I think it is possible to -- not pass judgment, exactly, but nearly.

I judge it to be better to be an Italian than a Roman. The former may be largely descendants of the latter, but there were some significant changes in culture along the way--many due to the church. We've had lots of admiration for the Roman Empire for centuries, but Romans had little cultural traits we would find hair-raising at best. Although infanticide seems to be getting more acceptable in some political circles.

If France decides that they prefer secular or Islamic values to Christian ones, they will have completed a similar major shift in their culture--but in my not so humble opinion, a change for the worse, no matter which the majority picks.

Texan99 said...

There were many who'd have preferred to stick with the traditional progressive view after 9/11 but couldn't figure out a way to ignore the catastrophe. After a few months, trailblazers showed them the accepted way to sound compassionate about the damage while reinforcing the progressive memes they were most comfortable with all along. The first one I remember was "the important thing is to concentrate on the root causes." That was when I left an ACLU chat group.

Texan99 said...

NYT getting most of it wrong, as usual:

Sam L. said...

The NYT gets something wrong? Quel horreur(never took French, best guess).

Texan99 said...

Yes, and after finding they construe "the Body of Christ" as some kind of portable statue, or the Bishop's staff as a "crow's ear," without anyone in the editorial line of authority catching on, you can have complete confidence in the bottom line they give you about, say, a proposed deal with Iran or the sale of uranium to Russia. Somebody in a back room is absolutely fact-checking this stuff, not just making it up after a couple of martinis.

Remember that California news station that solemnly reported the names of the unfortunate Korean pilots as "Wi Tu Lo" and "Sum TIng Wong"? Honestly, there are adults in the room, trust us.