Between election rounds, French cardinal deplores 'democracy gone mad'

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Jonathan Luxmoore

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — France’s
Catholic primate has condemned the current presidential campaign as his country’s
“worst ever” and urged Christians to help prevent democracy from “losing
its sense.”

“Left and right rivaled
each other and had their radical wings, but there was also a center. Now, left
and right have stepped back, and the main candidates are divided by other
unclear criteria. I have the impression our voters are totally lost,” said
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon.

In an interview with Poland’s
Catholic Information Agency (KAI), published April 26, Cardinal Barbarin said
France was witnessing “the twilight of its existing political system”
as citizens sought out “leaders closer to the people in their economic and
social realities.”

“Democracy seems to be
losing its sense and being cast adrift by media shabbiness,” Cardinal
Barbarin added. “This has been our worst-ever election campaign,
characterized by the unforgivable accusations, total critiques, violence, chaos
and the misleading of voters.”

In the first round of French
elections April 23, Emmanuel Macron, founder of En Marche!, a center-left
political movement, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, emerged
as the two top vote-getters. They will face off May 7, when voters will choose
who will be president for the next five years. Candidates from the mainstream
Socialist and Republican parties will not be in the final round.

Cardinal Barbarin said the
success of Le Pen, who has vowed to take France out of the European Union and give
French nationals priority over foreigners in jobs, welfare, housing and
education, reflected a “destabilizing trend” also visible in other
parts of Europe and the United States. He spoke of a “form of democratic
terrorism,” which stripped candidates of their dignity by establishing a
right “to know everything, whether proved or unproved” about them.

“It seems we’re dealing
with a democracy gone mad,” the cardinal said. “Although statesmen
still exist, they’re unable to get through today’s campaign mechanisms, where
everything is decided by the art of winning. Those who win are just electoral
animals, not competent, rational politicians.”

Catholics traditionally make up
two-thirds of France’s 67 million inhabitants, although only a small proportion
attends Mass.

In a book-length message last
October, “Recovering the sense of politics,” the bishops’ conference
said “weariness, frustration, fear and anger” in the country had fueled
“profound hopes and expectations of change,” but also cautioned
against “a search for facile, emotive options.”

Cardinal Barbarin told KAI the
Catholic Church should appeal to citizens not to vote “for people with
pretty eyes, who can make stars of themselves with media support.”

“This is a time of
decadence, and decadence means certain forms and structures are nearing their
end,” he said.

“As Christians, we yearn
for social order, peace and harmony — a state based on principles of welfare
and participation, where all can make contributions and citizens are subjects
of the political community,” he said. “But the problem in today’s
France is the rising disappointment and anger of those who feel ill-treated,
rejected and forgotten.”

– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article