Faith, Family, and God: French Catholicism and the Theory of Universality

cooley dickinson

By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist–

Approximately three-fourths of the French people support marriage equality. The new socialist government intends to make it reality. The French Catholic Church opposes the government’s initiative and in doing so has further undercut its credibility as a spiritual home and resource.

On August 15, Catholic Churches throughout the country held the “Prayer for France.” It marked the Feast of the Assumption. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, leaves this earth and takes her place in heaven as Queen of the Angels. Ironically, the French Catholic Church used the holy occasion to celebrate someone who offers unconditional love while condemning the government’s efforts to bring about fairness and justice.

In Christian denominations that revere Mary, she is portrayed as the ideal mother who doesn’t judge. She doesn’t become disappointed. Mary doesn’t love one child of God more than another. She doesn’t play favorites. Mary loves all of the Creator’s children equally. If you’re a recovering Catholic, don’t think of Mary in the context of rosaries or strict, unpleasant nuns.
The French Catholic Church’s decision to use Christ’s Mother to divide the Creator’s family is contrary to Marian theology and everything the New Testament teaches. It highlights a lack of moral leadership.

The prayer called on the government to pursue the “common good over the pressure to meet special demands.” The reference opposing marriage equality and same-sex adoption was subtle, but clear. It was misguided, especially since it encourages conflict in the name of a woman who promoted family love and unity.

Elisabeth Saint-Guily, LGBTQ Christian advocate remarked, “Most of our members are really upset by this terrible prayer, which reinforces the fears certain Catholics have towards homosexuals.”

“Catholic” refers to a denomination and, non-denominationally, the universality of Christian sister- and brotherhood. In theory, though not in practice, it speaks to a worldwide church based on unconditional love. Universal reminds everyone of the commonality of being Creations of the same Creator. Universal is meant to focus on what brings humanity together, what brings the family together.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Paris. It’s difficult to describe the experience because it was so special. It is a glorious place, with fine people, and an honorable past grounded in liberty, equality and fraternity. Although there were many highlights, four immediately come to mind: paying respects to Napoleon, bringing flowers to Edith Piaf’s grave, bringing flowers to Frédéric Chopin’s grave and attending Sunday evening Mass at Notre Dame de Paris, Our Lady of Paris.

Construction began in 1163. French kings, and later Napoleon, had been crowned within its ancient walls. There was a relatively small roped off area for worshipers like my friend and me. There were thousands of people shuffling along the side walls. Although they may have been there to see history, it is likely that many tourists were mildly interested in the worshippers seated in the center.
Many may know of the cathedral in popular culture as the home of the Hunchback. Today, it stands as a symbol of faith and an active worship space. It also represents something else – that this too shall pass. It stood during the Spanish Inquisition, burning women as witches and a belief the sun revolved around the flat earth.

Notre Dame also will stand when “Catholic” and “catholic” are taken back by those recovering from the denomination’s abuses and LGBT people of faith who seek a genuine “catholicism” that welcomes all of the Creator’s children equally loved by the same God, like Mary embodies and represents.

*Paul is an author, attorney, and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY. Email questions to

banner ad