Beyond Ideology

Catholic and French Forever

Religious and National Identity in Modern France

Joseph F. Byrnes

Pennsylvania State University Press, $50, 278 pp.

When Pope John Paul II arrived at the airport on his first trip to France in 1980, he scolded “the eldest daughter of the church” for being untrue to her baptismal vows. France was the land that produced Joan of Arc and Thérèse of Lisieux, and yet Mass attendance was abysmally low, and vocations almost nonexistent. Still, his remarks were not appreciated.

Then again, France is not Poland, as the late pontiff well understood. Not...

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About the Author

Steven Englund, a longtime Commonweal contributor, is currently writing a study, From Anti-Judaism to Anti-Semitism, and Back Again.