Notre Dame de Laïcité

I wanted to make a last few observations about the cathedral of Notre Dame, partially in reaction to things I’ve read.

The cathedral is not owned by the French Catholic Church. It is owned by the French government and has been for two hundred years. The roof that burned and came near to destroying the entire edifice was installed in the 19th century, a reaction to Victor Hugo’s campaign to preserve the cathedral. The Catholic Church is merely allowed to use it.

The French government allowed the cathedral to fall into substantial disrepair. It had other priorities.

The modern French state is based on several pillars, including “Frenchness” and laïcité secularism. Those two values are inevitably in tension. What does it mean to be French without French history or French culture? The Church is a substantial component of that history and and culture. These are questions with which the French will need to come to terms. Maybe they shouldn’t rebuild the cathedral at all.

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