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On the Rebuilding of Notre Dame: A Dissenting Opinion

The estimate now stands at a billion Euros. That’s how much money has been pledged so far for the rebuilding of Notre Dame de Paris. And President Macron has declared that the cathedral reconstruction will be completed in five years. Amazing! Literally incredible! Completely ridiculous!

Notre Dame will never be rebuilt.

No doubt something will stand in the place of the old cathedral, but it will not replicate Notre Dame as it once was. We should expect something that is rather the antithesis of Notre Dame: a new hall of secularism, a shrine to the Leftist agenda. It may seem a good thing that the Rose windows were spared, but the light that shines through them in the future will likely illuminate what amounts to a repudiation and even a rebuke of once-Catholic France.

During the French Revolution, a prostitute (some say an opera singer) dressed in the revolutionary tricolors as the Goddess of Reason was installed on the altar of Notre Dame. It was the culmination of the Feast of Reason, held on Nov. 10, 1793. Throughout France, churches were converted to Temples of Reason and services and homilies that exalted liberty, fraternity and equality were conducted.

Before the burning of Notre Dame, hundreds of Catholic churches throughout France were vandalized by Muslims, including the Basilica of St. Denis and the parish church of St. Sulpice in Paris. Priests were attacked and one had his throat slit during Mass. The French government was, of course, alarmed by all this: it feared people might think badly of Muslims and commit “hate speech” against the followers of Muhammed.

While the fire was still raging at Notre Dame, before any investigation of its cause was even possible, the French government declared it “accidental,” and denied the possibility that “terrorists” (aka Muslims) could have been involved.  Throughout the world, including in France, Muslims cheered the destruction and some threatened more fires to follow. But we must not think badly of them, nor consider it unwise to allow them continued free entry into Europe and the West. Islamophobia must be stamped out, no matter how great and concrete the cause for fearing Muslims may be.

Far worse than the installation of the Goddess of Reason on the altar of Notre Dame will be the installation of the Goddess of Unreason! And that is what is happening, has happened, not only in Paris but throughout Christendom. It is as though we fear upsetting the person who is murdering us even as he raises the knife to our throats. We smile obsequiously as we die and pretend that nothing has happened that requires a response.

But even if Muslims are not involved in the fire at Notre Dame, they are involved in the fire that is burning through what little remains of Western culture. And there is no will among the people who hold power to do anything to put out the blaze. It is rather symbolic of our general situation that the firefighters delayed putting out the fire until it was far advanced and the roof was a total loss. They were later praised for saving the stone towers but, to my knowledge, it is rather difficult to ignite stone.

It would be best if no attempt were made to rebuild Notre Dame, for the Faith that was embodied in its structure no longer exists in present-day France. More fitting than a new roof and interior would be a park of some sort with commemorative plaques explaining what the remaining towers and walls once housed. But what would such plaques say?

“Here once stood a monument to the benighted Catholic Faith of the Middle Ages. This faith was an amalgam of Islamophobia, homophobia and trans-phobia that died out as people became more enlightened. Nevertheless, despite their superstition and bigotry, the Catholics of that time managed to erect great buildings of aesthetic value, the remnants of which can be seen here.”

It is tempting, of course, to read all manner of things into the burning of such an iconic structure as Notre Dame, and I will yield to the temptation. It may well be that since we have, as a culture, abandoned the Faith, we must relinquish all that it bequeathed to us. We have removed God from our lives; now God may take away the buildings once raised to honor Him.

We have been living on the interest of Christianity for some time. Now, we have eaten into the principal until there is almost nothing left. Our accounts are near empty. We are on the brink of spiritual bankruptcy.

Donors may pledge a billion Euros to rebuild Notre Dame, but this only reveals the naïve faith we have in the power of money. We think that with sufficient material and manpower, we can accomplish what we will. But architecture is art, and art arises from the soul. If our souls are not filled with Divine love, we will not be able to create anything beautiful.

Most modern architecture is aesthetically vacuous and rather vulgar in that it attempts to achieve grandeur through sheer mass: stack the box high enough and then stand back and be impressed by its size. But an ugly man will still be ugly, no matter how tall he may be. No matter how much money is poured into Notre Dame, it will not be beautiful, for it will not be built on the foundation of love.

Our Lord did not commission us to build great structures of stone and wood, nor to create great works of art. I wonder what St. Paul would have made of a medieval cathedral, were he given the vision of one. These things, to the extent that they have spiritual value, are incidental. All the cathedrals in the world may be burned or desecrated or demolished. The Faith will not be diminished in the least.

Perhaps it is time that we learn to stand apart from our decadent culture, not longing for a past that will never come again, nor trying to accommodate a world that has no use for us. Even the present-day Catholic Church, it seems, has little use for genuine Catholics. We must stand in the truth and then see what comes of it. Better that Christ should be loved and honored in a shack or an open field than that He be falsely praised and betrayed beneath the dome of St. Peter’s.

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