French Catholic bishops are reviving a 17th-century “prayer for France” and updating it to include a reference to oppose same-sex marriage which that nation is considering legalizing, as well as to oppose adoption by same-gender couples which will be legalized next year.
Reuters reported this week that the prayer is to be read in all Catholic churches in France on August 15th, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The French language version of the prayer can be read here. The Reuters report contains the relevant excerpts from the prayer in English:
“In the text, Catholics will pray for newly elected officials ‘so that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands.’ This would include support for traditional families ‘throughout their lives, especially in painful moments.’ “
“Opposing gay adoption, it says children should ‘cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults and fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.’ “
“The prayer is unusual for French bishops, who usually keep a low political profile. Church spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said they wanted to ‘raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.’ “
On a Salon.com blog, Judy Mandelbaum reports the reaction to the proposed prayer from one French politician:
“Nadine Morano, a Catholic and pro-gay marriage politician and former family minister for the conservative UMP party, told journalists this morning that ‘the Church is acting within its role when it defends values, particularly those of marriage… But the Virgin Mary, to whom I am very much attached, does not reject any of her children.’ Morano pointed out that blindly praising the two-parent model ‘simply means ignoring the fact that 85% of violence done to children occurs within traditional families.’ She will be boycotting the event.”
The Reuters report provides some background on the history of the prayer:
“King Louis XIII decreed in 1638 that all churches would pray on Aug 15, the day Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven, for the good of the country. The annual practice fell into disuse after World War Two.”
Mandelbaum offers the following comment on the prayer’s history:
“The revived prayer seems like an odd way to snipe at gay marriage and adoption. In 1637, desperate to have a son after twenty-three years of marriage to Anne of Austria, Louis had promised to dedicate his kingdom to the Virgin Mary and order annual prayers to be spoken in her name if she would only give him a male heir. The next year, Louis XIV – the famous Sun King – was born, and the rest is history.”
Prayers required by the hierarchy are one thing. Let’s remember, however, that an important part of the Eucharistic liturgy is that the faithful are encouraged to offer their own prayers of petition, thanks, and praise. I suspect that the French prayers of the faithful, probably mostly silent, will be offered in support of marriage equality and adoption by lesbian and gay couples.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry