This interesting comment from “JaquesArden54” in Why Anglican England is better than Secular France:
The French Etat – and the French people in general – have forgotten that there is a difference between the State and Society. This confusion of two distinct realities is an error found within New Labour, Dave’s Tories and the European Union as well.
As such, everyone gets in a tiswas when the President of France asks the Church to play a role in Society – because they think it means asking the Church to play a role in the State, thereby making the State theocratic.
The State is, and probably has to be Secular. It has a position of neutrality as regards religion.
But the State is in the service of Society – and does not replace it. Society cannot be secular because so many of its members are not secular – and their religious conviction manifests itself publicly just as people go to Football matches, the Last Night of the Proms or what have you. The only way to try and make Society secular would be to get rid of religion and its manifestation. This would “neutralise” it, “privatise” it and prevent it from occupying any public space in society. Such was the reaction against The Church at the French Revolution, later on the Communists tried the same thing and in our own day various ideological relativists like Richard Dawkins are persuaded that this is the vision that must be applied. But in so doing, the State ends up taking over all of the Public space that is normally occupied by Society.
And this is called Totalitarianism.
And it is not nice. Apparently, during the Beijing Olympics there were very few crowds turning out to simply enjoy the atmosphere. Why? Because the State has spent the last 50 years occupying all of the Public Space and Society has been “statified”. The other road that was followed, of course, was the taking over of Society by Religion where the State really does become Theocratic. It was tried by Calvin in Geneva, by the Puritans in the Commonwealth and by various Caesero-Papists throughout history – the Byzantine Emperors, Henry VIII, and other Absolutists. It is, likewise, the only model of government that Islam has to offer where there is no meaningful Sharia distinction between Society, State and Religion. They all come under Islam. Consequently, a kind of Religious Apartheid reigns: The Whites are the Muslims, the Coloreds are the People of the Book Christians and the Jews and the Blacks are the non-monotheists and atheists.
This, also, is not very nice and invariably leads to Totalitarian Absolutism.
The Pope reminded the French that whilst historical periods have seen Secular State powers trying to acquire authority over the Church, and periods where the Church exercised secular authority (especially in the vacuum left after the Fall of the Roman Empire) – Christ Himself makes a distinction between Religion and The State.
At the same, the Pope reminds us that the State exists for Society’s good, for the Common Good of all society’s members. Society does not exist for or in the service of the State. Too many people have forgotten that and it is a forgetfulness that will probably costs us very dear in the years ahead.
Unfortunately there are people on this side of the Atlantic who make the same confusion, and, if allowed to triumph, will result in the same totalitarianism.
This remark should be compared with some of the Pope’s own comments during his visit to France.