Sut,—May .1 state from the outset that Michael de la Bedoyere's article
on " Petain's France " in your number of March 21, has astonished me and many
other French Catholic readers? Being a priest, I do not interfere in politics. However, I may try to judge events from the Catholic point of view, and it is precisely fromthis point of view that I cannot leave unchallenged certain statements of the article.
I must own that it is a very fair attempt to judge events impartially, but it seems based on insufficient information concerning certain aspects of the situation in France.
I for one have always had the highest esteem for the person of Marshal Petain and I continue to do so, whatever the failings of his collaborators. But it is not correct to say that the whole of France is behind him, clergy included. Many letters from France—and they are numerous—reports from Frenchmen who succeeded in escaping and joining us, prove the opposite. I have myself read a good many letters and France Libre has published a whole series, and I have myself inletviewed e. Frenchmen arriving recently from F F The big majority of Frenchmen continue to hope for British victory and consider General de Gaulle as the Saviour of France.* Truth to tell, Marshal Pew in enjoys the respect of the people as the victor of Verdun, but he is thought to be too old to be able to face the difficulties of the hour.
As for the Catholic Clergy, they can but approve of the religious reforms of the Vichy Government, and I also approve them on the whole. The clergy of France recommend order and obedience to the established authorities, for in the present circumstances they are necessary in order to avoid greater evils. That is the meaning of certain declarations of bishops, for instance, Cardinal Lienart As far as I am aware, these declarations are always couched in very general terms and are very reserved; they cannot be considered as a wholesale approval of the Vichy policy.
One fact remains—and we have many incontrovertible proofs thereof—namely, that the clergy of France remain, as they have ever been, intensely patriotic. We know as a fact that recently certain French priests have been paying for their patriotism with their lives.
Furthermore, the French clergy are much too intelligent not to realise how fragile religious reforms must remain as long as France suffers under Hitler's jack boot. They know alright that whenever the Nazis arc sure of their force, they are persecuting Christianity. If, thanks to a Hitler victory, France should become a German province, the Catholic Church will be persecuted like everywhere else.
In the very number to which I refer, you publish yourself the fact that recently ten German Benedictine abbeys have been closed and six evacuated.
These are the reasons why the great majority of French Catholics pray for British victory and for that of General de Gaulle. If certain French prelates feel some kind of mistrust for the Free French Movement this may be due to the calumnies of a certain type of propaganda which ceaselessly attacks the General.
The General is a Catholic himself and he has shown by his deeds that he respects the right of the Church, the frank sympathy shown him by Cardinal Hinsley ought to suffice to reject certain unjust accusations.
FR. Am, O.P.
Chief Chaplain in the Free French Forces, St. Dominic's Priory, Haverstock Hill.
fThe personal and private sources of information at the disposal of Fr. Alby are not, of course, available to us. On the other hand, we have very full knowledge of French opinion through the French press and radio (which are not controlled by Germany). Naturally, support for General de Gaulle is not suggested In these, but we find it hard to believe that Marshal Petain and the French Hierarchy would actively support a lie, as would be the case if it were true that the French press and radio were wholly unrepresentative of French feeling lo-day.