Elected mayor of Meylan, east of Grenoble in the French department of Isère, a year ago, the politician of the “Diverse Left” had, according to the French magazine “Valeurs actuelles”, ” taken it into his head to bring to its knees the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, a traditionalist Catholic movement, which wants to build a church in the commune”. But the Grenoble administrative court ruled otherwise on April 15, rejecting the request to annul a building permit previously granted – by a previous majority in the municipal council. The application for annulment had been filed in 2018 by the left-wing association “Medya”, which is close to the current mayor Philippe Cardin.
Despite this setback, the magazine continued, Cardin insists on his negative stance and asks the state for support: “I ask for the support of the representatives of the state, the government and our parliamentarians to fulfil our responsibility to fight against obscurantism and all religious extremisms,” he said in a press release.
Two and a half years ago, the former mayor of the community, Jean-Philippe Blanc, voted in favour of the building permit for this church of the Priestly Fraternity. Which was a perfectly logical decision, Valeurs actuelles notes, since the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X already maintains a priory here and a public school founded in 1992. At the time, Blanc explained: “The brotherhood has been resident in the parish for 25 years”. It had always been quiet concerning them.
Even though there have never been any problems, the new mayor still wants to prohibit the church building. The reason he gives is: “They are against freedom of faith, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience”. If this church were actually built, “these people will gather people who will stir up violence and tensions”, Cardin warns. The Bishop of Grenoble, Guy de Kerimel had raised the controversy “gently”.
Even though he sees no reason to “oppose the construction of this church”, he sees it as a problematic counterpoint in this matter. In his view, the tug-of-war between the mayor and the Priestly Fraternity is proof of the problematic nature of the Separatism Law: “This situation shows all the fragility of this law. The different aspects are not clearly defined, so perhaps the politicians lack a little objectivity”.
Recently, the mayor of the commune of Albertville (19,000 inhabitants), north-east of Meylan, had been forced by the administrative court to authorise the construction of a private Muslim school for 400 pupils of the Islamist movement Milli Görüs. This project was described by the prefect of the department, Pascal Bolot, as “separatist” and “oversized”.
For the mayor of Meylan, there can be no difference in treatment between Islamist movements and a traditionalist current of the church, explains the magazine Valeurs actuelles. “What is said in the separatism law is that the state wants to fight all those who fight the roots and the values of the republic. And I believe that Civitas and the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X are fighting the values of the Republic,” Cardin said in an interview.
Speaking to the magazine Valeurs actuelles, Father Benoît de Jorna, the French District Superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X, highlighted the mayor’s contradictory statements: “We are supposed to be against freedom of faith, and at the same time they want to ban us from a place of worship where we profess our faith. Who is against this freedom here?” Moreover, Father de Jorna noted that the Republic must be very vulnerable when “a small church in the province with less than 300 seats threatens it in such a way!” This is precisely the problem with this separatism law, writes the magazine, that the “traditionalists” are being ” poured out with the separatist bathwater”.