Between a visit to the Vatican and another to Turkey, Francois Hollande formally parted with his ‘comrade.’ Beyond the laconic account of a few days in the life of a head of state there are the concentrated elements of a changing world. Not just a bachelor president, but also a ‘first lady’ without legal (or religious) forms, or even a gallant affair at high-level that has no other consequence than sentimental clarifications. A Pope that pleads for such a pastoral stance, more open to the concrete problems of people. Who, at the same time, continues the fight against abortion, gay marriages, euthanasia. On the eastern edge of the continent, Turkey slowly gives up the heritage of Ataturk, skidding toward a different kind of Islam. One that is uptight with its own political and religious identity.
A president has a mistress. Nothing new, but especially nothing amendable in a Europe that escaped the constraining ties of Christian churches, which – for many centuries – prohibited the divorce, punished the adultery and threw the anathema on extra-marital relations. In other words, the strong arm of the State no longer supports the moral imperatives of Churches. For instance, a divorced person is refused the Catholic eucharis (even Silvio Berlusconi, a premier that provided much help to the Vatican, had to endure such a refusal), but the civil law does not discriminate the same person. It is true that the reaction to an adulterous relation at high level depends on meridian and latitude. Bill Clinton came close to losing his office for his affair with an intern, although this would have been a hypocrisy, because his predecessor Kennedy had gone much farther with such practices (but the press did not dare speaking about things like this back then). In Italy, the same Silvio Berlusconi publicly bragged about his hundreds of summer conquests (which partly also pertained to a media strategy), but ended crushed by a ‘perpetual orgy’ which he could not control anymore (minors, prostitutes). But Francois Hollande is a socialist in the tradition of ‘free love,’ unconstrained by social conventions. He founded a numerous family without going in front of the marriage officer, distributed a temporary partner in the role of ‘first lady’ and went on his sentimental road unhindered, without thinking too much about ‘political implications.’ Unlike other politicians, much more incoherent and hypocritical, even his ruling programme includes a continuation of the reform of the civil tradition of life in a couple. Early into his presidential mandate, France legalised the homosexual marriages. It got rid of the old legal expression ‘good family father,’ considered as discriminating the women. The French administrative practice is contemplating for several years the idea of giving up the title ‘mistress,’ as a method of strengthening the protection against sexual harassment. As a peak of the revolutionary momentum, there is a fierce debate over eliminating the traditional words ‘mother’ and ‘father,’ to avoid embarrassing the children adopted by homosexual couples. There is even talk about enforcing a new ‘pronoun,’ suitable to those with a vague sexual identity. The law on abortion is about to be modified too, so the initial ‘moral’ invention – legal permission only in ‘desperate cases’ – is replaced by simply mentioning a decision (without moral or social justification) of the pregnant woman. Debates are also expected to tackle the euthanasia and even the modification of the legal status of animals. But can all these matters be considered together, like they belonged to one ‘leftist’ culture rivalling the more conservative vision of Christian inspiration? Although some want to present them as a whole, the nuances and shades are important. As a matter of fact, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of the main advisors of the new Pope is right when he criticises the rigid doctrine of acting Chief-Inquisitor Gerhard Muller, who had opposed the lifting of the interdiction to offer the Eucharist to divorcees. The Church itself must take into consideration the reality of contemporary moralities, not just condemn them wholesale in the name of ideal principles. Even more the State. The ‘private’ morality has been imposed through social pressure for so many centuries. Why should the French president be subject to public lynching? Yes, Silvio Berlusconi deserves being blamed for the orgiastic culture he promoted. But he had an ambiguous perception of publicity and did not hesitate mixing up the planes. Respect for the intimacy is however a public virtue. It deserves being defended, because it implies a morally more efficient and socially healthier perspective. Nietzsche was largely right: morality is born (too often) from resentment. But such a shield against interference into private matters does not imply that the problems of the couple are removed from the political agenda, once the old taboos go away. It does not mean that this entire leftist programme is implicitly justified. Approaches must be punctual, rather than mixing – at all cost – abortion with the status of animals, transsexuality and adoptions, sexual harassment and the pact of civil solidarity.
Let’s look with normal concern to the Christian past of Europe, the excesses of the political and religious intrusions in the name of disputable ideals, pretended Christian without much doubt. Let’s look with a worried eye at the skidding of Islamic societies, where the force of religion is incomparable to that of present-day European Churches. But let’s also look carefully to the ‘ideals’ of a left that bets, sometimes with too much optimism, on simply giving up the old Christian-inspired morality.