The anti-Catholicism in France runs so deep that a public retirement home would not accept an elderly nun simply because she wore a habit.
According to LifeSiteNews, the 70-year-old nun applied for entry into a retirement home in the city of Vesoul after leaving her convent in October 2018. After waiting nine months for acceptance, authorities stipulated that she could only live in the city’s Centre Communal d’Action Sociale (CCAS) on the condition that she not wear her religious attire — a traditional habit and veil — while permitting her to only wear a “discreet cross.” Apparently, the attire would be disruptive to the residents’ “serenity.”
“With due respect for secularism (laïcité), any ostentatious sign of belonging to a religious community cannot be accepted in order to ensure the serenity of all. Indeed, religion is a private affair and must remain so,” the authorities reportedly told her.
Since the nun had worn the religious habit for almost her entire life, she refused the order. She now lives in an apartment all alone where she must tend to her daily needs without communal support. The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDACE) has been keeping a close watch on her case. In an email to LifeSiteNews, the organization said that the mayor of Vesoul apologized for the incident.
“In the end, it seems that the city’s mayor apologized for the ‘error in judgment,’ but that was little consolation for the elderly nun who was forced to choose between living in a retirement community without her religious habit or living alone in an apartment for the first time in her adult life,” said Ellen Fantini of OIDACE. “What I don’t know is why those were her only two options.”
The incident has also sparked outrage among local Catholics. In a church bulletin message, Fr. Florent Belin, a local parish priest, noted how secular authorities would bend over backward to defend a Muslim woman’s right to wear a burka but not a Catholic nun’s right to wear a habit while also noting that the organization had no trouble with him saying Mass in those environments.
“When the press tells us about a Muslim woman who is asked to remove her veil because she is in a public space, everyone shouts in outrage (calling it Islamophobia)!” the priest said. “Our nun, on the other hand, had to resign herself to finding another apartment. What is secularism? It is to give everyone the possibility to be able to live his faith without hurting anyone.”
“I do not think that the veil of a nun can harm, because it is not the sign of a submission, but of a consecration,” he added.
Alain Chretien, Vesoul’s mayor, said in a November 19th statement that the city committed “an error in judgment” and that the nun should not have been denied housing. The mayor also promised to find her a proper retirement home.
“Everyone has a place in the autonomous residences! Stop the controversy,” he wrote. “The obligation of neutrality applies to public servants and to residents who wish to enjoy their freedom of conscience.”