A visual reminder of the inferno that is engulfing Western civilization.
Buildings like Notre Dame do not erupt into flames spontaneously. That’s not how God works, even to punish a civilization as deep in moral ruin as ours. My suspicions, and those of almost everyone I know, are hardly calmed when we see Fox News—yes, even Fox—repeatedly refusing to host an honest discussion of the possibility, even as experts tell French TV that eight hundred year old timber simply doesn’t burn that way without an accelerant. I mean, it’s not as though news networks restrain their hosts from wild speculation during other crises.
So, understandably, the first reaction from anyone who has been reading the news lately was: “Muslims, right?” Alas, even Right-wing newsreaders are terrified of saying the wrong thing when the perp might be a member of the Religion of Peace. Attacks on Christian churches in Europe have become so numerous that even Newsweek has had to admit it—though the magazine hilariously claims that no one knows why these attacks are happening, and the words “Islam” and “Muslim” are nowhere to be found in its reporting.
Anyway, as of now, no solid evidence has emerged, and our media refuses to discuss the context in which this fire occurred. And it’s also true that a few of these desecrations have been accompanied by Satanic imagery, more likely the work of feminist anarchists. So, in the interests of being responsible, we are compelled to say we have no idea how this particular fire began. Yet.
We can say, however, that the loss of Notre Dame is an especially Christian tragedy. It is a tragedy emblematic of the rapid destruction of Western civilization in the past few decades, a visual reminder of the inferno that has already gutted the Academy. It’s a wonder they didn’t finish off some of these churches first, though of course the cultural warriors of the Left can only squeal in excitement at the sort of brazen defacement they would never be brave enough to commit themselves. Those watching news coverage on Facebook were tormented—or delighted, depending on their wants—by a sea of Arabic names clicking on smiley faces as the jewel of Paris collapsed into ash, a spectacle that was, in turn, posted on Twitter by gloating social justice warriors.
That’s not to say that only Christians are mourning. Notre Dame wasn’t just the spiritual heart of Paris but remains its literal geographic center—the place from which distances are measured. As a cathedral school, it was the center of medieval intellectual life. Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas both taught there. Whatever the later horrors of French postmodernism and poststructuralism, the University of Paris once had a reasonable claim to be the locus of the Western intellectual tradition, leading the world in the study of Aristotle, scholastic theology and reason applied to the mysteries of faith.
Notre Dame is considered the ultimate example of High Gothic style, a popular form for churches because it symbolizes the body of Christ. It is significant and—again, to let my suspicions run amuck—surely no coincidence that this happened during Holy Week, since hope for the resurrection is at the heart of Gothic design. But Notre Dame transcended its role as a place of Catholic worship. As the recently departed Fr. James Schall once remarked about the great cathedrals of Europe, “Each of these extraordinary structures, built somehow in a way I do not wholly understand by ages far poorer than our own, incited me strangely in the thoroughly unexpected way that something which need not exist at all surprises and awakens us when, contrary to our private illusions and expectations, we suddenly discover that it exists and that it is lovely.”