The family was “certainly not a place for dangerous social experimentation”, he said, referring to recently adapted adoption rights for same-sex couples.
To understand his success in a country where numbers of churchgoers have plummeted, experts point to the cultural Catholics of France - geniously dubbed les zombies catholiques (the zombie Catholics) by sociologists Emmanuel Todd and Hervé Le Bras. In their book Le mystère français, Todd and Le Bras explain that “Catholicism seems to have attained a kind of life after death. But since it is a question of a this-worldly life, we will define it as ‘zombie Catholicism.’”
Once one of the most Catholic countries in Europe, France has seen a steady decline in churchgoers over the years, with only 15 percent of the country’s 41.6 million Catholics who are considered regular or even occasional churchgoers today.
But there are still pockets in France where the social values of Catholicism have remained strong despite waning church numbers - explaining, at least in part, the success of Fillon.
“Zombie Catholics share certain symptoms: Not only do they hail from regions where resistance was greatest to the French Revolution, but they also have taken advantage of the benefits that flowed from that seismic event,” Zaretsky wrote.
(Story continues below)
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“Highly educated and meritocratic, they also privilege a traditional ordering of professional and domestic duties between husbands and wives; strong attachment to social, community, and family activities; and a general wariness over the role of the state in private and community affairs, including ‘free schools’ (Catholic private schools).”
Fillon shares most of these characteristics, and was able to harness his appeal to the zombie Catholics for political gain.
Robert Zaretsky writes in Foreign Policy Magazine that Fillon has “never made any secret of his beliefs.” He hails from a deeply Catholic part of France, and goes on retreat every year.