Catholicism & The Culture of Pleasure

I had a fascinating conversation with a friend about why Latin countries like France, Italy, Spain, etc. have developed a culture so focused on pleasure whereas other cultures have not.

The roof of St. Peter’s at the Vatican. Laura Bradbury

The roof of St. Peter’s at the Vatican. Laura Bradbury

I shared Franck’s theory on this with her - he argues that it’s the brand of Catholicism widely practiced in these countries that’s at the root of their pleasure-seeking ways.

In France, the Catholic religion, which has greatly influenced the culture over the centuries, expects human beings to screw up ALL THE TIME. That’s what confession is for. Humans are flawed, and the Church for centuries taught its followers that as humans they controlled diddly squat.

Buy your church gear in Rome! Laura Bradbury

Buy your church gear in Rome! Laura Bradbury

As a result the French people are not at all alarmed when they under-perform or screw up. That’s what humans are supposed to do. A human’s job is to squeeze the most pleasure out of life as possible and let God (and the Virgin Mary and the Saints) take care of the responsibility of the Grand Plan.

Canada, to use as contrast, had more of a Protestant ethos once those darned puritans arrived. A person’s relationship with their God (if they choose to have one) was generally direct and immediate. This meant people were accountable to God.

Puritanism comes with the belief that a human can (and should) control their destiny. They need to work hard and be perfect and moral and productive to be worthy of God’s love.

Lourdes, France www.laurabradbury.com

Lourdes, France www.laurabradbury.com

The idea we should be able to control everything doesn’t leave much time for pleasure. It also breeds the black beast of guilt which makes us think while we are enjoying a lazy day of doing nothing that we should be up and probably training for a marathon or something.

In my experience the French feel little (if any) guilt about their real or perceived shortcomings. Their attitude is “Humans are made to make mistakes, so let’s sit down and enjoy this croissant and café au lait while God takes care of us.”

Not such a bad way to live, come to think of it.

One of Rome’s countless sublime churches. www.laurabradbury.com

One of Rome’s countless sublime churches. www.laurabradbury.com

Want to read more about the cultural differences in France? Especially their devotion to pleasure?  Check out my bestselling Grape Series here and immerse yourself in French life.

Want to read more about the cultural differences in France? Especially their devotion to pleasure? Check out my bestselling Grape Series here and immerse yourself in French life.